By Jackie Gamber
What makes a woman consider spending the rest of her life with a man she’s never met? What makes a man think a woman could be happy with that kind of situation? Arranged marriage is a concept as old as time, and despite cultural advancements, it still goes on today, even in the U.S.
The particular germ that grew Hologram Bride for me as a writer came when I learned of the “Picture Bride” unions between Asian women and Japanese sugar plantation workers in Hawaii between 1908 and 1924. Because of immigration laws, marriages were arranged strictly by photographs. Can you imagine? They say a picture paints a thousand words, but for me, it’s still not enough of an introduction for a lifetime relationship.
But if one can define success of these unions by their population impact, then Picture Bride marriages were successful, indeed. By 1930, over 100,000 offspring were birthed. Now…if, say, in a future world setting, that sort of number meant the difference between the life of a culture and the death of it, or perhaps even a planet…could a union-by-hologram be a viable answer?
And that’s how I met Karla Jean Tremont, a strong-willed main character who finds the concept of interplanetary breeding “disgusting”; yet she’s forced there by a lack of options. And on the other side of things, there’s Ragin Dar’el, her husband-to-be and native to the planet Reisas, who has his own concerns about the arrangement.
Reisas has its complicated history of political and social ups and downs, and is in the throes of trying to recover from devastating failures. I attempted to do away with the “Star Trek” version of a planet, where all citizens wear the same haircut, buy from the same tailor, and hold the same sort of technology-based occupation. Rather, Reisas is technologically advanced, but has become aware of the harm that technology has caused. As a result, it’s a curious mixture of the primitive and advanced. And its citizens are intelligent, educated, sensitive—in varying degrees.
In fact, it may be Karla herself, a centuries-forward human, who is the least evolved here. She’s young and stubborn, and her ignorance of foreign culture makes her seem downright rude. She’s too willing to believe in stereotypes, too quick to judge…and yet her anger gives her an edge she’s certainly going to need.
In Hologram Bride, Karla lands on Reisas against her will; the last thing on her mind is becoming a solution to a planet’s survival. But in the end, she may just be the one for the job.
"Hologram Bride - Part 2" by Jackie Gamber is available now in issue 13 of Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show. Part 1 appears in issue 12.