A friend and I had the opportunity earlier this year to visit Andy Weir, author of The Martian, at his home in Mountain View, California for a podcast we were hosting. Sitting just a stone’s throw away from Google, his two cats keeping an eye on us from the staircase, we chatted for over an hour about all things writing, space travel and mixed beverages (he’s an amateur bartender with an impressive collection of concoctions in his arsenal.) As a writer, Andy’s story is both unique and inspirational. Rather than finishing his book first, he released chapters on his website, one at a time, until someone suggested he post it on Amazon (which he did for a mere 99 cents a copy, only because Amazon required him to charge something for it.)
The Martian, which is currently #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list (and made its first appearance there a whopping 47 weeks ago) garnered the attention of some high level folks in Hollywood. Cut to October 2nd of this year, when it will be released in theaters nationwide, top lined by Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, and the buzz has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Our initial chat with Andy didn’t dive too much into the film as he hadn’t seen it at the time, nor was he able to discuss it for fear of giving anything away. Fortunately, Andy is one of the nicest guys in the business and he agreed to do a quick follow-up about the movie, his thoughts on Mars (did you hear you can go swimming up there now?) and what we can expect to see next from this brilliant author.
What were your first impressions upon seeing the movie? Did it match the world you’d envisioned when you wrote the book?
It was amazing and surreal! My random scribblings brought to life right before my eyes. I had to spend the first five minutes working hard not to get chocked up.
What was it like seeing the cast bring your characters to life?
They did a fantastic job, especially Matt. He absolutely NAILED the role. He’s exactly how I imagined Watney.
What was the feedback like from NASA and the astronauts on the ISS?
NASA really likes it, because they see it as a way to hopefully reinvigorate the public interest in the Space Program. Plus, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that NASA is presented in such a positive light in the film. The astronauts on ISS didn’t offer any opinions of the film because they’re not allowed to. NASA can’t directly endorse a commercial product. If you look closely at NASA’s comments on the film, they’re all factual things, like “Most of the science is correct” or “Yup, that’s pretty much what we’d do in a situation like that”. They stop short of endorsing the film because they can’t.
In your research, did you speak with anyone applying for Mars One? What are your thoughts on that mission?
I don’t take Mars One seriously at all. They don’t have enough money to accomplish anything resembling their stated goals. They have about $400,000 in funding, which is not enough to colonize Nebraska, let alone Mars. They plan to make $36 billion from what amounts to a reality TV show, which is a completely absurd expectation. For reference, the Summer Olympics usually generates about $4 billion in revenue.
Do you have any interest in visiting space yourself?
No, I write about brave people, but I’m not one of them.
Will we ever see a screenplay written by Andy Weir, or do you prefer writing books?
I’d love to try a screenplay. I’ve never done one before.
What can you say about your next project?
I’m working on my next book now. It’s a more traditional sci-fi novel with aliens, faster-than-light travel, etc. It’s tentatively titled “Zhek”.
If you’re interested in our previous interview with Andy, you can find it here. Don’t miss The Martian, in theaters this Friday, October 2.