You may know Zach from his comic, SMBC. You may have heard of Kelly from media about this super-creepy parasite she co-discovered.

Together, we wrote a book called "Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything." It's a big nerd-out about a bunch of future tech, along with weird stories and fun facts. An NPR review said it "feels like a slightly drunken lecture by a couple of enthusiastic professors."

Ask us about the book, parasites, cartooning, or this one research project where they found that students will obey robots that come bearing cookies.

Zach will be answering as /u/MrWeiner. Kelly will be answering as /u/sciencegal.


Comments: 1029 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

Bb345687692 karma

Kelly, do you think Zach's portrayal of your family in the secret panels in his comics are an accurate depiction of your relationship?

sciencegal1034 karma

I think Zach's portrayals of the family are hilarious, but not an accurate depiction of our relationship. We're actually all a very happy bunch. I've had folks tell me that they were surprised how happy and upbeat I am after meeting me, given how grumpy I seem in the secret panels.

MrWeiner1179 karma


Wertsir314 karma

According to the secret panels, Zach is most definitely NOT the one who wears the pants in the relationship, is this accurate?

sciencegal640 karma

This is, in fact, accurate.

MrWeiner842 karma


citrusfetish613 karma

SMBC is the most consistently good comic I've read, so thanks for making procrastinating so much easier! What is your favorite scientific field to make fun of, or which is the easiest?

Also side note, will we ever see pharmacology as a field show up in a comic?

Thanks you!!

MrWeiner422 karma


I really enjoy economics humor, though I haven't done much lately for some reason.

Recommend me a good pharmacology book and I'll try to check it out!

LorenOlin490 karma

I'm a regular sized person but a huge fan of your comic. It's given me many laughs and had gotten me thinking about all manner of human things.

My questions are these:

Excluding your own work, what comic series or graphic novels do you enjoy most?

What is your favorite comfort snack? For me it's is Mac and Cheese Eggrolls© and almonds.

MrWeiner397 karma

Comics: I've really loved Guy DeLisle's traveling series.

Comfort Snack: I do a handmade pizza that's greasy and covered with pickled or brined vegetables, all of which my wife hates. The latter adds to the savor. Although, if I could eat anything all day, it'd be these.

LorenOlin180 karma

Oh my goodness that looks delicious!

I work in a pizza shop. My favorite pie to make is pepperoni with pickled onions, pickles jalapeños, and pickled peppers. If you're ever in New Orleans, come by and we'll hook you up with all the pickles you want! We'll make /u/sciencegal gasp at the horrors of our many pickles!

MrWeiner135 karma

I may take you up on that one day...

Porfinlohice67 karma

Damn it's been five years since I left home to study abroad in France (came back after a year and a half) and I had totally forgotten about Canellés. Fuck you

MrWeiner90 karma

I live down the street from a bakery that makes them. $3 a piece and worth every penny.

alien_from_Europa396 karma

Will there ever be a revival of SMBC Theater?

Also, you're awesome!

MrWeiner409 karma

I will always appreciate how many people ask that question, but sadly no. None of us would have the time any more, and unfortunately SMBCT just never turned a profit.

Labsam177 karma

Follow up: what is your smbc theater buddy James Ashby up to nowadays?

MrWeiner237 karma

Traveling a bit and writing some lovely fiction that hasn't been released yet. We're working on putting out a comic book based on a beautiful script he wrote.

SirLenzalot386 karma

Hey Zach, I love your comics.

Was it tough growing up with that last name though?

MrWeiner888 karma

Well, I grew up hard and I grew up mean. My fists got hard and my wits got keen. So, it wasn't too bad.

The truth is Weiner is probably preferable to a name adjacent to Weiner, because all people can do is say "HEY WEINER." I imagine it'd be worse if it were pronounced like "whiner" and I had to defend the proper pronunciation over time.

Fortunately, I got married, and now have a nice dignified last name.

Nietzschemouse235 karma

Wait. Was Kelly's last name Smith and you combined them? I had thought you wanted to be a crafter of penises, hence wienerSmith. I wondered how you got Kelly to go along with that reasoning.

This has been an insightful ama

sciencegal351 karma

The name change was my idea, actually. I got him to go along with it. :)

MrWeiner353 karma


exit_sandman263 karma

Hi XKCD guy! How do you come up with all those ideas?


(but seriously. With both of you publishing science/humor crossovers, I sense there's more similarity between the two of you than just your 4 letter-names)

MrWeiner391 karma

We both buy from the same secret joke manufactory.

DwellerZer0251 karma

Was the "red button" always a feature in the smbc website? If not, when did it start?

MrWeiner488 karma

Lonnng ago, we used to participate in these online voting sites, where you tried to climb ranks by getting people to click a button. As an inducement, I'd draw a bonus panel you saw after voting. Over time, it became a normal feature of the site, so that even after we stopped doing the voting site stuff, I felt like the panels needed to stay. HENCE, the red button. Also, hence, why longterm readers still sometimes call it the "votey" or "votey comic."

Halgy233 karma

The philosophy in your comic seems pretty broad and insightful to my cretin mind. What do you read/watch/smell/eat for inspiration?

MrWeiner215 karma

I try to read everything. Lately, I've been reading all of Nevil Shute, in part because it's a busy time and I find Shute very relaxing.

I haven't had as much time for philosophy and science lately, but am hoping to get back into it more once our kids are a bit older.

Otherposter50 karma

On The Beach is one of the most engaging books I have read. I have never had as much trouble grocery shopping as I did during reading that book. I mean, what’s the point? We are all going to die.

MrWeiner36 karma

It's a great book, but I'm more fond of Pied Piper and Requiem for a Wren. On the Beach is not very characteristic of Shute, though it's still excellent.

warpcorevalues217 karma

Your comic has one of the most diverse casts of characters within it. Was this a conscious decision of yours to do?

MrWeiner495 karma

It was, maybe around 2010 or so. It's not something I try to call attention to, because it seems to me to be more in the category of decency than goodness, if that makes sense.

To this very day I get accused of virtue signalling, and every time that happens it warms my little heart.

purple_pixie263 karma

I mean, what possible reason could you have for having a diverse cast except to make people say "wow, that guy is a really virtuous dude"

Why would any character be non-white and/or non-straight unless those factors are required for the joke, I just cannot get my tiny brain around it.

(That's sarcasm, if it wasn't obvious)

MrWeiner601 karma

Similarly, the only reason I bathe is to hygiene signal.

Dumey91 karma

I've always liked to pretend that you make the comic with just blank characters and then use a randomizer to determine gender/race at the end. True or False?

MrWeiner90 karma

No randomizer. Just, try to keep things various.

ReasonablyBadass196 karma

So how nihilistic/cynical are you in real life? Or is it all just theoretical?

MrWeiner385 karma

This is pretty close to autobiographical:

jt7724275 karma

Sorry to go off on a tangent here, but you linking an old comic brought this to mind. Zach, there's no good way to search the SMBC archives and it's really hampering my ability to quickly post "relevant SMBC" links for that glorious karma in order to spread awareness of your most excellent webcomic. Normally when I try to find a specific, half remembered comic, I end up spending half an hour on it until I either give up or find it but the offhand comment that sent me down the rabbit hole has long passed.

I'm actually still trying to find one you did a while ago where some characters are arguing about the distinction between something that is alive and not alive, then the punch line is about how God thought it would be funny to creat a universe where all meaningful distinctions are arbitrary. That one comes up surprisingly often and I still can't find the damn thing.

MrWeiner187 karma

Yeah, sorry, we need to fix that. Meantime, you can always ask

thoawaydatrash171 karma

Your comics steadily evolved from one panel single cell organisms into huge, monstrous megafauna. Now I feel like there's a great deal of genetic diversity in your comic ecosystem, though the megafauna of yesteryear is much less common. What personal thoughts do you have about your comic length? When did you decide to move from single panels to multipanel comics and how has your planning/layout process changed since then?

MrWeiner168 karma

I did single panels for a long time just because that was a genre I enjoyed. After a while it felt very constraining, and the comics just started growing and growing as I experimented more.

Lately they've gotten a bit shorter (on average at least) in part due to time constraints. I'm also more interested in prose writing, so sometimes when I have an idea for a longer story I just write it down, with the intention to do the whole story when things have slowed down a bit over here.

aperture_aniva140 karma

Hey Zach, what do you think you'd be doing if SMBC hadn't taken off?

MrWeiner265 karma

Hard to say. SMBC lifted me out of a shitty job, then later got me out of finishing a science degree.

Honest best bet - I'd probably be a mediocre (but not unhappy) physicist, or maybe be a stay-at-home Dad writing fiction in his spare time.

LepidLlama125 karma

Kelly, what is the most unexpected sideaffect of being married to someone who is Internet Famous?

sciencegal340 karma

Sometimes it's hard to know when a new science-pal or colleague is excited about my work, or is secretly an SMBC fan hoping Zach will pick me up from work or something. I've had a few instances where a totally great interaction ended with, "and I'm also a HUGE SMBC fan. Can I meet Zach?" Of course they could still actually be excited about my work, but sometimes I wonder.

And other times I drop Zach's name and try to milk the notoriety to get my foot in the door somewhere cool. So I'm totally inconsistent about my feelings here.

MrWeiner369 karma


IIAOPSW111 karma

You're the XKCD guy right?

sciencegal353 karma

Gosh I hope so. Otherwise what have I been doing all these years??

MrWeiner225 karma


MrWeiner202 karma

Yes. And hey, while I've got your attention, you should buy that SMBC guy's book.

IIAOPSW59 karma

I would like to buy a digital copy with bitcoin.

How do?

MrWeiner278 karma

Exchange your bitcoins for US dollars, then go to a local bookstore.

Jbota95 karma

How much wiener would a wienersmith smith if a wienersmith could smith wiener?

MrWeiner121 karma

So far, 1.

St_Veloth93 karma

Zach, I’ve been reading SMBC for years and years now so I appreciate all the laughs. How do you stay productive when feeling unmotivated?

MrWeiner158 karma

It helps that comics pay for food and shelter.

I also have a daily schedule I'm pretty strict about. When working from home, keeping disciplined can be pretty tough. There's an extent to which it's a skill you have to practice. In terms of staying productive on "creative" work, I suggest you think deeply about what you were doing at times when you felt most able to make good work. For me, it involves reading difficult books, being a bit stressed out, and having at least lead a few books that same week.

Baby-eatingDingo_AMA85 karma

Which technology from Soonish are you most excited about? Is it true that the two of you fight crime under the names Mr. Weiner and ScienceGal?

MrWeiner125 karma

Most of the stuff is prettttty far off, so just about any of it would be neat. In the short term, augmented reality is starting to get neat. I would looooove robotic construction methods. But, in terms of excitement, inexpensive space launch would be pretty amazing.

We fight crime through tacitly enforcing social norms.

dupontcircle84 karma

Do you still see Screech regularly?

sciencegal130 karma

We meet up with him at The Max pretty regularly.

MrWeiner108 karma


MrWeiner129 karma

I refuse to get this joke.

Bardminton78 karma

Hey Zach, I'm a really big fan of your work and can't wait to read Soonish. Now that you've finished Soonish, what's your next Big Project?

MrWeiner144 karma

Likely order of operations:

1) New SMBC book, with a new abridged minibook

2) Pro-immigration non-fic graphic novel with Bryan Caplan


Aspirationally, I'd also like to do some serious fiction writing, some books for little kids, and maybe some young adult fiction. But, time is limited, and unfortunately I have a very happy family who like spending time with me.

Bardminton33 karma

Thanks for the answer, I'd really like to read some serious fiction writing from you! Good luck with all those projects!

MrWeiner41 karma

I'm sure I'll do it eventually. Just a matter of time...

RedditIzKewlLikeMtv-1 karma

Pro LEGAL immigration or pro ILLEGAL immigration?

MrWeiner1 karma

Pro legalizing all immigration, as it was for most of early American history.

derrikcahan74 karma

Hi Zach! Have you ever considered compiling a book of all the hate mail you get? Like a "best of" kind of thing. It would only make sense, considering how much you openly invite the stuff.

MrWeiner184 karma

I'm afraid I really get very little hatemail. Ages ago I used to do a lot of creationism jokes, and then I got a bit more. I think as the comic has gotten nerdier I get less hate and more "this is slightly incorrect, sir."

nestene460 karma

Hey! Just wanted to say I'm a huge fan. Loved the earlier comics in all their geekery but I have to wonder if you've given much thought to smaller social structures like polyamorous relationships and such.

But the real question: how much of the earlier strips dealing with raising kids do you find yourselves seriously tempted to do?

MrWeiner190 karma

I've occasionally done jokes about poly couples, but I'm not exactly sure how much humor potential there is there?

It's funny - I was told after having kids that jokes about being mean to children seem less funny. I've had the exact opposite experience.

Bergymeister74 karma

For your viewing pleasure


MrWeiner90 karma

I am SO already there.

cybergeek1123558 karma

Would you be willing to do a strip (or series of strips) with Randall Munroe of XKCD fame? If so, what kind of format would they have? i.e. he writes, you draw/you write, he draws/you tell one story but each stick to your normal format /something else entirely..?

MrWeiner121 karma

I did a guest comic once!

I'm always happy to work with anyone awesome, though I haven't had much time for full-on collaboration lately.

Nietzschemouse40 karma

I love your guest comics on questionable content, too!

MrWeiner64 karma

Thanks! I didn't invent the butt-rocket, but I think I started the everybody-do-this chain.

sweetjuicymango55 karma

I tried making some puerco pibil for my family and it didn't turn out well. The meat was very tender but it was way too sour

Could you please cheer me up? I'm sad

MrWeiner218 karma

Cheer up - one day you'll be dead and then you'll stop doing so many things wrong.

sweetjuicymango51 karma

that helps, I suppose


MrWeiner84 karma

Also, tonight's failed dinner is tomorrow's pie.

Schjenley52 karma

Given how long SMBC has been going, do you ever accidentally get an idea for a comic that you've already done? Do you have to go back and check your previous comics to make sure you don't repeat? Or are you just clever/insane enough that no joke enters your brain twice?

MrWeiner85 karma

Yeah. A few times I've actually drawn the same idea twice. What's really weird is how similar they end up being.

Gladiator-class51 karma

Do you maintain a buffer of comics that are ready but unpublished in case shit happens and you can't finish on time? How many days could you update without actually making any new comics, if you had to?

MrWeiner56 karma

Normally yes, but it's been tough now that we had kids. Right now I'm a few weeks ahead, since we're starting our book tour.

LepidLlama45 karma

If you could genetically modify your offspring, what changes would you make to them?

MrWeiner95 karma

Despite stereotypes, higher IQ is associated with pretty much universally positive effects, so I'd go with that. I say that not without reservations about genetically upgrading babies.

LeibnizIntegralKeks44 karma

Lots of your longer comics (like the one about the moon colony populated by prize winners) take a hypothetical scientific advancement or political decision and explores the consequences for humour. Have you ever considered fleshing out a comic idea into a longer-form comic book? I'd totally buy something like that if you made it.

MrWeiner50 karma

It's a goal of mine during the next five years.

Christopherlbs40 karma

My pre-ordered-from-April Soonish copy arrived to my neighbor and I nearly had a stroke. Is there a medical condition for anxiety from misdirected internet orders of geeky books or do we have to wait for ICD-11/DSM 6 for that?

Second question: typing Soonish into my Amazon app I get Spanish book recommendations. What will your next book misdirect to?

MrWeiner71 karma

re: anxiety - we can fix it with CRISPR

re Spanish - damn. I wish it would just direct you to my other books. Preferably one of the more expensive ones.

Dalek_Kolt37 karma

I've always wondered, why is God in SMBC represented as a golden disk/pizza?

MrWeiner66 karma

Mostly because I wanted God to be abstract. He's loosely based on the way they drew halos in Baroque art.

Duodenum_Ileum35 karma

Do you get made fun of a lot over the name "Weiner"? Big fan btw, loved Religion and SMBC in general.

MrWeiner100 karma

Honestly, not that much. A bit, for sure, but I went to a prep school for nerds, so the bullying was really of a poor quality.

_Chemistry_34 karma

Will rated: "Not as in depth as I would have liked. And the jokes are weak."

What would you say to Will? (*I am not Will)

MrWeiner130 karma

Depth: Most people have actually said we're more in-depth than typical pop-sci. Given then we're covering each area in 10k words or fewer, I don't think we really could go more in depth without having stacks of equations or something. But, if Will wants more depth, there's what one reviewer called a "gratifyingly large" bibliography.

As for the jokes - Will is scientifically incorrect. The jokes contain references to both poo and butts.

myracksarelettuce34 karma

Why haven't you updated your website since the late 90s?

MrWeiner41 karma

It's a squatter site. I once asked about the price, and I think it'd be in the 6 figures.

BradleySigma33 karma

Will there be a Starpocalypse Season Two?
— Somebody who bought Starpocalypse Season One, and wants to buy Starpocalypse Season Two.

MrWeiner42 karma

I'm afraid there almost certainly won't be. Video is quite expensive and difficult, and the video stuff never quite turned a profit. Thank you, though!

ryanknapper31 karma

What is the likelihood that standard, automotive battery packs will be developed so that service stations can just swap out depleted units?

MrWeiner59 karma

This is a book about more mediumterm and longterm technologies, so we don't get into things like self-driving cars, ecars, solar panels, etc. Plus, those things are amply covered in other books.

So, we're not particularly well-read on that topic. Personally, I'd be in favor of energy beaming for electric cars. If we had that and autonomous cars, I'd just live in a trailer that never stopped moving.

Shonisaurus31 karma

(Zach) How do you have comic ideas every friggin day for over a decade now?

(Kelly) Is Parasite X from Metroid plausible?

MrWeiner32 karma

I have a pretty strict schedule that involves a lot of reading. That seems to help.

elgefe30 karma

How do you feel knowing you've taken so much money from me? I have monocles, Augie, Sciences and bibles, now soonish, at least one choose your own adventure in physical format plus the rest in digital??? I hope awesome, cause I enjoyed it all and hope to continue enjoying it! Thanks for everything!

MrWeiner40 karma

Feels good man.

(for real though, thanks - people like you make the weirder projects possible)

ShrikeGFX27 karma

Really enjoying the comics but there is one fatal flaw on the website and that is the navigation. Its basically impossible to watch old comics that are not the oldest without skipping through 100 pages. Maybe having a 6 month interval-led counter could help. Without the random function its a bell curve of inaccessibility basically where the oldest and newest are accessible but the rest isnt. Could this be changed?

MrWeiner37 karma

We're working on a way to sort by subject. Maybe we could add timespan as well!

MBarry82926 karma

Hi Zach,

I don't think I really have a question, but your comic with the guy dressed in Victorian garb being banned from the Ren Faire still makes me laugh. I have it up in my office.

So, question.... Uh.... Make more history jokes?

MrWeiner23 karma

I dooo need to do that. Haven't had as much time to read history lately.

justjonathan9026 karma

Do you get mistaken for Randall Munroe (aka that xkcd guy) a lot? If so, how does it make you feel?

MrWeiner53 karma

I don't, actually. It's just a dumb joke :)

jorg223 karma

What is your inspiration to make comics about the more obscure subjects?

MrWeiner35 karma

I mostly write in response to what I'm currently reading. So, if the topic is obscure, it's probably because I was reading some weird book recently.

aisformetal10121 karma

Your comic is hilarious and unique in that a lot of the humor revolves around science or math, some of which I totally admit sends me in a Wikipedia hole. What other kinds of media have either of you seen that does a good job of being entertaining while also promoting scientific literacy? Besides Rick and Morty, do either of you watch that? I hear you need to be at a certain intelligence level in order to appreciate it

MrWeiner30 karma

Thanks! I'm afraid I don't watch Rick and Morty - between the kids and the books, I hardly have time for anything else.

For science + entertainment, Kelly and I are both really into Mary Roach.

LepidLlama17 karma

If there was a Zachy-treat (or Kellyy-treat), like a small piece of food one could use to teach you tricks, what would it be?

MrWeiner20 karma

flash_me_yr_drives17 karma

What saith you to the very likely, and all but proven, accusation that you are, in actual fact, a robot? The world needs to know.

MrWeiner19 karma

01001000 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100100 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101

Rx-Ende9 karma

Hello! I’d very much like to get Soonish off of iBooks in Bulgaria, but it says it’s not available. Do you plan to include my fair country in the fun? If not can I get it as an epub or something elsewhere to use in iBooks? I’m not really a fan of amazon, I’d prefer to mail you the dollar amount trough snailmail.

Thanks for all the SMBC fun!

MrWeiner17 karma

I'm afraid that, for this book, I don't have a lot of control over distribution stuff :/ It's possible you can get your local bookstore to order you a copy, but it'll be expensive shipping.

Hell_Mel5 karma

How many people write for SMBC? SMBC is easily the most consistently funny webcomic I've ever found, and you put out SO MANY!

The mind wobbles that it's only 2-3 people making it.

MrWeiner14 karma

Just me, in fact.

werewere3 karma

Did you run into SMBC fans when interviewing for the book? Or did you have to show a lot of PHDs some of your work?

MrWeiner6 karma

Here and there, yeah! Mostly, we found names of prominent researchers while doing our own research, which was largely done using primary sources.

kairarage2 karma

Zach my twin brother Hank Deutschendorf loved your comic, any chance you could do a tribute for him?

MrWeiner2 karma

Hey, I'm so sorry for your loss. Sounds like he was very special and very special to you. For this sort of thing, my go-to recommendation is to read philosophy and literature. Seneca's letters to Lucilius are particularly good.

I don't know what I'd do for a tribute, but send me an email sometime and I could maybe do a drawing when things cool down a bit over here.

BiggusDickus92841 karma

As parisitologists, were you always interested In butts?

MrWeiner3 karma

Kelly's the only parasitologist, but I am pretty sure the answer is yes.

Twospoons1 karma

I must ask Zach, how big is your drawing wrist? You seem to draw as many comics as a teenager masturbates in a week. How do you keep up the pace and keep up with good ideas?

MrWeiner2 karma

It's actually the metacarpals that hurt, not the wrist. But, it's much better these days - I have a digital tablet, and I loosened my grip a bit.

ed_menac1 karma

From the time the idea for 'Soonish' popped into your head, until the time it was finished, were there any predictions you made which actually ended up coming true?

MrWeiner2 karma

We don't do a lot of predicting, but we DID talk about reusable rockets and augmented reality, both of which went more mainstream between the final manuscript and the recent book release.

Old_man_Trafford-1 karma

Did you ever think about going with the other spouses last name lol? How can I take you seriously now?

MrWeiner2 karma

One day, I'm going to write a serious novel, and my last name's weirdness will be the excuse I use when nobody buys it.