Author Daniel Abraham has been hard at work for the last couple of years with an adaptation of The Expanse, the science fiction series that he co-wrote with fellow author Ty Franck. But he’s also renowned for his fantasy works like The Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and the Coin series.
While production on the The Expanse’s fifth season is underway, Abraham is at work on a number of other projects: the final installment of The Expanse series, a new space opera series that he’s co-writing with Franck, and a brand-new epic fantasy trilogy.
Andrew Liptak: You’ve been busy the last couple of years working on the TV adaptation of The Expanse. Season 5 has just wrapped up. What does all that work look like, looking back?
Daniel Abraham: That has been and continues to be one of the most astounding things I’ve ever done. On one hand, it feels like something that just happened, and on the other like it’s been going on for a very long time. I’m educated now in a way I didn’t expect. It’s changed how I watch and understand television and film, and it’s deepened the way I understand storytelling in general. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do it for years to come, but even when it’s over, I’m going to be grateful for the chance.
Also, having seen the early cuts of season five, we got better at this.
AL: Tiamat’s Wrath came out last spring (the paperback hit back in January)—how is work on the final installment shaping up? What can fans expect from it?
DA: I’m reading a book right now that opens with a quote from Sophocles: “One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.” The end of a story is kind of the moment when you find out what the story has been the whole time.
When Ty and I started in on The Expanse, we had a mission statement in mind, and now we’re going to get there and folks will be able to see what kind of project it’s been. I’m looking quite forward to it.
AL: Some eagle-eyed Redditors noticed a listing for a new fantasy project coming from you in 2021. What can you tell us about that?
DA: I’m under contract for a fantasy trilogy with Orbit. I signed the contract during the two weeks between when Syfy cancelled The Expanse and when Amazon hauled us up from the grave. I thought I was going to have a lot more free time. It’s run a little later than I’d hoped, but I like how it’s coming together. It’s structurally one of the most interesting things I’ve done, and I’m looking forward to folks seeing it.
AL: It’s been a few years since your last fantasy series has come out. Has your perspective on the genre changed at all in those years? How has it been to write solo?
DA: My relationship with epic fantasy is very different than it was fifteen years ago. I came into the field wanting to do something that was really original and different, and I did The Long Price Quartet with that in mind. Then I wanted to try doing something that was as close to the middle of the genre as I could. It turns out I can only get so close to the middle. That was The Dagger and the Coin books. And then I wasn’t sure that I had anything else to say in that space. I’ve spent a lot of time with what is for me the central issue of epic fantasy: the great chain of being. The idea that with the righteous king on the throne, the land will prosper. Turns out I’m skeptical of that, which makes everything I do here more in the tracks laid down by folks like Moorcock and Martin. There was a while there I was thinking that I was done with epic fantasy. But I thought of something else that was interesting. So I guess I have one more in me.
It’s a treat to write solo because I set my own pace and I get to do everything exactly the way I would do it, but I also feel the loss of all the advantages of having other people involved. There’s a lot to be said for having someone there that you have to explain your ideas to, even when they agree. It gives everything a kind of clarity. The new books are going to take another polish draft because there wasn’t the editing and analysis baked into the process the same way. Which is fine. Nothing wrong with doing an extra draft.
AL: You and Ty have another James S.A. Corey project coming. Are there any details on that project?
DA: That one’s going to be fun. We haven’t been given the go-ahead to share a lot of the details, but we’ve said that the way The Expanse was playing in the same part of the sandbox as Alfred Bester, Larry Niven, and Arthur C Clarke, the new books are reaching more toward Frank Herbert’s and Ursula Le Guin’s territory. One of the great things about science fiction is that it has so many projects that fit in the genre. There’s a lot of room to move.
AL: Looking at the SF/F field as a whole, what excites you the most at the moment?
DA: Our total ascendance and absolute control over all the most prestigious titles in popular culture? Star Wars, MCU, DCU, Star Trek, Amazon’s Lord of the Rings, Villeneuve’s Dune. The central stories in popular culture right now are genre stories. It’s amazing and awe-inspiring to see how the things that I grew up thinking of as guilty pleasures like comic books and niche enthusiasms like sci-fi have become the central conversation of the culture. And also I feel like we’re starting to see the overripeness and decadence of those projects. They won’t last forever, and we have a lot of new voices coming in on the prose side right now that are still in the process of making their way to the mass audience of the screen. When the new round of modern classics start getting to the top of that hill, it’s going to be awesome. The reboot of cyberpunk by people who grew up inside of it is, I think, especially going to be the literature where the narrative of the twenty-first century can be made.