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Douglas Adams loved the world.

That love is a reason he wrote this, describing Earth: "Waves of joy on—where? A world indescribably found, indescribably arrived at, indescribably wet, a song of water."

That was from Chapter 32 of his 1984 novel So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, the fourth in ultimately five Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels written by Adams (and a sixth by Eoin Colfer I have mostly expunged from my memory since I didn't like it). For all Adams's frustrations at life, the universe, and everything, the Earth and the many things on it did give him joy — joy I wish had been longer-lasting for him. It's why Adams and his colleague Mark Carwardine did the radio program and then the book Last Chance to See, highlighting the struggles of endangered and threatened creatures of our world.

His best-known work, Hitchhiker's — which he did as two radio series, the novels, album dramatizations, a BBC miniseries, and the 2005 film he worked on before his death — destroys that world almost immediately. (His initial pitch to BBC Radio that became Hitchhiker's was called "The Ends of the Earth," which would have been six episodes where the Earth is destroyed in each episode for an entirely different reason.) The main character, Arthur Dent, has to live with the largest loss a human could possibly experience. Oh, and it also had to be funny.

As funny as it often is, there's a depressive undercurrent to so much of it, one much clearer to me now. I just spent the last few weeks re-reading the books: 1979's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 1980's The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, 1982's Life, the Universe, and Everything, the aforementioned SLATFAT Fish, and 1992's Mostly Harmless. I've re-read the fifth book the least. Even by Adams' often-bleak standards ("it can hardly be insignificant that when a recent edition of Playbeing magazine headlined an article with the words “When you are tired of Ursa Minor Beta you are tired of life", the suicide rate quadrupled overnight" - Restaurant, Chapter 5), it's bleak. Arthur loses love-of-his-life Fenchurch, and winds up on several unhelpful planets trying to find peace afterwards; traveling writer and alcohol enthusiast Ford Prefect deals with potentially fatal corporate thinking after a conglomerate takes over the Hitchhiker's Guide; Vogons show up again, destroying things to destroy things; Arthur has to deal with an unexpected consequence of his time and space travels, i.e. a daughter he didn't even know he'd fathered, and all of this...goes badly. Except for isolated characters here and there who've either gotten a good life (The King!) or settled for what they can find, our heroes go through bad times. And then the ending, an Alien3 ending where there's really only one way out. (Keep in mind, I've admired and still admire the end of Alien3, the film's many other issues aside.)

There's a wistful quality to So Long, as well, but the depressive moments are more balanced by joy as Arthur and Fenchurch find each other. While the 1984 book has probably the weakest plot of the book series, I've long loved its mood: Arthur falls in love, and it's only slightly hard, not terribly hard like many of his adventures in the rest of the series. And the fourth book's ending is probably the closest to a happy ending the entire series got. Adams himself, before he died in May 2001, said he'd toyed with a sixth book that would've been less bleak than Mostly Harmless.

I wish I'd gotten to hear what Adams had considered doing in that hypothetical sixth novel. I've heard rumors, but they're unconfirmed. I have my own theory, but it can merely be a fan theory. I am not Douglas Adams. My attempts in junior high and high school to write like him certainly showed I am not him. (During my re-read, I was writing a short story from the point of view of The Operative, played by Chewetel Ejiofor in the 2005 film Serenity; he should never sound like he's written by Douglas Adams, and I managed not to do so.) The world, in its surreal 2016 glory, should still have Adams; I would love to imagine how he'd have reacted to the world in the 15 years since we lost him. I'm sure his loved ones wish that, too. He did love, in his way. He deserved more time to express that.

Douglas Adams loved the world. I'll remember he did.

Thank you, Douglas Adams.



Whale fluke
Chris Walsh

Latest Month

June 2023


  • chris_walsh
    2 Jun 2023, 17:05
    I am glad you exist and that you're choosing to blog!

    Maybe not feeling poetic is a poetic state all its own?

    Try to capture that feeling - I think that will be reflective of many folks'…
  • chris_walsh
    2 Jun 2023, 06:59
    Glad you're surviving!
  • chris_walsh
    20 Jul 2021, 14:00
    I think I should wait until I have something better to brag about.
  • chris_walsh
    20 Jul 2021, 09:38
    I think it's okay to talk about your life, if you have something you want to share, even if you are doing well.
  • chris_walsh
    9 Jun 2021, 03:45
    I've been serving myself to watch this one day.
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