A story that began as a Reddit comment thread is being turned into a feature film by Warner Bros. Entitled Rome, Sweet Rome, the historical science fiction tale was written on Reddit by author and two-time Jeopardy! champion James Erwin.
Rome, Sweet Rome (RsR) was first inspired by Reddit user The_Quiet_Earth, who asked the Reddit community in an AskReddit post, “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 MEU?”
“So I’ve been watching HBO’s Rome and Generation Kill simultaneously and it’s lead me to fantasize about traveling back in time with modern troops and equipment to remove that self-righteous little twat Octavian (Augustus) from power,” wrote The_Quiet_Earth in the post.
“Let’s say we go back in time with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), since the numbers of members and equipment is listed for our convenience in this Wikipedia article, could we destroy all 30 of Augustus’ legions?”
Erwin, who goes by the username Prufrock451 on Reddit, responded to question with a short story. His story quickly became the top-rated comments in the thread, and he was urged by other users to continue the tale.
Soon, RsR had its own subreddit (the name for individual Reddit communities), and inspired fan-art, fiction spin-offs and even a mock-up movie trailer. Adam Kolbrenner of Madhouse Entertainment caught wind of RsR when it became the top-rated comment on Reddit. Soon after, Kolbrenner contacted Erwin, and the pair began working to develop the story. According to Variety, Kolbrenner pitched the story to Warner Bros executive Chris Gary, who pushed for his company to “move aggressively” to acquire the rights to the screenplay.
On Twitter, Erwin had this message for the Reddit community: “Redditors: My apologies for the coming wave of novella-sized Prufrocking posts.”
Read Erwin’s first section of Rome, Sweet Rome below, and see the full initial thread here:
DAY 1 The 35th MEU is on the ground at Kabul, preparing to deploy to southern Afghanistan. Suddenly, it vanishes.
The section of Bagram where the 35th was gathered suddenly reappears in a field outside Rome, on the west bank of the Tiber River. Without substantially prepared ground under it, the concrete begins sinking into the marshy ground and cracking. Colonel Miles Nelson orders his men to regroup near the vehicle depot – nearly all of the MEU’s vehicles are still stripped for air transport. He orders all helicopters airborne, believing the MEU is trapped in an earthquake.
Nelson’s men soon report a complete loss of all communications, including GPS and satellite radio. Nelson now believes something more terrible has occurred – a nuclear war and EMP which has left his unit completely isolated. Only a few men have realized that the rest of Bagram has vanished, but that will soon become apparent as the transport helos begin circling the 35th’s location.
Within an hour, the 2,200 Marines have regrouped, stunned. They are not the only moderns transported to Rome. With them are about 150 Air Force maintenance and repair specialists. There are about 60 Afghan Army soldiers, mostly the MEU’s interpreters and liaisons. There are also 15 U.S. civilian contractors and one man, Frank Delacroix, who has spoken to no one but Colonel Nelson.
Miraculously, no one was killed during the earthquake but several dozen people were injured, some seriously. All fixed-wing aircraft and the attack helicopters were rendered inoperable by the shifting concrete, although the MEU did not lose a single vehicle or transport helicopter.
As night falls, the MEU has established a perimeter. A few locals have been spotted, but in the chaos no one has yet established contact. Nelson and his men, who are crippled without mapping software and GPS to fix their position, begin attempting to fix their location by observing stars. The night is cloudy. Nelson orders four helicopters back into the air at first light, to travel along the river in hopes of locating a settlement.