Writing Letters on Mars
In an era when the majority of interpersonal communications are digital, written letters are reemerging as a popular method of correspondence between settlers on the Red Planet.
On average, Martian settlers write one letter per week —an astonishing statistic that dwarfs the amount of letter writing on Earth. In fact, many people on Earth have been calling towards a revitalization of the art of handwriting, as less and less students are utilizing handwriting in their school assignments. Most students submit assignments digitally across all education levels.
On the other hand, Martians settlers have adopted letter writing for two primary reasons: embracing humanity’s written language tradition and establishing a “private life.”
Martian settlers have always seen themselves as an extension of humanity on Earth—both a biological and cultural extension. Currently, there are over 23 written languages on Mars and the Martian zeitgeist has a spectacular diversity of food, arts, and cultures, all originating from Earth.
The written language tradition is also regarded as an important aspect of culture on Earth. In the Martian academic curriculum, one of the primary ways to practice handwriting is through the practice of letter writing. Schoolchildren are taught to write letters to their peers, whereas adults often write letters to their friends and neighbors. Martian settlers have even created their own version of the Rosetta Stone and placed it at the center of one of largest schools on Mars, Arsia Mons School. An internal Mars mail service, colloquially called The Courier, enables the quick and easy transport of letters throughout settlements. Although settlers have access to internet, email, and social media to communicate with each other (and individuals on Earth, with latency), many realize the importance of the written language and letter writing, opting to use letters as a more meaningful form of correspondence.
Exposition. The Courier is a system of pods on tracks that carry goods within and between settlements. The Courier uses technology similar to hyperloops on Earth; however, The Courier is designed to transport goods of all sizes and not humans. On Earth, hyperloops require reduced-pressure tubes, or a vactrain design to operate. On Mars, the density of the atmosphere is only around 1% of Earth, thus enabling The Courier pods to zip through settlements with low air resistance, relying only on tracks and a solar-powered electric grid to power the pods.
Martian settlers have always held the “private life” as one of their guiding tenets. Settlers define the “private life” as a life that cannot be observed or controlled by any form of physical or digital tyrant; as a result, some information, personal communications, and relationships are protected from digital systems. The “private life” concept originated on Mars as a reaction to the current lack of privacy on Earth, due to surveillance technologies and digital systems/corporations that have an incentive to capture and use personal data. The “private life” manifests into a variety of different measures settlers have taken to safeguard information, especially peer to peer communications.
Most settlers on Mars lived through the Privacy Piracy Age in the 2020s. The erasure between public and private life on Earth, due to the Internet and social media, has led to examples of physical and digital totalitarianism within the last few decades. Although Martians use the Internet for mostly the same reasons as people on Earth, settlers are also more cautious about their personal information and communications. In addition, the legal regulations concerning digital privacy are generally more progressive on Mars than on the Blue Planet.
Letters are a private, peer-to-peer communication on Mars. There is virtually no chance of intercepting a letter on The Courier, since the mail system is automated and sans human contact. Once letters are dropped off into Courier Bins, they are sorted in Courier Pods by automated scanners that take stock of the envelop (and not the contents inside). Finally, the letters are re-sorted at their destination, and settlers are notified to come to a mailroom to pick up their post.
Many settlers take pride in their letter writing habit. Martian microbiologist Mikhail Popov says, “Writing letters to my friends and family on Mars has been rewarding hobby. I think, as a society, we have started to value physical mementos more than any form of digital communication. I tend to write most of my letters in my grandparent’s native language of Russian.” The increase in letter writing has also led to the creation of Mars-Earth Pen Pals program.