Written by Ed Akselrud and Joe Hunstone
Co-reporting & Research: R.D. Giordano, Maria Björkman, Derek Zhao
Additional editing: Kiddle, Michael Pea, Luis Levy, Rhys Kissell
This is a five-part extended retrospective on the #SaveTheExpanse movement that takes a deep dive into the fan campaign. A shorter, more concise overview is available here.
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5
From its very inception, the TV adaptation of The Expanse (as well as the books that the series is based on) inspired people to write, draw, paint, model, cosplay, review, blog, podcast, and so much more.
Multiple fandoms across multiple platforms and continents drew together to express their appreciation for The Expanse universe. When Syfy abruptly canceled the show, fans — as well as cast and crew — were shocked, saddened and angered. Although we knew that the production company, Alcon Entertainment, was looking to find a new home for the show, fans immediately sought to help these prospects. A vast number of these fans from all over the world rallied to save the show, contributing in many different ways.
This account chronicles the effort from the perspective of the people behind @SaveTheExpanse (now @TheExpanseLives), a team of fan volunteers who organized to handle the movement’s logistics. If we missed something that you think belongs in this article, let us know!
Prologue (by Ed A.)
It’s the evening of Friday, May 25. I am sitting at a table in the lobby of the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in LA, where the ISDC (International Space Development Conference) is taking place. Across from me, tapping away on his phone is Murilo Silva, who handled the airplane banner and Rocinante balloon launch fundraisers. To my right is Vincent Buyssens, the author of the Change.org petition and our campaign social media manager. Over on the left is Michael Pea, a journalist for Friends of Comic Con and a long time friend of the show. Hanne Paine was with us just earlier as well, but sadly had to catch a flight back to San Francisco; and Luis Levy, our PR advisor, had also taken off some time after the panel.
We sit in silence, exhausted. The day began with GDPR kicking in across Europe, resulting in us being locked out of the @SaveTheExpanse Twitter account — the latest in a series of never-ending campaign crises that kept us in a perpetual scramble. This was followed by an exhilarating afternoon of meetings, errands, and contingency preparations for whatever might happen that night.
The quiet of the lobby is telling: Over in the hall nearby, Jeff Bezos is getting up on stage to accept an award and give a talk to a couple of hundred esteemed guests from all over the space and aeronautics industry. Among them are the cast and writers of The Expanse, who coincidentally had a panel at the conference earlier that day. As only a limited group was invited to the dinner, we weren’t allowed in the room, so we waited outside.
Much to our surprise, we weren’t asked to leave the room. In fact, the other attendees (many of whom were fans themselves) cheered us on, taking photos and laughing at our ridiculous, but genuine, display of fanatic love.
I decide to check Reddit. When I open it up, the top post is a video clip titled “Jeff Bezos just announced that they are picking up The Expanse.” My initial reaction is skepticism — perhaps he just said something vague but not definitive, similar to the leak that caught everyone by surprise earlier that week. I play the video.
Nope, he said it. The Expanse is saved. A feeling of vertigo hits me as I realize that this just happened not a hundred feet from where we were sitting.
“Holy shit,” I blurt out and flip my phone to replay the clip for the others. I watch their eyes widen and their faces morph into what I can only describe as expressions of absolute, uninhibited joy.
Murilo leaps up with his arms in the air, the grin on his face wider than the Solar System.
“WE DID IT!” He exclaims. After a few seconds of high fiving, hugging and cheering in celebration, the resident daredevil (who, just earlier, somehow managed to break through Bezos’ entourage and shake his hand) looks straight at Vincent and me and says, “We have to go in there.”
“What? Are you seri-?”, before I can finish my sentence, Murilo has already grabbed the rolled up “#SaveTheExpanse” banner we printed earlier that morning and is sprinting over to the big room. Vincent and I exchange a dazzled look, but don’t ask any further questions.
“Come on, let’s go!”, he shouts back as we follow, the overwhelming sense of relief and adrenaline suddenly hitting us like a dose of juice.
As we approach the room, Murilo informs the security guard by the door that “they asked for us inside.” This is not in the least bit true, but seems to satisfy the man, who promptly gets out of the way. Considering that the wealthiest man in the world is behind that door, this turns out to be easier than I expected.
We bolt inside. Bezos is still on stage — “Good, we’re not too late,” I think to myself. We roll the banner out on the floor at the back of the room, causing a bit of a commotion as people turn around to see what’s going on. Murilo zips out of the hall again and returns a few seconds later, having somehow procured a marker. He proceeds to write a giant “THANK YOU!!” on the banner, modifying it for the occasion.
When Bezos finally gets up to walk off the stage, we hoist the banner up as high as we can and begin shouting “Thank you, Jeff!”, jumping up and down to the amusement of the spectators nearby. Much to our surprise, we weren’t asked to leave the room. In fact, the other attendees (many of whom were fans themselves) cheered us on, taking photos and laughing at our ridiculous, but genuine, display of fanatic love.
A short while later, Bezos vanishes out the back, and we rush to the front of the room to join the cast and writers in euphoric celebration — hugging and laughing and crying all at the same time. The only thing that would have made this more perfect is if we got to be in the room when Bezos first spilled the beans and sent the crowd reeling — but hey, we aren’t complaining.
It was a moment unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Best of all, we had the incredible luck and pleasure to share it with some of the people responsible for the series we fought so hard to save — and miraculously succeeded. If there’s one story I’ll be telling my grandkids, it’s this one.
And after an absolutely hectic, sleepless blur of a fortnight, everyone was as ecstatic as they were exhausted.
It was over. We did it. The fans actually did it.
But how did we get here?
The First Steps
On May 10 2018, Syfy announced that they would not air cult sci-fi TV series The Expanse for a fourth season. The news sent shockwaves through the fanbase, devastating thousands of fans, especially as the show was currently at the height of one of its most exciting arcs. Despite the collective grief, a trend quickly emerged as fans took to the web to demand that someone — anyone — consider picking up the show. Although it took a little while, as the #RenewTheExpanse tag was still in use, the fanbase soon united under a single banner: #SaveTheExpanse.
I’m throwing everything out the window today. Someone please pick this show up. PLEASE. #SaveTheExpanse https://t.co/utcie6cEJQ
— aka LW Salinas, Herder of Cats (@sithwitch) May 11, 2018
The very first use of the #SaveTheExpanse hashtag after the cancellation announcement.
The news hit everyone hard — not just the fans. The cast, crew, and creators of the show were understandably shocked as well:
“I guess now we really all are Belters. A tribe without a country” said Naren Shankar, the showrunner of The Expanse, on Twitter. “I have never been on a show where the story, the characters, the look, the sound, the audience engagement, the reviews, everything were clicking like The Expanse … I’m still trying to put my head around it”
The next day, a petition was set up on Change.org by @Fadawah, an Expanse fan from Belgium, and began to rapidly accumulate signatures. After the show’s writers’ room shared it on Twitter (the day after), and a mention in Business Insider, it was all but official — having already broken 7,500 signatures and rising by the hour.
Amazon, please save The Expanse – #SaveTheExpanse -There is power in numbers. If you love the Expanse, take a moment to sign the Petition https://t.co/eKT5pbQ5la 🙏Thank you to our amazing fans for putting this together 🙏 #TheExpanse @amazonstudios @jeffbezos
— The Expanse Writers (@TheExpanseWR) May 14, 2018
The writers’ room retweet of the petition was the biggest tweet to use the #SaveTheExpanse hashtag.
Over on Reddit, a PSA megathread was created by /u/LuxDominus with information on what to do and who to contact. The subreddit was bustling with activity, with users already beginning to send emails to streaming networks and brainstorming ideas for what else could be done. Our Unofficial Expanse Discord community server was also firing up and quickly becoming a hotbed of potential initiative ideas.
Meanwhile, the Twitter community was heating up and well on its way to getting the hashtag trending. Prolific fans were making a huge effort to be heard, and were succeeding: @theora666, @Lyve_Wire, @girlvirgo72, @Duffy_Clan, @Rebell117, @ArmoredMeat, @Falloran13, @KoiGamingYT, @VerseTrek, @carlostk1, @Jetcitygirl1, @WencheBandida, @bhs14, @Miclpea, and many, many more — too many to name here.
“As soon as the news broke, the Screaming Firehawks were all over it,” says Christina Ward (@theora666), a superfan who runs the yearly cosplay competition on Twitter and curates the monthly community newsletter Here Comes The Juice. “We started posting like crazy to Twitter with #SaveTheExpanse and #KeepTheRociFlying to anyone who would listen. We were there for each other for support in our time of grief.”
Even some celebrities voiced their support: George R. R. Martin, Wil Wheaton, Patton Oswalt, Greg Grunberg, Andreas Mogensen, Peter Mayhew, Adam Savage, Andrew Rader and Paul Krugman, to name a few. Even Mark Hamill said he’d check it out. The effort seemed to be off to a good start. Jen Salke, head of Amazon Studios, later stressed the significance of such influencer support:
“And then really smart people, whose opinions I really value creatively, started reaching out to me, saying, ‘have you seen this show, The Expanse, it’s actually great’… At the same time, Jeff Bezos was getting emails from everyone from George R.R. Martin to every captain of industry, like the founder of Craigslist, and they were all writing, saying, there’s this show, it’s so great, you have to see it, you have to buy it or save it.” (via Deadline)
Initially, the sights were set on Netflix, a move that made the most sense in theory. The streaming giant was known to be interested in producing more original sci-fi, and they already owned the international streaming rights for the show. The campaign was now gaining real traction, according to a feature in Inquisitr.
However, the effort performed a hard flip and burn when Jim Murray, the prop master of the show, took to the Facebook group “Everything The Expanse” to give the fans an important update: “Netflix is out”, Murray said, and urged fans to lobby Amazon instead. Bob Munroe, the show’s VFX supervisor, echoed this statement on Reddit a couple of days later.
Murray continued to post updates online for the next few days, informing us of the imminent set strike and subsequent delay, which we took as a sign that something was brewing behind the scenes. He was the guiding ray of light during the first stages of the campaign, risking his own neck to provide us with insider information that not only gave fans the first bit of real hope, but also a concrete target.
“It was thrilling to see so many fans answer our call to arms,” Belinda (@Jetcitygirl1), who runs the Facebook group, says. “Prop master Jim Murray and Csc Jeremy Benning showed up in the group and were big damn heroes. They really rallied the troops with great info and their genuine passion for this show!”
After this, fans began flooding Amazon Studios’ “For Your Consideration” form, urging the network to consider picking up The Expanse. The internet giant’s customer service team responded to nearly every request, with some employees even adding that they themselves are fans of the show. While such responses may be part of their customer service policy, these were the first signs that our voices were being heard, and many fans were nevertheless glad to receive actual replies. Of course, we didn’t stop there.
Find out what happens next in Part 2 of our retrospective, where we talk about the legendary airplane banner, fan videos, and the first episode to air since the cancellation.
Go to Part 2
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5