This year, all the WEP challenges will be about movies. It was a test of my ingenuity to combine speculative fiction – my preferred genre – with various well-known movies of the 20th century. But I’ve done it. I wrote a series of stories (again) about a group of women living on Mars 300 years from now. They live inside huge, transparent sealed domes – Martian cities – where the air they breathe needs to be produced artificially. Each dome also has a gravity generator, as the Martian gravity is much lower than the Earth gravity, and that would be damaging to the citizen’s health. What would the future Martians think about the movies we watch and love today? Here is my entry into the WEP Feb 2023 challenge, Gone with the Wind.
“Today, we’ll do something different,” Yrvina announced. She stood with her back to the holovid screen, dull and lifeless at the moment. In front of her, her friends, the members of their anivid and dessert club, gazed at her expectantly. As always, they arranged themselves on two sofas, leaving her favorite armchair for her. They all loved anivids and met regularly to watch the shows, but she was the only professional among them. As a vid animator, she worked for a company producing anivids – the animated vids people loved on Mars.
“My boss found a cache of old Earth films,” she continued. “From the 20th and the 21st centuries.”
“Three hundred years ago?” Serena asked in surprise. “You want us to watch something from a distant past?” Her bafflement reflected in the faces of their other friends.
“No. That would be impossible,” Yrvina said. “The technology is different. We’re remaking them into anivids for the local viewing. With some slight changes, of course, to generate more comprehensible stories for the Martians. But I wonder if you would like them anyway. The first vid I selected is the oldest. We’ll talk after the viewing. It is called Gone with the Wind.”
“Fine. Let’s watch it then,” Serena said with a smile. “What is for dessert today? Who is providing dessert?”
“I am. Berry mousse.” Yrvina couldn’t conceal her grin at the covetous groans off the sofas.
“Mousse, yum.” Nima sighed dreamily.
“Could we eat now, before the vid?” Serena suggested. “I’m hungry.” She batted her eyelashes, trying to project a starving image, but only succeeded in making everyone laugh.
“No,” Yrvina said heartlessly. “But we’ll eat it after, to sweeten our post-vid discussion.” She glanced at Verise, who usually staged mutinies over desserts, but Verise seemed deep inside her own head, her lips tight and her expression glum, as if she didn’t hear about the mousse. Strange. Yrvina would have to find out what was up with Verise after the vid.
With her projector in hands, she turned to the holo screen and pressed the button. Animated figures sprang up on the screen in their colorful costumes, whirling inside the holo beams. Yrvina plopped down into her chair. She wasn’t sure she liked this vid. She definitely disliked the heroine, but maybe her friends would have other ideas.
“What do you think?” Yrvina asked after the screen winked out. She brought in a tray of mousse cups. The girls grabbed the delicate cups, their spoons working assiduously. Serena appropriated two cups and moaned in bliss.
Verise took a cup too, but she stared at it as if she didn’t know what to do with her spoon. She seemed ready to cry. Yrvina’s concern deepened. What was happening with her friend? Before she could say anything, Serena licked the lilac mousse off her spoon and lifted it up to talk.
“That Scarlet was a totally unpleasant woman,” Serena said. “She treated everyone dismally, even the guy who loved her. I think she was in the wrong line of work. She shouldn’t have been responsible for building or supplies. She doesn’t care about other people, only about sex. She should’ve been a licensed sex therapist. She would’ve been much happier. Her school counselor should’ve spotted it when she was in her teens.”
“I don’t think they had school counselors in those days,” Yrvina said doubtfully. “Or licensed sex therapists.”
“You’re kidding,” Serena said flatly. “How could people find their optimum professions without school counselors?”
Yrvina shrugged. “Maybe it wasn’t a concern then and there,” she murmured weakly.
“I have another question,” Nima said. “How do you go with the wind? What does it mean Gone with the Wind?”
“Oh, I know that one,” Yrvina said. “Wind is an air movement. Like a draft. It could only happen on a planet with a breathable atmosphere. Winds could be so powerful they could blow a house away.”
“Yuck,” Nima said.
“Fortunately, we don’t have winds under the domes.”
“Yeah, that would be a disaster inside a dome,” Serena said. “A draft would mean the dome has cracked and is leaking air.” She shuddered dramatically.
“A nightmarish possibility,” Yrvina agreed.
After some more heated discussion, everybody headed home. Verise was the last one, and she lingered.
“What’s wrong, Verise?” Gently, Yrvina steered her friend back into the screening room and sat on the sofa beside her.
Verise sighed. “It’s my partner Tollan. He’s gone. Like Rhett. Gone with the wind. As if our dome indeed developed a crack, and the draft blew him away.” She snorted without humor.
“Gone where? Another dome?”
“He decided he wanted a wind on his face. Wanted to live on a planet. He emigrated to that new colony in the Polaris system. Last week. He wanted to be a farmer. Why? I don’t understand. I miss him. He said the air is artificial here, under a Mars dome, but it is clean, the temperature and moisture level are perfect for humans. No bugs. No wind. No dirt.” She sobbed and turned away, to stare out the window at the peaceful dome scenery.
“Maybe you should consider going with him?”
“I don’t want to,” Verise wailed. “I’m a citizen of Mars, with full benefits. Why would I go to some non-terraformed planet? To do what? Dig in the dirt? I have a respectable job here – a supervisor at a recycling plant. What would I do there? They don’t have recycling plants. They don’t have anything.” Angrily, she wiped the tears off her face with her fingers.
“Maybe love is more important than recycling plants,” Yrvina said quietly. “I would’ve gone with someone I loved.”
Verise shook her head stubbornly. “If he loved me, he would’ve stayed, not whip away across the galaxy.” She sniffled and visibly composed herself. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have poured my troubles on your head. You’re a great friend, Yrvina. I should go.”
Yrvina watched the door close behind Verise. “Maybe he left because you didn’t love him enough. Like Rhett,” she whispered, although nobody could hear her now.
Tagline: What do Martian women of the 24th century think of a classic love movie from three hundred year ago.
I’m glad you found an excellent way to include movies into your series this year. A refreshing way to look at life in the past, which in many ways, we’re doing now. The world has changed so much in sixty-odd years, but not always for the better.
I took the liberty in submitting for you.
An excellent take on the prompt! I love the premise of your series for the year.
I’m sad for Tollan and Verise – they each want such different things.
Poignant. Even when our lives improve, we still struggle with the same human issues. I like how they all got to watch, Gone With the Wind.
What an unexpected treat, to find a sci-fi twist to GWTW! Your characters and their reaction to the “old” (as in really old) movie made me smile. At the same time, as we learn more about the characters, especially Verise, we come to appreciate the complexity of life, living under a dome, perhaps privileged vs. unprivileged, yet showing how strongly people work to create the life they truly want, even if it hurts others. A wonderful read.
I had to come back to reread your story. Congratulations on your first place win! I’m hoping this collection of stories about women living on Mars winds up in a book-like format or anthology? Will you alert us, your fans?
Beth, thank you, but I didn’t win anything. As part of the WEP admin crew (I’m responsible for the badges and other imagery), I’m not eligible to participate in the contest.
Even on Mars and centuries from now, humankind’s romantic problems remain the exact same. Great interpretation of the prompt, full marks for ingenuity, Olga! Loved the text divider you’ve created too, very apt.
What a brilliant way to interpret GWTW. You’ve left us wondering what’s next for Tollan and Verise. I hope it will be A Beautiful Life in the next one!😊😊
You found a way not to transport the horrors that are in GWTW to your newly made Martian planet. I wonder if the martian women of the 24 century will be just as shallow as their counterparts here on earth were. I hope not.
Good take on the prompt.
Scarlet lives on. And she’s still missing out.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même … very well written illustration of this epigram. I’m not able to say something really fitting about this chapter as I (gasp) never read or saw Gone with the Wind – I must amend this some day soon – but I look forwards to more Martian chronicles from you.
Hi Olga – what a lovely post … one I enjoyed reading … I think I’m happy here on earth – not up there living in a protected world … but I did appreciate your take on the prompt. What I’d love to be able to do once my time is up – is go backwards and go forwards to understand life a little more … I’m looking forward to your next WEP – cheers Hilary
I was not expecting a speculative twist to this prompt. Brilliantly done, and you’ve given us so much to think about and feel.
It would be interesting to live at that time and see movies from the past. Love the way you tied it all together! Great take on the prompt.
What would anyone in 300 years in Earth future think of us today. GWTW is controversial to today’s values, I can’t imagine another planet, another culture far in the future, seeing the original version. Our ancestors would be labeled barbarians.
Nicely done integrating the romance theme of GWTW into the friend’s current situation. Verise and Scarlette have a lot in common – lack of empathy for others.
This is a brilliant take on the theme, futuristic but still with all the challenges that love brings to a couple.
Nice story, and a promising start to the year’s series! By the way, I agree with Serena–Scarlet is not a nice woman. But my memory of the movie was that Rhett wasn’t a nice man, either. I can’t remember liking any of the characters.