Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Expanse: My Visit to the Set

I spent the day, yesterday, watching the filming of episodes of The Expanse, based on the book series by James SA Corey, otherwise known as my longtime friends, Ty and Daniel. It was my first time on the set of any television series, so I spent most of the time just watching and soaking it in.

There's a lot I can't say about the TV series, as it hasn't begun airing yet. I guess I can tell the hidden history of The Expanse, though.

About fifteen years ago, I was at a science fiction convention in Los Angeles and a guy wearing a nametag that said, "Slash" came up to me. It wasn't as creepy as it sounds. That guy was Ty Franck, whom I kept in touch with over the years. We even cowrote a couple of stories, and he also ran an RPG that took place in the near future when humanity had colonized much of the rest of the solar system.

Fast forward a few years, and I found myself in a kind of crazy situation. A Chinese company approached me about making an MMORPG. I was not equipped to design anything, or direct the designing of anything, so I contacted Ty and he began to organize and develop this near-future science fiction world he'd created. That deal fell through, which was the best outcome, in the end.

Soon thereafter, Ty and his wife came down to visit us in New Mexico and during that time went to the local science fiction convention, Bubonicon, where I took Ty to a reading by Daniel Abraham. Now there is some dispute about what story Daniel read; I recall it being The Cambist, but Ty argues. In any case, it impressed Ty to the point that he struck up a conversation afterwards.

A few weeks later, Ty and his wife opted to move to New Mexico so that she could go to architecture school, and once they'd moved, Ty joined Critical Mass and again set up his near future science fiction world as an RPG, which he ran for several friends of mine. One of them was Daniel, and Daniel was so struck by the milieu that Ty created that he asked if they could cowrite a book based on it.

I should add as a side-note that this doesn't happen. Don't plan for this to happen to you. Ty's the only person this would happen to because he doesn't exist in our reality. He is on an alternate plan for mortal existence, one in which he gets held up at gunpoint, stabbed, and asked to write books that end up on the New York Times Bestseller List, then later picked up as a television show for SyFy. It all balances out, I suppose.

What makes the situation even weirder is that when it came time to sell the TV rights, Daniel was sucked into Ty's alternate universe. See, the way it works in Hollywood is that once you sell your rights, you give up control and move on. Hope for the best and keep writing books. In the case of Daniel and Ty, they were both made producers of the series. Ty works with the writers, and while I was there on set, actors and crew were coming up to them to ask them questions about how things should go.

So I didn't just get to see my friends and their television show yesterday. I got to see something so rare that it would be like spotting a unicorn in the wild. It was fun and everyone was very nice (being a friend of the producers helped on that score, I'm sure.) Several of the actors came up to say hello to me, and yes, I met some that I'm a fan of from their other work. I got to see a general idea of how the plotting of the show is vs. the books, and all I can say is that fans will be in for a real treat.

I also was privy to some top secret information about some video games that someone on the set had worked on. Because I didn't know what they were talking about (my gamer days are well in the past right now), I couldn't leak the info even if I tried.

Definitely tune in to watch this show when it airs. The trailer shows the aesthetic and all that good stuff, but tells you nothing about the plot. I'm predicting this one will do well for the same reason that the books have; The Expanse has been in development in the brain of Ty Franck for over a decade and it shows. It's a lived in universe and there's a story behind everything from the ethnicity of the people who live in the Belt to the shape of the hatches on Ceres. It's a great place to set a strong story, and that's exactly what this team of professionals is doing.