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Douglas Adams (1952-2001)
Special Tribute by Andy Grieser
May 13, 2000

I cannot remember when Douglas Adams was not a part of my life.

Surely it was there, but reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for the first time was akin to Dorothy’s landing in Oz: Suddenly, a colorless world was bursting with life. I can honestly say that experience — the entry of very English humor combined with wry, winking writing — shaped my then-unconscious desire to be a writer.

For many years, Adams’ writing style was a part of my own. Everything from personal letters to school papers contained the sort of clear, direct prose he so successfully infused with the sort of dry humor that breaks the fourth wall and tells the reader, "We’re going to have fun, you and I."

Even better, Infocom’s text-adventure version of the first Hitchhiker novel catered to my early love of computer gaming. Had I been older, I might have immediately jumped into that profession; sadly, the advent of graphic gaming pushed aside real writing in games (at least for a time). I contented myself to repeatedly playing the game at a junior-high friend’s house.

From then on, though I never remembered to carry a towel, I could generally be found with a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I lost more than I can count, especially in college, when I enthusiastically lent them out and never got ‘em back. I stopped that practice when I lost a collected edition of the books given to me as a present. I still miss that collection.

I went through a phase of hating Mr. Adams around the time he got sick of Arthur Dent & Co. The last two Hitchhiker’s books seemed more attempts to slander the characters I had grown to love; it was like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous contempt for his creation Sherlock Holmes. I understand that now, and started to suspect such a thing then. Adams wanted to be known for something else, and that too was a lesson to this budding writer: Success can be bittersweet.

I had the privilege of meeting Douglas Adams a few years ago at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. He was publicizing Starship Titanic, and I was covering the event for a Texas newspaper. I remember a gentle giant, funny in a very sly way with a burning passion for his projects. Our interview was short, but I gained another level of respect for the man. Unfortunately, I never even played Starship Titanic. I wish it had been the success he hoped for.

In the past few months, I’d resumed interest in Adams’ work, especially with rumors of a Hitchhiker’s Guide movie and even more books in the series. In one interview, Adams said he was sorry he’d treated Ford, Arthur and the gang so shabbily, and even missed them. He began work on a third Dirk Gently book that worked better as a sixth book in the other series, and was retooling it accordingly. I think he probably never got the chance.

That’s something I dearly would have loved to read. I will miss Zaphod and Trillian and Marvin and even Dirk. I will miss Douglas Adams.

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