I was also reminded about how inspirational science is. We humans have accomplished so much. We’ve ridden controlled explosions into outer space, for frack’s sake! I know some of us have also done terrible things. But life here on Earth has gotten so much better for so many, and continues to improve for almost everyone, all thanks to human ingenuity—and especially to its unleashing some 200 years ago. That ingenuity is on sparkling display on every page of The Martian.
I’m also personally inspired by the story behind the story, by how Andy Weir put his novel out there for free on his website, one chapter at a time, and how it grew into the best-selling book and award-winning movie that it is now. I know that 19th century authors like Dickens published novels in serial format, but I love that someone successfully did it in the 21st century. It gives me hope, as an aspiring novelist myself, that there are different ways to make a go of it as a writer these days, even with the ongoing shakeup of traditional publishing.
And finally, if a little perversely, I take some inspiration from the novel’s shortcomings themselves. This book does some things very well, and some things only passably well, but it’s a success anyway. I don’t just mean commercially; I mean that it’s a success as a work of fiction. My own first novel, which I’ve been writing and rewriting on an off for years, will do some things better than this book, and some things less well. I want it to be as good as I can make it, but as long as it does enough things well enough, it will also be a success as a work of fiction—and with a little luck, a commercial success too. If I can keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth reading, I might just finish the damn thing one of these days.