The Moon Is Hot and Mars Is Not (At Least in Recent Sci-Fi)

Andy Weir’s new novel ‘Artemis’ is set on the lunar surface, but it’s hardly the only recent novel to focus on the moon over Mars.

by Ben Sullivan
May 11 2017, 11:00am

Image: Foster + Partners/ESA

The Moon captured the imagination of science fiction writers long before the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969. From Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon to H.G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon, our closest celestial neighbour was a hot topic in writing circles for decades.

Then, as science fiction blossomed throughout the late 20th century and our spacefaring aspirations grew further afield, the Moon lost its mystique and fell out of fashion.

That's all about to change.

Andy Weir, author behind Mars-based bestseller The Martian and its Hollywood adaptation, is writing a book set on the Moon, and 20th Century Fox has already picked up the movie rights. Luna is back in style.

Artemis will be released on November 14 this year, and will follow the journey of Jasmine Bashara, a twentysomething who lives in the first ever colony built on the Moon, reports Nerdist.

Weir discusses Artemis in this video interview:

But Weir isn't the first science fiction author to turn their attention on the Moon recently. It's actually been creeping back into stories for some time now, and legendary sci-fi author Elizabeth Moon (see what we did there) told Motherboard that's likely because of global space agencies' focus on getting back to the Moon influencing the science fiction genre.

"I suspect that renewed interest in the Moon as a setting for science fiction began years ago, when the Chinese space program really got rolling, including their announced intention to land a rover on the Moon," Moon said.

"I suspect that renewed interest in the Moon as a setting for science fiction began years ago, when the Chinese space program really got rolling."

German author Frank Schatzing's 2009 lunar hit Limit is a near-future thriller about natural resources on the satellite, and Ian McDonald's Luna: New Moon, which was released in 2015, is essentially a Game of Thrones set on the Moon. The entire destruction of the Moon sparks the storyline for Neal Stephenson's Hugo Award-nominated novel Seveneves.

"The more recent successes of commercial companies (SpaceX in particular, but also Blue Origin) launching cargo to the ISS—and developing the lift and life support capacity to attempt manned Moon exploration—will be familiar to most SF writers," said Moon. "So the interest is there, and presumably the readership—good reason to see a market for stories set on the Moon and between Moon and Earth."

And Andy Weir's Artemis will be adding to that now teeming market of Moon fiction, just in time for SpaceX's planned mission to send tourists on a return trip around the satellite in 2018.

Subscribe to Science Solved It, Motherboard's new show about the greatest mysteries that were solved by science.