There have recently been rumors that someone at Disney was considering a reboot of Firefly, the series about a group of outsiders, led by a man still harboring ill-will about being on the losing side of a civil war, trying to stay under the radar as they make a barely-legal living on the fringes of society.
Sadly, the rumors proved unfounded. More’s the pity… but maybe we shouldn’t discount the possibility of more or similar stories in the future; because the truth is, the storytelling universe created for Firefly is rich in potential for realistic, fantastic and dramatic science fiction.
The storytelling universe for the show was literally known as The Verse, a single large solar system of multiple planets and moons, many of which were ripe for terraforming into human habitats. After humans wore out old Earth and escaped from it in a fleet of ships, they found the system and started rebuilding it. Some planets became luxurious places for humanity to live and thrive on; others mostly provided resources for the luxurious planets; and people set up homesteads, worked hard to mine materials and sold them in system-wide markets.
After a time, the inner planets decided to pool their resources into one political entity, the Alliance. The smaller independent planets weren’t interested in being part of the Alliance, however, and wars broke out throughout the Verse. Eventually the Alliance won and became the single government of the Verse, but despite their initial promises, unification didn’t provide a lot of betterment to the working and mining planets, leaving a lot of ill-will between the rich and the poor planets. Much like the aftermath of America’s Civil War, there were many who felt left behind or betrayed by the Alliance, and some (like Malcolm Reynolds, Captain of the Serenity) never got over it.
We were treated to life in the Verse from Captain Reynolds’ perspective in Firefly. During that time, we were shown the best and the worst of the planets and the people thereon, from the rich, pampered and mostly self-absorbed Tams (River and Simon’s parents) to those scratching out a bare living, or settling into illicit trades to survive. We saw the parties of the wealthy, the prostitutes in their thrown-together homesteads, and everything in-between. We saw towering buildings, gleaming hospitals, and people living in mud and cloth camps. This Verse was as rich in backgrounds and characters as any country on Earth.
And it’ll be a crying shame if the rich tapestry of the Verse is never used by any other storyteller. You have the option for writing stories about people living the best life possible, or those struggling to reach that best life. You can write stories about those doing cargo runs, like Serenity, or someone with a better ship and resources by virtue of being on the up-and-above-board Alliance side during the war. You can use the Verse for police and military dramas, for gumshoes and friendly wanderers, people trying to save the world with science and people trying to corrupt it with that same science. It’s a new solar system, and there may be interesting history to explore. There may be other nearby systems within reach. There may be aliens out there somewhere, or hints that they were there once.
And if you really wanted to, you could even write stories about your characters occasionally crossing paths with Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity, may they be friends or foe.
In this era where all it seems anyone can do is reboot old shows, I think we can do better. So, if you’re tired of the umpteenth barely-a-variation of Star Trek or Star Wars, maybe consider developing new series that take advantage of this well-built bible of sci-fi worlds, creating new characters that can occupy new stories, new twists and different dramas.