An Interview with Andy Weir

The Martian was a hugely successful for And Weir and it was a pleasant surprise for many people who love hard sci- fi. The Martian was not just a good sci-fi it was written with great passion and you could feel that love and curiosity through the story. 

There was another story behind the Martian too and it was the story of how Andy researched for this book and how he managed to brought such a story to life with such scientific precision. How he used his skills as a coder and the vast knowledge that now accessible on the web to create a futuristic science mission. 
All of these gave hands to hands to grasp the attention of the audiences. 
The cinematic adaptation of the novel with all-star casts and a great director such as Ridley Scott on the chair gave more people a chance to see the world of future exploration. And at the end the story was a great celebration of the problem solving and what we need more than the ability to think scientifically, clear and try to solve our problems as far and as hard as we can.

In Iran like all over the world this book received great reviews and translated and published few months before the movie came around. 
A few months ago I emailed Andy Weir and asked him if he can give me time for an email interview. He was so kind and accepted my request. I used that interview as a part of a profile about the Novel and the movie of the martin that published in Danestaniha magazine and it published on January 1st. 
Danestaniha is a biweekly popular science magazine and publish in Tehran and has a very high circulation. I rearranged the questions for Persian edition but here is my main interview with him for Danestaniha. 
And in case you missed it, Andy announced that he is working on a TV series for CBS titled Mission Control.

1- I know that you started the Martian as an online multi-episode story. But I wonder when you realized that you have such an amazing story and it shaped in your mind?
I never expected it to do as well as it did. I wish I knew what I did right.

2- The Martian beside a great hard sci-fi is a kind of horror story too. The story of the loneliness of Mark who should fight against all the odds is really breathtaking. Did you have a real world inspiration for this character? Or it was just developed as a tool for you to create and solve problems over and over?
Pretty much as a tool for problem-solving. That’s the core of the novel.

3- You said before that you didn’t have any connection with astronauts or people at NASA before the book published and become such phenomena. Can you tell us how you did the research for solving the problems and even more important than that creating the new problems and obstacles for Mark?
Google. Pretty much just Google. But bear in mind, I’ve been a space dork my whole life. So I started with a more-than-average knowledge about the space program.

4- Sometimes when I was reading the book when Mark was saying like: that is enough for today, I will go to figure out this special problem later, I thought that probably it is you actually who need time to figure out the method to solve the problem. Did you ever face such a problem that you say ok I can’t figure it out now but I am going to do it later? And was there any time that you put some problem that turned out unsolvable so you go back and change the problem?
No, I didn’t have Mark stop to think about problems when I stopped to think about them. There’s no connection there. But yes, I did occasionally put him in situations that I couldn’t think up a way for him to survive. When that happened, I would either back up and have that problem not happen, or I would work out some bit of technology or tool that would get him out of it. And then I’d put references to it earlier in the text.

My Next Book is about a city on the Moon. It’s another hard sci-fi novel where everything is accurate to real-world physics. The main character is a woman who is a low-level criminal.

5- The Martian is one of the best and most accurate hard sci-fi of recent years. It is so hard to keep science exact and at the same time create such an attractive narration. How did you balance between science facts and drama?
I almost always side with science. The cool thing is that science drives the plot. I would discover problems for Mark by checking the math. For instance, it never occurred to me that he wouldn’t have enough water to grow potatoes. It was only when I checked the math for how to grow the potatoes that I realized he would have to create water for them. That led to the whole hydrazine plotline which was awesome.

6- If you revisited the Martian now is there some part of that you would like to change?
Yeah, I’d change the sandstorm at the beginning. It’s not accurate to real science. Instead, I’d have lightning strike the MAV (Mars does have lightning) causing an explosion and fuel leak, leading to the situation that strands Mark.

7- The Martian, The movie was a great hit and many people watch your story on the big screen. I remember one of my friends, Dr. Naderi, who was the former Mars program manager, told how much he enjoyed the movie because people could see what he and his colleagues doing at JPL. What was your reaction when you find out Ridley Scott was going to turn your story into the movie? And how much you involved in the process of the making the movie?
I was thrilled when I found out Ridley would be directing. As for my part in the moviemaking, mostly my job was to cash the check. Though they did send me the screenplay to get my opinion. They weren’t required to listen to anything I had to say. They kept me updated on the production because they’re cool. And in the end, the film is very true to the book, so I’m happy.

8- Although the movie was very inspiring, some critics believe it couldn’t keep the promise of the book in respect of portraying the science as correct as it can. Some changes were inevitable because of the limits of cinema narrative. But still, some small details missed from the movie including the color of the sunset sky in Mars or the process of producing water or patching the HAB after the explosion. Are you satisfied with the move? And is there any part that you prefer that done differently?
I’m very happy with the film. By the way, the water production process shown in the film is accurate to real science.

9- If I understand correctly based on the thanksgiving and positions of the Earth and Mars your story should happen around 2035. Now you are a celebrity in the science and space community and I am sure that you talk a lot with people inside NASA and other space organizations and companies. Based n this first handed knowledge you have do you still think we are going to send the human to mars surface around 2030? And if we are going to do this how much do you think the architecture of the mission will be similar to your story?
No, I don’t think we will. I think it’ll be more around the 2050 time frame. I don’t know what architecture they’ll eventually use. Though I think the one I came up with is best. 🙂

10- Can you tell us a little about your future projects and if you are working on another Sci-Fi story?
I’m working on my next book now. It’s about a city on the Moon. It’s another hard sci-fi novel where everything is accurate to real-world physics. The main character is a woman who is a low-level criminal. I hope to have it out by mid-2017.

11- Many young people inside Persian language community especially inside Iran read your book and watch the movie and inspired not only by the story that you told but by the story of yourself as a writer. Your work helps many young people –here like another part of the world – start to pay more attention to science and math. Do you have any advice or anything that you would like to share with them?
I strongly advise people of all cultures to study science. It’s what advances us all as a world community.

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