Since the pandemic hit us, I can really only watch dystopic science fiction. I started with Man in the High Castle (a show based on the premise that Nazis won World War II), then moved on to Humans (a show about androids gaining consciousness), and now I am watching The Expanse– a show about a universe where humans have colonized the Solar System. All shows grapple with evil in various ways. And that is what I need right now—stories that actively grapple with evil.
One of the things that critics have noted about The Expanse is how it doesn’t shy away from the brutal impact of high velocity travel on human bodies. Movies and shows like Star Trek and 2001: A Space Odyssey sidestepped the fundamental problems of space travel with imaginary physics or super advanced technology. But in The Expanse, everyone traveling through space has to deal with the overwhelming physical pressures that modern astronauts and fighter pilots experience in extreme situations like launch and landing.
As journalist Rafi Letzer writes: “In one scene, the captain warns his crew to expect “30 Gs” during an evasive maneuver. One G is the force of the Earth pressing on your body at sea level. If you’ve ridden a roller coaster, you may have experienced a few times that. Fighter pilots and astronauts withstand even greater forces, in the vicinity of 8 or 9 Gs.
But G-force doesn’t act the same on your whole body. Solid tissues tend to stay in one place, but blood flows in whichever direction physics dictates. This can starve your brain and eyeballs of necessary oxygen. Pressure in the 15-G range can kill in under a minute.”
Why am I talking about evasive space manuevers? Because I realize that it feels to me like we are in the middle of a societa l“high-g evasive manuever.” What some of us have been taught is that such maneuvers would look like they do in Star Trek—smooth and comfortable. But in fact, it is much more like The Expanse: in order to survive the megaforces of moving through the solar system at high speed, one needs to strap themself into crash chairs and put in mouthguards. One needs to prepare oneself for the robotic metal pincers to pierce your necks, supporting your spine and pump a sickly, gelatinous goop into your bloodstream to protect your internal organs.
I am strapped in. My body has had to endure so much less brutality than many other bodies, particularly Black and Brown bodies. I will do all I can to support these high-g manuevers we find ourselves in the middle of, so that more people get to experience compassion, tenderness, and justice in this world.