This year, one of the most highly anticipated blockbusters (that doesn't feature superheroes and/or dinosaurs) is Ridley Scott's upcoming stranded in space sci-fi thriller, The Martian.
Described as Cast Away meets Apollo 13, The Martian is the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon), a NASA astronaut who is left for dead on Mars once a colonization mission goes awry. The film recently debuted its first trailers and marketing material, and so far the response has been overwhelming positive. Not only does The Martian look set to a big screen spectacular on another world, it also seems to have simultaneously kept itself very much down to Earth.
A big part of this is due to Andy Weir, the author of the original novel which surprisingly rocketed to the top of the charts last year. Weir, a computer programmer and self-confessed 'space nerd' from California, isn't your usual kind of author, in fact, from the sounds of things, he nearly wasn't an author at all.
Weir's Scientifically Accurate Success Story
Weir has always wanted to be an author, but as a self-described "risk-adverse person" he only tentatively flirted with the art of writing. His early attempts to grab the attention of publishing houses certainly didn't result in much of the way of success. His first book, a space opera titled Theft of Pride failed to find an agent, while an even earlier attempt, The Observer, has been lost in the pre-Internet era (which is a blessing as far as Weir is concerned).
It was faced with this rejection that Weir decided to simply self-publish chapters of The Martian on his personal blog in 2009. The book, which pays a lot of attention to scientific accuracy, soon grabbed the attention of individuals who were similarly obsessed with science, space exploration and other related fields.
In fact, many of them began to provide constructive criticism to the science behind the novel. Although Weir had a solid background and interest in space physics and the geology of planets, he still needed assistance in other areas such as chemistry. Initially, Weir was actually worried that all the science would detract from the humanity of the story, claiming: "I was afraid it was going to read like a Wikipedia article if I didn’t make it really interesting."
And interesting it was, as pretty soon, his initial fans wanted downloadable versions of The Martian for their e-readers. Faced with this, Weir put the book on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing, setting it with the minimum price of 99 cents. Although it was now for sale, he didn't exactly expect the book to become his bread and butter.
However, The Martian was a runaway success. Thanks to good Amazon reviews and word of mouth, the book soon found itself at the top of Amazon's best-selling science fiction list. That's when the phone calls started.
Now the Publishers Are Interested...
First, it was book publisher Random House, they wanted to put out a hardback version of The Martian. Next, it was the turn of Hollywood. Four days after being offered a publishing deal, Weir was contacted by X-Men producer Simon Kinberg who wanted to turn his modest novel into a big screen blockbuster. Regarding The Martian, Kinberg said:
I fell in love with it. The concept is good, but there’s a million sci-fi books about people being marooned on other planets. It’s the way The Martian is executed—the reality of the science and the humor and humanity of Mark Watney.
Eventually, Weir signed two six figure deals with Crown Publishing and Twentieth Century Fox, only a few months after the book was first put online. Not many authors can claim that.
In fact, the calls from Hollywood and publishers were such a surprise, he initially thought it was some kind of scam to catch budding self-published online authors. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he said:
I was honestly worried it was a scam. Out of nowhere someone offers to make all my dreams and lifelong ambitions come true and pay me a big pile of money? It seemed too good... But then the checks started coming in. And I thought, ‘Well, if it’s a scam, then they’re not very good at it.’
Now, the film version of The Martian is preparing to enter theaters later this year. Although Weir has little to do with the direct production film adaptation (he jokes his job is to simply cash the check), Weir did advise on the script, as did NASA and European Space Agency experts. The result of this careful research can already be glimpsed at in the recent trailer. Although it features all the special effects and drama of a sci-fi movie, the film also appears to play a lot of heed to getting the science right. Check it out below:
You'll be able to see how Matt Damon 'sciences the shit' out of the situation when The Martian enters theaters on October 2, 2015.