Wed
May 11 2011 2:14pm

Ten Years On, I Still Remember to Carry a Towel: Remembering Douglas Adams

Douglas AdamsGoing through my Twitter feed this morning, I noticed that someone had retweeted this from Steven Moffat:

http://bit.ly/bftzr Douglas Adams: ten years gone, still ahead of us. You can’t read this without starting a score sheet for the insights.

It’s a brilliant piece that Adams wrote for his website, a testament to the brand new world that we live in and proof that Douglas Adams was a man years ahead of his own time.

But all I remember about him is how he made me laugh.

I was around ten or eleven when I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the first time. My dad noticed how much I was getting into science fiction and pulled his own copy off of the bookshelf before we went on vacation. “Here,” he said. “You’ll probably like this one.”

Starship TitanicI didn’t come up for air until I finished it. Afterwards, I giggled my way through the rest of the series, and then my dad bought a computer game called Starship Titanic, which looked like a whole lot of fun. If you dawdled too long on the opening screen of the game and turned on the TV, you would get a message from the man himself: “Well?” he began, so emphatic that you nearly believed he might pop out of the screen and shake you by the shoulders, “What are you waiting for? Go on!

I spent hours at the computer after that, putting questions to the robot staff of the starship in hopes of getting amusing answers from them. If you typed in Douglas Adams, the bellhop robot would stop you. “Don’t mention him,” he would say, “he’s got a lot to answer for around here.” Oh, I’m sure he did.

I rarely mention Douglas Adams when listing the authors I enjoy, and I wonder if it’s because the back of my brain thinks that should be so obvious. He’s Douglas Adams, the one and only, of course I adore him. In some ways, I still have a hard time believing that he has been gone so long, that there’s not another book coming out next year. In a world where heavy drama reigns supreme in so many mediums, I always aspired to be more like Adams, whether I was writing a school essay, playing a part in a show, or sitting with a group of friends in a sandwich shop.

Because he made me laugh. And I think that’s a greater gift than a profound cry any day.


Emily Asher-Perrin wants you to know that the plans for this post were stuck in the bottom of a locked file cabinet, inside a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying, “Beware of the Leopard.” You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

7 comments
shaun gibson
1. shaun gibson
I was thinking about him just two days ago, remembering the taxi chase from one of the Dirk Gentley books. About the taxi knowing where the cab he was chasing was heading because of the way it moved.

I miss him.

Shaun
Rich Bennett
2. Neuralnet
ack! not Starship Titanic.. that game tortured me for a quite a while. Lately have been watching the old BBC version of Hitchhiker's guide on Netflix... great stuff. I definitely miss Adam's witty takes on the world and I am still trying to work out how to fly.
Joseph Kingsmill
3. JFKingsmill16
The Infocom Hitchhiker’s game crushed me. I was never ever able to get far in it. I’ve been meaning to give it a try again now that it is available to play on his website.
His books were a constant companion to me when I was in high school back in the 80’s. My weathered & crumbling copy of Restaurant at the End of the Universe is the only book to survive from that series to this day. I still have it on my shelf in a place of honor with my autographed copies of other books. The sentimental fool in me just won’t get rid of it.
I just recently bought the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide for my Kindle, it may be time to take a break from the ASOIAF re-read and visit some old friends.
shaun gibson
4. Jazzlet
I still remember the revelation of listening to the Hitch-Hikers Guide on Radio Four, while doing the drying up after dinner in the late seventies. I have always heard the guide in Peter Jones' voice and Marvin as Stephen Moore.
Richard Chapling
5. Chappers
Just wanted to remind appropriately hoopy froods that Towel Day is on the 25th, for those who like making public their love of Douglas Adams. Although true froods presumably always carry it anyway, and have the date burned into their diaries...
lake sidey
6. lakesidey
I teach maths, and for ever so long the last (and best) advice I pass on to my students before the exams has been "Don't Panic". Works like a charm....when they remember it!

(...and six into nine is forty-two...in base 13, of course)

~lakesidey
David Thomson
7. ZetaStriker
It's a shame that these kinds of satirical novels seem to be dying out, from what I've seen. Adams is ten years gone and missed, leaving an impressive legacy that still lives on today. And Terry Pratchett, the one man I've seen to challenge Adams and surpass him with equal wit and superior storytelling, is fading away and seeking assisted suicide before his mental deterioration can destroy him entirely. I love the Hitchiker's Guide and Discworld novels, but in the wake of these two great authors I'm left wondering if there's even anyone left to replace them. I can only hope that someone will surprise me.

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