ANDY WEIR was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.
Opening question: why does a software programmer write a book on science fiction?
Answer: Because he has a story to tell.
Though, as with the previous installment of this exercise, I’d like to explore why this might be the case.
One of the core elements of The Martian is the science. Much of it, other than an impossible sandstorm, are possible. And many are explained in excruciating detail. In several interviews, Weir has described the computer program he built to calculate the launch date of Ares IV (also meaning that there is a factual future launch date available). He also breaks down the science of his intentions.
In that sense it’s a little strange that the Martian was so popular. Such detail is often considered an information dump and ignored. Yet, much of the Martian would fall into that category.
Why then does the Martian maintain an audience? The optimism. Mark Watney, the primary protagonist of the Martian, is upbeat and funny throughout the entire book.
Fundamentally, I think, it’s because as a computer scientist, Weir falls into the same idealist dreamer category that captures Star Trek fans. Those who dream of a better world and tomorrow. The Martian presents such a future, where NASA has found a budget to return to deep space exploration and even teams up with China to save the day.
As compelling as dark and gritty is (and trust me, it’s very compelling) there’s something about unbridled optimism that never goes out of style.
The nerd references don’t hurt either.