Andy Weir’s The Martian is unique in that it has been retold through a plethora of diverse mediums. Each time, the story takes advantage of the medium it is in to present the tale in an effective and unique way. These mediums, however, have certain weaknesses that become more noticeable when all juxtaposed together with the story held constant.
First there is the original blog Weir would update as Mark Watney in a serialized manner. This form flexes in it’s ability to utilize multimedia. The site would use graphics to explain and visualize certain maneuvers and locations, something that was lacking in the later printed codex. The serialization also allowed Weir to release his story in chunks that he thought would keep his readers engaged and waiting for the next ‘episode.’ Perhaps this isn’t exactly a strength, although it is something I admire and find charming. One of the weaknesses of this medium, as David Golubmia discusses in Characteristics of Digital Media is the definite linearity of this type of story telling. With serialization, the reader must read the story at the exact pace and sjuzet the author intended. This does not exactly weaken the story, but does make it less flexible.
The true novel codex iteration of the novel presents a solution to the linearity. Physical books will always have a place in story telling. Digital alternatives are just barely behind in accessibility and intuitive design.
Today’s obvious evolution from the book is straight to the silver screen, assuming hollywood thinks theres enough money behind it. Ridley Scott’s movie interpretation, as I discussed in my last post, was a well crafted cinematic experience. What the medium loses in reader freedom of imagination, it gains in a more exhilarating and immersive experience. In the same vein, a virtual reality telling of The Martian in production could further pronounce these strengths and immersions at the cost of alternate views. The movie is arguably the definitive version of Watney’s odyssey.
The least exciting iteration of this story was the mobile game, “The Martian: Bring Him Home” by Little Labs, Inc. This has you at NASA’s end helping Watney make decisions. The game’s devotion to the text becomes a little bit of a hassle, at it eventually feels like someone is just reading the book to you and interrupting itself with questions. This game works off of an illusion of control, where the decisions that the player makes actually has little effect on the outcome of the story, aside from a few game over decisions. In Jeff Ritchie’s, “The Affordances and Constraints of Mobile Locative Narrative,” he discusses how when the medium affords the ability to offer the reader choices, it simultaneously constrains itself to depth and polish on alternate decisions. Overall, The Martian is best at home in the cinema, where it strikes a balance of immersion and well paced storytelling.