In Memoriam: Douglas Adams (1952-2001) Galactic Hitchhiker Extraordinaire
So Long and Thanks For All The Books
There is an art, or, rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. -- DNA, at h2g2.com.
It's hard for me to describe the loss of the man who was one of the greatest influence in my life, the author of a simple book describing the adventures of a galactic vagabond.
It was upon reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that I realized that I was not alone: out there were other smart folks interested in the silliest of things. (Of course there was always the risk that despite one's wanting to be Ford Prefect it might be that being Arthur Dent was closer to the truth of things.)
What Doug Adams did, in his humanistic style of writing, was validate a life, making it okay to just be without the peer pressure of clinging to professional sporting teams, television, the treadmill of conspicious consumption, or any of the other trappings of the international corporate culture in which we're mired.
From the Associated Press (used without permission):|
By DANNY POLLOCK, Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Douglas Adams, whose cult science fiction comedy ``The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'' drew millions of fans and spawned a mini-industry, has died at age 49.
The British-born Adams died Friday of an apparent heart attack in Santa Barbara, Calif., a family friend, Elizabeth Gibson, said Saturday. She said Adams collapsed while working out at a gym.
``He was not ill,'' Gibson said. ``This was completely unexpected.''
The ``Hitchhiker's Guide,'' which began as a British Broadcasting Corp. radio series in 1978, is a satirical adventure about a group of interplanetary travelers; it opens with the Earth being destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway.
It was turned into a book, which sold 14 million copies around the world, and later into a television series.
The book was followed by several sequels, including ``The Restaurant at the End of the Universe,'' ``Life, the Universe and Everything'' and ``So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish.''
The books blended satire, memorably named characters such as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android, and witty philosophy, at one point supplying the answer to ``the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.'' The answer was 42.
Adams later recalled how he first thought of the book during a teen-age trip around Europe.
``I was hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, when I was 18, with this copy of 'A Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe,''' he said.
``At one point I found myself lying in the middle of a field, a little bit drunk, when it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to me that it might actually be me years later.''
Geoffrey Perkins, the BBC's head of comedy, called Adams ``absolutely one of the most creative geniuses to ever work in radio comedy.''
``He probably wrote one of the greatest radio comedy series ever, certainly the most imaginative,'' he added.
Born in Cambridge, England, in 1952 and educated at Cambridge University, Adams began his career as a writer and script editor at the BBC.
He followed the ``Hitchhiker's Guide'' with several books about ``holistic detective'' Dirk Gently; ``Last Chance to See,'' a book about endangered species; and, with John Lloyd, the hilarious alternative dictionary ``The Meaning of Liff.''
He also founded a multimedia company, Digital Village, which produced the ``Starship Titanic'' computer game and an online travel guide inspired by the ``Hitchhiker's Guide.''
A frequent radio broadcaster on science and technology, Adams had been working for several years on a screenplay for an oft-delayed ``Hitchhiker's Guide'' movie.
In August 1996, he told a technology conference in New Orleans that the main problem in adapting the series for film was not special effects.
``It's the nature of the story, which is picaresque, which translates to one damn thing after another, and another, and another.
``It's very hard to translate that to a 100-minute feature film,'' he said. ``Every script has a beginning and a middle and an end.''
Adams married Jane Belson, a lawyer, in 1991. The couple, who had lived in Santa Barbara since 1999, had a 6-year-old daughter, Polly. Adams is also survived by his mother, Jan Thrift of England.
Associated Press Writer Jill Lawless, in London, contributed to this report.
From the BBC (used without permission):
The author Douglas Adams, who has died aged 49, became a household name when his cult science fiction novel, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was turned into a BBC TV series.
Adams had worked as a radio and television writer and producer before his life was changed by the book's publication in 1979.
It went on to sell more than 14m copies worldwide and preceded a series of best-selling titles by the author, including The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe; Life, The Universe And Everything; So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish; and Mostly Harmless.
The five books in the series detailed the adventures of Earthman Arthur Dent, who hitched a lift on a passing starship when his home planet was destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass.
I love deadlines - I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by
Douglas Adams In the book, The Guide is a portable device that can tell you anything you want to know about wherever you are.
Most helpfully of all, it had the words "Don't Panic" printed in large, friendly letters on the front cover.
The books produced many memorable characters, including Betelgeusian travel writer Ford Prefect, Galactic President and space pirate Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin the Paranoid Android.
They introduced readers to the worst poetry in the known universe, the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster (a drinking experience said to be akin to having your brain smashed in with a slice of lemon wrapped around a gold brick) and the fact that the Earth was a gigantic biological computer designed to calculate the meaning of life.
The series was initially broadcast on radio, and later became a successful TV series.
In an interview with BBC News Online, Adams explained how the idea for the book first struck him.
"I was hitch-hiking around Europe in 1971, when I was 18, with this copy of A Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe," he recalled.
"At one point I found myself lying in the middle of a field, a little bit drunk, when it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to me that it might actually be me years later."
Adams went on to write other novels, including Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and the Meaning of Liff - an alternative dictionary of nonsense words and place names.
But he was never a punctual writer.
Adams was once quoted as saying: "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by."
His early career involved some time as a writer and script editor for the series Dr Who. He wrote eight episodes, four under the pseudonym David Agnew.
More recently, Adams had been involved in writing computer games, one based on the Hitchhiker's Guide and another called Starship Titanic.
But his latest project was producing the screenplay for the Hollywood film version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Born in Cambridge in 1952, Douglas Adams was educated in Essex before returning to Cambridge to study at St John's College.
He married Jane Belson in 1991 and their daughter, Polly, was born in 1994.
Such was the cult appeal of his books that many fans took them more seriously than the author himself.
In the Hitchhiker's books, the meaning of life was finally revealed to an eager audience as the number 42.
Adams said: "I think I disappointed a lot of people with that. They must have been expecting this great, profound piece of genius, but I screwed them!"
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