What should I ask Andy Weir?

I will be having a Conversations with Tyler with Andy Weir, author of The Martian and assorted on-line works (many of which appear to be off-line at the moment).  He has a new book coming out, Artemis.  Here is Andy’s Wikipedia page.

I thank you all in advance for your ideas and assistance.


Is working for a major publisher in the video game industry a good job?

"The Dodgers are the 1981 champions of baseball."

Ask him about Facebook, and why it is just a nothingburger in modern political terms.

Dude, work just a little harder. Example:

"How does a sci fi author view the evolution of social media, possible good, bad, and middlin' futures."

I don't like the "tears" thing, at all. I still connect to a 1980s vision of a "group mind." The goal is to eliminate bugs.

It would be interesting to hear from a programmer/writer about past/present/future representations of AI in fiction.

It is my perception that authors have had different visions, but almost always clustering around the most optimistic then-current predictions.

There are rare pessimists. After writing about a Singularly, Vinge flipped to explore a far future with comp sci not much better than this. (That's how I interpret A Deepness in the Sky.)

I was always curious about his process writing The Martian. Did he set himself a certain amount of time to solve each problem that came up? Did he write it in a linear fashion or was it more mapped out?


Actually, the whole self-publishing thing is pretty interesting too but I assume you already have that on your agenda.

What does he think of Elon Musk and other private space efforts?

What's his opinion of the never-ending space operas out there, assorted Star Wars &Trek & The Expanse? Is it better to have a long running recognizable franchise or to reinvent the universe every time with every novel?

The American Gulag Archipelago: https://www.revealnews.org/article/they-thought-they-were-going-to-rehab-they-ended-up-in-chicken-plants/

@ A Truth Seeker - cool story bro. "Eat less ckicken"

It is the onlynway to boycott American forced labor camps.

How much time, rejection and editing elapsed from the day he decided to become a writer to when The Martian was published?

I would love to hear his thoughts on NASA's Office of Planetary Defense (https://planetaryprotection.nasa.gov/about), the guys who try to keep our organisms from "infecting" other planets. Sterilizing everything that we send to other worlds is very expensive and it might be very important or it might not.

How do we assess the probabilities here? How does he feel about humans going to Mars in this context?

Which books and authors did you come to better appreciate as a result of having written The Martian?

There is some good related stuff on Official Futures at the link below. I guess what I was asking, narrowly about AI (above), was about OFs. In that example it was about technology, but generally it is a question about sci fi writers as curators of a society's expectations.


What is the future of human space travel when it will be much easier to send machines instead.

If we colonized Mars how long would it take for them to seek independence from Earth rule. Would it be faster than typical colonists because they’re so far away or slower because they’re so far away.

Considering the exponential pace of technological change, isn’t it likely that the first humans to embark on a journey to another solar system will find more advanced humans/machines wake them up half way there and say, ‘guys, you’re just too slow.’

"If we colonized Mars how long would it take for them to seek independence from Earth rule."

Which reminds me of the trilogy: Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson.

And the excellent game:
Terraforming Mars

Of course he would. He's not from Uruguay, after all.

Has he read "The Sheltering Desert", by Henno Martin?

He wrote a very popular, very short story called "The Egg", which was his most famous work before writing the Martian (http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html). It proposes an interesting philosophical idea which I don't want to spoil.

But it would be great to ask him about this story, how it came about, and whether his personal philosophy has something to do with the ideas espoused there.

Andy Weir has talked a lot in public about the process of writing The Martian, see for example his Authors @ Google talk or his interview with Adam Savage. This is well-ploughed ground for him and may not add to appreciation!

=== mild spoilers ===

A lot of The Martian is about intrinsic motivation: Watney's will to survive and NASA's to get him back regardless of cost. What does Weir think of intrinsic motivation and open source computing? Has he contributed to open source projects? Is Linux underrated or overrated?

Does he distinguish between the creativity of the engineering parts of writing The Martian (like the chemistry for making water or the orbital mechanics software) versus the writing (character, plot, dialog)?

There's quite a bit of Game Theory in the Martian, perhaps not overtly, but it is there. That might be worth a question or two - did he consciously attempt to apply game theory? Has he had any discussions with game theorists, in regards to the Martian? Also - ask him what he thinks could have happened for the crew to decide not attempt a rescue of Watney? How would he have argued against a rescue, if he had been in the crew at the time?

I read Weir's "The Egg" and I assume Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question" was an inspiration. I'd really like to hear his comments about the short story.

Peter Thiel remarks often how modern science fiction -- especially movies like Gravity, Elysium, Terminator, Hunger Games, etc -- depicts science and technological progress as dangerous or bad. This is a departure from writers like Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke who were very pro-technology/pro-science. What is responsible for this cultural shift?

Likely tracks historical surveys of optimism about the future. Why are we more cynical at the same time our progress is accelerating?

Partly education. Whereas I remember being taught about thrilling achievements, my kids are inundated with negative, guilt-ridden lectures about how awful we are. I counter this nonsense at home but considering how many students are arriving at college with permanent traumatic stress disorder, we might be the exception.

He wrote a book about an astronaut and now people ask for his opinions on space policy. How does he feel about being in that position? (And does anybody listen to his answers?)

Does being a self-published sensation give him huge latitude when it comes to the publisher editing his book? That is, was it published as-is, or did he work through an editor like a normal author would?

What made him decide to make Mark Watney a graduate of the University of Chicago?

Famous fictional alumni of the Univ of Chicago: Mark Watney, Indiana Jones, Harry and Sally.

Also the two main characters in Hitchcock's film "Rope" (and the play of the same name and similarly-based filmes). But they were based on Leopold and Loeb, infamous murderers who were all too real.

First reaction on reading headline: Why is Tyler Cowen asking questions of the author of Casey & Andy?

The man had his book turned into a Hollywood film and no one is going to ask him about his favorite producer story? Come on guys.

It even starred Matt Damon.

In the Martian, why did he punt on the fact that spending that much money rescuing one man was deeply immoral?

Here's why, because that isn't true.

+1 to the topic, you can rephrase it in such a way as to not make assumptions of the immorality and still see why he punted on even discussing the topic.

In light of how much randomness (and unpredictable events) was involved in Andy becoming famous, how has this impacted how Andy views others and his perception of other people's quality/skill.

You should ask him if Bob was there too, and about padding books out with more characters at the request of editors.

I look forward to watching this interview.

Ask his take on the future of lunar mining. Will it be just water, or will they also go after precious metals like gold?

The miners of the future will mine anything that is precious, but there's no predicting if gold will be near the surface on the moon and not available in large quantities in other places, the asteroid belt for example. I suspect, that all natural metals will all drop to a little over the price of shipping them from the asteroid belt.

Why is there so much vile language in The Martian? To the point that a special expurgated version had to be issued for use in schools. Also, it's just pretty juvenile, tiresome, and off-putting, at least to me.

Does he agree with his protagonist that it was worth $xoo million to save one life from Mars?

Comments for this post are closed