Douglas Adams - a science fiction writer?

4. Other aspects of Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams' rocket-like career was launched with Hitchhiker, but it would be turning a blind eye to his person if we only saw him as a science fiction writer or more generally as a mere writer. But as he is most famous for his writing, I want to give an overview of his other books.

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4.1 Non-Hitch Hiker books

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DNA turned his hand to other fields of writing as well. He wrote two books about a private investigator Dirk Gently, which are more complex and have more associations and generally can be described as more novel-like than the Hitch Hiker series as they are more conclusive and serious. They are more in the spirit of the aesthetically pleasing work that Aristotle defined as comprising a beginning, a middle, and an end.

"Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" was written in 1987 and says on its cover:

"What do a dead cat, a computer whiz-kid, an Electric Monk who believes the world is pink, quantum mechanics, a Chronologist over 200 years old, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (poet), and pizza have in common?

"Apparently not much; until Dirk Gently, self-styled private investigator, sets out to prove the fundamental interconnectedness of all things by solving a mysterious murder, assisting a mysterious professor, unravelling a mysterious mystery, and eating a lot of pizza --- not to mention saving the entire human race from extinction along the way (at no extra charge).

"To find out more, read this book (better still, buy it then read it) --- or contact Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency.

"`A thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic' --- the author"

"The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul" was written in 1988 and reads on its cover:

"When a passenger check-in desk at Terminal Two, Heathrow Airport, shot up through the roof engulfed in a ball of orange flame the usual people tried to claim responsibility. First the IRA, then the PLO and the Gas Board. Even British Nuclear Fuels rushed out a statement to the effect that the situation was completely under control, that it was a one in a million chance, that there was hardly any radioactive leakage at all and that the site of the explosion would make a nice location for a day out with the kids and a picnic, before finally having to admit that it wasn't actually anything to do with them at all.

"No rational cause could be found for the explosion --- it was simply designated an act of God. But, thinks Dirk Gently, which God? And why? What God would be hanging around Terminal Two of Heathrow Airport trying to catch the 15.37 to Oslo?

"Funnier than Psycho ... more chilling than Jeeves Takes Charge ... shorter than War and Peace ... the new Dirk Gently novel, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul."

DNA wrote "The Meaning of Liff" and "The Deeper Meaning of Liff" together with John Lloyd, a producer of Blackadder and various English comedy series. These are books that give meanings to place-names, and help find words for situations which need them. They are structured like dictionaries, but they explain words like buldoo ("a virulent red-coloured pus which generally accompanies clonmult (qv) and sadberge (qv)"), forsinain ("the right of the lord of the manor to molest dwarfs on their birthdays") or zumbo ("one who pretends not to know that the exhaust has fallen off his car").

For completeness I wish to mention "The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book" DNA edited together with Peter Fincham.

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In 1990 DNA wrote "Last Chance to See" together with Mark Carwardine. A book which is listed as "Non-Fiction/Travel" quite accurately. Carwardine, a zoologist, and DNA travelled to some remote places to photograph 'semi-extinct' species. DNA once called this book his most important one, presumably as he now acts as a guide to the world's endangered species. Certainly this book is highly descriptive writing and has this very typical and amusing style of a Douglas Adams. The Times even calls it "an extremely intelligent book, once the giggling has stopped." (Times, 3.11.90)


4.2 Pink Floyd

On 28th October 1994 Douglas Adams showed yet another most interesting aspect of him in Earl's Court, London. He performed together with Pink Floyd as a special-guest guitarist. He met with Pink Floyd for the first time "a few years ago", he recalls, "because Nick Mason's second wife, an actress, was taking part in a TV show produced by a friend of mine." He describes his connection to Pink Floyd as "friendly, social."


4.3 Computers (i.e. Macintosh)

Douglas Adams is the rather proud owner of Apple Macintosh computers of which he has "lost count." He admits: "I have a well-deserved reputation for being something of a gadget freak, and am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand. Ten seconds, I tell myself, is ten seconds. Time is valuable and ten seconds' worth of it is well worth the investment of a day's happy activity working out a way of saving it." (Last Chance to See, p.36)

"Computers, of course, have become the new displacement activity for writers. It used to be, if you had something to write, you'd get new notebooks, you would sharpen your pencils, clean the fridge and do all that. Nowadays you spend all day re-configuring your operating system and, as a result of that you begin to know a little bit about the buggers." (Independent, 5.10.92)

The 'little bit' has got him as far as to an offer which seems quite incredulous ("this is really weird" is how he describes it) - he has been asked to work for Apple's Advanced Technology Group in California for a few months.

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Conclusion - Douglas Adams, a comedy science fiction writer


Douglas Adams - a science ficion writer? (c)1995 Oliver Creighton