“You do the math. You solve one problem. And then you solve another. And then another. Solve enough and you stay alive.”
– Mark Watney, The Martian
An astronaut trapped on Mars. A daring rescue mission. Matt Damon. Jeff Daniels. Jessica Chastain. Kate Mara. Sean Bean. Kristen Wiig. The list of top actors on this movie is too long to keep rattling names off but the biggest star of all?
Yes, in an age where people want more explosions, sex, and what the hell, explosive sex, Alien director Ridley Scott made a movie that not only entertains but educates.
Put on your spacesuit, 3.5 readers, and let’s talk about what this movie does not only for science, but for the world of self-publishing.
The Martian – Twentieth Century Fox
OK, first of all, let’s address the proverbial elephant on the sofa, the gorilla in the barcalounger, if you will.
But BQB! Aren’t you trapped in the middle of the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?
I sure am, 3.5 readers. Luckily, I’ve got Alien Jones’ plutonium powered space phone and the Esteemed Brainy One managed to stream it for my group of survivors last night. It really lifted our spirits, because as you may have heard, we’re currently riding out the zompoc in Price Town, one of the last three stores still open at the nearly abandoned East Randomtown Mall.
HOW BIG WAS THIS MOVIE?
A “friend” of mine sent me an e-mail to let me know that this movie was so big that he’d never seen a line so long at the theater he usually goes to before. The poor chump ended up stuck in that damn front row spot. You know, the one where you have to keep your neck craned skywards for two hours and you have to look to the left when a character on the left is talking and a character on the right is talking.
What a jackass. Guy probably should have taken into account how popular the movie would be and gotten there earlier.
Either that or he could have skipped the popcorn and soda. God knows that fatty doesn’t need it.
Oh sorry, I shouldn’t speak ill of my friend on my blog. Good thing only 3.5 people read this.
A storm causes a team of astronauts to abandon their mission on Mars. One of their teammates, Mark Watney, is impaled, presumed dead, and abandoned.
Whoops! He’s still alive, but the the Red Planet is so far away that NASA won’t be able to get help to him any soon.
One of the biggest challenges for a writer is to a) explain to the reader how a character is going to extricate himself from a sticky situation with enough detail so as to not leave the reader feeling cheated and yet b) not go overboard to the point where the reader feels like dozing off.
Enter Andy Weir. The Martian is based off of Weir’s novel of the same name.
A computer programmer, Weir made all sorts of calculations, estimates, and scientific conclusions on how, in theory, an astronaut trapped on Mars could live long enough to find a way back home.
“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,” Damon, as Watney, says.
And science the shit out of it, he does. Literally. He uses his own shit as fertilizer for potato plants. Potatoes then become Mark’s only form of sustenance and I’m willing to bet he reached a point where he never wanted to see another french fry ever again.
Aside from the potato plants, I don’t want to go into too much detail on the science angle. A) To do so would be to provide you with too many SPOILERS and b) some of it my brain was too feeble to understand and other parts I did understand but am not sure I could explain it correctly.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot of brainy people involved. NASA scientists on the ground work on a rescue plan while Watney on Mars works on his own survival.
For any kid out there interested in science, this film provides role models to look up to, not just in the form of the astronauts, but the people – technicians, engineers, specialists, scientists, etc. working to bring their colleague home.
Science, kids. It’s the way of the future.
WHAT DOES THIS MOVIE MEAN FOR SELF-PUBLISHING?
The Martian started out as a free serial on Andy’s blog. He as just a guy who really loved math, science, and space. So he took his passions and funneled them into a project to entertain his blog readers. (I bet he had more than 3.5 of them.)
As he explained in an interview with Johnny, Sean and Dave of the Self-Publishing Podcast, he put the novel on Amazon at the request of some of his readers who preferred an e-reader format over reading it on a blog. Not out to make any money and not thinking it would go anywhere, Weir put his novel on Amazon, priced it at 99-cents, and let his blog readers know it was available.
The novel took off and the rest was history.
By the way, I recommend listening to Andy’s SPP interview as it is an inspiration to anyone interested in self-publishing. Success doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly didn’t for Andy. He started blogging way back in 1999. A sixteen year journey to the big screen!
Keep plugging away, 3.5 readers/writers. Success might seem so far away as to be pointless, but then again, you’re already ahead of those who gave up.
I’ve sought out opinions as to what this movie means for self-publishers. Andy’s novel was originally self-published before he was approached by a literary agent and sold it to a big publisher.
Does this mean the general public will look at self-publishers in a whole new light? That if one man was able to take a project on his blog and turn it into a blockbuster film starring Matt Damon and other stars, might that not cause people to pay more attention to self-published works?
One person I spoke with answered no. His reasoning was the majority of the movie going public doesn’t really care who wrote a book or how the book was made. They just want to be entertained and thus this won’t do a lot to bring attention to self-publishing.
Technically, I think he’s right, but therein lies the rub.
As self-publishers, our WHOLE GOAL is to provide a piece of entertainment crafted so well that no one notices it wasn’t made by a team of big shots.
Because at the end of the day, when you turn on the TV, do you pay that much attention if a show is on NBC, CBS, or Showtime or do you just pick and watch shows because they grab your attention?
Have you ever said, “Well, I’ll never watch THAT film because it was made by Fox and Goddamn it, this is a Sony household!”
Have you ever walked into a bookstore, strolled over to the clerk, and said, “Excuse me, will you point me to the Random House books because I’m ONLY a Random House reader and I’ll never allow a Penguin book to sully my eyes!”
No. No one cares who was behind a piece of entertainment so long as it is entertaining.
And that, my 3.5 readers, is what I believe this movie does for self-publishers.
It gives their collective souls a boost. Andy Weir becomes another Hugh Howey to look up to. “If that guy did it, then I can do it too!”
After all, when Andy got his start, his readers weren’t saying, “Ugh! This book was not put out by a traditional publishing house? No thank you!”
They were saying, “An astronaut who gets trapped on Mars and has to figure out how to survive?! That sounds so cool! Sign me up!”
When you’re in the clothing store, do you check the label on that shirt that caught your eye? Nope. You’ll just buy it because you like it.
Write cool stories, 3.5 readers and if they’re entertaining enough, people won’t bother to check the label.
Thanks 3.5. I have to go fight the zombie apocalypse now.