Andy Weir’s “Artemis”: All That is Wrong With Sci-Fi Writing

Some years ago, I read what I thought must be the worst sci-fi novel of all time (Dan Simmon’s Hyperion). And then I read Andy Weir’s Artemis.

Weir, known for getting the science right in The Martian, set this novel on the moon. Hailed by Esquire for “his attention to detail” and the The New York Times Book Review for depicting “near-future technology”, I thought this book might be an inspiration for details related to lunar life for my novel, Anori. I was wrong.

Weir’s choice of a young woman, Jazz Bashara, as the protagonist is a misogynic train wreck, focusing almost entirely on her sexuality. I was pretty sexy, I have to admit. (203) ‘Did you watch me strip on Dale’s feed?’ ‘Yeah, thanks for the show!’ (236)

He tries to hide his failure behind her smart-aleck quips – God, I was such a dipshit (173) I was pissed. And I don’t mean drunk. (139) – all of which is painfully sophomoric.

The narrative reads like an outline, the descriptions like a first draft. A frumpy Midwestern woman giggled at her window and turned to me. “Isn’t it amazing? We are on the moon!” (78) And the dialogue…my god, the dialogue. “You just…you really need to learn about woman and how to interact with them, all right?” “Oh,”, he said. “That could be really helpful.” (203) And even if Weir does get the science right, much of it come across like a 17-year-old explaining life. Don’t believe me? Put ice water in a saucepan and cook it. The water temperature will stay at 0 degrees until the last ice cube melts. (250)

I’m not sure what this book taught me beyond that terrible writing can not only get published but also praised. And what’s the lesson in that?

Writing Process: Lost Images

As of late, I have been scouring through old images (prints, negatives and slides) in search of material for my Young Chronicles series. However there is one picture I cannot find, that of a boy looking back through the gap between a bus seat and the wall. All I can find is this lesser shot of his hand.

Boy’s hand on bus trip from Edmonton, Alberta to Whitehorse, Yukon.

Not being able to find the image of the boy haunts me in an odd way. I don’t know how I could have lost it and look for it again and again. To no avail.

The feeling reminds me of a fruitless search as a boy at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. There had been a exhibition on the Amazon that I had loved, but it was a temporary thing and had vanished forever.

Searching for the lost Amazon exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

That didn’t stop me from endlessly searching the corridors and rooms, peaking behind the dioramas, looking for the secret passageway that would lead me back to that magical place. I am still looking for that.

Writing Process: The Cat Inside

A spark is needed to start writing. And the trick is to allow that thing to turn into something substantial before getting at it. This can’t be forced or ignored. It’s like a cat. She pretends she doesn’t want to interact, but she does.

Popo watching

You just have to wait, even when she is sitting there. She needs to be coddled. Oh, no, not coddled! My mistake. That can’t be said, even thought. Appreciated. That’s the word. Appreciated.

Popo watching still

Play with her. Stroke her face and sides. She will go with that. And then it’s great fun and games, moving ahead like it was nothing at all. Why weren’t we always here? Simple as that? And then she is gone, quick as it started, and it’s a matter of waiting for another round