The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first broadcast at 22.30 on a Wednesday evening in 1978 where the BBC almost hoped that no one would hear it. Radio programmes in those days almost never got reviews either, so there was a collective dropping of jaws when it turned out that there were two in the papers that weekend praising the show. Word of mouth recommendations meant that this obscure comedy sci-fi series grew to have a cult following very soon and it was to permeate the national culture in ways that Douglas Adams could never have conceived when he had the idea in a field in Innsbruck in 1971.
So began a much-loved trilogy that just happened to spread itself across five books. But Douglas Adams created far more things than just this. Born in Cambridge in 1952 he moved to London a little while later and after his parents divorced ended up in Essex. He stood out at school, mostly because he was very tall, 6 foot at the age of 12 and finally reached 6′ 5″, but was also known for his stories that were published in the school paper. University beckoned and he ended up at Cambridge where he tried and failed to join Footlights. He had written material that Footlights wanted to use, but they still didn’t want him in it! Post university, the desire to get into TV or radio as a writer. He was fortunate to have his Revue shown on the BBC and this lead to a brief sketch writing with Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. Then nothing, so a series of odd jobs ensued; was his brief writing career over before it started? Thankfully no, he kept plugging away and suddenly the thing that he had desired the most was happening. The rest is history; or is it the future.
I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Neil Gaiman in this fondly written biography of Adams, has written a fitting tribute to the man, who was taken from us far too early. whose work has seeped into the British psyche; even my children knew the answer to everything is 42, but they didn’t know where it had originated from. This has been corrected now and a second-hand set of the books was acquired and pointed out to them on the shelf and they were strongly advised to read them. The book is crammed full of facts and details such as the asteroid named in his honour was 2001 DA42. It is enough to warm the transistors in the heart of a depressed robot. A touching tribute to an author with an amazing imagination and has one of the most amusing dedications written that I have read in a while. Great stuff.