There was this guy, once, right?
And he was really quite clever, and he made people laugh, and he inspired countless imitators. Flattery, as they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.
But you'd forget about him once in a while, the way the self-deprecating funny guys can be forgotten, the way they, or this one, went off to try new things, to sort of boldly go, if curiousity can be considered bold.
Forgotten about because his next book was supposed to be due out any day now (not that that's the way things work), because the film, the new version of the film, was perennially threatened, because his computer game/fiction (Starship Titanic, not HHGTTG) didn't hit quite as big as was expected. Though he did often get the occasional mention and credit for inventing things like the Internet (though this may have been a post-Gore attempt to get some press), alcoholic beverages, towels, and can claim to to a spot on 35% of the .signature files around the world. Or was generally contacted every few months to a year by the BBC for his thoughts on anything, really, so long as he cracked a few jokes and maybe mentioned how big his nose was, or how he liked missing deadlines.
And we'd forgotten about him, ourselves, for a while. Until a few weeks ago someone reminded us, whether they intended to or not, reminded me of my own debt to himself, as I started out writing short stories for a humour magazine called Vassatire. It stopped printing shortly after I started writing stories for it.
Which is not Douglas's fault. Nor is it mine, really.
The point of that is not the failure of a rather unmotivated humour/satire magazine but the first story I wrote. It was called "The History of the Universe (Well, Not Quite)" (note my affinity for parenthetical asides, even in the title of my first story, I've not changed a whole lot, to be honest). And it was a short and mostly sweet little story about a cow takeover of a small town and was postscripted with a note of thanks to Douglas Adams, for getting me interested in blubbering on for pages and pages at a time. And pages and pages about cows rising up and taking over a town, and an ending that cleaned up all of the mess it'd made and fit it all into it's place in the greater scheme of things, even if that scheme didn't quite make sense (which worked out well, because the cow-uprising thing wasn't making a whole lot of sense on a micro-level, to be honest). And one of the characters walked off the set of that short story to star in his own slightly bizarre novel called Time, a novel, which you may or may not have heard of, also owing a great debt to Mr. Adams. And it also didn't make sense, past being about someone's inability to get lunch.
It was a sense of not making sense carefully cultivated after hours and hours and hours reading with abandon (nearly poked an eye out once, such was the abandon) absolutely every single thing I could get my hands on from himself. And not just hours all strung together, though that has happened, as well, in re-reading sessions, on occasions like this one, that seem to call for it, from his trilogy to the Dirk Gently novels to The Meaning of Liff (and the followup) to Last Chance to See to playing the Infocom game again.
You'll take care to note that that's possibly the first time I've ever claimed, at the outset of a paragraph or otherwise, to have a point.
And though we would forget about him (which basically means we weren't consciously thinking about him or making explicit reference to him, for which I'm sure he's grateful), a quick flip through The Meaning of Liff would always take care of any sort of writer's block, and is possibly the most well-thumbed book in the office (which would explain the spelling and such on the site, occasionally). And the next book, as I note in our special dna page, we were always on the lookout for, even if he'd been claiming vehemently that he wasn't working on one, or hadn't had one anywhere close to ready for publication yet.
However, now we know we're not going to get that next book, or the next whateverthehellhecomesoutwith.
Bye, Doug, we'll miss you. And thanks. For all of it.
All right, straight off, apologies.
And then, straight after, wow.
The BBC carried the story, as did the BBC again, and NewsFilter.
And we couldn't stand not saying anything, with myself, William, and quite a few others in the office, owing himself our start, our inspiration. Like myself, Will's said on countless occasions his writing has always tended towards science fiction and detective stories because of Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers Trilogy and the Dirk Gently novels.
As countless others, and others, and others, and others, and others know, too.
As a tribute, we've knocked off a quick pdf of my original story inspired by Douglas, available for download here (12k or so) and I'd written something Saturday evening/afternoon.
Now, I'm sure there're going to be quite a few more tributes in the next few days (cf. the Radio 4 tribute on Sunday), from considerably more emminent authors than myself, but we'd wanted to chime in with our own version of honouring just this guy, a very clever guy.