douglas adams: dead at 49

wow. i don’t know what to say.

i just got home from a few days at my parent’s house recuperating from a prolonged lack of relaxation, and promptly logged on to slashdot to see the headline “Douglas Adams Dead At 49”

unlike any other celebrity obituary, this hit me as if i had lost a family member. it was so sudden. i didn’t even know he was sick, though heart disease, and ultimately the heart attack that killed him, tend to sneak up on you. like a favorite uncle, adams will be missed by many who wouldn’t know what their own lives would be like had he never lived, including myself. adams was one of the first authors to turn me on to science fiction, a passion i hope i will have for the rest of my life, with the book “Life, the Universe and Everything”

it was only after i had finished reading it, the third book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide trilogy, thoroughly confused, that i discovered the rest of the “trilogy” (there were 4 books in the series at the time)

i quickly devoured these, as well as the BBC TV series made based on the same radio plays that were the genesis of the books. then, in school, i discovered the infocom game. there were the dirk gently books as well, but you can read about all of that on the BBC site:

not only did adams, whose fans refer to him as DNA, influence my reading habits to this day (i still devour science fiction) but my writing style. one of my first creative writing stories in school to get any notice included blatant plagiarism of a scene from the Guide, including bastardized character names. i was all of eleven, so you’ll understand. nobody caught on at the time, but i quickly realized what it was about adams’ books that i liked: his writing style, not the particulars of the story. so, having learned my lesson, i set out to blatantly plagiarize that, instead.

there was humor as well as suspense, but the suspense was really only there to help move the humor along. there was bizarre technology and convoluted plotlines enough to have me rereading chapters of the books several times. and all the time, the humor, the plots, the characters were all acessible, even to my young mind.

his books were like shaggy dog stories told and retold, added to, crafted and embellished each time in the telling until there was nothing more that could be added without ruining the original story. there is enough detail and layers to the resulting books that i have found something new in each rereading of the series – something i’ve done at least a dozen times. every time i do, my perspective has changed, i suppose, so there is a new strata to be seen. above all, i can only think that adams genuinely loved to write, and had a passion about storytelling and making people laugh – especially those millions of fragile, malleable minds like mine when i was first introduced to his universe.

most people are changed by something they read. for some it is the bible, or shakespeare. for me, it was the Hitchhikers Guide. one of the thrills of my adult life was a short email conversation i had with the man himself in the days when most people didn’t have email, and the novelty hadn’t worn off for either of us yet.

i encourage you all to comment below, as well as read and make your comments to the slashdot article here:

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