Interview with Andy Weir

Posted by Goodreads on November 1, 2017
With his first novel, The Martian, Andy Weir hit the jackpot. The book, first published serially on his website, became a huge bestseller. Praised for its realistic science, it was then made into a popular, critically acclaimed movie starring Matt Damon as stranded—but determined—astronaut Mark Watney.

How do you follow THAT up? If you're Weir, you come up with Artemis, a thriller featuring Saudi-born Jasmine "Jazz" Bashara, a courier and smuggler in the titular lunar city. All Jazz wants to do is make a few extra bucks—sorry, slugs (the local currency)—and improve her lot in life. Instead she becomes entangled in a plot that could endanger the entire settlement.

The loquacious Weir spoke to Goodreads interviewer Todd Leopold from his home in California. The following is an edited version of the interview.

Goodreads: Where did Artemis come from?

Andy Weir: I wanted to see what a city on the moon would be like. Then I started thinking about what life would be like in the city, and then I started trying to come up with a plot to take place in it.

The first plot was a totally different idea. Jazz was a character in that plot—she was an extremely tertiary character. I didn't like that story, so I came up with an entirely new concept and idea, and it also wasn't very good. Jazz was more prominent but still very much a secondary character.

I realized what I enjoyed about these concepts was Jazz, so why don't I try to make a story just about her, and that's what became Artemis.

GR: Was it different having a publisher giving you a deadline instead of putting it out on your own website?

AW: There was pressure for Artemis, but it wasn't the publisher—I pressured me. I worked on a book called "Zhek" for about a year. I got about 70,000 words into that book, and it just wasn't good. I talked to the publisher and said I want to hit the big red reset button. They were very, very accommodating, which was great. It was hard to throw away 70,000 words, but it wasn't coming together.

GR: Mark wants to know the challenges in writing Jazz.

AW: Jazz was going to be this really minor character, so I wasn't thinking I had to delve into the inner workings of this person. As I went through revisions and she became more prominent, I couldn't imagine her any other way than a female of Saudi descent. So rather than spend the next several months in fighting my gut instinct, I'm just going to roll with it and do my best.

I did run the manuscript by as many women as I could trust. I got their feedback and made changes. They say you should never read your reviews, but I do, and a lot of people are complaining about the female voice. So I guess I have a ways to go before I can write a truly convincing female lead, but I did give it my best shot.

Jazz is actually based on my own personality. [The Martian's] Mark Watney is the ideal—he's what I wish I were. Jazz is closer to the real me. Doesn't always make the right moral call, doesn't always make the right decisions, pretty smart but doesn't always take the wise course of action.

GR: Tell me more about Artemis.

AW: I started off with the economic model. Every city on Earth exists because it has some economic reason to exist. So what is the economic start of [Artemis]? The answer I came up with was tourism. Then we have to build a lunar city, [and] we're going to make as much of it out of local materials as possible. The moon is incredibly rich in aluminum. Eighty-four percent of the rocks are anorthite, a mineral that's made up of aluminum, silicon, calcium, and oxygen. So you can smelt that to get the aluminum out, and the oxygen comes out as a byproduct. So you get aluminum to make your moon base and a bunch of oxygen to fill it with.

Smelting aluminum takes an enormous amount of energy, far more than you could get from a solar farm. So they're going to need reactors. So I get two Hyperion Gen4 reactors—that's a real product that exists—they weigh about 15 metric tons each, and they produce 27 megawatts of power. [It] works out to be about $5 million to put on the surface of the moon. If you're building a luxury hotel, that's well within the realm of what businesses will spend on that stuff. Then I looked at the economics of resort towns. In those towns you have hotel-casinos, high-end shops, and then behind it you have crappy neighborhood areas where the people who work at those areas live. So Artemis would be like that.

GR: Otis asks: Do you think people will inhabit Mars, another planet, or the moon?

AW: Until ordinary people can travel to and from the moon, it will be really expensive, so there will not be an economic reason to put a city on the moon. And other than tourism, I've never seen a sci-fi explanation for why there WOULD be a city on the moon. You could send robots to mine it. Helium-3? [Also] robots. So being able to move something back and forth to the moon or Mars has to be cheap, and that has to happen first. So I'm going to say 60 or 70 years before we have a settlement on the moon and much, much longer before we have a settlement on Mars.

GR: Since you are so precise in the science, Nadira asks, Do you find yourself pressured to always be correct? Are you worried people will call you out?

AW: It's important to ME to get it right. And people calling me out is totally fair game. I say, This is scientifically accurate, and they're like, "OK, let's see." The only reason I'm subject to that scrutiny is I claim to be scientifically accurate. But I like it. Challenge accepted.

GR: Many teachers, including Anne and Tabatha, wrote in and asked questions about what you think of your books being used in science classes.

AW: I love that The Martian is used in so many classes. But Artemis is really a caper story. While I would love it if it could be used in education, I don't think it's as suited to it as The Martian was. It's less problem-solution, problem-solution, problem-solution, math-math-math and more caper-heist-oh crap. So I doubt teachers will get much use out of it.

GR: What are you reading now? And Mike asks, What are some of the books that influenced you?

AW: The most recent thing I read was Paradox Bound by Peter Clines. I really liked it. My holy trinity of authors is Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. If I had to pick one book, I'd say I, Robot by Asimov, but the real answer would depend on my mood, what day it is, whatever. I also really like Tunnel in the Sky by Heinlein.

GR: Finally, Jared wants to know: Many artists with big hits early in their careers are unable to rise to the challenge of creating again. How did you overcome the pressure of succeeding The Martian?

AW: Well, it remains to be seen! But having a success like The Martian right out of the gate means that it's almost guaranteed that my next book won't be as beloved. There's a good chance I could write 20 more books and people will still say The Martian is the best one. But I have to accept realistic goals. If people say, "It's not as good as The Martian, but it's still good," I'll take that as a win.

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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message 1: by Rick (new)

Rick Weatherill Along the lines of the "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein?

message 2: by David (new)

David Maher I haven't read this, I think I will wait, some reviews have been lackluster.

message 3: by Wekoslav (new)

Wekoslav Stefanovski It's not as good as the Martian (which it looks like will be my top book of the decade), but it's definitely in my top 5 of the year.

message 4: by Hamlin (new)

Hamlin Grange Just started listening to it on Audible.

message 5: by J.T. (new)

J.T. SHEA Interesting. People DID live on the Moon. A dozen or so people, for a few days each back nearly fifty years ago. Some are still alive. Why did they go there? Economics? No. Political rivalry sent men to the moon, and our tax dollars. And they indirectly attract people to the Moon in 'ARTEMIS' since the Apollo 11 landing site is the big tourist attraction. Several billionaires are interested in space travel, but only governments have the proverbial bucks for Buck Rogers adventures at the moment.

message 6: by Graham (new)

Graham Thomas You don't mean 'titular', the word you want is eponymous - look it up.

message 7: by Josh (new)

Josh Loy Just listened to this one on audible. It’s very good! Good story, great science, and he’s also a writer! By that I mean he can use pacing and action and great characterization to hook a reader/listener and keep them hooked. The concepts were cool to contemplate, the science was presented as informative but Weir careful avoids being preachy or pedantic.
This audiobook was a bit over eight hours and I finished it in a couple days, finding excuses to listen like doing chores at home.
Overall I’d highly recommend it!

message 8: by Thomas (new)

Thomas Roedel This book is far cry from his first book in fact it's painful to finish the main character seems to be a 12 year boy pretending to be a 16 year old girl who's actually 26 year old loser that could be good anything if only she'd apply herself. Unlike The Martian the science is awkward and pushy.

message 9: by Larisa (new)

Larisa Graham wrote: "You don't mean 'titular', the word you want is eponymous - look it up."

denoting a person or thing from whom or which the name of an artistic work or similar is taken.
"the work's titular song"
synonyms: eponymous, identifying
"the book's titular hero"

message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Whittle Took awhile to get going and never really made it. There is obviously a lot of research into all things 'luna' and 'chemistry' but the book did feel that it just got bogged down in the technical and didn't progress with any 'on the seat of your pants' we know from The Martian.

message 11: by Sue (new)

Sue Thomas wrote: "This book is far cry from his first book in fact it's painful to finish the main character seems to be a 12 year boy pretending to be a 16 year old girl who's actually 26 year old loser that could ..."

Agreed. Andy Weir could have done better. Did he talk to any females over the age of 25? If so he would have realised that his characterisation of Jazz completely missed the mark. She should have remained a secondary character. Andy... don't try to write women, it just doesnt work. Jazz came out looking like a self centred idiot. Did not enjoy this. Did enjoy The Martian.

message 12: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Childs All I can say is ..."Jazz is a hoot"! Never a dull moment, and the entire premise solves many of our present political and regional earthbound problems. Losing sleep....and that's a positive, as waking with a book on my chest is the norm.

message 13: by Dywane (new)

Dywane The Martian is a good book?

message 14: by McCabe (new)

McCabe Dywane wrote: "The Martian is a good book?"

Yes it is. Better than good.

message 15: by Isaac (new)

Isaac Nichols Want to read!

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