Interview with Andy Weir about his book “The Martian” and the movie.
We, Altug Gurkaynak (editor of kayipdunya.com) and Kayra Kupcu (editor of frpnet.net) are from Turkey. We both are working in the Internet industry and have background on publishing in Turkey, mostly focused on science fiction and fantasy literature.
Today we are having an interview with Mr. Andy Weir from USA who is famous with his award wining first book: The Martian. The book is upcoming as a movie (which is under production while this interview is done) and will be on theatres by 25 November 2015. You can watch the first trailer of The Martian here:
Warning: If you have not read the book yet, content of this interview may contain spoilers! You are warned!
Altug Gurkaynak: Hello Andy and thank you for accepting our questions. I guess this is your first interview from Turkey, is that right?
Andy Weir: Thanks for having me. Yes, I think this is my first interview from Turkey.
Altug: Else than what we can read on wikipedia, how would you describe us who Andy Weir is? What are his passions? What are his aims on the Literature world after the victorious enterance?
Andy: I’m just a typical nerd with nerdy hobbies. I like board games and science. I don’t have any real “aims” for the literature world other than just being a part of it. I hope people enjoy my future books at least partially as much as they enjoyed “The Martian”.
Altug: Before talking about The Martian, you have short stories too. On your personal site, I see that “The Egg” is the most translated and one of my favorites. Are you still writing short stories rather than in your personal site?
Andy: Not as much as I’d like. I’m on a short deadline for my next novel so I have to concentrate on that. Also the movie marketing stuff is taking up a lot of my time, too.
Altug: Would you let us translate some of them and publish on our e-magazines with your permission please?
Andy: We can talk about that if you like. You can send me an email and I’ll pass you along to my agent.
Altug: Now, like many others, personally I heard The Martian (and Andy Weir) after wining the GoodReads Victory. For those who may not know; The Martian is selected as the best Science Fiction Novel of 2014 by the votes of GoodReads users.
After that, something wonderful happened and I saw The Martian in the hands of old – young people, students, government officers and almost every kind of people from any industry. What is attracting all these people around the world? I mean, yes The Martian is a great science fiction book but what is the magic here?
Andy: I really don’t know. I wish I knew what I did right. I think people can reall empathise with the protagonist. They imagine what they would do in that situation and it makes for an interesting read. Also, I think they liked the humor.
Altug: While writing the book, you took scientific asistance. But, how much of the facts we see are the real life facts and how much are your imagination? For example the storm on Mars or the posibility to raise potatoes…
Andy: I tried to be as scientifically accurate as possible. All the technology you see in the book actually exists, though in some cases it’s a much better version of the tech than currently exists. I even calculated the orbital trajectories they took to get from Earth to Mars. However I did make some concessions for storytelling.
The storm that strands the protagonist couldn’t actually happen. Mars’s atmosphere is too thin, so the wind would not have enough momentum to cause that kind of damage. Also, I pretty much ignored the very dangerous effects of radiation on a long-term mission like that.
Kayra Kupcu: We know that your father is a physicist and a computer expert. Did your father’s knowledge help you while writing the book?
Andy: Dad is a particle physicist, but not a computer expert. I’m the computer guy (I spent 25 years as a computer programmer). Yes, Dad was a great help while I was working on the book. I would run physics questions by him and have him check my work.
Kayra: Also, we heard that you read lots of science-fiction books and great writers like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein in your childhood. Did they improve you in terms of imagination?
Andy: Hmm. Interesting question. I don’t know if they improved my imagination. But I certainly learned a lot about storytelling from them.
Kayra: How did this idea show up? A man on Mars… alone… helpless…
Andy: I was imagining a manned Mars mission, putting it together in my mind. Naturally, you have to account for failure scenarios and have plans for what the crew could do. I realized those failure scenarios made for a pretty interesting story.
Altug: And please explain, what is YOUR problem with 70’s and disco? 🙂 why? why? WHY?
Andy: Actually, I love disco! My friends all make fun of me for it.
Kayra: You know Mark Watney better than all of us. Can you please tell us more about him?
Andy: Mark is based on my own personality. Though he’s smarter and braver than I am and he doesn’t have my flaws. I guess he’s what I wish I were like.
Altug: Are we going to see something new about him in the movie other than the book? And about his psychology, how didn’t Mark gone crazy? What kept him rational and optimistic? Did you consulted about the psychological means about him?
Andy: I wanted the story to focus on the problems and solutions. I didn’t want it to be a dark and depressing tale of a man’s struggle with crippling loneliness and constant stress. That’s just not the story I wanted to tell. So I decided Mark is made of sterner stuff than most people. After all, he was chosen to be on a manned Mars mission, so he’s not just some guy off the street. He beat tens of thousands of other people for that position.
The movie follows the book pretty well, so I think it’ll be similar.
Kayra: What do you think about The Martian movie? Do you also work with the movie crew or do they work by theirselves? Are you happy with the process?
Andy: Of course I’m very excited about the movie. Mostly my job is just to cash the check. Though they did send me the screenplay to get my opinion. They are not required to listen to anything I have to say. They keep me updated on the production because they’re cool.
Kayra: Do you think the readers of the book will also love the movie?
Andy: I think so, yes. It’s a very faithful adaptation.
Altug: Well, we are looking forward. And guess you too. I know that it may be a bit early for this question but, are there any plans for the second book or the movie of The Martian?
Andy: I’m working on my next book now. It’s a more traditional sci-fi novel with aliens, faster-than-light travel, and telepaths, etc. It’s tentatively titled “Zhek”. It’ll probably be out in mid-2016
Kayra: How did you write the book? Did you plan all the process from the beginning or you let it flow? Because there are some flashbacks, etc…
Andy: I let it flow. Basically I made stuff up as I went along. It’s how I write.
Kayra: We know that you read lots of books before writing about Mars. What did you learn from there?
Andy: I learned everything I know about Mars from books and internet research. The main thing about Mars is it’s extremely dangerous and inhospitable.
Altug: As you made lots of researches and took assistances from experts, would you recommend The Martian as a warning for what may happen in the future Human Missions to Mars?
Andy: I don’t know if I’d call it a “warning”. NASA and other space agencies are fully aware of the dangers involved in manned spaceflight. Hopefully, nothing like “The Martian” ever happens in real life. I would like to see a manned mission to Mars in my lifetime, but I’d like it to go according to plan with minimal risk to the crew.
Altug: As you mentioned in the book “no plan survives first contact with implementation”, improvision saves lives. Do you think while selecting Astronauts for the manned Mars Missions, is NASA paying attention for these kinds of characteristic, or The Right Stuff as you said before, on the candidates?
Andy: Absolutely. Being able to think creatively and solve problems with limited resources is what space travel is all about.
Altug: On a previous intervew of yours, you mentioned that you do not take “Mars One” mission seriously. Why?
Andy: They don’t have the funding for anything resembling spaceflight. They have something like $400,000. You can’t colonize Nebraska for that much money, let alone Mars. And their idea of funding it with reality TV money is not realistic. A manned mission to Mars would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. That’s more than every reality TV show has ever made.
Altug: We know you quit your day job. How is an ordinary day going on for you now?
Andy: It’s pretty cool. It was an adjustment at first, but I’m starting to hit my stride, I think. The hardest thing is motivating myself to actually sit down and write.
Next two questions are from Gurkan Kara. He is a science-fiction short story writer and a web design specialist. After reading The Martian, he started an online blog about his crops in his balcony (Potatoes included).
Gurkan: Seems like you took lots of scientific support, all in all we have a hard science-fiction book. Did you took support for “how to grow potatoes” too? Or did you knew the tricks before?
Andy: I just Googled around for how to grow potatoes.
Gurkan: Mark says the potatoes were for the Thanksgiving Day dinner which the crew would cook together. Why potatoes? Why not any other vegetables? And I can’t stop myself for asking that: Where is the turkey bird for Thanksgiving Day? Isn’t it a tradition more common than cooking potatoes? 🙂
Andy: A Thanksgiving without potatoes would be unthinkable to any American. The crew would also have had turkey, of course. I needed Mark to have whole potatoes for story purposes (so he could plant them). I picked potatoes because it’s the most efficient calorie yield per unit area of any staple food.
This question is from Ilker Bozdemir. He is a Banker on day time and a Dungeon Master at nights!
Ilker: It’s a great comfort when you only have time for books while you are on the way. I know that, there is an award wining Voice Book of The Martian. Are there any plans for voice book versions of the book in other languages?
Andy: Absolutely. They are being recorded now.
Altug: Thank you very much for your time and sincere answers. It was a pleasure meeting you. We hope, we will read more of your books and short stories.
Any last words for your readers and fellow sci-fi writers in Turkey?
Andy: Thanks for having me!