A Very Overdue Obituary For Douglas Adams

[Originally published May of 2001 on the original “Mahatma Randy” website]

Just an FYI, since this didn’t receive much notice in the news, but Douglas Adams died Friday, May 11th.  He was killed by a sudden, unexpected heart attack. He was 49 years old, and apparently had no previous history of heart problems insofar as I’ve been able to find out.

For those of you not in the know, Mr. Adams wrote the five books (And one short story) of the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ series, two of which were brilliant, two of which were merely ok, and one of which seems to have been written on a dare to see how awful he could write a book. He also wrote two books in the uniformly dreadful “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective  Agency” series, which seem to have been written along the lines of that same dare.

A devoted environmentalist, Mr. Adams wrote several books and articles in defense of endangered species, most notably, “Last Chance To See”, a book about extinction, which I have not read. [Note from 2015: I have since read the book, and it’s honestly pretty great.] He was also story editor and head writer for the long-running English SF series, Doctor Who in the late 1970s. [Note from 2015: I have no idea how to remove the picture frame from this article. Nor what the picture was. Nor how to add a new picture. Sorry.] The 3rd ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ book had it’s genesis in a Dr. Who script that Adams wrote during his tenure on that show, but was the BBC refused to buy. He also wrote the Radio Play versions of the first two ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide’ books, which are actually funnier than the books, and was intimately connected with the writing and producing of the ‘Hitchikers Guide’ TV series which was considerably less funny than the books.

It is somewhat less well known that Mr. Adams was an award-winning computer game designer, who wrote three award-winning games for Infocom in the mid-to-late eighties. His divergence into writing Computer Games more-or-less parallels the decline in the quality of his novels (During this period he wrote the 4th ‘Guide’ book, and both the Dirk Gently ones), one can make of that what they will.

According to interviews and the forward to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy’, Adams got the idea for the entire saga when he was eighteen (Sometime around 1970). He had stolen a friend’s copy of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe’ and was bumming around the continent. One night he was very drunk, and had run out of money, and was sleeping in a field. He later said that as he looked up at the stars, he thought to himself, ‘If there was a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, I’d be off in a shot, just like that. The destruction of the Earth in the first chapter of the first book initially began as an unrelated short story which, as he later put it, ‘was a way of working through my antipathy towards humanity.’

The 5th – and now final – ‘Guide’ book apparently ended the series with the death of all the major characters in the series. It was, however, rumored that Adams had planned a 6th book in the series, to be titled “Death, The Universe, and Everything” which would have chronicled the adventures of Arthur Dent, Trillian, and Ford Prefect in the afterlife. [Note from 2015: I have no idea where I got this from, I have never heard it since, and it’s entirely possible I made it up]

I’ve not been able to confirm any of these rumors, nor to find out if he was working on anything in particular at the time of his death.  [Note from 2015: Not a hell of a lot. That damn useless “Hitchikers” movie script (Ultimately finished up by the guy who wrote “Chicken Run”), and pissing around with a Dirk Gently book. Honestly, they guy really had no more interest in writing.]

Just thought y’all should know.

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