One of the many reasons Jason and I get on as well as we do is the attitude we share towards influences. Pop culture is a puzzle that we never stop solving and that never stops solving us and there are good chunks of After The War that only exist because something else expressed an idea we found interesting and wanted to riff on in our own way. One of the biggest is The Expanse. I am team murdersnuggles for life and the show and novel series’ exploration of the different elements of human culture depending on where we stand is one of the things that marks it out as a modern classic
But the question then becomes, how do you honor a modern classic at the same time as not playing its tune on inferior instruments?
Don’t play them on inferior instruments, play them on different ones.
For me, the Belt is a community for people who don’t think they want, or need, a community. It’s the place you go when there isn’t anywhere else and you’re pleasantly surprised to discover there are other people out there. Tonally, that can be a difficult conceit but I tend to think of it in these sorts of terms.
Eliot Spencer, from Leverage, is a belter. The first time we meet Spencer he proves himself exceptionally good at hurting people with maximum speed and efficiency. As the show goes on, we learn this about him, expressed beautifully by showrunner John Rogers:
I find it interesting to speculate that while the rest of the team is working toward some sort of redemption, Eliot Spencer is quite sure he’s damned, and has become comfortable with that. He will seek … to make amends, rather than be saved.
Much like Posner’s line from The History Boys,Eliot isn’t happy but he isn’t unhappy about that. A uniquely gifted violence engine with specific ethics and a rather more active than he wants to believe moral code, he’d fit right in on Polvo.
Zarya, from OverWatch? Belter. Former champion athlete. Former soldier. Former hero. A woman who realized that both sides were being played against the middle and she was a pawn for the wrong one? A woman whose physical prowess and presence marks her out in a positive rather than negative way. Someone who revels in the unique shape she takes in the universe and is becoming used to making her own choices about what she does with that shape? Belter through and through.
The late great Anthony Bourdain. A chef by accident as much as design, who hurled himself forward into the world looking for things to master even as he refused to accept he wanted to be recognized for that mastery. Read Kitchen Confidential (Especially the Insider’s Edition) and you see a man continually at war with his best and worst instincts, and who struggled throughout his life to see his own accomplishments. Bourdain remained passionately interested in everything until the end of his life, whether it was history, writing, Brazilian Jujitsu or the correct way to poach an egg. He was a community leader who refused to quite look that in the eye and I can think of no one better than him to educate the Belt in the culinary, literary and martial arts. Ave, Chef.
Annie Edison from Community. Not just a belter but probably the belter who keeps the books for everyone, runs meetings and sends minutes around. Community is my all time favorite sit com and there are thousands of words I could write here about why. But as far as After the War is concerned, its Annie all the way. Intensely driven, mildly socially awkward, a rough past and a determination to be good at EVERYTHING. Annie is fundamentally decent, incapable of resting and absolutely convinced she isn’t good enough. So she runs headlong at any project to prove her worth and what better project than keeping humanity alive as it breaks down and sells the very rocks it’s clinging to?
Flawed. Brilliant. Cautious. Determined. Alone together. Together alone. The Belt and its people as we see them in After The War area complex, fractious society even before the Song shatters it. What it becomes, after that both on and off Polvo? That’s up to you. But one thing is certain; it won’t be simple.