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I am Andy Weir, and I wrote "The Egg". AMA.

Sep 13th 2012 by sephalon • 50 Questions • 1585 Points

My story, The Egg was frontpaged here last week.

So, thanks for that! And thanks for the many emails I got about the story. Some folks suggested I do an AMA. I am very inexperienced in the ways of Reddit, but here I am.

Edit: Proof of me. This is posted to galactanet, my website, which is also where The Egg resides. Hopefully that's proof enough for folks.

Finale: All right folks. It's bed time. Thanks for your questions and thanks for reading my stories. If you have anything to say or further questions to ask, you can always drop me a line. My email address is posted on my writing site

Q:

Just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed The Egg. Nice and short, thought provoking, well written. 10/10. Thanks for the story.

Do you have any plans for other stories?

A:

Yes, I have a page dedicated to my writing. I recently finished The Martian, which is a full-length novel, and there are a number of one-off short stories on the page if you're more in to that.


Q:

Just logged in to say I enjoyed The Egg, but I really really enjoyed The Martian. Incredible, thrilling story. Kudos and thanks.

A:

Thanks! I wrote The Egg in an evening but it took years to write The Martian. Sometimes I'm a little sad that The Martian wasn't anywhere near as popular, but I guess it's a niche readership. Hard sci-fi isn't for everyone.


Q:

Andy, this may sound odd, but I took your story very seriously.

It's kinda made me look at the way I treat people every day.

Not just friends, not just family... but random people...

People walking down the street, strangers in the park, young people, old people...

Thinking not necessarily that they are me, but honestly envisioning their experience and their life. Making sure that if I saw it from their eyes, that my impact would be one of positivity at the very least....

Good story, friend.

A:

Cool, I'm glad it had that effect.


Q:

Love the story! What made you decide to sit down and write it?

A:

I wanted to come up with some way to look at the world such that life was fair. A way where everyone came out even in the end. This is what I came up with.


Q:

Its not easy to create a world like that from scratch.. so you did a pretty damn good job!

A:

Well thanks. :)


Q:

But I wrote it too, right?

A:

I see what you did there.


Q:

I just read this, and my first and only question is, "what do you believe?" aside, That was wonderful. Thank you.

A:

I get asked that a lot. No, I don't believe the universe really is that way. It's just a story. It's how I wish the universe was, but not how I think it is.


Q:

so what do you believe?

A:

I'm agnostic. I just don't know what'll happen when I die.


Q:

First, I love the story. It's something I always point people to after having any kind of moral, life, religion debate or talk. It always gives me perspective and it's something I thing everyone could benefit from.

A couple questions for you:

How did you come up with this thought process? It seems like you were doing some deep soul searching but you stated elsewhere in this Q&A that it isn't something you believe, so, where did it come from.

What do you believe?

Thank you again for the awesome story. It's something that I will never forget.

A:

It originally came up because I was having an argument with my aunt. I thought her point of view was ridiculous. Then, later I figured if I had lived her life, her opinion would make perfect sense to me. That got me thinking about a system where people live each others' lives. Also, I had wanted to come up with a system where the world was "fair". That eventually led me to The Egg.

My actual belief is I am agnostic. I know it sounds like a cop-out, and it probably is, but it's accurate. I just don't know what happens after you die, and I can't be sure about anyone's theory.


Q:

First off, good on you responding to every question (so far)!

And of course, your story really affected me, etc. not trying to downplay it, but I'm sure the constant flattery must be a tad dull by now.

Question to you, how did you want the reader to feel about the story. What did you intend to impact us with while writing it?

And also, how did you feel when The Egg exploded onto the Internet? I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that The Egg is one of the most well known short stories of our time.

A:

I wanted the reader to change their mindset (if only for a short time) and start imagining themselves really being the people they meet. My favorite fan mails are the ones where people say things like "The other day I got cut off in traffic and was mad as hell, then I thought hey, maybe he's late for work, or upset about a death in the family."

I love it when people think like that. Obviously I'm not going to permanently change anyone's point of view or personality. But if I can make them look at things from a different angle just for a few minutes, I'm pretty proud.

As for the popularity, It's great. I've been a wannabe writer since I was a kid, and I finally made a story that people really like.


Q:

Thanks, I posted that from the train home, and it's given me the motivation I needed to get back to my own writing.

Also, it's great to hear you sound like such a nice guy. For some reason, I really expected most writers to sound so up themselves. :)

A:

Up ourselves? Poppycock. Why, when I read that I derisively laughed so hard my pipe almost fell in to my glass of 1934 Chateau le Douche. Which would have been a real tragedy, because it would have stained my elbow-patch jacket and my designer cat.


Q:

Dear Mr. Weir,

Your story caused a paradigm shift in my brain. A beautiful idea such as that puts a person on a lovely and different intellectual plateau than they are accustomed to, and floods their head with new questions, new appreciations, and a more empathetic perspective.

I firmly believe that my primary reason for existence is to learn via empirical and imaginative means. With that motivation in mind, you've given me a gift beyond price in a concise, enjoyable medium. I thank you from the core of my soul.

If you're ever in Phoenix, I'd be honored to buy you a beer.

Your Pal, David

A:

Thanks, I'm glad it had such a positive effect.

Also, free beer if I go to Phoenix! Sweet.


Q:

I was going to compose a response that accurately summed up how profound 'The Egg' was for me. I can't do any better than this so I'll just co-sign.

Mr. Weir, if you're ever in Honolulu I'll buy you a beer and show you the sights.

A:

I'm now making a list of cities where I can get a free beer...


Q:

Add Minneapolis as well.

A:

Check.


Q:

Vancouver BC :)

A:

woot!


Q:

What is a secret about you that reddit doesnt know?

A:

Nothing major, but some fun trivia about my life:

  • I am a computer programmer and I worked for Blizzard on Warcraft II (yes I'm that old).

  • Though I will never be able to prove it, I invented the "Socially Awesome Penguin" image macro meme (as a response to "Socially Awkward Penguin" which was popular at the time).

  • I also created two webcomics, Casey and Andy and Cheshire Crossing. Not exactly a secret, but nobody seems to know that.


Q:

I don't have a question, I just want to say thanks for writing "The Egg" it really made me think, back a million years ago when I read it the first time. It actually shaped the way I look at the universe a fair bit.

A:

Well, thanks. :)


Q:

Ah man, I love that story.

It's always had a fairly strong presence on the internet, sort of a cult following. I've seen crop up a few times on my years online, on several different websites, reddit included.

A:

It is by far my most popular work. Which is funny because I wrote it in under an hour.

I think it's had about 3 million views since I first posted it. 1 million of those were from a single day last week when it got frontpaged here.


Q:

and I've seen it posted multiple times as an image file that doesn't link to your site, so it's probably been seen by even more people than that.

On an unrelated note, who is your favorite author?

A:

Terry Pratchett is probably my favorite. I'm also a fan of the late Robert Asprin and of course Isaac Asimov and Heinlein.

Occasionally people credit Asimov as the author of The Egg. And let me tell you, people confusing me with Asimov is the most amazing compliment I've ever received.


Q:

In my intellectual group, The Egg is talked about on the same level as Last Question. Personally, I would put The Egg up there alongside Last Question and Holographic Universe and Power of Now and Prometheus Rising as my most influential readings. It's brilliant, and I couldn't share enough joy with you to convey how important to me it is. I share it with everyone I meet.

Thank you so much, sincerely, for creating it.

A:

The Last Question is one of my favorite short stories of all time. Probably my favorite, in fact.


Q:

I'm planning on being an author. Any advice?

A:

The main thing is to actually write. Don't try to plan everything out first, just get to work.

It's very easy to procrastinate by daydreaming about ideas for your story instead of actually writing it. Especially if you have supportive friends who will listen to you tell them the story. That's the worst, because is fulfills your need for an audience and diminishes your drive to actually do the work.

The most useful thing you can do is actually sit down and start writing. Worst case scenario is you delete the file.


Q:

Your story is extremely inspiring, but I just noticed how insecurely configured your apache server is! You should disable directory indices in order to prohibit this: http://www.galactanet.com/pics/

A:

Another poster convinced me to make and post this.


Q:

Casey and Andy doing mad science

Casey and Andy doing mad science

So for whatever my word is worth, I'll confirm that this is the real thing.

A:

For those who don't know, I also made Casey and Andy

CaseyG is the Casey.


Q:

After arguing about religion with my brother for hours one night, I decided I was going to come up with my own arbitrary rules for reality. A way for the universe to work that wasn't provable or disprovable, simple, and could improve the quality of all human life everywhere if it were accepted as the truth. It came to me in a wave of inspiration, one bit flowing perfectly, sequentially, and obviously into the next. I was excited. I'd never heard anybody else talk about this kind of idea before! It was beautiful. I was a damned genius.

The next day I read The Egg and was happy for you/me, a little sad, but mostly I felt silly because of course in all the lives I've lived, the odds that this is the first time I've had this idea are pretty slim. The timing was weird, though.

A:

I'm a time-traveling, mind-reading plagiarist, by the way. I don't know if that's relevant.


Q:

I love your story, and I may be taking a stage directing class next spring. Is there any chance I could use your story as my script to be presented as a short one-act play?

A:

Sure. I have a general film policy that can apply to stage productions as well. Obviously, with no digital version available, I wouldn't expect you to "post" it anywhere.


Q:

Thank you so much!! I may be able to record a video to post on YouTube(in accordance with your film policy), but another's question: would the actors involved be allowed to use clips for their personal reels?

A:

Sure, no problem. I'm really not worried unless people are making money off of it without me.


Q:

Your story sent chills down my spine. I don't know what else to say other then it's good. It made me feel similar to the first time I watched the Futurama episode "Godfellas" where Bender is lost in space and has a chat with god.

A:

Well as long as it didn't make you feel like the time you watched "Jurassic Bark".


Q:

I don't feel comfortable.

Edit: But nice story, I enjoyed it.

A:

Relevant username. Any correlation to my story? Or just pure coincidence?


Q:

I've dabbled in writing short stories, and most of the ones of written were supposed to deliver a "message." I want my writing to touch people and maybe even change the way they think, like the way The Egg did. The problem is, having a message takes a lot of finesse. I either end up being too vague and I confuse the reader, or the message is so strong and obvious it's like I'm pounding it down the reader's throat. What are your tips for writing a story that has a message but is still good literature?

A:

Interesting question. When I write I don't try to convey a message. I just want to make an interesting story that will be fun to read. To me, stories are purely for entertainment. I know that sounds odd because "The Egg" seems to have a strong message attached. But really I just wanted a story that would make people go "woah" and be entertained.

There's a pretty fine line between conveying a message and coming off as preachy. I guess the trick would be to construct a story around the message such that the message isn't shown as some moral absolute, but instead as a subjective choice. Then demonstrate that the subjective choice leads to a better life.

But I'm just brainstorming here. I really never try to have a moral in my stories, so I'm probably not the right guy to ask about how to do it.


Q:

This probably seems self-serving, but I figured you've answered myriad questions about The Egg and was wondering if you wouldn't mind giving a bit of advice, because you seem wise and stuff. There's a girl in Denmark who likes me. We've been talking about three months, and I have a month off of work because of weird contract issues. I want to fly over and spend a week or two with her. Anyway, I have always wanted to do something wonderfully crazy, it's not the dumbest thing I've done financially and it's awful not being with her. (I'm American). Any wise writer advice?

I'll gladly accept downvotes if this is dumb, and I'll delete it if it's a horrible question, but you can't write The Egg without some great life experience.

A:

I'm not an expert on relationships but what I'm gathering here is:

  • Girl in Denmark likes you, you like her
  • You have money and time off

Consider this: 30 years from now do you think you'll say "Boy I sure am glad I saved a few hundred bucks by not going to Denmark back in 2012 to be with the woman of my dreams."

Why are you not in Denmark right now? Get off reddit. Order your ticket. Go go go.


Q:

Just to play devils advocate a bit... ;)

As beautiful a concept as the story is, what are your thoughts on the logical result of the story's premise: that nothing anyone does actually matters, because it's all part of each of their own individual fragment's learning process toward enlightenment? Meaning, not that there's no free will, but that things like murder aren't objectively bad, because you're just killing yourself?

Sorry for being such a downer, just curious to know if you've considered this :) It really is a great story, I wrote something similar when I was younger and a friend of mine died. As a skeptic though I couldn't help but consider what might happen if a story like yours was the beginning of a new faith, and whether the extremists of that faith would believe as I've outlined: everyone is me, I am everyone, so I can do no wrong, and everything that happens furthers the meta-me's conscious evolution.

Thanks for the AMA and the story!

A:

Oh it gets way worse than that!

How about this: "Hey, the sooner I run through all these human lives, the sooner I become a God. So the faster people die, the better we all are. Genocide is therefore good. Not just for me, but even for the victims of it!"

And if it were a real religion it wouldn't take long before people started thinking things like "some incarnations are older and wiser than others. I'm sure MY ethnicity is way later in the sequence than other ethnicities..."


Q:

saw this a couple years back. stumbleupon. real inspiring. where can we find more of your writing?

A:

Right here.


Q:

That was an extremely thought provoking work that you wrote. I actually plan to present it to my professor to talk more in depth about it. I would love to hear some notes about it. I recently read Bachee by Euripides and found that to be and interesting piece, what i learned about Euripides himself helped me understand the work better. If you don't mind, I would like to hear some background on yourself:

Where did you grow up? What are your religious views? What are your political views? What line of work are you in?

Thanks so much!

A:
  • Grew up: I was born and raised in the Bay Area, California.

  • Religion: I am agnostic. I know that's a cop-out, but I don't have a better answer. And no, I don't believe The Egg is reality. It's just a story.

  • Politics: On social issues I am very liberal, as you can probably expect from me growing up in the Bay Area. But on fiscal matters I'm conservative. I work hard to keep my political views out of my stories. Nobody wants to be preached at.

  • Work: I'm a computer programmer. My specialty is mobile development (apps for iPhones, Android, etc.). I've done that for the last 10 years. I've been doing programming in general for almost 25 years.

  • Age: After reading the "Work" segment, you'll probably wonder how old I am. I'm 40.


Q:

I really loved The Martian. Amazing story that kept me reading all night.

A:

Sweet!


Q:

Seriously, man. That was an incredible story. I saw it playing out as I read it. You should definitely license that to a movie. It'd be amazing.

A:

I'd love for it to be made in to a mini-series. Like a 6 episode BBC kind of thing. Or a 12 ep HBO one-season thing. That would be a dream come true.


Q:

Your story is really awesome man. I taught a lesson about it to my Philosophy class in school haha good stuff. Where can your other written works be found, id love to check those out..

A:

Right here.


Q:

Just wondering, but how did you do in school? I mean, what subjects did you take, how you were, how people saw you - that kind of stuff. Did any of it affect you greatly?

A:

In high school, I was a straight-A student, and very unpopular. A typical nerd. Also, I had really bad cystic acne and really hated how I looked. Yes I'd say it had a large effect on my eventual personality. I had to be funny or interesting or creative to have friends.


Q:

I would thank you for showing me this.... But it is oddly self serving. Thank you me!

A:

No problem, You.


Q:

Your story was wonderful to read. Have you seen the videos on YouTube that have tried to put your story into a short film? If so, what do you think of them?

Just also wanted to say that because of reading 'The Egg', I was inspired to make a short film inspired by it - I hope I do it justice.

Edit: Spelling.

A:

Good luck with the film!

Yes, I have seen most of the videos. Some are pretty good, I think. Some are... painful to watch. There have also been a number of films made that were never posted anywhere (which goes against my film policy but oh well). Some of them are quite good and it's too bad their creators chose not to post them on YouTube (They sent them to me for feedback).


Q:

How do you feel about the upcoming movie Cloud Atlas, seeing that it's almost connected to your story?

A:

This is the first I've heard about Cloud Atlas, so I don't know how it is similar to The Egg. However, according to its Wikipedia page, the novel that the movie is based on was published in 2004, two years before I first posted The Egg. So I certainly can't get mad at anything that's in the book.


Q:

I remember reading your story several months ago after it was posted on a site I used to manage, RUckmakers.com. It's a very interesting piece. Have you ever thought of writing a complete novel based on the idea?

Also, as a struggling novice writer myself (finished writing one novel, and then while I was waiting for it to be edited, started writing a completely different one), do you have any advice on how to best get work published?

A:

I don't think The Egg is an interesting enough story to pull a reader through an entire novel. I think part of its appeal is that it's so short and to-the-point.

As for getting published, I'm the wrong guy to talk to. I'm purely a hobbyist. I've never been published.


Q:

Also, just as a note, you must verify your identity, either with a personalized picture (such as you holding a sign that says "Hi Reddit") or on your official Twitter account.

Thanks!

A:

Here you go. It's posted to my site galactanet, which is where The Egg is. That should be proof enough.


Q:

I must say, although "The Egg" was impressive, I'm a huge fan of "The Martian"! It was an intense read, had me up all night at the edge of my seat. No questions here, but thank you for writing such awesome pieces!

A:

I'm really happy that so many people are bringing up The Martian. I enjoyed writing it and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. It gets drowned out by The Egg, but I really think The Martian is my best work.


Q:

This story is extremely profound. Thank you for writing it.

A:

Thanks. :)


Q:

This story really blew me away the first time I read it, really amazing job. How long did it take you?

A:

I wrote the whole thing in under an hour and posted it later that evening.


Q:

What is the most thought-provoking philosophical work you have read yourself? Your story is most definitely mine thus far.

Also, do you think my friends did the story any justice? They did this film of The Egg in about a week.

A:

I'd have to say Asimov's "The Last Question" made me stop and think more than any other story I've read. It's among my favorite short stories ever.

I don't really comment on specific film versions of The Egg because inevitably people will create rankings based on my answers. I don't really want to be a film critic, so I'll just duck the question. :)


Q:

It's an awesome story and one that made me see the world in a new light (as seems to be the case with others here), so thanks for writing it. When I first saw it, it was years ago as a screengrab of a 4chan post. Does it get frustrating at all to have your work well known but your authorship less so? Also, have you considered making it the premise for any other medium such as a short film/anime (ala those matrix ones) etc? I'm sure there are some great people out there who would love to work it into something script-like and animate it.

A:

It does bug me when people think it was invented by 4chan. I guess I don't mind being unknown, but I do mind someone (or something) else getting credit for what I wrote.


Q:

Just read it. Holy shit. Thank you.

A:

Thanks. :)


Q:

Hi there! I read this story quite a long time ago (I believe I was around 15 at the time) and I still love it. It really changed the way I perceived things around me and showed me that anything could be possible; we are just limited by what we see. Thank you for the amazing story Andy :)

A:

Thanks. :)


Q:

What were you thinking about at the time when you wrote The Egg?

A:

Honestly, I was just dabbling with an idea. I wanted to come up with a system such that life was fair after all. Start to finish I wrote it in under an hour. I never expected it to be as popular as it became.