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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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I just came from The Martian, and I just have to say: Forget BB-8; I want a pet Sojourner! It's always been the cutest of our Mars rovers.
Title text: I just came from The Martian, and I just have to say: Forget BB-8; I want a pet Sojourner! It's always been the cutest of our Mars rovers.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: The whole explanation needs better flow.

Spoiler alert: Details of The Martian's plot mentioned below.

Ponytail compares two very different books by listing their similarities for Cueball and ends up concluding that they are basically the same book. Of course similar development history does not mean similar books...

Fifty Shades of Grey began as a fan fiction of a well known brand (the Twilight book series). It was originally written on the internet by E. L. James. It was then transformed into a successful book series which was later turned into a movie released in February 2015.

The Martian was originally a serialized story written by Andy Weir on his blog which was later compiled into an ebook for people to easily download, then published into a physical book, and has now had a movie created based on it. The movie was officially released in the US on the same day this comic was released (October 2nd 2015).

Since Fifty Shades is a romance story about a sadomasochistic relationship, and The Martian is a very technical story about surviving completely alone on a hostile planet, the two books could not be any more different, hence the joke due to the juxtaposition. Cueball continues the joke by joining the two titles using red for Mars, to make a new book title, that should cover both books: Fifty Shades of Red. Ponytail is very enthusiastic about the book concept, saying it would be irresistible (at least for her and Cueball). It is not clear from the comic if he liked the movie. Since he now compares it to a book series that has been described as mommy porn it could indicate that he was not so satisfied with the movie. On the other hand he may just have noticed this connection and found that it would make a great joke here on the release day.

It is possible that the brand that the Martian derives from is NASA itself. The Martian has been compared to Apollo 13 by Randall. Apollo 13 does indeed glorify the roles of the NASA engineers; and the Martian does a similar thing. That Randall would go see this movie as soon as it was released was already made perfectly clear back in June when he released the comic 1536: The Martian showing how excited he is about the book. He then really looked forward to the movie.

Randall indicates in the title text that he has just seen the movie. This is very likely, as premiere movies often have a sneak preview after midnight on the release day, so it is possible for him to see the movie and then post this comic early on the actual release day, or he could have been invited to a preview for selected individuals.

The BB-8 mentioned in the title text is the astromech droid from the upcoming movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and is available as a toy (see also BB-8 on the official Star Wars home page). Sojourner was the Mars Pathfinder robotic rover used by Mark Watney, the protagonist of The Martian (played by Matt Damon in the movie), to allow him to contact Earth. Randall indicated that he thinks the Sojourner is much cuter than BB-8, and that he would like to have one as a pet. He then states that the Sojourner has always been the cutest among all the Mars rovers. There have been 4 so far the other three being Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity which have already been used in xkcd comics: 695: Spirit, 1091: Curiosity and 1504: Opportunity.


[Ponytail is talking to Cueball.]
Ponytail: So it's a work of fiction about a well-known brand. written on the Internet by an enthusiast, republished as a bestselling book, and then made into a big movie.
Cueball: Yup.
[Ponytail holds her hand to her chin. Beat panel.]
[Ponytail is talking to Cueball again.]
Ponytail: Yeah, The Martian and Fifty Shades of Grey are basically the same book.
Cueball: "Fifty Shades of Red?"
Ponytail: Man, tell me you wouldn't read that.

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