Andy Weir on The Martian
Andy Weir wrote The Martian and put it on his website for free. Here is a link to Weir’s internet page as it appeared several years ago. The story was so popular that it was purchased by a leading publisher and became a runaway success in 2014.
And now Weir’s book has been adapted into a hit movie from 20th Century Fox that’s still in theaters after two months of release and has grossed over 220-million dollars to date.
The Martian wasn’t the only phenomena that Weir created. Also on his original website was a short story titled The Egg, which is basically a conversation between God and a person who has just died. Go on Youtube and you can find literally find dozens of videos of The Egg. The vids are from countries all over the world in just about every language you can image and run five to 10 minutes.
“It’s funny because I wrote The Egg in 40-minutes one night and put it online,” Weir tells Free Press Houston in a phone interview. “I didn’t think it would be special to anybody.” Weir notes that he’s watched some of the videos with amusement.
The Martian owes its triumph to the accuracy of the science contained within the science fiction. But Weir wasn’t calling up friends at NASA and fact checking. “I did all my research on Google,” says Weir, “Or used stuff I knew in advance from a lifetime of being a space dork.”
In The Martian an astronaut, Mark Watney has been left on Mars, presumed dead when a mission has to be aborted due to severe weather conditions. Eventually Watney communicates to NASA and a tale of survival and rescue ensues. Whenever a problem pops up, and they do with regularity, there’s math involved in finding a solution.
Watney, via his emails and diaries, refers to events in profane terms in the book. There’s one line in the movie adapted by Drew Goddard that isn’t in Weir’s text. “We’re going to science the shit out of this.”
“It’s a perfect Watney quote,” laughs Weir. “I’m angry I didn’t come up with it.”
Because The Martian is rated PG-13 some of the more impious impulses of Watney are dumbed down. However Weir mentions some of the cuts that took place in Goddard’s script.
“Actually we got two F-bombs in the movie. What we thought was a hard and fast rule is actually not. The MPAA can do whatever they want. We had a different profanity in there at one point. Someone calls someone a ‘bureaucratic felcher’ and MPAA looked up what felcher meant. Oh no, no, no, you can’t have that in the movie,” says Weir. “Fox said come on, if you’re going to get rid of felcher give us another F-bomb. So we ended up getting two F-bombs in the movie plus two that were just mouthed, not heard but seen.”
Another section of The Martian has an astodynamicist, Rich Purnell, who devises the most efficient solution to orbital dynamics that will rescue Watney in the least amount of time. Purnell is referred to as a steely-eyed missile man. The same phrase is heard in the movie Apollo 13.
“It’s a NASA tradition that dates back to the Apollo era,” says Weir. “It’s a phrase used to honor somebody for coming up with a very clever solution that would’ve otherwise caused a scrub.
“It was first applied to John Aaron who figured out a critical problem during the launch of Apollo 12,” explains Weir. “Apollo 12 got struck by lightning twice during its ascent and all the instrumentation went haywire. The mission was going to be aborted but Aaron, one of the flight controllers, knew this obscure way to put the control console into a different mode that would use a different power system and he relayed that info to the astronauts. He told them ‘turn SCE to Aux.’ Two of the astronauts didn’t know what he meant, one of them did. He flipped the switch and the problem was solved and they were able to continue the mission. They decided that John Aaron was a steely-eyed missile man for coming up with that solution on the spot.”
The Martian comes out on Digital HD on December 22. This basically means that the movie is available on digital platforms like Amazon, VUDU, iTunes and others. The Martian comes out on Blu-ray and DVD on January 12.
Weir’s next novel Zhek will involve telepathy and faster than light travel. “I don’t think either of those things are likely. In fact I believe that faster than light travel will prove to be completely impossible despite various wormhole theories,” says Weir. “I think the universe will prove to prevent faster than light travel in all forms.”
— Michael Bergeron