SFX - - Heroes & Inspirations - Por­trait by Erin Lu­bin

Sci­en­tific in­fo­dumps don’t have to be dull. no, re­ally, es­pe­cially if you’re read­ing a book by The Mar­tian and Artemis au­thor Andy Weir.

“if i can just find an ex­cuse to have some­body talk­ing about sci­ence i can usu­ally make it in­ter­est­ing,” he reck­ons, “be­cause it’s in­ter­est­ing to me. Also i’ve found a reader will for­give any amount of dry ex­po­si­tion if you have a joke ev­ery cou­ple of para­graphs.”

de­spite suf­fer­ing from jet lag when SFX meets him in his new York ho­tel, the cheeky wit and touch of mis­chief in Weir’s New York Times best­sellers are very much in ev­i­dence. His geek cre­den­tials are also to the fore as he en­thuses about his new role as a talk­ing head on the in­spi­ra­tional na­tional Geo­graphic se­ries Mars. “i’m one of the Big thinkers, which is kind of an honorific i’m not sure that i’m en­ti­tled to, but i can sit around and talk about mars and space travel all day.”

A good time then to talk about in­spi­ra­tions closer to home...

isAAc AsimoV, RoBeRt Hein­Lein And ARtHuR c cLARKe

In terms of writ­ers, they are my holy trin­ity, which is funny be­cause they are one gen­er­a­tion back from what you would ex­pect from my age. But I grew up read­ing my dad’s sci­ence fic­tion col­lec­tion, so those are the writ­ers I was read­ing as a kid and ev­ery­thing’s awe­some when you’re 10. So that’s what re­ally in­spired me. I read all the Ro­bots stuff by Asimov, the Ro­bots Of Dawn se­ries but also I, Ro­bot. For Hein­lein, be­fore he got older and be­came a per­verted weird guy, the early stuff was re­ally cool, like Have Space Suit – Will Travel, Farmer In The Sky, The Rolling Stones, Red Planet. Red Planet was the first time I ever read a book from start to fin­ish in a sin­gle day. And it was a school day too, around tenth grade, so I was in the back of the class read­ing – I was not a great stu­dent! One of my favourites of Clarke’s is Ren­dezvous With Rama, and I also re­ally like his short sto­ries. Nowa­days I feel like sci­ence fic­tion has been taken over by dystopian young adult mis­eryscapes where the world is a fas­cist dic­ta­tor­ship and can only be saved by teenagers do­ing weird shit. But I liked Asimov’s as­pi­ra­tional views of the fu­ture.


In ad­di­tion to my other el­e­ments of nerdity I’m an eco­nomics nerd, and that’s a re­ally hard thing to make an ex­cit­ing story about. Or it can be ex­cit­ing to me but it’s not go­ing to be ex­cit­ing to any­one else, and as we learned from The Phan­tom Men­ace you don’t start a story with a de­scrip­tion of sup­ply side eco­nomics, it’s not en­thralling. But to me, eco­nomics is what drives civil­i­sa­tions for­ward, and that’s why for Artemis when I’m like, “I want to make a story about a city on the Moon,” at first I was un­able to move for­ward un­til I came up with an eco­nomic foun­da­tion for why there would be a city on the Moon. There are tons and tons of eco­nomics ar­ti­cles that I like to read on­line, and also a few years back the Greek debt cri­sis, which is still go­ing on – that be­came my favourite soap opera! Ev­ery morn­ing I would get up and ea­gerly read the news for what’s go­ing on and think, “Oh no, they did that?” It’s in­ter­est­ing – it’s con­flict, it’s mas­sive, it’s multi-na­tional and it’s also re­ally test­ing the whole con­cept of the Euro.

doc­toR WHo

It’s my favourite sci­ence fic­tion show. That had a big ef­fect on me grow­ing up as a kid. Time travel is one of my favourite de­vices to have in a story. But I write hard sci­ence fic­tion, re­al­is­tic sci­ence fic­tion, so I’d have to re­ally work at it to come up with a time travel story, but I have ideas. I would love to write an episode of Doc­tor Who. I’ve told Chris Chib­nall I’ll do it for free! I’ll do it for £1!

stAR tReK

Artemis is sup­posed to take place in the 2080s, so it’s kind of hard to ex­plain a lot of pop cul­ture from to­day still be­ing rel­e­vant then, but I do fig­ure Star Trek would still be rel­e­vant be­cause Star Trek is 50 years old now, and there are plenty of dorks out there, my­self in­cluded, who can give you stupid lit­tle de­tails about the clas­sic se­ries, so why wouldn’t it sur­vive an­other 50 years? It’s a clas­sic, just like Casablanca. I like clas­sic Trek the best, mainly be­cause that’s what I grew up on – Trek re-runs. I was al­ready a teenager by the time Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion came out. “Mir­ror, Mir­ror” is one of my favourite episodes. The idea of a par­al­lel uni­verse full of evil peo­ple – they in­vented that, right there, in that one episode. Now it’s just a trope, ev­ery­body does it, but the con­cept of an evil par­al­lel uni­verse and the idea that your evil twin has a goa­tee came from that!


tHe BeA­tLes

Right now I have this strug­gling mous­tache go­ing on be­cause I’m try­ing to grow it for a Hal­loween cos­tume. My friends and I are go­ing to be the Bea­tles. We al­ready have the out­fits to be the Sergeant Pep­per al­bum cover. I’m John, so I have to get this John mous­tache go­ing. I love the Bea­tles, they are my favourite band ever. Sergeant Pep­per is my favourite al­bum though I re­ally like Abbey Road. I love the way their mu­sic sounds, though none of it spoke to me on a per­sonal level; I just re­ally like the mu­sic. I’m not into their per­sonal lives – that’s their busi­ness.

teRRY pRAtcH­ett

I know I’m heav­ily in­spired by Terry Pratch­ett. I al­ways for­get to men­tion him be­cause peo­ple are al­ways talk­ing in the con­text of sci-fi, but I was def­i­nitely in­spired by his style of hu­mour. Pratch­ett will go off in ran­dom foot­notes that are hys­ter­i­cal. One is where there’s a char­ac­ter walk­ing across the Brass Bridge in AnkhMor­pork. There’s a foot­note that goes some­thing like, “The Brass Bridge has eight ram­pant hip­pos and it’s been there longer than any­one can re­mem­ber; no one re­mem­bers who built it the city is so old. But it is said by many that if ever the city’s in dan­ger those hip­pos will come to life and run away!” [Laughs]. There are just un­ex­pected twists and turns in the hu­mour that I love.


Dave Berry used to write columns in the or­der of 1,000 words long for the Mi­ami Her­ald. Of course in the ’80s when I was read­ing it you’d have these com­pendi­ums, so I had a book full of columns. It’s hard for me to de­scribe what it is but he was just re­ally funny. There was this one time in real life where this whale washed up in some­where like Ore­gon; it died, and so now there’s this whale car­cass on the beach. Berry’s ar­ti­cle on this is hi­lar­i­ous as he writes, “So they de­cided to call the Ore­gon High­way Pa­trol, on the the­ory that whales and high­ways are sim­i­lar in that they’re both big things.”

neiL deGRAsse tYson

He is one of the most well-known as­tronomers in pop cul­ture. I’ve done many events with him. He’s a very good com­mu­ni­ca­tor and ex­tremely charis­matic. If you’re in a room with him you just fall in love with him. He’s got a pres­ence to him that draws you to him and makes you want to lis­ten to any­thing he has to say.

Mars sea­son two pre­mieres on Na­tional Geo­graphic on 11 No­vem­ber.

Weir would love to write an episode of Doc­tor Who.

Terry Pratch­ett was a huge in­flu­ence on a young Weir.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: no jacket re­quired. Weir wants to groove ev­ery time he hears The Bea­tles.

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