NYCC 2017: 'The Martian' Author Andy Weir Talks About His New Book, 'Artemis'

Saturday, 07 October 2017 - 11:41AM
The Martian
Saturday, 07 October 2017 - 11:41AM
NYCC 2017: 'The Martian' Author Andy Weir Talks About His New Book, 'Artemis'
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Image credit: Random House
The webcomic XKCD brilliantly summed up Andy Weir's The Martian in the following way:
Opening quote
"Do you know the scene in Apollo 13 where the guy says 'We have to figure out how to connect this thing to this thing using this table full of parts or the astronauts will all die'? The Martian is for people who wish the whole movie had just been more of that scene."
Closing quote

Despite being heavy on the technical details, The Martian (both the movie and the book) has been a hard sci-fi megahit, meaning it was only a matter of time before we got a second book. Weir's follow-up, however, isn't a direct sequel—according to the man himself, it's "a crime caper on the Moon." It's called Artemis. Here's the official description:

Opening quote
Jazz Bashara is a criminal. Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself-and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.
Closing quote

At New York Comic-Con, Weir Skyped into a crowded auditorium to talk about the book with Rosario Dawson, the voice of the audiobook. Here are some of the highlights of the event!

Artemis: Lunar Caribbean Resort

According to Weir, the city of Artemis exists in the world of the story for economic reasons-it's not humanity's last bastion in the solar system or anything apocalyptic like that. In fact, it's essentially a tourist destination.

Weir went through a "deep economic analysis" into where the commercial space industry will go and how efficient it will become. He operated with the assumption that it will eventually become as fuel-efficient as the commercial airline industry, which would allow lunar tourist trips at around $70,000 for a two-week stay. The Artemis complex itself is situated near the Apollo landing site (you can take tours of the Eagle lander!), and each of its domes is named after a different astronaut.

"The class structure [of Artemis] is based on resort towns in the Caribbean, which all follow the same pattern," Weir says. Near the water, there are the casinos and hotels, but behind that is the lower-class housing. "I didn't make this up," he jokes.

The main character of the book, Jazz Bashara, is a Saudi Arabian immigrant who came to Artemis when she was six years old. She's the daughter of a welder, but she dabbles in everything from mechanical repairs to smuggling. Rosario Dawson, who did the narration and voices for the audiobook, said she was drawn to Jazz as a character. "It was really empowering to pretend to be this person," she said.

The Difficulty of Writing 'Artemis'

Dawson called Artemis "very tangible sci-fi," and said Weir's worldbuilding is so concrete that he made it easy to imagine actually living on the station. For Weir, however, writing exposition in the book was much tougher than The Martian, primarily because he was creating an entire fictional city on the Moon that he had to build from the ground up. From the altered boiling point of coffee to the manufacture of condoms, everything had to be figured out and then explained to the reader. Even the caper aspect of the story was affected by the setting: on the Moon, there is no weather, so marks and tracks left on the lunar surface will stick around forever.

Strangely enough, Jazz wasn't the main character in the original draft of the book. In fact, Artemis wasn't even the original concept-Weir's first idea for a second novel was a speculative sci-fi book that dealt with alien life and faster-than-light travel. The story didn't come together during the initial drafts, and Weir ended up having to go back to his publisher and agent to tell them that it was time to start from scratch again.

"I feel so much more comfortable staying in my wheelhouse [of realistic science fiction]," he said. The new draft, which would become Artemis, originally had Jazz as a tertiary smuggler character, but as the story developed she began to take on a bigger and bigger role. "I've always loved crime capers, heist capers, like The Sting," he said.

While working on Artemis, Weir visited a friend of his-a little someone named George R.R. Martin-and expressed his worries over trying to match the success of The Martian. According to Weir, he was afraid of being a one-hit wonder, and told Martin that "I have the impostor syndrome thing going on."

It's understandable when you go from being relatively unknown to a household name almost overnight.

"George said that feeling never ends," Weir said.

You can pre-order a copy of Artemis here. Stay tuned for more New York Comic-Con coverage!
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi Books
The Martian