AuthorHi! I am James SA Corey, author of the Expanse and pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. AMA.
Jan 26th 2017 by JamesSACorey • 54 Questions • 3097 Points
UPDATE: Thanks for your questions; this was fun, but we need to get back to work. As a reminder, season 2 of The Expanse premieres Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 10/9c on Syfy. And if you missed season 1, you can stream it on Amazon. http://syfy.tv/2jhib5J
Thanks for reading and watching!
We're Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, and we write the NYT bestselling Expanse series that begins with Hugo-nominated novel Leviathan Wakes. We are also supervising producers on the Syfy series based on the books, whose second season premieres this Wednesday, Feb. 1, at 10/9c.
Ask us anything.
What's it like being, like, two people, who are also one person?
[Daniel] Often confusing.
Just how important is the role of coffee in both of your lives and did that influence Holden's deep love?
[Daniel] Hands down my favorite psychoactive.
So when can we get our hands on some Expanse merch? I could really use a tycho station t-shirt.
[ty] Soon, would be my guess.
How much longer do you see the series going? Do you have an "ending" or a set number of books in mind?
Also, I love the pace at which you put them out - some other authors who shall remain nameless could learn a lot from you.
[Daniel] The Expanse is going to be 9 novels and a book of short stories. We've known the ending for years.
Can we expect books 7 through 9 to provide us with more details about the gate builder aliens? Inquiring minds want to know what they looked like, what their civilization was like at its peak, and what exactly caused them to all to disappear!
[Ty] Certainly more of that mystery will be revealed. Just as in life, though, no one ever gets all the answers.
What's the funniest behind-the-scenes story you can tell us about without risking the wrath of anyone when Season 3 (hopefully) starts filming?
[Ty] The funniest would probably the time a day player made Thomas Jane angry, but that's one I can't tell here.
The second funniest was the time we hung Wes Chatham on wires 80 feet in the air, and then the director sort of forgot he was up there. Wes will tell you that one if you meet him.
Hey guys Spacedock here. :) What is it like finally being able to walk around on the Rocinante sets, having written about the ship's interior so much for years? I personally loved the show's adaptation of the Roci interior, I can only imagine what it's like for you guys. :) Daniel (Spacedock)
[Daniel] Really weird, and also gratifying. It looks very different than the version in my head, which is why they don't have me as a set designer.
Hey, guys! Finished BA about a week ago, absolutely fantastic book. Your series is a huge influence on my own work.
From what I hear, The Expanse started off as a concept for a MMO or something. That said, are you two big gamers? What are your favorites?
[Ty] Yeah, still a big gamer. My wife and I play a lot of coop games, so lately that's been Diablo 3 and Borderlands mostly. My favorite game of all time is the original System Shock by the mad genius that is Warren Specter.
To the extent that your books about the future reflect the times we're living in now, they are provocative and fascinating and an awesome read. What sorts of things that happen in the expanse do you really think will happen in the future, and what sorts of things are a reflection of our time and maybe you don't really think will work out that way? Will we always be at war with each other? Will there always be religion? Most importantly to me, do you really think the food will suck? I feel great sympathy every time someone has to drink crappy fungus-based whiskey. I'm kind of hoping we figure out how to make test-tube proteins and hydroponic vegetables taste good.
As long as we are recognizably human we'll have war and religion, I think. Space mining is more likely to be robots rather than people, but mining robots are harder to make into compelling characters. I think by the time we have to make fungal whisky, we won't be thinking about how gross that is.
I'm in the tabletop game industry. Have you ever considered licensing The Expanse for a tabletop game?
Most authors seem less than thrilled by the audiobook versions of their novels. How about you guys? Are you pleased with your audiobooks?
[Daniel] Generally, quite pleased. Jefferson Mays, who's done most of our voice work, really has an ear for the books.
in particular, any chance of getting Cibola Burn re-recorded with Jefferson Mays? i just can't stand Erik whatsispants's reading of it. :/
[Daniel] Yes. That is a thing that is happening.
[Ty] Deep underwater is actually a scarier technical problem to solve. Much easier to handle a single atmosphere pressure differential.
I've heard that you guys consider each book to be styled after a specific genre.
Leviathan Wakes was a noir/detective story, Caliban's War was a political thriller, Abaddon's Gate was a bit of a ghost story, Cibola Burn was clearly a western, Nemesis Games was a disaster/terrorism story, and Babylon's Ashes was a war story.
Do you have planned genre styles for the remaining books? Can you tell us what they are?
What genres are even left at this point? Can we expect Persepolis Rising to be an erotic romance tale?
[Daniel] You're thinking of book 9: Captain Holden's Sexy Funtime Sorority Hour.
No, the last three books are styled as a single story in three parts, like an epic fantasy. But not Lord of the Rings. Another one.
Wearing my "Remember the Cant" shirt today.
I have read a great deal of co-authored books, but none as seamless and well-written as I have found yours to be. When you disagree on where the story should go, how do you compromise with each other without compromising the quality of the story?
[ty] Check your ego at the door. Agree on what the mission statement of the book is, and stick to it. Best idea wins, no matter who came up with it. Also, we rewrite each other's work, so the voice winds up very consistent, and also not the voice of either of us individually.
Question #1: How did you come up with Chrisjen Avasarala's character/personality? While I absolutely enjoy all of them and truthfully can't get enough of their dialogue with each other, Avasarala's combination of "ball busting" personality mixed with poignant observations about humans (and their ulterior motives) always makes me smile.
Edit: Also just want to say, "Thank you so much for your work! Can't wait for the next novel (already read Babylon's Ashes and loved it!) and the next season on SyFy!. As a native Texan, I always laugh when I read/hear Alex's dialogue...seems so familiar and yet out of place! Darn it, now I have another question...
Question #2: How did you come up with the ideas for the synthesis of different cultures for specific groups? (both the Belter patois but also the ethnically Indian Martian's with Texas drawls).
[Daniel] As I recall, I though "What if Rahm Emmanuel were a little Indian gramma" and then started typing. :)
Why did you choose to take on the challenge of writing new characters for each book? Most authors struggle with writing a few compelling characters, and you guys have written 15+. Is it difficult to keep their personalities straight etc?
[Ty] That's actually the fun of it. Trying to stuff the same people into every situation would eventually get boring.
Thank you guys for all the work you've put into the books and show. What is the most difficult part of translating from books to show?
[Daniel] For me, the part where I have to figure out how to take the evocative but vague descriptions that work well in prose ("the split circle") and turn them into distinct, specific things. That and making all the internal stuff explicit without a shit ton of cheesy voiceover.
what push back did you receive on portraying the Mormons? either from religious groups or lawyers (etc).
did you ever consider portraying scientologists in the expanse?
[Daniel] Most of the folks I've heard back from were good with it. We have had more static for our using our fiction as a soapbox for our religious beliefs, which is hilarious if you've met us. You could fit our piety in a thimble and have room for cream. But we wanted to treat the idea of faith respectfully.
And no, never thought about putting in ol' L. Ron.
Since the show started up, have you found yourselves factoring in whether a scene or plot thread is reasonably filmable when you put together the books?
[Ty] Nope. They are two different projects, and we very deliberately never cross the streams.
Any idea when season 2 will make it to Netflix?
Or when the Syfy channel will let people watch on their web site?
Asking for a friend myself, who got rid of his cable box long ago.
[ty] Season 2 will air first on Syfy starting on February 1st, then will later become available on Amazon Prime (in the US) and Netflix (almost everywhere else) at some point after that initial broadcast. I do not know the exact delay between those two things.
Why aren't the Belters living in O'neil cylinders with proper simulated gravity?
did you have them all living in dwarf planet asteroids, just so you can have them be physically different, and as an excuse for low gravity action?
[Daniel] Nope. Spun up dwarf asteroids are awesome. And the ethos of the belt -- as with many places on earth -- is that good enough is good enough, at least right up until it isn't.
As an aspiring writer, I'm always curious as to how authors develop the world building of such big book series like your own. How was your process to create everything in terms of worldbuilding like (the culture, people, language, how the future would go, etc)? Was this process different from the books to the TV show?
Thank you, and keep up with the great work!
[Ty] I dunno. I just sort of accumulate facts about the solar system, and then think, "what would future people use this moon/asteroid/planet for?" Take notes, and eventually you have a lot of notes and a future society that sort of makes sense.
Because the TV show was based on the books, the world building was already done. We just imported it in.
Seriously, though. My only question is whether you think that Shohreh Aghdashloo would be willing to be my best friend?
[ty] You're a pretty likable guy, but trust me when I say that the line of people to be her best friend is very very long. You gotta wait your turn.
How much (if at all) was the creation of Marco Inaros influenced by the current political climate? Or was he a bit more of a happy accident?
[Daniel] We made him years ago. There are always men like him.
Are either of you working on any solo projects or have plans to in the near future?
[Daniel] I finished up a 5-book epic fantasy last year. So there was that.
Do you share one mind? If not, how how do you navigate a collaboration?
[Daniel] We do not. We share two.
Do you think we will see an "Expanse" comic/graphic novel eventually?
[Daniel] This seems possible. :)
If you were any character in the books.. who would it be and why?
[Ty] Captain McDowell. Old, lazy, in charge but of a shitty leaky ship.
Will all of Caliban's War be finished in Season 2? Or will it follow a similar path to Season 1 and Leviathan Wakes?
[Daniel] That would be telling.
How difficult is it to introduce plot lines and actually resolve them after working with GRR Martin? Does it seem un-natural or unintuitive?
[Daniel] GRRM has a profoundly different approach to writing and outlining than we do. Not that it's better or worse, but boy howdy is it really not even sort of the same. Different strengths and weaknesses...
[Daniel] [rasies hand] Using a Rancilio Silva right now with medium roast single-source Colombian beans.
Which character is your favorite to write? Also do you hope the future is like the series, minus the protomolecule?
[ty] I like Amos and Bobbie an awful lot. And at this point, any future at all seems pretty hopeful.
Hey guys! Thanks for this AMA! I have 2 questions...
1) what books do you like to read in your spare time?
2) want to grab a beer at La Cumbre?
[Daniel]1) Right now, I'm reading Go Tell My Horse by Nora Zeale Hurston and Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers.
Do you feel that using a pen name was necessary? It's strange that people readily accept teams of writers on TV shows and musicians co-writing songs, but multiple authors on the cover of a book is a rarity.
[Daniel] I have a thing about each new project having its own name. Daniel Abraham writes epic fantasy. MLN Hanover wrote urban fantasy. James SA Corey does space opera. It lets people know what kind of book they're picking up, and setting expectations is a great way to meet them, yeah?
Besides, we didn't want it to look I'd Tom Clancy'd Ty.
How much swearing can we expect from Avasarala in Season 2?
I noticed another SyFy show, The Magicians, aired a safe-for-cable version of its show when aired live, but had much more colorful language (and a good bit of intense visuals) in the Netflix/DVD release. Is that something we could potentially see from The Expanse in the future?
[Daniel] More. Probably not "stand there with his dick in his hand and cry" more, but more.
[Daniel] Less a gif than a meme. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CXmcVtdU0AIw4oa.jpg
Thanks for doing this AMA! I have two quick questions. I recently re-read Cibola Burn and i was confused- it was established earlier in the series that Belters can not go planetside, gravity is even used as torture- So how could the Belter Colonists live on Ilus without major reconditioning? My confusion on this topic might be solvable by a closer re-read. But I thought I'd ask, either way. Second question, the names of the books are fucking awesome and I'm curious what your naming process looks like. If you follow a particular scheme, etc., etc. Thank you!
[ty] we do in fact talk about the major reconditioning they went through before landing. Months of drugs to promote bone and muscle growth, and lengthy and painful rehabilitation.
The books are named using the mythical thing does a thing scheme. I'm a mythology and history geek, so I sit and toss names at Daniel till he likes one.
In the first season, I was stunned by how well the silence in the scenes from out in space contrasted with the noise and activity inside the ships. Will you continue in this method or will you be adding lots of sound effects in the vacuum of space? For me, this really adds a lot of realism and drama to the scenes and hammers home just how empty and desolate the environment they are travelling through is. It really gives a great sense of immersion!
[Ty] Sound is one of only two ways to deliver information on a TV. If you go soundless, you can only deliver half as much info to the audience. And because of the way our brains are wired, sound is a much more visceral sensory input. Scenes without sound will feel as if nothing is happening for a lot of viewers. People keep experimenting with soundless space, but it keeps not really working. Firefly got away with it because the action almost never takes place in space. 2001 got away with it, because that movie was deliberately slow moving and cold. Picture something like Star Wars with no sound, and it just doesn't work.
[Daniel] Yes, that is a thing that can happen.
Is there any plan to do a spinoff focused on Avasarala? She is totally badass in print and on TV and I really loved the casting on the show.
[Daniel] That would be awesome, but we still need her for a while, yeah?
[Daniel] Early Heinlein/late Asimov.
Do you have any conventions you plan on attending this year (fingers crossed for Bubonicon)?
[Daniel] If we're in town, we'll hit B'con. And we're guests of honor at Baycon, so we'll do that. Otherwise, a lot will depend on how the schedule for season 3 goes.
If you had to pick one location from the books, what planet/moon/asteroid/space station would you most want to live in?
[ty] Tycho. I've seen those sets. That place looks sweet.
Hi Ty and Dan, I love the books. In the books Earthers and Belters have their own gestures. Shrugging with your shoulders is an Earther Shrug and shrugging with your hands is a Belter Shrug. So I wondered, how would a Martian shrug?
[ty] I dunno. Something more scientific and a little bit arrogant would be my guess.
I think you mentioned in some interviews how you were able to improve things on the TV show compared to the books. What are some examples of that in season 1?
[ty] Honestly, I don't see the show as an improvement. But there are things we can do in the show that we didn't get to do in the books because of the built in limitations of the novels. I liked getting our badguys on screen sooner, and I loved bring Avasarala into the story sooner.
I know you guys had a planned ending all along, but I've heard that the number of planned books has expanded from what you originally planned. Is that true? And if so, what caused you to extend it to nine novels?
[Daniel] Actually, we cut it back from 12 because the longer version felt a little saggy in the withers. We originally planned just one that we'd sell for pizza money. We build 9- and 12-book outlines while we were writing Caliban's War.
Long time fan of the books and very impressed by the show. GOOD JOB EVERYONE.
If the show does well enough and the final three books allow it, would you like to see a movie to round things off? Related, but would you like to see the series enter the realm of videogames or board games?
[Daniel] I'd like the filmed version to come to a satisfying ending, however we get there. And yes, video games and boardgames will be fun.