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RIP Douglas Noel Adams

Douglas Adams at the American Atheists\' interview (black and white image)

May 11th 2001. A day when the world lost one of the greatest writers ever. Yes. It’s the day Douglas Noel Adams (aka DNA) died of a heart attack, age 49. He might not have been Infinitely Prolonged like Wowbagger, but he certainly achieved immortality through his creative works which have gone on to influence so many new generation writers like Neil Gaiman and Samit Basu. His nuggets of wisdom shine on. RAmen.

Wretched, isn’t it?

– Marvin the Paranoid Android

Coming to his works themselves, one of their best characteristics (for me) is that apart from their stupendously funny take on the Whole Sort Of General Mish Mash, they are all inconsistent with each other. Now that’s generally considered to be a bad thing, with everyone from Harry Potter fans to Lord of the Rings fans crying about ‘discrepancies’. For The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy however, it is this same inconsistency that makes it more fun. It has been made into so MANY avatars that if they were all kept the same, it would become a tad boring. And ‘a tad boring’ is EXACTLY what Douglas Adams wasn’t.

Getting a movie made in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it.

– Douglas Adams, on getting a movie made in Hollywood. After all, the h2g2 movie spent so many years in development hell!

Some stuff you might not have known about Douglas Adams:

  • Douglas Adams was an atheist, a ‘radical atheist’ according to him. He said he used to be an agnostic earlier, but after reading The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins, he made God vanish in a puff of logic. Richard Dawkins is a biologist well-known for his support of the theory of evolution and atheism. Read his books – they really ARE quite good. Apart from the two mentioned earlier, another nice book by him is The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins was a good friend of DNA, and it was through Adams that Dawkins met his future wife (thanks to Ashwan for pointing out an error in this one!). Richard Dawkins was also a speaker at one of the first Douglas Adams Memorial Lectures. Fans of South Park would also have noticed Dawkins in the episodes Go God Go and Go God Go XII. Note to self: I *must* attend THAT at least once in my life. Think of it as my Mecca.
  • Douglas Adams was also quite interested with music. He played the guitar, left-handed, and had quite a collection of left-handed guitars. Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd was his good friends. In fact, Pink Floyd even let Douglas Adams play with them at one of their concerts – as a ‘birthday gift’ on his 42nd birthday. In the h2g2 book series, the band Disaster Area was based on Pink Floyd (because of their extravagant concerts). Also, Michael Nesmith of the band The Monkees was also a good friend of DNA, and was supposed to be the producer of the h2g2 movie (initially).
  • Douglas Adams was a big fan of Apple. He is said to be the first guy to buy a Mac in England, with Stephen Fry (the ‘voice of the Hitchhiker’s Guide’) being the second person to buy a Mac. There’s a veiled attack at Microsoft (“overhyped bloatware”), in the Quandary Phase when Ford Prefect (referring to Sirius Cybernetics Corporation) says:

    You know how I hate those smug Sirius Cybernetics salesmen, who sell computer operating systems which crash more often than aircars built on the Friday shift.

  • ‘Ford Prefect’ is actually the name of a car, released in England in 1970s. In the h2g2 movie, Mos Def is shown trying to shake hands with a car (he thought “cars were the dominant life-form on this planet”) – that car is an actual Ford Prefect.
  • DNA was a big environmentalist too. He supported Diane Fossey’s Gorilla Fund, and also the ‘Save The Rhino’ campaign. He even dressed up once as a rhino to raise awareness for this cause.
  • h2g2‘ is an actual user-edited encylopedia. One of the first, in fact.
  • Although he died in 2001, DNA appears in the 2005 Tertiary Phase radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made by BBC. He plays the character of Agrajag, who claims that he gets killed in all his incarnations by Arthur Dent. This was done by digitally editing a recording Douglas Adams made for an audiobook of h2g2. His first words as Agrajag in the radio series were: “Bet you weren’t expecting to see ME again, were you?”. He also makes a cameo appearance in the last ever episode, again as an incarnation of Agrajag (who, again, gets killed because of Arthur Dent).
  • Other ‘quirky’ appearances in the h2g2 radio series include:
    • Christian Slater (remember that guy from John Woo’s Broken Arrow?), as Wonko the Sane. He was a good actor, and I thought he’d been crushed under a truck in Alabama before hearing him on the radio series.
    • Bruce Hyman, the producer of the new BBC h2g2 radio series, makes a cameo as a dying Arthur Phillip Deodat – again, an incarnation of Agrajag.
    • Fred Trueman and Henry Blofeld, BBC cricket commentators also appear as themselves in the Tertiary phase – in two episodes. And boy are they funny in the second episode of the Tertiary phase as commentators at an Ashes match at Lord’s. “Fred my dear old thing, what on EARTH is that?”. Indeed. The second appearance is a cameo explaining the rules of Brockian Ultra Cricket.
    • Sir Patrick Moore, British astronomer comes in the Quintessential Phase, talking of “high-level talks between Xaxisian diplomats and some iguanas”.
    • Geoffrey Perkins, producer of the first two radio series’, makes an appearance in the Quandary Phase as Arthur Dent’s boss at BBC. Yes, Arthur Dent works at BBC.

Douglas Adams playing at a Pink Floyd concert

May he rest in peace. It’s only this year I’m writing about this because I finally feel that I’ve spread a good level of awareness among peers in my school (and others too) – and that was needed because otherwise this post would have been lost to the audience. Sure, it took a bit of over-the-top promotion of forty two, but I did get the point across. I think.

0 replies on “RIP Douglas Noel Adams”

Ankur, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

All we have is the word of the filmmaker’s that those ideas were indeed Adams’. I didn’t see any notes written in his hand, did you? Also since 3 years passed between his death and the start of production, I have my doubts.

And as you’ve already pointed out he didn’t write the specific ending in the radio series and I don’t it’s one he would have liked since he never intended to bring the characters back to life. (Or did you not read Salmon of Doubt?)

@Ashwan: On the contrary, I would like to rather believe the filmmakers, simply because of the fact that a series like h2g2 has a BIG fan following – and they would be far more scared about disappointing them. Yes, the final movie script wasn’t written by Douglas which is why it doesn’t gel together on the whole, but I do think the idea was his. Just that the final scriptwriters three years later didn’t weren’t as witty as him. The movie doesn’t work as a full unit, and has the cheap production which is quite evident. However, if you look beyond that, it’s mostly situational humor – and good ones at that. I love the PJs.

No, I haven’t read the Salmon of Doubt, not fully, that is. I have read snatches of it (have its ebook), but I haven’t read any bit about him not wanting to bring characters back to life. However, I have read interviews where he stated that the fifth book was far too depressing as he had had a lousy year, and want to write a sixth book which would end the series on a happier note. Personally, I like the news series’ ending. h2g2 was never about coherence between its different versions – and I would find it quite boring to go through the SAME story in different formats. I would place the episodes in the last three phases at par with Primary Phase. Secondary Phase sucks big time.

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