The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Douglas Adams
by Allison Bloechl
The worlds of science fiction and snarky humor received the most fantastic joint gift on March 11th, 1952. On that day, far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy on a little insignificant blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea, Douglas Adams was born.
Perhaps best known for his radio play series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which he then adapted into a five-and-a-half novel “trilogy”, Adams is known for his ability as not only an author and scriptwriter, but as an essayist, dramatist and all-around funny dude.
In his remarkable life, Adams also authored Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (now a TV series starring Elijah Wood) and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. He co-wrote several other stories as well as several episodes of the beloved BBC classic Doctor Who.
A classic staple of science fiction and literature in general, Adam’s works have gone on to influence its genre and pop-culture in general. Similarly, Adams’ work was inspired by the art of his time. As is clear to any fan of British humor, Adams drew inspiration from Monty Python, having been discovered by the group’s Graham Chapman in 1974. In fact, Adams was one of only two non-Python members ever to be credited with writing a Python sketch. He additionally made two appearances on the show during its time. Pink Floyd references also feature in many sections of The Guide.
Adams was a man of steadfast views. A self-proclaimed “devout” or “radical” atheist, one can find a myriad of different religions or debunkings of them in his work. Famously, Adams wrote of Great Green Arkleseizure, an omnipotent being who sneezed creation out of its nose and whose worshippers live in “perpetual fear of the time they call ‘The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief’”.
As is also apparent in his works, Adams had a great passion for environmental causes. He produced a non-fiction radio series called Last Chance to See featuring many rare and endangered animals. In 1994, Adams climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with the Save the Rhino International organization dressed in a Rhino suit. Since 2003, the organization holds an annual memorial lecture to raise money for environmental causes.
In May of 2001, Adams suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 49. His funeral service was the first church service ever broadcast by the BBC. He leaves behind his remarkable works, two asteroids (one named for Arthur Dent and one for himself), a legacy of towel-toting nerds and geeks, and an international holiday on May 25th for those tote-ers known as Towel Day.