Douglas Noel Adams
“I was the only kid who anybody I knew has ever seen, actually walk into a lamppost with his eyes wide open. Everybody assumed that there must be something going on inside because there sure as hell wasn’t anything going on on the outside!” (Hitchhikers, 1). Little did anyone know that this young, not-so-bright kid would be revered as a break-through Science-Fiction writer, leavening his legacy in; literature, Television, radio, and the computer world.
Douglas Noel Adams was born in Cambridge, England March 11th 1952 (Hitchhikers, 1). Douglas used to joke about his birth date as being DNA, his initials, nine months before Crick and Watson discovered its double-helix structure. Adams’ father was a teacher and his mother a nurse. Adams was five when they divorced and his mother moved away to Essex (Guardian, 5).
He was educated at Brentwood, Essex (Hitchhikers, 1). He was described as twitchy and somewhat strange kid. Teachers originally thought of him as “educationally subnormal” (Guardian, 5) but he had proved several people wrong at his first publication of an article, at age twelve, in the Eagle and World Boys magazine (Adams, 1).
He didn’t have much of a “normal” childhood, being at least 6 feet tall. His first few weeks at school he was too tall for the school uniform and was the only one wearing shorts, until his mother made him custom pants, and his teachers pointed out his irregular height by little jokes. Instead of meeting under the click they were too “meet under Adams” (Adams, 7). Also, his nose, as he described it, was big; he had several problems with allergies when he stayed with his grandmother who was the local representative of the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and had several animals. Two weeks into his school year he joined the rugby team then broke his nose on his knee, almost making it impossible to breathe, and fixing the problem with staying with his Grandmother over the summer holidays (Adams, 12).
“’The Lord knows I’m not an evil person!’
‘Ah-ha! You just said the Lord that means you believe in…’
‘Yes the lord is the name of my cat’” (Quotes, 3).
Adams, in his childhood, was a committed Christian but when he was eighteen he stopped to listen to street evangelist then slowly realized that he was going to have to take time to think about his beliefs that was how he became an Atheist (Adams, 95). Because of his non-belief and his fascination with many religions his understanding helped the humor in his science fiction works giving witty twists like, “Gods final message to his creation: Sorry for the inconvenience” (Quotes, 3).
Then moving back to Cambridge to attend St. Johns College, where in 1974 he obtained his BA (Bachelors degree) and later his MA (Masters degree) in English literature (Hitchhikers, 1). He never really started out his career writing novels, indeed he has had various careers ranging from a chicken shed cleaner; a body guard for an Arab royal family and as a gift from Dave Gilamour, had an appearance as a guitarist for Pink Floyd (Hitchhikers, 1).
He married Jane Elizabeth Belson in 1991 (Hitchhikers, 2). His daughter, Polly Jane Rocket, (BBC, 1) was born in 1994 (Hitchhikers, 2). Even after his published success he remained a normal sort of guy, with hobbies like scuba diving, something he couldn’t do much in London, and collecting guitars and synths. His favorite food was Sushi. He even had a pet dog, a very interesting mix of breeds or what you would call a mutt (Guroian, 3).
Adams died in Santa Barbara California (DNA, 2) while working out in a gym. Adams collapsed from a heart attack on May 11th 2001 at age 49 (Guardian, 1). Just the day before his untimely death the IAU (International Astronomical Union) had announced the name of Asteroid 18610 as the Artherdent after the “hero” of Adams Hitchhikers Guide trilogy (Guardian, 1).
With Adams’ early beginnings after college he wrote for several pubs/clubs and a few skits on radio. He was commissioned to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as a BBC Radio 4 series in March 1978. And for this he was nominated for the Hugo awards, the first and only radio show ever to be nominated but unfortunately lost to Superman in 1979. Other awards include; The Imperial Tobacco Award 1978, Sony Award 1979, and “Best Programme for Young People” 1980 from the Society of Authors / Pye Awards for Radio.
Since the radio version The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy has been adapted to a best selling five-part trilogy, a TV series, a computer game, and several stage adaptations. There are plans to create The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy as a major motion picture with Disney but Adams died in the process of writing the script.
Adams’ career in television started with the science fiction series Doctor Who as a script editor and wrote two scripts, Doctor Who and the Pirate Planet, and helped write Doctor Who and the City of Death (Hitchhikers, 3).
Adams progressed from Television to Literature, writing The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in 1977, it was soon followed by; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in 1980, Life, the Universe, and Everything in 1982, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, 1984, and concluded with Mostly Harmless, in 1992. Thus completing the epic five-part trilogy, that brought him to fame. This series was a hit around the world, number one UK best sellers list and the Golden Pan Award three times for selling over one million copies, and was nominated for “Best of Young British Novelists” awards. In December 1982 he also had 3 books on the New York Times bestseller list and The Publishers Weekly bestsellers list, the first British writer to do this since Ian Fleming, the writer of the James Bond series and Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang (DNA, 2). He published many other works such as; The Meaning of Liff with John Lloyd in 1984, Dirk Gentlys Holistic Detective Agency in 1987, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, in 1988, The Deeper Meaning of Liff with John Lloyd in 1990, and his personal favorite Last Chance to See with Zoologist Mark Cawardine, about endangered animals and their loss of habitat in 1990 (DNA, 1). Adams was an Environmentalist. He was a strong member of Save the Rhino, even putting off Mostly Harmless in order to join the annual climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro (Adams, 69).
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was first conceived when Adams was lying in highly inebriated state in a field in Innsbruck “The BBC used to say this occurred in Spain but seemingly they know how to spell Innsbruck now” (Hitchhikers, 2). In 1977 Producer Simon Brett decided that Douglas’ talent needed another outlet other then the odd skit here and there for radio. It was originally to be called The Ends of the Earth, and at the conclusion of each program the Earth was destroyed in a new and excitingly different way. Later that year The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was submitted (Hitchhikers, 2).
The radio show was changed dramatically as it progressed from an idea to the radio broadcast. Even the main characters name was changed from Aldric B. to the now known Arthur Dent, in the cab ride to the meeting with the Broadcasting head.
With the success of the radio show, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was commissioned to become a television show. A pilot was made and after much negotiation with BBC management it was aired August 31st 1977 becoming the first episode in the series. Because of this series on television Douglas Adams became a household name (Hitchhikers, 2). The documentary on the BBC series The Making of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was nominated for “Best Documentary” in 1993, in the Video Home Entertainment Awards.
From Television he progressed to computers, he always used the famous Macintosh, the underdog of all computers. He was also an Internet fanatic always seeing new ways to gather large amounts information and have people get together. He also headed The Digital Village that was transformed into the BBC’s H2G2.com the earth guide, where many may write articles about well…. anything (Starship, 2). Alta Vista also in the spirit of The Hitchhikers Guide named its computer translator after the Babel fish, a small fish that feeds off brain waves and lives in the ear. It also translates any language into one you can understand.
Why was this comedic Science fiction such a hit, one may wonder? Why, it even has two unofficial days to celebrate the trilogy and its author: Happy Adams Day, February 11th, (Memorial, 1) and National Towel Day, May 25th (Towel, 1). To many that have read or seen the trilogy, it is self-explanatory; it was a field never explored and original. It has its unique characters like the lone human Arthur Dent his alien friend Ford Prefect. The Hitchhikers Guide itself is an electronic book published by the millions, with twice as many journalists, fitting the description of Ford Prefect. Ford is an alien from the planet Betelgeuse, located in the upper-left shoulder of the Orion constellation. He traversed to earth to update the Guides article pertaining to earth and all its inhabitance. Unfortunately, for Ford, he was stranded there for fifteen years, becoming friends with Arthur Dent.
Arthur, wakening up one Thursday morning, was doing his usual routine finds himself and his house in the path of a destructive bulldozer. Outraged he makes a stand to delay the inevitable destruction of his home. Ford finds him, pulling him away and dragging him to the local pub for a “pint” while Arthur’s home was being destroyed for the new bypass, but soon this would become the lest of his problems when the Vogon Flagship of the Vogon Constructer Fleet reached earth to make room for the Hiperway. Ford and Arthur barely make it off the planet before its destruction. They had Hitchhiked onto the Vogon Flagship but they were soon caught and tortured with the captains poetry (only the third worst in the galaxy) and then ejected them into space.
The two of them were rescued by the improbability drive of the Heart of Gold, a brand new ship with the latest technology that instead of traveling from one place to another in normal space and time, it passes through every part of the universe all at once. She was stolen by the former president of the galaxy, and the creator of the Pangalactic Gargle Blaster, Zaphod Beeblebrox, with some help from Trillion, whose real name was Tricia McMillian, the last female human of earth, who Zaphod had met at a fancy dress party on earth that Arthur was also invited to. This group travels the universe to find the man who runs the universe, and who knows the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, and confusingly the answer is 42, we will never know what the question is (Ultimate, 1-187).
From radio to literature Adams has left his mark, changing the rules of science-fiction. His twisted humor left us feeling better when we realize our place in the universe within the confusing words of wisdom in pointing out the painstakingly obvious “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way bricks don’t” (Quotes, 2). Adams will always be the true pioneer of our time.
Adams. Adams, Douglas. The Salmon of Doubt
New York: Harmony Books, 2002
Adams 2. Douglas Adams, Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
BBC. BBC News UK. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Dawkins. Lament for Douglas By Richard Dawkins. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
DNA. DNA. Online. Internet. 28/10/2002
Douglas. Adams, Douglas. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
New York: Pocket Books, 1990
Guardian. Guardian Unlimited Books. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Guroian. Interview: Douglas Adams. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Hitchhikers. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Online. Internet. 10/28/2002
Memorial. For the Memorial of Douglas Adams. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Quotes. Douglas Adams Quotes. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Starship. Douglas Adams / Starship Titanic. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Towel. Towel Day. Online. Internet. 11/3/2002
Ultimate. Adams, Douglas. The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide
New York: Wings Books, 1996
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