The story of Amazon Prime Video picking up The Expanse for its fourth season is a true fairy tale about fandom, one about how thousands of people from different backgrounds connected across different parts of the internet to launch a campaign, that in a few short weeks, saved the series from cancelation (check out the “The Expanse Lives” fansite to get a detailed account of the fans’ efforts, which included flying a #SaveTheExpanse banner over Amazon Studios and launching a model of the Rocinante — the ship the crew lives on in the show — into actual space).

This story is also proof that hardcore fandom can be a force for good, how the hard work of dozens of dedicated volunteers and the passion of thousands of additional fans who supported them, kept the show alive. “It’s a very strong fanbase we’ve got for the show,” explained actor Cas Anvar at an Expanse Q&A panel at Atlanta’s Dragon Con this weekend. “Science fiction fans I think—and I’m a huge science fiction fan—we appreciate when we are given intelligent, layered and textured stories. And if you try to take that away from us, you’ve got to be prepared for a fight.”

The fans, along with the cast and crew, did fight. And they won! And over this Labor Day weekend, Expanse fans as well as cast members Cas Anvar (Alex Kamal), Frankie Adams (Bobbie Draper), Dominique Tipper (Naomi Nagata), and Shohreh Aghdashloo (Chrisjen Avasarala herself!), congregated in Atlanta at Dragon Con to celebrate their love of the show.

And there were a whole bunch of ways people could celebrate — over the course of three days, Dragon Con attendees could connect with the cast and other fans at six panels, at least two meet-ups, three photo opportunities, and several autograph sessions with different members of the cast. And, just as Dragon Con is known for having something for every kind of nerd, The Expanse fans were able to nerd out on their love of the show in multiple ways.

The Expanse

Cosplay

Dragon Con is the mecca of cosplay, and Expanse lovers have loved costuming since the beginning. Past fan efforts include holding a cosplay contest, where some participants were invited to visit the show’s set when it was on SyFy. Expanse fans brought their cosplay A-Game to Dragon Con as well; several people at the fan meetups, which were also great opportunities to meet other Expanse fans, came dressed as if they were part of the crew on Tycho Station (AKA the station run by the Belters) or the Martian Congressional Republic Navy (AKA the MCRN, which is especially known for their badass suits of armor). Some fans even had a dab or two of glowing blue protomolecule on them, which fortunately didn’t spread to others. Not only did fans get to show off their cosplay, but they also got to share with each other how they put their pieces together, which as many cosplayers will tell you, is more than half the fun.

Meeting the Cast

Dragon Con was the best chance for fans to connect with the cast since they helped save the show. The four cast members in attendance were busy, and fans could see them on panels that ranged from a general Q&A (which had over a thousand people in attendance and ended with a standing ovation when a questioner got a blushing Shohreh Aghdashloo to swear like Avasarala), to a science-focused panel (“The Science of The Expanse: From A to Zero G”), to a panel that discussed representation and diversity in space (“Space Race: The Ethnic Mosaic of The Expanse”). Attendees could also meet the cast personally, either at one of their three photo sessions or by getting their autographs during one of their signing times in the appropriately named Walk of Fame area of the con.

the expanse season 2

Going Back to School

For the Expanse nerds who are more academically inclined, there were also panels that could show up on a potential course syllabus. The first, with the appropriately academic-sounding name of “Speculating on the Colonial Future of the System in The Expanse,” had experts discuss the sociopolitical dynamics and implications on the show. If learning new languages was more your thing than political science, you could also attend a panel called, “Expanse Lang Belta Class,” which was a crash course in learning how to speak like a Belter.

Meeting Other Fans

But perhaps the best opportunity for Expanse fans at Dragon Con was being able to meet fellow fans in person. The community already has a strong presence on platforms like Reddit, Discord, Facebook and Twitter, but getting the chance to connect in real life is a rarer thing, and something that hasn’t happened often (yet) for a fandom that’s only a few years old. At Dragon Con, there were two formal meet-ups as well as a fan panel, where fans involved in the campaign to save the show shared their experiences as well as their passion for The Expanse universe.

Throughout the course of the con, however, what became clear from meeting other fans was that, while certain people may love certain parts of the show or the books the show is based on, everyone loves The Expanse because it is so complex and diverse. The community is a inclusive one, one that welcomes others and isn’t bogged down by the negativity or trolling that one can easily find in other fandoms.

Ed Akselrud, the fan who created The Expanse Series Fan Trailer that went viral during the campaign to save the show, sums up what he thinks makes The Expanse so compelling and makes the fan community so positive:

“There’s a magical element to the show itself…the people who make the show are very tolerant, genuine people who believe in what they’re making…they talk a lot about diversity and explore all these systems and extrapolate on the problems we have in our world. They take it out to space and they show that humanity—they’re not hopeless but they’re also struggling and conflicted and the show doesn’t treat you like a child at all. It’s not afraid to touch on these subjects and I think all these factors combined—the people who make the show, the writers of the books who were the people who started this story and built up this world—I think they draw a certain audience…it weeds out the people not comfortable with these ideas.”

As the show heads toward the production of its next season, the fandom continues to grow and expand (no pun intended) as well. The fanbase that coalesced around the effort to save the series is now focused on celebrating all aspects of the show. Another fan effort involving a Kickstarter for an Expanse roleplaying game, destroyed its fundraising goal of $30,000 by raising over $400,000 for the project. The fandom, while starting out relatively small, is strong and gaining traction. I’m looking forward to being part of what The Expanse fandom does in the future, whether at next year’s Dragon Con or beyond.

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