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November 29, 2017

Andy Weir Takes Off From Mars And Lands On The Moon With ‘Artemis’

Text and interview by Zaral Shah

The novelist opens up about his new book and how the protagonists of both The Martian and Artemis are aspects of his own personality

His originally self-published and subsequently printed debut tome, The Martian, caught the attention of bibliophiles like a forest fire. While the book continues to find a place of pride on the shelves of many, the dazzling big screen adaptation directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon was nominated for over half a dozen Academy Awards and won Damon a Golden Globe for Best Actor. The Botanical Society of America named a newly discovered flower after the character Mark Watney too!

There’s no doubt then that when Weir’s second novel, Artemis was announced, it took the science-fiction world by storm with the movie rights being purchased even before its release. Bringing his readers back from the red planet and closer to earth, Artemis is set on our own moon. The page-turner comprises a heist, a conspiracy and a female protagonist, Jazz Bashara, who will tickle your fancy much like Weir’s earlier protagonist, Watney did.

In conversation with Andy Weir, we learn more about the author whose imagination spans a thousand galaxies and his twin labours of love:

Mark Watney was a protagonist everyone loved. How similar, or different, is Jasmine Bashara in Artemis
“Mark Watney is based on my personality, but he’s the idealised version of me. He has all the qualities that I like about myself but doesn’t have any of my many flaws. He’s what I wish I could become. Jazz Bashara is also based on my personality, but she’s more like the real me. She’s intelligent but has many regrets. She makes bad decisions and doesn’t always do the right thing. She’s deeply flawed.”

After The Martian received the kind of global acclaim it did, what was your state of mind while writing Artemis?
“At the outset, I would like to say that it’s very stressful to follow up a success like The Martian, especially since it was my first book. A victory like that comes once in a  writer’s career and I happened to get mine right out of the gate. It’s extremely unlikely that Artemis will be just as popular. But if people read it and say ‘I liked The Martian better, but this was pretty good!’, I’ll take it as a win.”

What are your thoughts on how The Martian was adapted for the big screen? 
“I was very happy with the film. They made some changes and omitted a bunch of parts, but I could make my peace with it because retaining all of it would have led to the film being five hours long. Overall, it was a very faithful adaptation of the book and I was thrilled with how it turned out.”

Who do you see doing justice to Jazz Bashara for the screen adaptation of Artemis?
“That’s a tough call. I’d like the actress who plays Jazz to have the right skin colour for an Arab even if she isn’t actually from Saudi Arabia.”

As someone who continues to be a self-confessed space nerd how do you decide what makes it to the final book and what doesn’t?
“Every word that makes it to final draft has to service the plot in some way. If it doesn’t, I don’t include it. Out of all the work and research I did for Artemis, probably 1 percent of it ended up in the book. And that’s okay. I had all the information in case it was needed, but I don’t want to bore the reader with details that are irrelevant to the plot.”

What’s in your personal library?
“You’ll find a lot of old school sci-fi by Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke. I’ve recently gotten to reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels — those are good fun.”

If not science fiction, what genre would you cover and why?
“I really like sci-fi but if you held a gun to my head and made me write something that wasn’t sci-fi, it would be a crime novel.”

How do you make all your novels appeal to people of all ages?
“I don’t think that’s true. My novels appeal to people whose brains are wired a certain way. On the other hand, people who don’t share those interests won’t gravitate towards my books. I just have to try my best to construct as good a story as possible and hope people like it. In the end, it all comes down to writing a book that I, myself would like to read.”

What do you hope people will take away from Artemis?
“I just want to entertain. I have no message, moral, or a political stance in any of my stories. When you’re done with Artemis, I want you to put it down and think ‘that was cool’. And maybe recommend it to your friends!”

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