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The Expanse: Why We Need Science Fiction More Than Ever

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been bingeing The Expanse on Amazon Prime, and I’m nearly done with the fourth season. Soon, I’ll join the legions of fans patiently or rather impatiently waiting for Season 5.

The show is consistently high-quality, with characters that I personally find quite endearing. Especially the crew of the Rocinante (legitimate salvage!)

Watching Holden, Naomi, Amos, and Alex on screen amounts to a masterclass for any author looking to level up their character game.

But I think the real magic behind The Expanse is its realism. The creators of the show – and the co-writers of the books before them – worked hard to get every last detail correct about the science and technology.

No, it’s not 100% hard science fiction, especially as the series progresses into the second half of Season 1 and beyond, but they did put it in the work at the beginning to make the audience feel like they’re watching a space drama unfold as it actually might in real life. That gives the showrunners the breathing room to go out on a little more of a scientific limb in later seasons.

But audience immersion isn’t the only benefit of being so faithful to scientific and technical details. It also leads to something else – a result that might have been nowhere in the creators’ minds when they started work on this series.

But maybe they’ve realized this benefit as the show’s fanbase grew.

It’s this:

Shows like The Expanse give us hope.

In a time of global pandemic and economic turmoil, it’s easy to focus on the doom and gloom that surrounds us, which has been plastered across the internet from wall to wall. It’s easy to forget that our civilization has been around for millennia, and that humans have faced down overwhelming challenges time and time again.

We’ve faced them down, and we’ve emerged from them stronger than before.

Sometimes, it feels like hopelessness is the widest-spread pandemic. People have a bleak outlook on the future – if they believe we’re going to have a future at all.

Anecdotally, I’ve talked to many friends who have decided not to have children, because they doubt there’ll still be a world that’s worth them growing up in.

Stories like the one told in The Expanse steer us away from such fatalism. Yes, we’ll always have crises to contend with, and some of them may represent threats to our very existence.

Yes, there’s a chance we’ll fail.

But the only way to have a future worth living in is if we all pitch in to help realize that future – a future that honors the human spirit in its fullness and keeps human dignity intact.

Stories like The Expanse inspire me to continue scribbling my own tales of humans grappling with dangers amongst the stars. Stories that convey hope by the mere fact of their having been told.

Find Scott Bartlett's space opera novels here.

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