Andy Weir, the software engineer-turned-science-fiction author, leads a delightful discussion about his journey to Mars (on paper) and how his dream of writing sci-fi became a reality. Andy Weir was a successful software engineer for many years until his first novel, The Martian, was released, and thereby released him from work commitments other than writing full time. The success of the novel allowed him to continue his passion, working as a writer, developing other ideas and concepts. Mr. Weir’s step into the science-fiction world was an organic one, as he has been fascinated with space and physics since childhood, and he is now able to bring it all together into his work as an artist.
As an admitted “space dork,” Weir discusses his keen interest in the real world science problem of how to put humans on the planet Mars. From transportation to and from, to survive while on the planet, Weir’s interest in the potentially possible mission was one of simply curiosity, and not a concept for a novel. As Weir dove into the thinking and planning behind his ‘mental mission’ to Mars, he began to work through the pitfalls and system errors that could occur on such a mission. As he calculated the contingency plans for such system failures he began to think that the whole milieu—from the travel to the problems encountered, to the fight for survival if there was a system failure—all might make for a pretty interesting novel. Thus, The Martian was born.
The sci-fi author discusses the thoroughly interesting step-by-step approach he took that, to his surprise, led to a publishing deal with a major publisher. As Weir describes, he began posting chapters online, as he finished them, thinking that he would entertain his small following of about 3,000 readers and then move on to his next fun story idea. But as the interest grew it was, in fact, his readers who encouraged him to take his work to Amazon, and once it hit Amazon’s massive online marketplace, the numbers started to fly. And it wasn’t long thereafter that literary agents and Hollywood producers came calling… at the same time.
Weir discusses the entire process, and his technical involvement along the way, of how the book became the movie. As the screenwriter was selected and the deal secured, Ridley Scott and Matt Damon came on board and the project was off and flying (to outer space)! Weir recounts an amusing story of how one former NASA flight director who was, during his tenure, in charge of mission control at NASA, stated that reading the book actually stressed him out, for Weir’s accuracy regarding potential mission problems was a little too real.
After the best-selling success of The Martian, Weir’s publisher was ready for more. Weir details his frustrations as he worked for a year on another novel that he felt was simply not coming together, and thus he eventually scrapped it. But from the ashes arose a new idea for another novel and he was off and writing again. While Weir admits he was not happy to have lost a year on the writing of a novel that was never to be, he does acknowledge that the end result was better for everyone—readers, his publisher, and himself. His new novel, Artemis, described on his website as a “near-future thriller—a heist story set on the moon,” was enthusiastically received by his publisher and they took it to the presses. Weir states that his success in the science-fiction publishing world, while somewhat an enigma, possibly hinges on scientific accuracy and of course, making them laugh, for humor captures every reader and keeps them turning the pages.