Welcome to our latest feature, a series of interviews about dreams and dreaming with some of our favorite people. For our first installment, we’re talking to Andy Weir, author of the worldwide phenomenon The Martian. His latest novel, Artemis, is on sale now.
Do you have any recurring dreams?
I have a recurring dream where Dave Grohl is real. Sorry, that’s a joke.
How is that a joke?
It’s an inside joke from a recurring dream I have. Trust me, it’s funny.
Can you explain it to me?
Can a dog explain a turtle to a chicken?
If you say so.
Are you saying a dog can explain a turtle to a chicken?
I’m not going to argue with you.
Have you ever written fiction inspired by a dream?
My first novel, The Martian, was partially inspired by a dream I had where I was out in the middle of this vast desert, arguing over whether or not Diddy Kong is Donkey Kong’s son with a terrorist who was holding a gun to my mother’s head. In the dream I said, “Diddy Kong is just Donkey Kong’s friend!” and the terrorist said, “No, Donkey Kong is his father and refuses to admit it!” and then he killed my mother. When I told my agent the idea he suggested that it would sell better if we set it on Mars. But then I couldn’t think of a reason a terrorist would be on Mars, so all that went out the window.
Do you ever dream about people from your past?
Weirdly enough, the other night I had a dream about the manager of this diner I visit whenever I’m in Cobb County, West Virginia. Someone I’ve never even spoken to!
You’ve spent time in Cobb County?
My family has a home there, yeah.
Have you ever owned a blue Ford Focus Sedan?
Why are you asking me this?
Where were you on September 24, 2015?
I was in London for the world premiere of “The Martian.”
Do you ever dream of regrets, or things that you feel guilty about?
When I was a kid, my cousin Lawrence married a woman named Sarah whose legs ended just above the knee. He always used to say, “Life is too short for regrets,” but I thought he was saying, “Wife is too short for regrets,” and took that to mean that regrets were stored in the calves or feet. For years whenever I did something I felt bad about I’d smack my legs and feet with a hammer, thinking I could deaden the feeling. I spent a lot of time in bed healing, with nothing but books to keep me company. That’s where my love of the written word began. Eventually, in college, I took a class on neuroscience and found out about the brain, and later realized that my cousin was saying “life” and not “wife.”
But anyway, my cousin was right. Life is too short for regrets.
So if you murdered someone, you wouldn’t feel regret?
Well, that’s an extreme example.
I’d like to tell you about a dream I have. About growing old with my wife, Emily. About the two of us surrounded by grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
That dream will never be a reality, though. Because on September 24, 2015, a man driving a blue Ford Focus Sedan killed my wife Emily outside the Merry Mart Country Grocery Depot in Cobb County, West Virginia.
That’s awful. I’m so sorry.
The killer fled the scene and has never been identified.
Can you prove you were in London that night?
I’m sure there are pictures of me at the premiere.
Photographs can be doctored. Is there anyone willing to vouch for your presence at the premiere?
You don’t sound sure. You sound nervous.
You’d be nervous too if someone was accusing you of murder.
Interesting that you assume I’m accusing you.
I think I’ll smoke a cigarette. Would you like a cigarette?
[Weir lights a cigarette]
It’s an interesting thing, being an author. A creator. You start with some idea, some intention… you struggle to translate what’s in your head onto the page. Sometimes as an idea travels through your brain, down your arms, through your fingers onto a screen and then out into the world, something is lost. It doesn’t come out right. Or, sometimes you simply don’t rise to the occasion. Don’t you find it interesting that man is capable of conceiving an idea that he’s incapable of carrying to fruition? Don’t you think we’d be happier if our imaginations were limited to our actual capabilities? Tell me, do you believe in God?
I stopped believing in God in the parking lot of that grocery store in Cobb County on September 24, 2015.
I used to wonder if God looked at us and saw a shadow of Her original intent. But then I realized that God’s genius was to avoid the chance we’d disappoint Her. While a novelist must continuously create and create and decide and decide and push a character across a page, debating all the while the merit of each decision, and whether they are able to rise to the occasion of their vision. God gave Her creations free will. She created the world, set the rules—by which I mean, physics—and then stepped back to watch the story unfold. As you probably know from reading my fiction, I have a keen interest in physics. You see, the fundamental principle of physics is that things change. Hot becomes cold. What is living dies, rots, fuels new life. This is also the fundamental principle of storytelling, is it not? Things change. A man who smokes cigarettes decides to quit. He makes a change. His wife typically buys him the Nicorette gum he relies on at Food Lion, but one day decides to shop at a small country market, in order to support local business. Another change. Another man, driving a blue Ford Focus, takes a different route home from a local bar than he normally does and finds himself lost, swerves into a parking lot to consult the map on his phone and loses control of his car. Strikes a woman. Panics. Flees the scene. You tell me you lost your faith in God on September 24th, 2015, but I assure you, sir, that on September 24, 2015, God’s eyes were on you, and your wife, and the driver of that car.
So. You believe I killed this… what was your wife’s name again?
Emily. Her name was Emily.
Ah, yes. Emily. You believe I killed Emily. But consider this—who holds the greater responsibility for her demise, the driver of the car? Or the God who set all of this in motion in the first place?
I have one more question for you.
Can a dog explain a turtle to a chicken?
[Interviewer lunges across the table and swipes at Andy Weir with a straight razor. Weir dodges and slams his right fist into interviewer’s temple, knocking him to his knees. Weir grabs the razor in one hand, a handful of the interviewer’s hair in the other. Pulls his head back. The two men lock eyes.]
Smile, my friend. God is watching.
[Weir presses the razor against the interviewer’s throat. Suddenly the door bursts open and Agent Rhonda Mitchell of the FBI, who has been surreptitiously listening to the interview from the next room, charges in. She fires her sidearm once. The bullet grazes Weir’s face, smashing his cheekbone just under his right eye. He drops the razor as he collapses, shrieking and clutching his ruined face.
Further investigation later revealed that Weir was in fact in London at the time of Emily’s murder. His actions during this interview remain a mystery, as he escaped from the hospital two days later and remains at large.]