The sci-fi worlds Ridley Scott, ‘The Martian’ writers dream of calling home

Movies can transport us to sci-fi worlds with immerse viewing experiences. But when the lights come up at the end of the movie, it”s back to the real world.

There are some futures that sound like sci-fi now that might be reality soon though. And there are other less likely sci-fi scenarios that we”ll never get to really experience (sorry, everyone with Avatar blues – we”re not going to Pandora).

Mars, though, is within reach. But it”s not Mars that the creative minds behind The Martian dream of visiting – especially not Andy Weir, author of the book on which the successful Matt Damon-starring movie is based. At an event today on the 20th Century Fox lot featuring a panel of Weir, director Ridley Scott, and screenwriter Drew Goddard, moderator Adam Savage (MythBusters) brought up the possibility of the The Martian filmmakers traveling to Mars themselves, Weir responded with a vicious head shake. Understandable, considering he spent months contemplating and writing everything that could go wrong for an astronaut stranded on the Red Planet. And the guy has a fear of flying. (Though recently he has gotten more comfortable with Earth-bound planes.)

So no Mars for Weir. But there is a science fiction world he”d like to live in: that of Iain M. Banks” The Culture series.

“I don”t want to live in an exciting universe like Star Wars. People get shot and die there and stuff like that,”  Weir said, explaining that The Culture is “a post-scarcity society where computers and robots automate everything. You just live a life of leisure all the time.”

Goddard”s immediate follow-up: “I would like to live in Star Wars. “Cause I would like a lightsaber.”

When Savage asked the three panelists which tech from science fiction or possible futures they”d like to have, Goddard picked replicants. The Buffy and Lost alum had revealed earlier on the panel that Scott (along with Douglas Adams) have been huge influences on his work, and he has fond memories of his dad taking him to see Scott”s sci-fi staple Blade Runner at age 7. 

“I want replicants,” Goddard said. “Ridley, can we get on that? Or you guys” – he then turned to the audience packed with scientists from the likes of JPL – “I feel like this room can figure out how to get me a replicant.”

Scott”s response to Savage”s question: “Fix the world. Fix the bloody world. They say we”re going to cut emission in 20, 30 years. Insane. You should be cutting it by next year. That”s what I”m dreaming of.”

Goddard then quipped, “I dream of replicants. Equally noble.”

Weir, meanwhile, is very much looking forward to a future where everyone uses self-driving cars. “It”s going to have this huge disruptive – in a good way – effect on the world,” Weir said of this very real possibility that we may see in our lifetime. Fleets of electric self-driving cars that pick you up when you order them from a central dispatch system, majorly cutting down on traffic and making drunk driving accidents a thing of the past. And parking lots too – which Weir notes take up 10% of the space in most cities.

Scott is down with all that “as long as I can still have my Ferrari,” he said.

All this dreaming about sci-fi and futuristic tech is a very good thing, Weir contends. On a panel earlier in the day at the Fox event alongside NASA scientists, the novelist said there”s a great cycle of films like The Martian (now an Oscar Best Picture nominee) fueling public interest in space exploration and other scientific innovations, which then motivates Hollywood studios to make more movies akin to Gravity and Interstellar, which then boosts public interest in the final frontier all the more.

Looks like that Mars movie curse is finally broken.