Interview — Andy Weir, author of The Martian

If you're a fan of science fiction movies, specifically the space variety, there's a good chance you've been paying attention to the trailers for The Martian. It has all the makings of an amazing movie, and that has a lot to do with it first being an amazing book. If you've never read The Martian, you should quickly add it to your list, but for those who have and are looking forward to seeing this story on the big screen we've got something a little different from our normal coverage today.

We sat down recently with Andy Weir, author of The Martian, to talk a little about his experiences as this story became a movie. Beware before you read any further, there are some movie spoilers in the interview. Enjoy!

The Martian

Russell: This story started out basically as a series of blog posts, eventually making its way to a published book and then a movie. Has this journey changed your thoughts on self-publishing at all?

Andy: I never expected any of this stuff to happen, right? I thought I was just writing this for the small group of nerds on my mailing list, so this has all been a complete surprise to me. A really pleasant surprise, like winning the lottery kind of surprise, but shifting how I thought about publishing? I think self-publishing was the key to my success there, I would never have thought to send this off to publishers.

Russell: If you were to write something else, would you also self publish it?

Andy: Oh no, now that I have an "in" I'm gonna shamelessly stick around.

Russell: A lot of The Martian is excitingly technical, can you talk about the research you did for this book?

I calculated out the orbital trajectories that Hermes takes, and it was accurate.

Andy: Mostly it was me looking things up on Google. I didn't know anyone in aerospace, I was on my own, so I did a bunch of Google searches. I know a lot of people in the field now, but I didn't at at the time so I would research things as I needed to. I really liked that. The research was fun, it was entertaining and fun to do that. The hard part was sitting my ass down and actually writing.

Russell: Was there one piece of the research in particular you found the most interesting?

Andy: Probably the orbital trajectories. I calculated out the orbital trajectories that Hermes takes, and it was accurate. It felt good to know that they were correct, even if the readers would never really know that. I had a lot of fun doing that, I went way down the rabbit hole on that one. It was just way more work than was necessary.

Russell: Have you had any of your new NASA and JPL contacts point out anything in the book that was inaccurate?

Andy: Everybody points out, and I knew this when I wrote it, that a sandstorm on Mars doesn't have that kind of force. A Martian sandstorm can't do that kind of damage. I know that at the time I wrote it, I just made that concession to drama because it was a Man vs Nature story and I wanted Nature to have the first punch. On a more positive note, folks at JPL were really happy to see the firm division between NASA and JPL in the story. Most people don't even realize there's a difference between those two entities.

Russell: Talking about how this turned into a movie, you've mentioned being happy with the changes that were made in order to make this work on the screen. Can you talk about what you feel was the most significant of these changes?

Andy: The whole trip from Ares 3 to Ares 4 is kind of montaged. It's fairly quick, so all of the problems he faces in that trip are gone. He doesn't run into the dust storm that threatens to run him out of power, he doesn't flip the rover, those are just not in the film, and I think it was a good idea to pull them out. The movie is already pretty long, it's over 2 hours. You have to remove things or you'll have a movie that just drags.

Russell: Is there any one scene you find absolutely looks as you pictured it when writing the story?

Andy: Yeah! I was really happy with it. This may seem like a boring answer, but it's the views. The panoramic vistas of Mars from the surface. It's just these beautiful red mountains and hills and rocks, stuff like that. I really got a kick out of that because you can't really convey that in writing very well. You can't really describe landscapes and excite the reader at all. Seeing a landscape or seeing a natural scene is entirely a visual experience. If you describe it briefly there's no emotion to it, and if you explain every scene in depth the read is going to toss the book over their shoulder because it's boring. I had to hope the readers were visualizing Mars, but in a visual medium it's beautiful. Ridley Scott likes to do that, he likes to show you the panoramas and let them breathe for a bit. It was pretty cool.

Russell: Finally, what was your favorite of the jokes involving Watney?

Andy: There's a great visual gag in the movie where he gets blown up by the hydrazine, and shows him sitting down in front of the camera. He goes "yeah, uh, I blew myself up" and there's literally smoke coming off of him and it's really funny.

Russell Holly

Russell is a tech nerd who chases the best of everything, from phones to game consoles to laptops and everything glowing or beeping. He's the Managing Editor of gaming content for Mobile Nations and can be found contributing to all of the Mobile Nations sites. Reach out on Twitter!

  • i can't remeber how many times ive listen to the audio book. I have nothing much Big love for this book..
  • My wife and I listened to the book driving from SoCal to central Cal for a weekend of wine tasting. We almost hated to get out of the car when we got to Paso Robles because we didn't want to stop listening to the book. Luckily we had a long drive home three days later.
  • One of the best books I have read. And that's big deal because I have read lots of books. I hope the movie is as exciting. The writer deserves all the success he gets.
  • Hey, nice WP you've got there!
  • I see what you did there.
  • Another lamme with "I see what you did there" .. no one care but lamme like you
  • This was the first (and only) fictional audiobook that I have heard in my life, and it was fantastic. I hope he keeps writing. BTW for fans of the Martian, what other audiobook do you recomend?
  • First audiobook for me also! Now moved onto Fear The Sky by Stephen Moss. It's also read by R C Bray and it's very good also. 
  • The whole Fear saga is great. They're quite massive reads (about 600 pages each) but each took me about 3-4 days. One of my all time favourites.
  • Try 'Daemon' and 'Freedom TM' by Daviel Suarez. The audiobook reader, Jeff Gurner, really brings them to life and pretty much EVERYTHING in Daemon is now possible, which is freaking scary  lol And if you like those (and everybody does) his other two, Kill Decision and Influx will be sure to please.
  • OtherLand by Tad Williams.
  • World War Z. The book is nothing like the movie. Probably my favorite audio book. Make sure you get the one that has multiple big name actors reading. It's amazing!
  • awesome interview with him here
  • I came to the comments to tell everyone about that same interview with Adam Savage. Two space nerds nerding out. It's beautiful!
  • If I get it for without purchasing,I'll probably reading this...
  • Why is this here.
  • I'm wondering the exact same thing. This feels like some thinly veiled paid post/advertisement. Albeit better than that absolute BS Verizon one from a while back but... There's nothing about anything central to Windows here.
  • I've read this book on my Windows tablet. I saw the trailer for the movie on my XBox One. And there was quite the amount of computer-related stuff going on, in the book at least. Haven't seen the movie yet.
  • So what's the relation between this and Windows? Me, never heard this book before :(
  • Every day there is less and less windows phone news here. I realize W10 is universal now, but im tired of reading about them playing games on twitch and now I have to see headlines about a book. Fantastic.
  • You can't say things like this on Windows Central. People will flip out and criticize you for having an opinion and tell you not to read the article if it bothers you.
  • Oh I know, I expect that. Its just that I actually do get excited when I see the live tile has a new article. I guess I was just extra irritated today to see that it had literally nothing to do with Windows at all. Oh well. Back into lurk mode I go.
  • My thoughts exactly we have e! And tmz for this shit
  • A creeping trend
  • Agreed.. If I want to read about book I should find a related blog to... Here its a place for Windows news not about books nor movies... They are losing focus..
  • I just assumed the auther loved the book (I can relate), and got a chance to interview Weir. Than, most probably, turned around and got permission. This might just be up here because a lot of people are loving the book, and no one up the chain had any reason to not put it up. Also... Slow news day. :-)
  • The "reason not to put it up" is that this is a tech blog, and specifically a Windows tech blog. This post has nothing to do with either. Nothing against the article or author, but it should have gone to Medium or as a guest post to a literary blog instead.
  • While I agree that this post isn't related to windows, I don't agree with "less and less windows phone news" or articles about playing games which are posted once a week..
  • I don't know... Once i saw Interstellar, these types of movies never lived up to my expectations. Interstellar had right amount of emotion, drama, soundtrack and a drizzle of action. There's no beating that
  • I second you!
  • Ever since one year ago?
  • If it has nothing to do with windows Why is it posted in windowscentral. Whats next movie reviews? 
  • Next they'll start to talk about that Bieber or maybe another cr@p not related to windows
  • I finished the book all in one setting on a flight from Austin to Boston. I could not put it down... It was just so good. I went to see a screening of the movie last Monday and overall I thought it did justice to the book. I just wish they didn't cut out so much conflict out of the book. The theme of the book was Mark vs Mars. The ending going from Ares 3 - Ares 4 had me on the edge of the seat most of the time in the book, I was disappointed that this was left out in the movie. - but overall it was a good adaptation of the book. Also, of course was kind of disappointed what they changed at the end of the movie....completely unrealistic ending. :/ Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • And tell it to kindle
  • ? Edit: Oh wait never mind. I see your other posts. Seems like your bitter about this article being posted on this site. - oh well. I guess you can't please everyone on this site. ***Thanks Russell for this article. I enjoyed it. I read it on my 1520 w/ Freda.
  • Spoiler alert much?
  • It's an amazing read and the audiobook even better as R.C Bray takes it a to another dimension of immersion. Sometimes I find myself drifting off and staring into space when I listen to it lol. Haven't read the interview or watched the trailers as I find they just ruin movies for me; often than not you can figure out what will happen throughout the movie and the end by watching the trailers + listening / reading actor, author, and director interviews (certain adaptations aren't always true to the book). In this case most of us know the end but still don't want to ruin the movie (in the event they tweaked/changed the end). Nevertheless thanks Russell for the early spoiler warning!
  • I loved the book, cant wait to see the movie
  • I like reading other aspects of members interests. If a member exposes the interest in Sci-Fi, good for him and us.
    Btw, The Martian is the most interesting science fiction novel I have read in a very long time.
  • I stole Andy's book (the audio form). It was so good I paid for it out of guilt when I finished.
  • Good for you!
  • No shit, right? Who the fuck is andy, and who cares anyway?
  • Funny how the same artice is posted at android central, minus all the whining about how it doesnt belong... bunch a cry babies around these parts..
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