Lizard Brain is a shared blog about Science Fiction and Fantasy from Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

I answer questions

by Ty Franck

So I get asked these things a lot, and the answers are too long for twitter, so here they are:

Q: Does the internet exist in The Expanse? How does it work?

A: Of course it does, or some version of it does. The big difference between a solar system wide electronic communications network and the one we have now is a thing called light delay. See, in The Expanse, everyone still has to obey the speed limit of the universe, the speed of light. This includes things like radio waves. So, if you go onto Google on Ganymede and run a search for something that exists on a computer on Earth, you won’t be getting your search results any time soon.

This would mean that there would be two layers to the “internet.” The local network on whatever body you’re living on, and the wider network that requires signal repeaters and is only as fast as the speed of light. I’d imagine this would also mean that local computers would cache as much of the most requested items as possible, to limit delays.

Q: Why call them ‘hand terminals?’

A: Because they are not phones. In the universe of The Expanse, we are living in the true internet of things. Nearly every object more complex than a hair brush is a smart or semi-smart device connected to the network around it. The hand terminal is barely a device, on its own. It has little or no memory or processing power. It is literally just a dumb terminal to give the user access to the network and to the various devices around them. It is a portable UI for operating other things. Which is why when the networks go down, the hand terminals become bricks. You can’t even play that game of angry birds classic you downloaded with your google store coupon.

74 Responses »

  1. You may need to update your response re: hand terminals. We already have “smart” hairbrushes: www dot withings dot com/us/en/products/hair-coach.


    • Being an avid bookworm with a personal library in excess of 1000 science fiction and fantasy novels, I am a huge fan of the Expanse series (obviously!). I usually devour the book in one sitting, as soon as I get home from the bookstore. I was initially leery of the television series because in my experience most television shows or movies are vastly different from their printed progenitors, usually due to the fact that the original author(s) get little to no control over “Hollywood executives”. I was quite surprised to find both Franck and Abraham writing credits included in the show’s opening. Having just finished watching episode 6 of season 2, I am just as addicted to the TV series as I am the books. However, I do have to say that some of the TV characters are a bit disappointing, particularly Bobbie Draper and Avasarala. Bobbie because she’s not exactly scary or imposing, and Avasarala because she’s much, much milder than her book counterpart(no bobbleheads on TV!). My question is: How much, if any, control is given to the authors over actor/actress selection? Is it something left up to others, or…?

      • We can lobby strongly, but the final decision belongs to the show runner.

        That said: 1) Give Frankie a little more time. Her Bobbie is awesome, but still early in her arc.
        2) Standards and practices on basic cable aren’t yet up to a full Avasarala, but we do what we can.

        • Actually – Avasarala and Bobbie were brilliantly cast in the TV series. Bobbie is a bit prettier than I imagined her from the books, based on the description. Avasarala is perfect. I like the character better in the TV series than I did in the book. The one female character casting I don’t like much is Naomi. The name is fully Japanese – should have been played with somebody with that type of looks, I think. And the North London accent is just irritating and hard to switch off and imagine she grew up in space – rather than some boring place in London, which is what the accent tells me. Also this every0ne-is-ultra-mixed-race thing, and the Jamaica patois is not my thing. But i LOVE the tech, the politics, the world-building and the personalities of the characters….

  2. So on New Terra, the hand terminals connected to their ships? Elvie used hers to create an ad hoc network, and Holden played a game on his until his battery died. I’m just a little confused.

  3. On the ‘hand terminals’ thing I kinda crave a more casual name, like how talk radio has become, at least in part, generically a “Podcast” and SMS has become just “texting.”

    Granted, NOT naming the hand terminal something more pop culture like, “he took out his Pad, and paid for lunch” avoids the issue with sounding dated and attaching personal prejudices with current technology to FUTURE technology.

    Take this sentence, “I got up and checked my Smartphone for email, my boss sent me a dozen emoji that basically asked me to fax the powerpoint deck to our clients and to post a PDF of it in the cloud for internal review.” To someone in 1965 most of that is complete and utter nonsense.

    Hand Terminal is a workmanlike name that describes the utility of a device in current jargon without being to pop culture-ish and requiring the reader/viewer to learn what the new names for a SmartPhone are 200 years in the future.

    • You nailed the Google thing. That’s exactly how it works now. There are buildings owned by or co-opted by Google for that very reason. There’s no reason to query China when someone else ran a similar search geographically nearby.

      As for the terminal thing. It’s completely rooted in reality. Not that long ago, computer terminals were the norm. Everyone used their monitor, keyboard, and mouse to manipulate programs being run on a server. It’s still true today in most offices that run intranets where all data flows through server-racks.

      This is ALL directly pulled from history. So, w00t! on that.

  4. Just became acquainted with “The Expanse.” Its great fun to watch and I’m looking forward to reading the books. I have a rather dumb question please: Whats with the whole Mormon connection? Did you stick them in there as comic relief or what?

    Well, Thats my question. Thank you for sharing your talent with us as we are all better for the experience. In a world such as we live in currently, thats just about as good as it gets. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Duke Keagan
    TSgt USAF Law Enforcement/Disabled Veteran
    King Geek and Master of the Game Masters
    Swordsman Extraordinary/Once Upon a Time

  5. Dear Mr Abraham,

    I am writing a paper about The Expanse, and I would like to ask you to provide me with some biographical facts about both, yourself and Mr Franck. This biography is going to be a part of both, masters and PhD, so please do not hesitate to provide a lot of material.
    You have my email.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you.

    Your fan from Serbia,

    Miodrag Vasic

  6. Just finished reading Babylon’s Ashes (and the 5 previous books). I really like all of them a lot! I just have one question. Why did you choose not to let Naomi find out that Filip was still alive? I was kind of hoping that would be resolved in the last chapter or two.

    • Part of the story is about not always getting to know what effect you’ve had in the world. Holden’s silly little videos inspired Prax to act and saved a lot of lives. Naomi said some things to Filip that, it turns out, meant a lot to him. You do the right thing because its the right thing, whether you get the ego boost of it coming back to you or not. Moral of the story, yeah? ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Thanks for your response. I was actually thinking of it more as closure (not an ego booster) for Naomi being that she’s a mom thinking she just experienced the loss of her son. As a parent myself, I felt for her. But, I do get your point about doing the right thing without expecting a return and she did! Enough said! Looking forward to watching it on TV too!

  7. I just wanted to commend the two of you on your attempts to incorporate diverse ethnicities and nationalities into the story. Respect the universe you’ve constructed! Bobbi’s Samoan background, and the Reverand Doctor’s Russian background, among others. Any chance you’d incorporate Polish (or other Eastern European) characters? They’re underrepresented in the genre, in my opinion.

    Unrelated, any chance you’d rerecord Cibola Burn with a different narrator? I miss Jefferson already…

    -DK Flowers (Kwiatkowski)

  8. Hey guys,

    I saw a post on your FB about “The Churn” podcast available on iTunes. I use PocketCast and couldn’t find anything when searching for “the Churn”, “Syfy”, or “James S.A. Corey” – any news on that? I saw there’s some SyFy podcast for the Expanse, but it didn’t look like yours.

    Thanks!!! Working on Babylon’s Ashes still (it’s been a busy month) but diving into S2 Expanse this week.

  9. Hey guys, I absolutely love the books and am immensely enjoying the TV series. I really dig how you guys are portraying gravity (or the lack thereof). I just saw this randomly and thought you need to incorporate these guys and some of the tech into the next season of the Expanse. It’s wild and would look amazing on the screen.

    All the best!

  10. I’m trying to get in touch with Ty Franck for an interview for our SciFi Mech blog.

    May you please let us know if you are available?

  11. Hello,

    I was planning to be chronically preserved when I die. It’s not a matter of if they can revive me, but when. When I’m revived I’ll be surely the oldest belter in the system, ha!

    We need someone from this century raising hell in The Expanse. Where are all the people from this century that are cryopreserved with the technology to be revived?

  12. What does the timeline look like from Drive through the most recent book? I’ve tried figuring out how many months/years elapse between major events, but if you guys are willing to share the info (or if there’s a link to it somewhere I’ve missed) I’d be grateful. I did try searching but only found a “read the books in this order” list nothing with more detail. -_-

    I love the books. I’ve read and listened to them all several times through. Impatiently awaiting Persepolis Rising ^_^

  13. Jaynรฉ’s story isn’t over, is it? I feel like there’s some unfinished business, and the characters are so good. Write another?

  14. Hi, I am wondering the name Mao, is it from Chinese or it is Japanese, MaO?

  15. Are there going to be anymore “The Black Sun’s Daughter” books? The 5 books were really good!

  16. Hi there! I absolutely love the dagger and coin series! Considering that Inys is still alive and that some of the main characters seem to have stories left to tell, can we expect to see any more novel length works from this world?

  17. Just wondering if you will be adding to the Black Sun’s Daughter series. I absolutely love the story and would like to know what is next to come for Miss Heller and her friends/ team.
    You have become one of my favorite authors. I liked the series and loved your writing style so much that I went in search of other books you have written.

    Many Thanks,

    J. Goerig

  18. Before the question, I just wanted to say that my wife and I were both profoundly moved by your short prequel, Drive. You guys never cease to amaze. Your gift for understanding and portraying the subtle aspects of relationships is astounding. Not for nothing, but we both think that Drive would make an excellent stand alone movie.
    As for the question, will Jefferson Mays also be redoing The Churn?

    Thank you!

    • My somewhat gnomic reply:

      That’s a very good question. There is some conversation about re-recording The Churn, but the details aren’t public yet.

      • Thanks for quick reply. I also wanted to mention that there are a few of us now calling your Belter Patois “Space Yiddish”. Especially because of the similarities of how both languages were formed. Also both languages are rich with onomatopoeia words. I mean, is there anyone on the planet that doesn’t instantly know what the word shmuck means, sasa?

        • Well, it’s realistic that there is some kind of local patois in an area far from Earth with a mixed population… And I guess it’s hard to come up with it. I find it a distraction and I actually don’t understand what a lot of it is supposed to mean, despite speaking 4 European languages myself. Don’t want to whinge about it though as I’m loving everything else about the series. I particularly love all the descriptions of Mars. I’ll hope they’ll show a lot of that in the TV series – I’d love to see it on screen. Personally I root for the Mars people in the book, they come across as nicer than the Earth people.

      • Is thete any word on weather The Churn audiobook will be re-recorded by Mr. Mays?

  19. Saw a You Tube interview with you.
    Think you said the first Heinlein you read was Stranger in a Strange Land, and didn’t like, I can sympathize with that!
    Did you read Heinlein’s Door Into Summer, Double Star, Star Ship Troopers, or his so called Juvies from the 1950s? His short stories?
    I see influences from Heinlein’s Between Planets in The Expanse series
    I like your all’s Solar System SF story very much!

  20. Sad that my thoughful, serious, partially critical posting did not make it past moderation. I now wish I’d saved it before I navigated away from the page. Guess I’ll have to use alternative communication methods to reach you.



  21. How much of the growing differences between the books and the TV show are to teach us book readers not to get too cocky, and how much is due to time constraints and show runners and TV writers having their own ideas?

  22. In one of the Churn podcasts, you hinted that you are a Bowie, fan when referring to a list he created of his favorite books. We are still mourning his loss as well, and are wondering what you would consider your favourite album(s) of his? As for me, If I limit it to three, Hunky Dory, Scary Monsters, and Outside.

    Hopefully that’s not too personal of a question.


  23. I want to read the books from witch the expanse is taken in order. I’ll probably read others but I want the expanse books first, can you send me a list of the expanse books numbered 1st to last. Please send it to
    Thank you
    Neil Tost

  24. Hi, and thank you for amazing book series and amazing show. It is really rarely that she show is so well adapting the book, and that such attention to detail is given. Can you tell me if this season Blu ray will have more extras (or any) as the last one had almost none. Also, is there a way to put all the podcasts on the blu ray, so they can be all found on one place?

  25. Just finished Leviathan. I’ve been looking for a really good, engrossing read and definitely found it in the first book of the Expanse series. My only problem…..I’m finished ๐Ÿ™

    I want more!

    Thank goodness I found a list of the books. Now I’ll excuse myself as I head to Amazon and buy the Kindle version of Caliban’s War. Boy, I’m I hooked. Now, where’s the lever to engage the Epstein Drive?

  26. I am a Chinese reader and I love this book.I want to know when can I read Chinese edition of .

  27. Hi just recently discovered The Expanse tv series and from there to your books …. congratulations for both! I can’t put the books down it’s been a while since a story caught my imagination so strongly!
    Looking forward to Season 2.
    Just wondered if either of you are fans of the Canadian rock band Rush?

  28. I am really enjoying the book series so far. I was wondering if there would ever be a novel or novella on the slingshot group, that was introduced in book three.

  29. Dear Daniel,
    I’m about to begin reading the fifth (and sadly final) book in The Dagger and the Coin series. It’s been an enjoyable read and I’m looking forward to reading how you tie up the loose ends. …And hopefully there are some loose ends that might require a future additional story or two to be published in this series.
    My question is about the pronunciation of names – two in particular. Can you provide your phonetic spelling of Cithrin and Geder?
    Thanks very much,
    Steve Colombo

  30. You have written a number of Expanse-based short stories and novellas. Do you have any plans to publish them in a single volume?

  31. Dear sirs:

    First, I want to congratulate both of you for the extremely fine Expanse series.

    Second, as director of the Norwegian Museum of Migration, I would like to know which of you is connected to Norwegian America. Only a Norwegian-American, someone married to one, or someone connected to that ethnic community, could make a joke about lutefisk being a greater evil than politics.

    My reason for asking is simply that if one of you is Norwegian-American, then we will include the Expanse series in our library of books/archival material concerning Norwegians and their descendants around the world. I might add that our library is one of the two largest in this country concerning this subject, the other being the Norwegian-American section of the National Library in Oslo.


    Knut Djupedal
    Norwegian Museum of Migration

  32. Big fan of Justin Cronin. One day his FB page he mentioned watching the Expanse with his son & recommended the read. So I started it. Love it. Read up all the books and then waited for Persepolis Rising to come out. When it did, I realized after reading it that I should have gone back and re-read the others. And the short stories. So that I would be refreshed on characters and events. So I did and am now rereading Persepolis Rising again. But – after reading Strange Dogs – really? You’re channeling Stephen King?

  33. Hi Daniel,
    First, I love the Expanse series – read your latest a couple of weeks ago and can’t wait for the next one. However, this message is not about the books, but the game – though really more about the book. I’m an avid board gamer, and as I’ve read your books, I’ve thought often about how well the could translate to a board game. So I was excited when I saw a boardgame available (I assume licensed by you) …and then was very disappointed when I bought it. A fine simulation of acquiring points through cards, but honestly, I wanted something that brought the story to life, focused on characters, story progression with the option to take it in different directions.

    So I designed one myself. Not because I have dreams of making a million dollars on a blockbuster game – but because I wanted to play it.

    So here is my question – while I started this for my own fun, as it has developed I think it could be a successful product. Are you at all open to licensing another game? If not, i’ll just keep on going for my own pleasure. But if you are, let me know.

    Let me describe the concept, very briefly.
    The heart of the game are the characters (represented by cards and tokens (or miniatures) and action cards. The map shows the main locations in your series, the characters move from location to location on a time scale of about a week per turn, with travel time based on the deltaV required. At locations they can execute actions, which require different skills, based on what the card does. Skills like Politician, Leader, Espionage, Researcher, Journalist, Commander. Successful actions can drive mechanics in the game that lead to victory.
    Victory conditions are assymetric. The goal of the MCR is different from that of the UN and the OPA, primarily around getting access to resources to be resource independent, though conquests can be an option too. But players also choose a secret objective which determines the “morality” or method they will gain control – do they do it politically, by leading the will of the people, through espionage, military conquest, or by immoral pursuit of technology where the means justify the means. Some actions are abuses of power, which can cause the sympathy of the system to shift away from the faction.

    Protogen actions are simulated in the game in a fairly linear fashion, but provide a backdrop that the rest of the story builds around. But it is also an option for a player to try to beat Protogen at its own game, and master the protomolecule themselves, through infecting populations and taking other horrid acts to advance their technology.

    Anyway, I’ve done my best to create mechanics that put the players in the place of faction leaders, with choices and actions such that the game will progress with a story, that could actually progress exactly along the story line of your series. Or it could go in different directions – but will still be a story filled with your characters, acting they way they do in your world, with similar motivations and ways of influencing the balance of power in the solar system.

    Let me know if you want to know more.
    David Greenwood

    • Do not publish this game, or the rights holders for the existing game may pursue legal action. Love that you’re so engaged, but this is the reality of the business. They pay a licensing fee for those rights.

  34. Is there likely to be a follow up to Spiders War that follows the stories of Cithrin bel Sarcour, Marcus Wester, Clara Kalliam etc?

  35. Where do I find publish dates for next novels in The Expanse series?

    I’ve been clicking around the various web pages & so far, no dice.

    Muchas Gracias…

  36. Considering the amount of debris and weapon rounds from all the space combat in The Expanse, there must be a growing hazard to space travel. Earth is now getting such a cloud of orbital debris that it’s becoming a problem. Is that going to be a problem in the solar system, too?

    And just by the way, what happened to all the rockets earth launched at Eros after it diverted to Venus? (Sorry, I only learned about The Expanse a few months ago, haven’t seen the series yet, except for a few YouTube clips, and just now completed your Leviathan Wakes novel.)

  37. Hi guys

    Just wondering where to buy these 2.5 Gods of Risk, 3.5 The Churn , 5.5 The Vital Abyss etc.

    Great series by the way .

    Thanks for time and have a good day .


  38. That speech to the General Assembly, given by our not overly bright SG, sounds a lot like Harry Truman ‘s final State of the Union address. For instance p. 233 of McGeorge Bundy’ s Danger and Survival (1988). Or maybe it is just generic.

  39. I understand you guys are in New Mexico. Do either of you have roots in NY? I lived on Canterbury Road (in Westchester County), and Guy Molinari was a congressman from Staten Island!

  40. In 2003 I did a cover design/illustration for a Daniel Abraham whose manuscript “Unreal City” I found damn good. Was it you? I never knew what happened to the project (I was paid but…) the publisher “Meisha Merlin” evaporated and that’s where the trail ends. If I’m talking to a different Daniel Abraham, apologies for taking up your time. Best, Rick Berry

    • That was a *gorgeous* piece of work. When things with Meisha Merlin started going pear-shaped, my wife bought me a print of it and a great frame. “This is the only good thing you’re getting out of that deal,” she said. Smart woman.