Happy Birthday Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

March 11, 2018 | Isabel

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Happy birthday to Douglas Adams, that "hoopy frood" who always knew where his towel was! Douglas Noel Adams was a British science fiction writer and humourist. He’s best known for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Though Adams died of heart failure in 2001, his legacy lives on in our hearts and our acknowledgement of the supreme usefulness of towels. Douglas Adams was born on March 11, 1952.
 
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
 
 
In researching Douglas Adams, I found he had an eclectic body of writing. Besides creating mind-bending science fiction, he also liked to play with language. Adams and his friend John Lloyd produced a dictionary of experiences and feelings for which there are no English words. Instead of making up new words for the book, Adams and Lloyd gave new meanings to existing place names. The results are fairly relatable. Take "woking," a verb meaning "to enter the kitchen with the precise determination to perform something only to forget what it is just before you do it." I'm so glad there's finally a word for that! Thanks Douglas Adams.
 
Adams and Lloyd called their dictionary The Meaning of Liff. A revised and expanded edition, The Deeper Meaning of Liff, was published a few years later. You can find both books in the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy on the third floor of the Lillian H. Smith branch.
 
The Meaning of Liff The Deeper Meaning of Liff


Adams was a dedicated environmentalist. In 1985, he took a trip to Madagascar with zoologist Mark Carwardine. Their search for a possibly extinct lemur launched them on more adventures to find endangered animals. These travels culminated in a book, Last Chance to See. Adams has said this was his favourite work.
 
Last Chance to See

 
New Douglas Adams material is released every few years. A recently discovered Doctor Who story was just published last week. Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen is based on notes from the Douglas Adams archive in Cambridge. Adams wrote three episodes of the long-running television show and pitched several more. 
 
The Pirate Planet City of Death
Shada Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen
 
The best gift of all is the return of Hitchhiker's Guide to the airways. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was not originally a novel; it began as a BBC radio comedy. The first episode aired on March 8, 1978. On its 40th anniversary, March 8, 2018, the BBC kicked off a new six-part radio series. It's based on Eoin Colfer's addition to the series, And Another Thing…, as well as unpublished material from Adams' notebooks.
 
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Primary Phase The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Secondary Phase
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Tertiary Phase The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Quandary Phase
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Quintessential Phase

 
To mark this birthday I'm going to listen to a few of the old radio shows — maybe while lying in a field, gazing up at the infinite vastness of space.
 
So happy birthday Douglas Adams. So long, and thanks for all the laughs.
 

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