‘In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.’

Douglas Adams is really good. You might think that Red Dwarf is quite good but that’s just peanuts to The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy.

Before and since his death at the mind-boggingly ridiculous and rather unfair age of 49, Douglas Adams has to some extent always been around in my life. In 1981, during one of my many periods in Bristol, my year 4 class were doing a lesson on graphs and polls or something or other. The theme was favourite television shows. Everyone chose ‘The Fall Guy. Even though I watched ‘The Fall Guy’ every week at my Grandparents, I awkwardly decided not to toe the line. ‘The Fall Guy’ was obviously going to win the poll hands down. It felt like most of the kids were just choosing it because it’s what seemed to be acceptable. My friend then stood up and declared that his favourite television programme was ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’. I hadn’t heard of it, let alone had a clue what it could have been about. But it sounded good to me. So that’s what I chose. ‘The Fall Guy’ won the poll and my ‘choice’ came last, behind ‘Different Strokes’ and ‘Spiderman’.  (I eventually heard the radio series, watched the TV series and read the books in 1996)

Thirty years later he’s still around. Whether I’m browsing the internet, looking at Wikipedia, feeling ‘farnham’
(The feeling you get about four o’clock in the afternoon when you haven’t got enough done) and sploshing about in a long bath to pass the time, I think of Douglas. He’s quotable too.

‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by’

‘The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy’ isn’t just a quirky novelisation of a pioneering radio series but a set of satirical books about futurism, greed, bureaucracy, loss and the massive failiure of human beings (and aliens) to actually connect with each other in nice, meaningful, friendly ways. The writing is flippant, genial and angry in places but it’s always entertaining. The increasingly confusing five book (?) trilogy(?) is almost like an extended after dinner speech.  For an individual who was really pissed off with the world and its problems, to the point of destroying it in a gleefully underhanded way (to make way for a bypass) Douglas Adams was passionate, taking great pleasure in music, technology, science and nature. He wrote about these areas with just as much passion (probably more) than what he’s essentially known for.

Like many people, I empathised with Marvin, the paranoid android, (not that I have a brain the size of a planet) but actually wanted to be one of the rather unconcerned dolphins, who after centuries of trying, without success to communicate with humans and warn them of impending doom, left the earth by their own means, with the message ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish.’
The film version of ‘The Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy’ was an oddity. It suffered from a few things, mainly from the book, it’s structure and the pace not being ideal for a mass family orientated movie. The years in development purgatory didn’t help. Despite this I enjoyed the film. There were some fantastic moments, namely the clip above (the second opening credits) and the sequence below, one of my favourites of all opening credits.  Even a cold-hearted, dead eyed thing like me was moved by ‘Douglas Adams’ credit during the bittersweet section in ‘So long and thanks for all the fish’. So yep. His books are really good, humourous and sharp as his idols Kurt Vonnegut, PG Woodhouse, Doctor Who and Richard Dawkins. His books are swimming in these influences.I’m sure if he were alive today he’d be procrastinating, obsessing about Apple’s iPad 2, developing computer games, writing about atheism and taking a lot of baths in between.

If we ever end up at the restaurant at the end of the universe, don’t call me, I’ll call you.

 

‘He hoped and prayed that there wasn’t an afterlife. Then he realised there was a contradiction involved here and merely hoped that there wasn’t an afterlife.’

*This version is without typos.

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