Best-selling novel “The Martian” skyrockets author Andy Weir to fame


[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]— Courtesy of Penguin Random House
If pop culture has taught us anything, it’s that America loves success stories. The idea that fame and fortune can happen to an everyday person is something that every American fantasizes about while slaving away in their work cubicle. Many dream it, but very few actually experience the sweet taste of turning a hobby into a career. Former computer programmer and cubicle dweller Andy Weir is one of those lucky few.
Americans have a love affair with science fiction and a particular fascination with Mars which Weir has capitalized on with his best selling debut book The Martian.
“There is something about Mars that captures your attention,” Weir said. “Science fiction has always had a fascination with Mars, all the way back to War of the Worlds, which was arguably the first science fiction novel ever.”
Weir has been intrigued with science fiction since childhood, when he would raid his father’s bookshelf to read sci-fi classics by Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, which he admits put him about a generation behind the more modern science fiction of today. However it gave him enough of a foundation that, despite taking three years off from work to get published as a writer and not reaching his goal, Weir never gave up on his dream of writing sci-fi.
“It was the typical story. I couldn’t get an agent, I couldn’t get any interest from publishers,” said Weir. “So I gave up and went back to work and thought, ‘From now on, writing is just my hobby.’ ”
Weir started writing The Martian in 2009 by posting one chapter at a time to his website, which had a small core of loyal readers, who like Weir, were self-professed technology geeks. The Martian follows the survival efforts of astronaut Mark Watney, who is mistakenly left for dead on a Mars space mission gone wrong. After surviving a vicious sandstorm, which Weir admits would be impossible due to Mars’ thin atmosphere, Watney is forced to survive the inhospitable terrain of Mars until he can be rescued. What makes Weir’s novel so appealing to readers is that it’s grounded in science, and almost everything that happens in the book is plausible.
“I did a huge amount of research. Everything you see in the book is as accurate as I could make it,” Weir said. “I wasn’t thinking about a book — I was just thinking about whether we could do a manned Mars mission, how would we get them there, how would they come back, what would they do when they were there, and then I realized that makes for a pretty interesting story.”
An interesting story is an understatement, as Weir’s book was initially self-published and then became an Amazon Kindle bestseller, which caught the attention of major publishers, with Weir eventually selling the print rights to Crown Publishing Group and later seeing his novel take the number 12 place on the New York Times Best Seller list. As if living the impossible dream of becoming a bestselling author almost overnight wasn’t enough, soon Hollywood was knocking on his door, wanting to buy the movie rights to his book. After a rather arduous back-and-forth process, the rights to Weir’s book were sold and it is currently in production as a major motion picture, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon.
“I’m so thrilled that they’re making a movie out of it, but it’s not like there is this one moment where they come over and hand you some balloons and say it’s been green-lighted,” Weir said. “It got really exciting once Matt Damon and Ridley Scott were aboard. Eventually it got to the point where they started shooting, and I was like, ‘OK, it’s really happening.’ ”
Though Weir hasn’t been offered a Stan Lee-style cameo in the movie, the studio offered him the opportunity to come visit the set and watch them film for a day. For most people, this would be a great opportunity, but Weir, unlike his fictional astronaut Watney, has a fear of flying.
“They haven’t offered to put me in the movie in any kind of cameo, but they told me I could go visit the set if I wanted,” said Weir. “Problem is, I’m afraid of flying, and it’s filming in Budapest, so it’s not like driving from my home to Los Angeles.”
Weir admits Watney is based on his own personality but that Watney is much braver, smarter and without any of his own flaws — including the fear of flying which would, of course, have derailed Watney’s career as an astronaut.
“I would love to wildly capitalize on the success of The Martian, but I just cannot think of a good story to be a follow-up,” said Weir. “I’m sure people would enjoy reading about what happens when they get back to earth. That would interest you for a chapter, but after that you’re going to want something interesting to happen, and I’ve got nothing.”
What Weir does have is an idea for an entirely new story that he is already hard at work on now that he successfully made the transition from aspiring writer to best selling author.
“I’m working on my next book now, and its tentatively titled Zhek. It’s a traditional science fiction book, it has aliens and telepathy, so it’s not a hard sci-fi like The Martian,” said Weir. “It’s your basic ordinary science fiction story that has no overlap with The Martian, and it takes place in its own setting.”
One thing is clear, with a best-selling novel already under his belt and a star-studded Hollywood movie based on his book in full production, Weir certainly has the attention of readers all across the nation.
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