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MALE SPEAKER: Welcome, everybody.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Whatrey--
ANDY WEIR: Watney.
MALE SPEAKER: --became one of the first men
to walk on the surface of Mars.
Now he may be the first man to die there.
Andy Weir's brilliant debut novel, "The Martian,"
is a gripping story of survival against all odds.
The astronaut is stranded millions of miles
from the nearest human being with no way
to even signal Earth that he is alive.
And even if you he could get word out,
his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could
Andy Weir, he's our neighbor here in Mountain View,
a longtime programmer.
He got his first job at 15 years of age at Sandia National Labs.
He wrote code for Warcraft II.
And he's now working at MobileIron,
where he's working on Android codes.
And actually, we talked a little bit how he likes the platform,
and he didn't have too many complaints.
I guess this is kudos to you guys from the Android group.
I am pleased to present the book, "The Martian."
Andy will be talking to us today about it
and showing some of the technical details that
went into the book.
And please give a warm welcome.
ANDY WEIR: So, like he said, I'm Andy Weir.
And I wrote "The Martian."
I'm going to be talking to you about that today.
When they told me that I'd be doing a Google Talk,
they said, you're going to want to make
about 40 minutes of content.
I don't think I'm going to make 40 minutes of content.
But I'll just say what I have to say until I'm out of stuff
to say, and then I'll take questions.
So you just got the summary of the book.
But I'm going to do a reading.
I'm going to start us off with a reading.
And then I'm going to start talking about some
of the technical stuff that went into making the book.
The reading's going to be about 10 minutes.
And it's just the first chapter.
So it's about four or five pages.
Also, the reading will include profanities.
I hope nobody's bothered by that.
I don't see any children out there.
So I'm just going to jump right in.
Log entry, Sol 6.
I'm pretty much ***.
That's my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life,
and it's turned into a nightmare.
I don't even know who'll read this.
I guess someone will find it eventually,
maybe 100 years from now.
For the record, I didn't die on Sol 6.
Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did.
And I can't blame them.
Maybe there'll be a day of national mourning for me.
And my Wikipedia page will say Mark Watney
is the only human being to have died on Mars.
And it'll be right, probably.
Because I'll surely die here.
Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did.
Where do I begin?
The Ares program-- mankind reaching out to Mars
to send people to another planet for the very first time
and expand the horizons of humanity, blah, blah, blah.
The Ares 1 crew did their thing and came back heroes.
They got the parades and fame and love of the world.
Ares 2 did the same thing in a different location on Mars.
They got a firm handshake and a hot cup of coffee
when they got home.
Well, that's my mission.
Well, not mine, per se.
Commander Lewis was in charge.
I was just one of her crew.
Actually, I was the very lowest ranked member of the crew.
I would only be in command of the mission
if I were the only remaining person.
Hey, what do you know?
I'm in command.
I wonder if this log'll be recovered
before the rest of the crew die of old age.
I presume they got back to Earth all right.
Guys, if you're reading this, it wasn't your fault.
You did what you had to do.
In your position, I would have done the same thing.
I don't blame you.
And I'm glad you survived.
I guess I should explain how Mars missions work
for any laymen who may be reading this.
We got to Earth orbit the normal way through an ordinary ship
All the Ares missions use "Hermes"
to get to and from Mars.
It's really big and it cost a lot, so NASA only built one.
Once we got to "Hermes," four additional unmanned missions
brought us fuel and supplies while we prepared for our trip.
Once everything was a "go," we set out for Mars,
but not very fast.
Gone are the days of heavy chemical fuel
burns and trans-Mars injection orbits.
"Hermes" is powered by ion engines.
They throw argon out the back of the ship
really fast to get a tiny amount of acceleration.
The thing is it doesn't take much reactant mass.
So a little argon and a nuclear reactor to power things
let us accelerate constantly the whole way there.
You'd be amazed how fast you can get
going with a tiny acceleration over a long time.
I could regale you with tales of how we had great fun
on the trip, but I won't.
I don't feel like re-living it right now.
Suffice it to say we got to Mars 124 days
later without strangling each other.
From there we took the MDV, Mars Descent Vehicle,
to the surface.
The MDV is basically a big can with some light thrusters
and parachutes attached.
Its sole purpose is to get six humans from Mars orbit
to the surface without killing any of them.
And now we come to the real trick of Mars exploration--
having all your *** there in advance.
A total of 14 unmanned missions deposited everything
we would need for surface operations.
They tried their best to land on the supply
vessels in the same general area and did a reasonably good job.
Supplies aren't nearly so fragile as humans
and can hit the ground really hard,
but they tend to bounce around a lot.
Naturally they didn't send us to Mars
until they confirmed that all the supplies had made it
to the surface and their containers weren't breached.
Start to finish, including supply missions,
a Mars mission takes about three years.
In fact, there were Ares 3 supplies en route to Mars
while the Ares 2 crew were on their way home.
The most important piece of the advance supplies, of course,
was the MAV, the Mars Ascent Vehicle.
That's how we would get back to "Hermes"
after surface operations were complete.
The MAV was soft landed as opposed to the balloon
bounce fest the other supplies had.
Of course, it was in constant communication with Houston,
and if there had been any problems with it,
we would have passed by Mars and gone home without ever landing.
The MAV is pretty cool.
It turns out through a neat set of chemical reactions
with the Martian atmosphere, for every kilogram of hydrogen
you bring to Mars, you can make 13 kilograms of fuel.
It's a slow process, though.
It takes 24 months to fill the tank.
That's why they sent it long before we got there.
You can imagine how disappointed I
was when I discovered the MAV was gone.
It was a ridiculous sequence of events that led to me
almost dying, and an even more ridiculous sequence that
led to me surviving.
The mission is designed to handle
sandstorm gusts of up to 150 KPH.
So Houston got understandably nervous
when we got whacked with 175 KPH winds.
We all got in our flight suits and huddled
in the middle of the Hab just in case it lost pressure.
But they Hab wasn't the problem.
The MAV is a spaceship.
It has a lot of delicate parts.
It can put up with storms to a certain extent,
but it can't just get sand blasted forever.
After an hour and a half of sustained wind,
NASA gave the order to abort.
Nobody wanted to stop a month-long mission after only
six days, but if the MAV took any more punishment,
we'd have all gotten stranded down there.
We had to go out in the storm to get from the Hab to the MAV.
And that was going to be risky.
But what choice did we have?
Everyone made it but me.
Our main communications dish, which relayed signals
from the Hab to "Hermes," acted like a parachute getting
torn from its foundation and carried with the torrent.
Along the way, it crashed through the reception antenna
Then one of those long, thin antennae
slammed into me end first.
It tore through my suit like a bullet through butter.
And I felt the worst pain in my life as it ripped open my side.
I vaguely remember having the wind knocked out
of me-- pulled out of me, really--
and my ears popping painfully is the pressure
in my suit escaped.
The last thing I remember was seeing Johanssen
hopelessly reaching out toward me.
I awoke to an oxygen alarm in my suit,
a steady obnoxious beeping that aroused me
from a deep and profound desire to just *** die.
The storm had abated.
I was face down, almost totally buried in sand.
As I groggily came to, I wondered
why I wasn't more dead.
The antenna had enough force to punch
through the suit and my side, but it
had been stopped by my pelvis.
So there was only one hole in the suit--
and a hole in me, of course.
I'd been knocked back quite a ways
and rolled down a steep hill.
Somehow I landed face down, which
forced the antenna into a strongly oblique angle that
put a lot of torque on the hole in the suit.
It made a weak seal.
Then the copious blood from my wound
trickled down toward the hole.
As the blood reached the site of the breach, the water in it
quickly evaporated from the air flow and low pressure,
leaving a gunky residue behind.
More blood came in behind it and was also reduced to gunk.
Eventually it sealed the gaps around the hole
and reduced the leak to something
the suit could counteract.
The suit did its job admirably.
Sensing the drop in pressure, it constantly
flooded itself with air from my nitrogen tank to equalize.
Once the leak became manageable, it only
had to trickle new air in slowly to relieve the air lost.
After a while, the CO2, carbon dioxide, absorbers in the suit
were expended That's really the limiting factor to life
support-- not the amount of oxygen you bring with you,
but the amount of CO2 you can remove.
In the Hab, I have the oxygenator, a large piece
of equipment that breaks apart CO2 to give the oxygen back.
But the space suits have to be portable.
So they use a simple chemical absorption
process with expendable filters.
I'd been asleep long enough that my filters were useless.
The suit saw this problem and moved into an emergency mode
the engineers call "bloodletting."
Having no way to separate the CO2,
the suit deliberately vented air into the Martian atmosphere,
then back-filled with nitrogen.
Between the breach and the bloodletting,
it quickly ran out of nitrogen.
All it had left was my oxygen tank.
So it did the only thing it could to keep me alive.
It started back-filling with pure oxygen.
I now risked dying from oxygen toxicity
as the excessively high amount of oxygen
threatened to burn up my nervous system, lungs, and eyes--
an ironic death for someone with a leaky space suit, too much
Every step of the way would have had beeping alarms, alerts,
But it was a high oxygen morning that woke me.
The sheer volume of training for a space mission is astounding.
I'd spent a week back on Earth practicing emergency spacesuit
I knew what to do.
Carefully reaching the side of my helmet,
I got the breach kit.
It's nothing more than a funnel with a valve at the small end
and an unbelievably sticky resin on the white end.
The idea is you have the valve open and stick
the white end over the hole.
The air can escape through the valve
so it doesn't interfere with the resin making a good seal.
Then you close the valve, and you've sealed the breach.
The tricky part was getting the antenna out of the way.
I pulled it out as fast as I could,
wincing as the sudden pressure drop dizzied me and made
the wound in my side scream in agony.
I got the breach kit over the hole and sealed it.
The suit back-filled the missing air with yet more oxygen.
Checking my arm readouts, I saw the suit was now at 85% oxygen.
For reference, Earth's atmosphere is about 21%.
I'd be OK so long as I didn't spend too much time like that.
I stumbled up the hill back to the Hab.
As I crested the rise, I saw something
that made me very happy and something
that made me very sad.
The Hab was intact.
And the MAV was gone.
Right at that moment, I knew I was screwed.
But I didn't want to just die out on the surface.
I limped back to the Hab and fumbled my way out
into an airlock.
As soon as it equalized, I threw off my helmet.
Once inside the Hab, I doffed the suit
and got my first good look at the injury.
It would need stitches.
Fortunately, all of us had been trained
in basic medical procedures and the Hab
had excellent medical supplies.
A quick shot of a local anesthetic, irrigate the wound,
nine stitches, and I was done.
I'd be taking antibiotics for a couple of weeks,
but other than that I'd be fine.
I knew it was hopeless, but I tried firing
up the communications array.
No signal, of course.
The primary satellite dish had broken off, remember?
And it took the reception antennae with it.
The Hab had secondary and tertiary communication systems,
but they were both just for talking
to the MAV, which would use it's much more powerful systems
to relay to "Hermes."
The thing is, that only works if the MAV is still around.
I had no way to talk to "Hermes."
In time, I could locate the dish on the surface,
but it would take weeks for me to rig up any repairs
and that would be too late.
In an abort, "Hermes" would leave within 24 hours.
The orbital dynamics made the trip safer and shorter
the earlier you left.
So why wait?
Checking out my suit, I saw the antenna
had plowed through my biomonitor computer.
When on an EVA, all the crew's suits
are networked so we can see each other's status.
The rest of the crew would have seen the pressure in my suit
drop to nearly zero followed immediately
by my biosigns going flat.
Add to that, watching me tumble down a hill with a spear
threw me in the middle of a sandstorm?
Yeah, they thought I was dead.
How could they not?
They may have even had a brief discussion
about recovering my body, but regulations were clear.
In the event a crewman dies on Mars, he stays on Mars.
Leaving his body behind reduces weight for the MAV on the trip
That means more disposable fuel and a larger margin
of error for the return thrust.
No point in giving that up for sentimentality.
So that's the situation.
I'm stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with "Hermes" or Earth.
Everyone thinks I'm dead.
I'm in a Hab designed to last 31 days.
If the oxygenator breaks down, I'll suffocate.
If the water reclaimer breaks down, I'll die of thirst.
If the Hab breaches, I'll just kind of explode.
If none of those things happen, I'll
eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah, I'm ***.
So that's chapter one.
Of the things that was really important to me
in writing this was I wanted everything
to be as scientifically accurate as possible.
So for starters, all the technology
mentioned in the book is real.
It takes place in a slight future,
so some of the technology is much more efficient or much
more effective than the versions of it we have now.
But it all actually exists.
And what I'm going to talk to you today
about-- being a Google crowd, I thought
you might be interested in some software I wrote
to make one part of it as accurate as possible.
It has to do with the way that "Hermes" got from Earth to Mars
"Hermes" is an ion engine ship.
And for those of you who don't know what ion engines are--
I mean, I described it briefly in the chapter--
but basically, instead of a chemical propellant
going out the back of the ship providing
a large amount of impulse, it's a very small amount
of acceleration caused by magnetic fields
throwing ions out the back of the ship.
Now the benefit to this is that you
can have much, much, much less reactant mass.
And I believe-- and this is just my own subjective opinion--
we have to improve on the technology that we have
and just keep working that.
I think that's the only way we'll
be able to send humans long distances out into space.
The amount of chemical propellant
you would need to send something big enough
to support humans for several months out to Mars
would just be huge, huge.
I mean, you'd be putting millions and millions
of kilograms of just fuel into space to do this.
So you need to minimize how much you
launch from Earth to make that efficient.
So that means for "Hermes," I decided, oh, OK,
so it's got a slow constant acceleration from ion engines.
It's got a nuclear reactor aboard
to create the energy necessary to throw the particles.
And so that means I needed to figure out how it gets there.
And it turns out for a point acceleration, when you just
say, oh, I want to go on a transfer orbit from here
And then there'll be a point thrust here,
and then another point thrust here
to match Mars, boom, that's how we do it.
It's very simple.
Well, I mean, for a dork like me who
likes orbital dynamics, that's very simple.
With a constantly accelerating ship, that's very hard.
I could not wrap my head around the math.
I couldn't find anybody who could
wrap their heads around the math.
And what I found out by doing further research
is NASA does this by computer simulation.
So that's what I did.
I wrote this program called Orbits.
I don't how well that's showing up.
Let me take a look.
Are you able to see?
Yeah, you can kind of see.
It's a little darker than I'd like.
But this-- well, I've got a mouse-- this circle here,
this red circle, is Mars' orbit.
The blue circle is Earth's orbit.
And the gray line is the course of the ship.
So the way this works is I can mess around with the vector
that the ship is presenting with respect to the sun.
So in other words, if I were to point it directly away
from the sun, then I can show where that vector's
going to be anywhere along the trip.
You see how it's always pointed away from the sun?
The red vector that's following the mouse?
That's how this works.
And so I can do something like this.
I can point it-- well, directly toward the sun
leads to your immediate death.
But point it, say, perpendicular to the sun,
you can see it's just always trying
to go perpendicular to the sun.
So what I wanted to do here is, say,
this is the start point of Earth.
And as you see, if I move along, it
shows me where Earth and Mars will
be as they're going along in their orbits
from my chosen launch window.
And then the idea is to try to find a way
to make this get to Mars with course changes and stuff
and work that out.
This would not be a successful trip.
But after all a whole bunch of work and just fiddling around
with it, I managed to figure out this path that actually starts
here, then intercepts Mars, and then
doesn't do any thrusting or anything for a while.
It's just at Mars.
And then comes back to Earth.
I also set up this app to animate.
So I can just press Space, and you can watch it happen.
There it goes to Mars, hangs out there
for their planned 31-day mission,
and then comes back to Earth like that.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] a year.
ANDY WEIR: It takes a little bit more than a year.
I don't know if you can read it up in the corner.
Mission day 396 is when it completes.
Now, then, as I mentioned in the book,
they had to abort after only six days on Mars due to the storm.
And I mentioned, the orbital dynamics
make it cheaper the earlier you leave.
And this is why.
Because if you leave earlier, you
can take a slightly different course
and get back to Earth earlier.
And that's, of course, what anybody would want.
Any NASA mission designer worth their salt
would want to do something like this.
Another thing I did was-- it came up
a lot in the story-- I wanted the transmission
times to be accurate.
So when later on in the story they're talking to the ship,
they're talking to Mars, Mars is talking to Earth,
all these entities are communicating,
and I wanted to know what the transmission time would be.
So I set it up so that wherever the ship is--
I can just move the mouse around and wherever
I'm pointing on that-- it'll tell you what mission day it is
and what the current distances are
between Earth and Mars, Earth and "Hermes,"
and "Hermes" and Mars.
Those are those three numbers up top, and the light transmission
time between them so that I could
have that be accurate in the story, too.
So I'm going to give a little bit of a spoiler here.
The final path that "Hermes" ends up taking is this.
AUDIENCE: It looks like the other one.
ANDY WEIR: So I am giving a bit of a spoiler,
but basically they have to go back to Mars.
And so I'll describe what happens as it's happening.
Here they go.
They're going to Mars.
After six Sols, they have to abort.
So they're headed back to Earth.
They need to go back to Mars.
Boom, sling shot off of Earth, back around the sun.
And now they need to do a flyby of Mars.
So they're not going into orbit, they're
just-- doink-- doing a flyby.
And then we got to get back to Earth.
So that was a lot of work to figure that out.
And this is all done within this simulation,
this ship "Hermes," has a total constant acceleration
of the two millimeters per second per second.
That's all it gets.
So yeah, after five seconds of doing that,
it would be moving one centimeter per second.
So that's the software I wrote that I wanted to show off.
I thought the Google crowd would like to see how that works.
And that's about it, actually.
That's all I really had to show you.
I was going to do the reading.
What are we at here?
Oh, 20 minutes in.
AUDIENCE: I really like that.
So that's great.
And it seems beyond what you had to do.
Are the orbits elliptical?
And could they be skewed?
ANDY WEIR: Those are the actual orbits of Earth and Mars
And the launch window-- I won't tell you
the date because I may have a contest someday to have people
figure out the launch date from the information in the book--
but it is based on a real-world date.
And to be thorough, the book tells you
what day everything is on.
So it's like, log entry, Sol 6.
Log entry, Sol 27.
Log entry, Sol 412.
So it's actually very time specific, just
the narrative style it has.
And so I made sure that I knew the actual real-world date
for each-- on any given day in the book, what
the real-world date is so that I could mention things like, oh,
by the way, today's Christmas.
And it is.
There were sometimes I had to keep myself
from over clever-ing things.
There was one kind of major plot point that happened.
And I'm looking at my spreadsheet.
And I'm like, oh, this happens to be on Valentine's Day.
I should mention that.
But it would just seem stupid to the reader.
It would be like out of nowhere someone's like, by the way,
it's Valentine's Day.
It's like, no, that's just dumb.
The trickiest part in this was I did all sorts of math.
I checked all my physics, math, science, everything.
And the hard part was not bragging to the reader.
It was not showing my work and trying to go, look at me.
I'm so cool.
I just needed to keep the story moving along.
And I wanted it to be accurate.
AUDIENCE: So I read the book about a year ago.
What I enjoyed the most about it were
two things about the character.
One was how resourceful he is.
He always figures out how to get out of his situation.
The other was his attitude.
He's cut off.
He has so many setbacks.
And he always keeps his head up.
I was wondering, was there anything
that inspired you to make a character like that?
Or was there any kind of message you're
trying to send to make somebody so resourceful and so
optimistic in such a bad situation?
ANDY WEIR: Well, I mean, I tried to make
it a pretty upbeat book.
It could've been really dark and depressing, right?
It's like the guys trapped alone.
He could be just having this crippling psychological
problems of loneliness and all these other things
that most people would face.
I figure I can buy my way out of that
by saying he's an astronaut.
Astronauts are a cut above.
And so he doesn't sink into depression.
He just goes into problem-solving mode.
And I made him this really flippant, smart-*** personality
because I had to tell a whole story.
If I'd done just blank narration, just
omniscient narration even, it would have just seemed
like a technical manual or a really dry sequence of events.
I needed something in the narration itself
that would keep the user interested.
And so having it told by a self-effacing smart-*** seemed
liked a good idea.
AUDIENCE: So I'm thinking about buying this book.
ANDY WEIR: $10 right over there.
AUDIENCE: How do you think I should buy it?
ANDY WEIR: I think you should buy one for all your friends.
AUDIENCE: It's $10 right over there,
but there's also a lot of digital distribution
around these days.
Do you have thoughts as an author about that?
And what works best for you?
What do you like as a reader?
And what do you think about ebooks in general as an author?
ANDY WEIR: Well, ebooks are how I got into the industry,
so I'm extremely grateful.
I think they're great.
And as for buying a physical book or an ebook,
that's a matter of personal choice.
I still read physical books, but that's
just because I'm kind of a Luddite.
Eventually, I will get a proper e-reader.
And then I'll probably be hooked on that from then on.
For those of you who don't know, "The Martian"
was originally just a serial story
that I was posting to my website just
as a hobby doing in my spare time.
And then I finished and some people
said, hey, I don't like reading this on web pages.
Can you put it up in an ebook format?
And so I'm like, OK.
So I made an EPUB and MOBI version.
And I posted them on the website and said, there.
There you go.
Free download, knock yourself out.
And then some people were like, well,
I'm not really technically savvy.
And I don't know how to get an ebook downloaded
from the internet onto my Kindle.
Is there a way you can just put it up on Kindle?
And so I looked into it.
And anybody can post their stuff onto Kindle.
Which is important-- remember that-- because anybody
who wants to be a writer, you just can.
You can just write your story, post it on Kindle.
All they do is they check to make
sure there's nothing illegal or really, really evil about what
And so I posted it up on Kindle.
But Amazon is not a charity.
They're in this to make money.
They have a minimum price that you're
allowed to charge, which is $0.99,
or at least it was at the time.
And so I said, OK, I'll set the price at $0.99.
I'm not allowed to charge less.
And I told everybody, hey, here it is.
It's $0.99 because I can't charge less than that.
Just look at it this way.
If you want to pay $1 to have it conveniently
delivered to your Kindle, that's what you're paying for.
I got $0.30 or something out of that per copy.
I mean, I was not doing this for the money.
And then that's when I learned how deep
Amazon's reach into the readership market is.
Many, many, many more people-- many multiples more people--
bought it from Amazon than downloaded it for free
from my site.
AUDIENCE: Such a deal.
ANDY WEIR: Such a deal.
I'm like, OK.
And that caused it to start making
its way up the top sellers charts.
And then once it got into the top 10 on sci-fi,
then it started to really sell.
Because of course, people are like, I want a sci-fi.
What's in the top 10?
So once you break into that list,
your sales go really well.
And it sold well enough that it got
the attention of a guy named Julian Pavia at Random
House, who was an editor there.
And he said, I like this book.
I think I want to talk to this reader and offer a print deal.
But first I'm going to run it by a colleague of mine,
a guy named David Fugate, who is a literary agent.
He said, hey, why don't you read this book,
tell me what you think, and do you
think I should offer this guy a print deal?
David read it and said, I think it's good.
I think you should offer him a print deal.
Now hang on a second.
I'm going to go become his agent.
So he did.
And then he turned around and said,
so Julian, let's talk money.
So that was pretty cool.
So my whole experience with publishing
has been completely backwards.
I wrote what I intended to be just a free thing
and then got forced to charge for it.
And then an agent came knocking at my door.
And then a publisher came offering me a contract.
And I did nothing to promote it ever, by the way.
All I ever did was just post it.
I didn't even try to go to forums
or do events or anything to get people to read it.
It just spread by word of mouth.
So the long-*** winded answer to your question
is I'm a big fan of digital books because that made me.
Sorry, one last addendum-- and it can make anyone.
That's what I think is awesome, is
it's become a pure meritocracy.
It used to be sort of an old-boy network.
You had to know somebody to get into the publishing industry
Or you had to dedicate your life to doing scutt work
and working your way up through journalism
until someone would take you seriously enough
even to consider reading your book at a publishing house.
But now you can post it yourself with no intervening steps
and, if it's good, people will buy it.
AUDIENCE: So your ion drive, is the reaction mass just small
enough so that you don't account for the change
in how much acceleration it can give?
ANDY WEIR: I cheated.
The answer is it wouldn't quite be.
It wouldn't quite be.
And the simulation could have accounted for it
since it's doing incremental-- every step,
I think I had it do it in one-hour segments
to run the simulation forward.
And so I could have accounted for the mass loss.
It is very small.
It's on the order of-- I can't remember exactly-- it
was on the order of 10% of the ship's mass, though.
Normally if you were going to do--
to get to Mars using a Hohmann transfer,
it would take five kilometers per second delta
V, which would be for a ship like this
that I later defined as being 110,000 kilograms,
would be millions and millions of kilograms of fuel.
I mean, the vast majority of the starting mass would be fuel.
And so once I checked the specific impulse
of ion engines, it's so much better
than I just said, eh, I'll approximate it out.
AUDIENCE: In talking about how to read the book,
I wanted to put in a plug for the audio book, which
I listened to.
It's a great way to experience it.
I think you got a really wonderful narrator.
ANDY WEIR: Yeah, the narrator's name is RC Bray.
And he's a veteran narrator.
He's done over 100 books, I think.
And he's got a really good voice.
And he puts a lot of feeling into it.
And since this is first-person, you
can kind of feel, OK, this is Mark's voice, basically.
AUDIENCE: The one thing I wanted to ask about that was there
are a couple of technical terms that he, let's say,
ANDY WEIR: Yep, yep.
AUDIENCE: --kind of take you out of the story for a moment.
ANDY WEIR: What?
You don't know about the ASC2 standard?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, the ASC2 standard is the best one.
ANDY WEIR: ASC2.
AUDIENCE: But you get past that.
ANDY WEIR: Well, so what I wanted to do, actually,
was make my own mapping standard for letters to numbers.
And I was going to call it ASC.
And then I'd make an improved version and call it ASC2.
And that way I'd retroactively be correct.
No, yeah, he messed that up.
Which is funny because they called me
for a bunch of pronunciations on, OK, what is this?
And how's it pronounced?
How do people say this?
But nobody ever asked me how to pronounce ASCII.
They are making a new version of it,
which I'm not sure if it's out yet.
But they're re-recording it from scratch
because there were a lot of edits and changes
between the original Kindle version
and what's releasing now.
No significant plot changes, nothing like that,
but a lot of the wording.
It's much more polished.
And it's much better now thanks to Julian at Random House.
And so the audio book guys, Podium Publishing, decided,
well, we'll re-record it from scratch.
And I told them, A-S-C-I-I- is pronounced AS-key.
So I think they'll get it right in the newer version.
AUDIENCE: So I listened to the audio version, too.
I really liked it.
So there was a lot in the book about NASA politics
and what happened inside NASA.
Did you just dream that up?
Or did you know somebody on the inside?
Or how did that work?
ANDY WEIR: Made it all up.
AUDIENCE: It sounded very real.
ANDY WEIR: I thought so.
Well, I've worked for the government before.
As he mentioned, my first job was Sandia National Labs
as a little weaselly computer programmer at age 15,
as opposed to the 41-year-old weaselly computer
programmer I am now.
And I just saw how things worked there.
And I said, like, well, NASA's a big federal agency.
So was Sandia.
So I'll just assume that they're kind of similar.
But, yeah, I made all that up.
I had no contact with NASA or astronauts or anyone
in the industry at all before writing the book.
And I've since gotten a lot of emails from them.
And they say that that's about right.
AUDIENCE: Not really a question, I'll
just note that besides Amazon Kindle,
it's also available at Google Play Books.
ANDY WEIR: All right.
There you go.
ANDY WEIR: It's also available on barnesandnoble.com.
MALE SPEAKER: Andy, what's on your reading list?
ANDY WEIR: What's on my reading list?
I really like to read the old classic sci-fi stuff, which
I've read before and just keep reading again and again.
So Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, that sort of thing.
Those are my favorite authors.
And then also anything by Terry Pratchett, completely out
of the sci-fi world, but Terry Pratchett.
Also I really like Robert Asprin.
But he died.
But that apparently didn't stop him
from making new books because I see
there's a new release that's by Robert Asprin.
And I'm not sure how that happened.
So either someone else has taken up
the role of writing Robert Asprin.
Or it's some manuscript he was partially through,
or I don't know.
AUDIENCE: So right after "The Martian,"
I read-- speaking of old sci-fi--
if I read "When Worlds Collide," which is from 1933, I think.
And the jump from scientific accuracy
to scientific hand-waving was never so great.
Because there was a spaceship.
And they fly.
And they just sort of say, yeah, let's build a spaceship now.
And we'll fly to this new planet.
And that'll work.
ANDY WEIR: It seems reasonable.
Or when they're like-- oh, I never read the book
but I saw the movie from the '50s--
and they land their spaceship on the new planet,
the one that just destroyed Earth, and they're like,
well, let's go outside.
And they're like, what?
You don't know if the atmosphere is good.
And it's like, well, if it's no good,
we're all going to die anyway.
Yeah, it's good.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, speaking of old sci-fi,
there was a couple of the early Doc Smith novels
that had roughly the same set-up-- guy
crashes on an outer system planet
and has to build up civilization until he can make a radio.
Have you read any of those?
And can you bring yourself to having done the research now?
ANDY WEIR: I did not read any of those.
As for the research, that was just really important to me.
I just wanted to be as accurate as I possibly could.
There are a few places that are inaccurate.
The biggest place that's inaccurate
is right at the beginning.
Don't tell anybody, but if you're in a dust storm on Mars,
you're not even going to feel it.
Mars' atmosphere is less than 1% of Earth's.
So a 150 kilometer an hour wind would feel
like about a 1 kilometer an hour wind does on Earth.
It wouldn't do any damage to anything.
I had other ways of doing it.
I had an idea where the MAV would have some sort of failure
that caused an explosion which does all the damage.
And they're short on time because the MAV fuel
tank is leaking, so they need to lift off.
And they're sure Mark's dead and stuff like that.
But most people don't know how Martian dust storms work.
Most people don't realize that it's not
like being in a sand blaster.
And it's just more dramatic that way.
So I just made that concession.
I know I'm a liar.
I just wanted that more.
It was more dramatic.
AUDIENCE: So there used to be a sci-fi story by George Landis.
The title was "A Walk in the Sun."
There was an accident, and an astronaut
has to survive by her own on the moon for one
month until rescuers arrive.
So that's very similar to this set-up.
Have you read that?
ANDY WEIR: I haven't.
ANDY WEIR: But basically "The Martian"
can be described as Robinson Crusoe on Mars, right?
Except for there was a movie called
"Robinson Crusoe on Mars," and my story
does not have a monkey sidekick.
AUDIENCE: You should consider a monkey sidekick.
Yeah, are you considering one?
ANDY WEIR: There should have been a monkey sidekick.
I see that now.
AUDIENCE: If they adapt this for Hollywood, [INAUDIBLE].
ANDY WEIR: There's clearly going to be a monkey sidekick.
There would have to be.
Well, they might adapt it for Hollywood.
20th Century Fox optioned the movie rights.
So they could make a movie.
AUDIENCE: The most important question, when can we
expect another book from you?
ANDY WEIR: Well, I'm working on a pitch
right now for my next book.
But I've been so busy with the-- it's
real busy for a writer around the time
his book comes out, let me tell you.
So I've been doing stuff related to that.
But as soon as things calm down, I'll work on the pitch.
And then if they like it, I'll start writing it.
And it'll probably take me maybe a year.
AUDIENCE: Or you could just self-publish it and put it up
on Amazon if they don't like it.
ANDY WEIR: If Random House gives me a bunch of money,
they're going to want me not to put it up for free.
AUDIENCE: Not free, but you know.
As long as you write something.
I mean, seriously, this is the best
book I've read in a long time.
ANDY WEIR: Well, thank you.
Glad you liked it.
AUDIENCE: I will say I'm only halfway through it.
But that's got to be the best first line
since "it was a dark and stormy night."
ANDY WEIR: Thank you.
I figure you have one line to convince the reader
to read the first paragraph.
And you have one paragraph to convince
them to read the first page.
And if they read the first page, you've
probably got them for a while anyway.
But that first line is important.
AUDIENCE: I was going to say, partially
to what you were saying before, even if the atmosphere is
really thin but it's blowing around chunks of sand,
wouldn't the mass of the sand moving at that speed still
cause a lot of damage?
ANDY WEIR: Right, but the sand that it's blowing around
in a dust storm is basically like talcum powder.
AUDIENCE: Fair enough.
ANDY WEIR: It's not like big granules.
AUDIENCE: The actual question I was going ask
is how much of the ending and sort of storyboard
was known when you started the book,
and how much was made up as you went along?
ANDY WEIR: Most of it was made up as I went along.
I had some ideas for how the ending would go.
And it didn't go that way because it didn't make sense
with how the story developed.
They say there are two kinds of writers-- the plotters
and the pantsers, right?
Plotters work everything out in an outline format and say,
this is what's going to happen.
Pantsers are like, eh, let's just see what happens.
And I'm the latter, for sure.
So at the end, I had this in my mind
the whole time I'm writing the book is here's
what the final scene's going to be.
And it's going to be awesome.
Here's how it's going to be.
And it couldn't be that way.
AUDIENCE: So related to that, your protagonist
has to overcome a lot of problems.
So which came first?
The problems that you'd have to find a clever solution for?
Or you came up with the solution and said,
how do I get in that situation?
ANDY WEIR: I would start with the problems.
What I wanted to do was have the problems--
I didn't want him to just get struck by lightning
over and over, figuratively.
I didn't want there to be too many coincidences.
So I wanted all of his problems to either derive
from the fact that he's using outdated equipment,
or that he's using equipment in ways
that it wasn't intended to be used.
So the solution to his previous problem
would often cause the next problem.
And so I would try to come up with the problems first.
Then I'd come up with the solutions.
The cool thing is, though, being a writer I can cheat.
So every now and then, I'd get him into trouble,
and I'd be like, he can't get out of this.
He's going to die.
OK, I'm going to go back a few chapters
and put in some stuff that, oh, and this leads to that
and this leads to that.
And here's this thing that he'll have access
to which can solve this problem.
AUDIENCE: I don't know how much insight you have into this,
but which of your sales channels seems
to be doing best in this day and age?
So I've found the book on [INAUDIBLE] blog
and read it in the last few days.
How much does that sort of thing help?
And electronic versus physical?
ANDY WEIR: The answer is, I don't know.
I do know that right now, in this release-- so it released
officially two days ago, so we're
just right at the beginning-- I do know
that the digital version is outselling
the physical version.
That's usually the case early on because there's still
pipelining and delivery hiccups here and there
for various bookstores.
And we also don't get a lot of our reports from bookstores.
But anyway, more specific than that,
when it comes down to how did somebody
end up at the page where they buy it?
I don't know.
I don't have that data.
AUDIENCE: But you do think that posting
to whatever was a good idea?
ANDY WEIR: Oh, well, so that was mostly-- in fact, all of that--
was arranged by Random House's marketing and publicity.
So they said, like, then they arranged it
with the site owners and blogs and stuff like that, and said,
we'd like you to be on all of these.
Let's see which ones of them are interested in having you.
And they do that kind of matchmaking.
I have this big folder full of what
I called homework, just essays and articles and things that I
write, which was one of the reasons I've
been too busy to work on the next book.
AUDIENCE: So do you still have a day job?
Or are you now a full-time writer?
ANDY WEIR: I still have a day job.
I work for MobileIron.
I am an Android programmer.
And I've warned everybody at my company so they know this.
If I get an advance for this next novel that I'm pitching,
then I'm going to quit the day job.
AUDIENCE: Maybe you don't know the specifics of this,
but what with the vagaries of having been published twice,
are you eligible for next year's Hugos?
ANDY WEIR: I don't know.
I hadn't thought about awards at all.
(WHISPERING) I'll find out.
AUDIENCE: What did you think of the movie "Gravity"?
ANDY WEIR: I liked it a lot.
I thought it was really beautiful cinematography,
And it had a bunch of accuracy problems.
But, I mean, you can't get too picky.
It wasn't supposed to be a space station tutorial.
It was supposed to be an exciting movie.
And what was it?
Like for one thing, ISS and the Hubble
are in orbits that are nowhere near each other,
nowhere near the same velocity.
In fact, NASA did, at one point, try to arrange a mission
where they would repair the Hubble from ISS.
And they could not find any way to make that work.
So there are few errors in "Gravity,"
but I liked it a lot.
It is kind of inconvenient, though, because I released
"The Martian" before "Gravity" came out.
I wrote it all before "Gravity" came out.
Now the re-release of "The Martian,"
people are like, oh, hey, this is like "Gravity."
I'm like, no, "Gravity"'s like me.
AUDIENCE: I was wondering, did you
manage to get any input on the cover?
I mean, it looks really nice.
ANDY WEIR: Thanks.
That's actually funny.
I didn't like it.
And they said, hey, here's the cover we're going to go.
The Random House's art department
said-- here's this whole big thing
that they did-- and they said, here it is.
And I said, I don't like it.
But everybody else does.
So I'm glad I was wrong.
Or I'm glad-- how do I put it?
I'm glad I didn't have any say.
Although I did point out one problem.
Originally, in the-- that's an actual photo of an astronaut
who is on a space shuttle mission at the time
this photo was taken.
I mean, obviously all the red stuff is Photoshopped.
But in his helmet, you could see the reflection
of the space shuttle cargo bay.
And I pointed that.
I'm like, nah.
So they fixed that.
AUDIENCE: What would you prefer?
ANDY WEIR: I imagined-- well, the Dutch cover--
so every language that's selling-- it's
getting translated into 21 languages
and pretty much every one of them has their own cover art.
And the Dutch cover is kind of what I liked.
It's just basically a lone figure, very small,
like, in the middle there and just big, empty Martian scenery
just to show there's isolation and stuff.
And I thought that was cool.
But this is like-- there are actually
websites that just judge books by their cover.
Like that's literally what they do.
Literally all they do is they say,
like, we're rating covers of new release,
not the content of the book, nothing.
Just think of them as artistic analysis websites.
And they loved the cover of "The Martian."
AUDIENCE: By the way, great title, too.
ANDY WEIR: Thanks.
Yeah, a lot of people will say, oh, like pro tip,
there's no actual Martians in this.
There's no aliens.
He's the Martian, you see, because he's stuck there.
MALE SPEAKER: Tell me, so how did you actually
start to think about writing a story of somebody on Mars?
I know we talked a little bit about this
before the talk itself.
We're sort of an Apollo generation type of thing.
But what was that moment that's, hey,
I'm going to write a story about Mars.
ANDY WEIR: Well, dork that I am, I
was imagining how a manned Mars mission could work.
And so I was just trying to say, realistically,
how do you get the astronauts to Mars?
How do you build a ship big enough to support them?
How does that work?
How do you get it there?
That's why I had use ion engines because it was just
too implausible otherwise.
It's like once they're there, what do they do?
How do they get back?
And, oh, you could send all the supplies in advance.
It uses heavily from Mars Direct, which is--
MALE SPEAKER: Zubrin's plan.
ANDY WEIR: Yeah, Zubrin's suggested
way of doing a Mars mission, which if and when
we have a Mars mission in the real world,
it will almost certainly be something very much like that.
Anyway I was considering all the things that could go wrong.
I was saying, any mission plan has
to account for things that can go wrong and say, oh,
if this happens, then the astronaut should do this.
If this happens, they should do this.
And I started thinking of all these failure scenarios.
And those started to seem really interesting to me.
So I made a poor, hapless main character
to suffer through them all.
MALE SPEAKER: The readers won't suffer if they read this book.
I'm sure about that.
So please give thanks to Andy Weir.