On “The Expanse” and Being Human

 

Because I’m a) 4 months pregnant and b) exhausted, I’m going to keep this particular post short and straightforward.

James SA Corey (who hails from my hometown of Albuquerque. Just sayin’), recent posted this on Twitterscreen-shot-2017-01-27-at-01-24-58

Which seemed like an interesting view on the subject. One of the main characters does have a bad habit of reporting just the facts, ma’am, but it’s not the character’s naivete that breaks the illusion. It’s the fact that humans, as a species, insist of storylines when relating information. Holden, who has no background information, just discrete facts here and there, relays just those facts, and that goes against human nature at its core.

I wrote my second master’s dissertation on the topic of geomythogenesis and ragnarök. Geomythogenesis is a term I think I invented, which is just geo (earth) + myth + genesis (creation) = the theory of myth creation as having geological underpinnings. I used the geological and climatological nightmare described in Völuspá and Snorra Edda to prove my point. What I found, though, is that this desire to create a narrative isn’t just for stupid medieval peasants who have no access to science; instead, it’s a trend that continues today, as recently as the Montserrat eruption in 1997, and the Mt St Helens eruption in 1980. When people facing trauma but lack facts – as Holden does in Corey’s novel – they write a narrative that helps them sleep at night.

This is the algebra of mythogenesis, whether geological or not:

Event (X)

Character (Y)

Knock-on effects of Event (Z)

Hardship (H)

Offspring (O)

Offspring’s Offspring (OO)
_______________________________________________________

X happens.

Y does not experience X directly; rather, Y experiences Z.

Because of X, Y experiences H but blames Z.

Years later, Y tells O about Z and how it caused H.

Over time, O forgets key details about both H and Z.

O never knew about X.

Many years later, OO relate distorted tales of H, which were absolutely caused by Z.

_________________________________________________________

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how we have a Hebrew man leading his people from a murderous Pharaoh by following a pillar of fire, approximately 400 years after the pillar of fire in question (the Thera volcano) erupted for the final time. It’s also how we conveniently conflate Ahmose I with Ramses II.

Because humans need stories in order to survive the apocalyptic day-to-day.

All of which is to say: if Holden can survive knowing just pieces of a story after watching thousands of people die, he’s not naive. He’s not even fucking human.

*Just want to add that I am firmly Team Miller, but that I wish nothing but happiness on Holden and his semi-human, sanity-sapping future.*

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