One month ago, an innocently asked question by a frustrated fan of HBO’s Rome (Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern U.S. Marine infantry battalion or Marine Expeditionary Unit?) spawned a three part short story penned by James Erwin, an Iowan author of encyclopedias and two-time Jeopardy champion. A week later, he was getting calls from talent managers and agreed to develop his story into a screenplay with Madhouse Entertainment. Yesterday, Warner Bros. preemptively bought the rights to the putative screenplay.
Because a battalion of marines might not have the total advantage that you might think. Here’s an excerpt from Erwin’s story:
Nelson and his command staff are stunned. Not one of his men speaks more than a dozen words in Latin. Nelson begins assembling a list of possible interpreters from his Spanish-speaking soldiers, and at the suggestion of a classically minded major he adds the dozen or so Marines fluent in German.
He pores over the inventories. His aviation fuel won’t last longer than six months, the high-octane fuel necessary to run the Humvees maybe another year after that. He knows that he could technically rig machines to run on wood gas or even coal, but that seems highly impractical.
He has ammunition. He has fuel. He has food. He has medical supplies. But he doesn’t have that much of any of these things. The 35th MEU was going to be dependent on a vast logistical pipeline from the first day of its deployment. He commanded one of the most powerful, terrifying forces in the world – especially in what appeared to be its new (old?) world – but it was one with a short half-life.
Sure, the whole concept sounds like Frank Miller and Michael Bay got drunk together, but with the added benefit of Frank Miller and Michael Bay not actually being involved. It’s also an obvious entry to the list of proof that the intertubes are leaking more and more these days. For emphasis, allow me to link to the totally rad SubReddit for Rome Sweet Rome, where people have ‘shopped up posters and even composed music for it.
Erwin is just realistic about his luck as he is good at giving writerly advice:
Here’s the thing. I was very, very lucky to post what I did at the moment I did. It wasn’t just the idea of coming up with just the right answer – if I’d posted the same text an hour later, everyone would already be bored with the question. They wouldn’t have seen it and it wouldn’t have blown up. So that was definitely a lightning-in-a-bottle situation…
…So, with a week of perspective, I think there are a couple of lessons here. First, when you see an opportunity to write about something you love, take it. Second, when you don’t, write anyway. Try your hand at new genres, new techniques. Experiment, and study, and look earnestly at any feedback you get. The best way to be a writer is to write. That will give you the experience and confidence to make the most of an opportunity when it arises – and you never know when you’ll create one for yourself.
Here’s hoping the movie is good fun, and we just have one suggestion: add a lady marine! I don’t even care if she’s a secondary character. Just have a bunch of shocked Roman soldiers interacting with a woman warrior, because that sound really interesting to me.
(via Boing Boing)
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