Tag Archives: Douglas Adams

Today

So, how are we? All present and correct?

I’m not one to buy into this end of the world stuff. I had actually managed to escape the latest ending of our world until quite recently, when I read in Vi magazine what was happening. Their reporter had been to France and was amused by the restaurant he came across, that offered a spectacular last night meal with entertainment.

Perhaps he has not read Douglas Adams? I suspect the restaurant people might have, unlikely though it sounds.

But it set me thinking apocalyptic thoughts. There is Tim Bowler’s Apocalypse; bleak, but not quite the end of everything. (Unless I got it all wrong?)

There is/was – or maybe not – Nicola Morgan’s novel which tried to be Apocalypse, but changed into The Passionflower Massacre ( a much better title, now that I stop to reflect) in deference to Tim.

Most likely there are apocalypses everywhere with our taste for dystopias and horror. (Quick search in online shop only netted a couple more, surprisingly.)

Some years ago the Resident IT Consultant returned home and mentioned he’d seen a film while away. I asked what film. He said it was called The Day Before Yesterday. Or something. Personally I find his a more interesting title than The Day After Tomorrow (which is what he did see.)

Let’s get on with today…

Hello, is anyone there?

Anyone at all?

Maybe it was a mistake to set this blog post to appear automatically?

Getting that EPQ feeling

I was at my desk one evening, with both the Resident IT Consultant and Daughter in the room as well. They were talking funny. I mercifully missed most of it, but distinctly recall hearing the phrase ‘adjusting the mass of Jupiter’. As you do. The hearing, not so much the adjusting of anybody’s mass.

I must have started taking notes, or there’s no way I’d remember all this. I believe they went on to ‘which moon are we starting with?’. Quite. Jupiter has a few of those. Four biggies and some smaller ones, not worth mentioning.

You’ll be wanting to know about EPQs next, won’t you? They’re really horrible things people do in their A-level year, at least if feeling even a little ambitious. Goes down well with universities, that EPQ does. Extended Project Qualification. (I had to look it up. Again.)

‘Ours’ is about Jupiter’s moons.

When I hear things like ‘blahdiblah to the power of something-or-other’ I feel like Trillian in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe, minus the brain cells.

I have just proofread the EPQ. That is, I checked the English plain-ish text for obvious howlers in a linguistic sort of way. But honestly, twenty pages of that and you lose the will to live. Reading about a sine curve is no sinecure.

EPQ moons

But it’s awfully nice that Daughter has taken to astronomy even more than I did. There is no way that I could have done anything other than the laywitch’s fun astronomy, which in those far-flung days didn’t offer anyone like Professor Cox. Or Brian, as I prefer to think of him.

Although, should Terry Pratchett ever invite me to visit his private observatory I’d be there like a shot. Just as long as I don’t have to talk complicated.

Sweet Coraline, dum dum dum… Or not

You know the Other Mother, the one with button eyes? Scary. You wouldn’t want to wake up and find your mother had changed like that. And you don’t really want to sit at your computer, blogging merrily away, totally awake, to find that you now have an Other Blog Theme. Nightmare stuff.

So were they thinking of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, those lovely people at WordPress, when they named the ‘other’ Cutline ‘lookalike’ theme? Sounds similar enough to Cutline, doesn’t it? And there is the clone idea from Coraline.

Without warning, too, or as near without warning as they could. One admin post on the homepage on Thursday to say that on Monday it would be all change. And one admin post on the day, when the switch had already been made. In other words, one weekend to make changes and to prepare. In prime holiday time. The very same weekend all the WordPress support staff went away, to make life a little more exciting for us bloggers.

I feel like Arthur Dent. How was I supposed to know it was going to happen? And like that? Even the bulldozers were gone when I went to look for something to lie down in front of.

Should really have seen this coming. There had been several witchy premonition types of comments made and chats with innocent bystanders, and I should have known that the world as I knew it was about to end.

It seems – as I have gleaned from other aghast bloggers – that Chris Pearson’s Cutline design (the best I’ve seen!) was pulled because of business politics. It’s not as if it was outdated, or anything. ‘Just’ hurt feelings in the design world. I especially loved the font and the numbers. Those numbers..!

At this point you are all peering like mad at the blog and wondering what’s got into me, because you, who are not this blogs’ mother, can’t tell the difference. But it’s a cuckoo in the nest. It’s not my baby. Really it’s not. Just like the Other Mother wasn’t Coraline’s mother.

I didn’t sleep much on Monday night. There was too much haemorrhaging to go to bed. OK, if they’d ‘only’ changed themes, however inadvisedly. But they changed what you see, and hid things and published private facts from my dashboard. Reorganised some things alphabetically, except they didn’t even get that totally right. My interviews went missing. After all, who cares about those?

I have four blogs. Luckily they didn’t all change simultaneously, so I could salvage some stuff from the other blogs. They also didn’t change the same things on the four blogs, so clearly it was not a planned thing at all. The church blog lost most of its sidebar information and then had an added feature of flickr photos. Except they weren’t mine. And they weren’t suitable for a church blog.

Photowitch – bless her – picked this very day to have a photo of Neil Gaiman. And simply writing my blog post here appears to have triggered some WordPress instinct to self destruct.

So, to get back to my earlier posts about change. No, I don’t want change. If I do, I’ll change properly, by myself. None of this cloned cuckoo stuff.

Babelfish

It’s not easy, is it? And I shouldn’t laugh. Really. There is so much I can’t do. But it’s a relief to find amusement in the daily trials of others. I hope Arthur Dent really received proper translations through his fish, and that the six Hitchhiker books weren’t all based on comic intergalactic misunderstandings of what had been said.

Donna Moore finds interesting stuff in her searches for Scottish crime writers and their further adventures in Europe. There are blurbs and whatnot, originally written in German or Dutch or Spanish, and once processed by Donna through an online translator, the resulting reads are very funny indeed. (This is just one example, because I didn’t feel like searching through every post of hers, excellent though they are.)

There was a flurry of excitement, or worry, last week among Roger Whittaker fans, over some article in a German magazine. Everybody wanted to know what it said, but nobody could understand it. Überfans Vicky and Rory in Canada gave the article the babelfish treatment and the result was almost worse than the German original. With the exception of a couple of words I got the gist from the article itself and translated it. It was very bad, but not primarily because of what I did to it. Working it into normal English brought home quite how awful the German was. I know sensationalist magazines want to be exactly that, but can’t they put together complete sentences while lying about famous people?

And then I almost fell out with a fellow fan over the use of the word babelfish. He didn’t know it, and was afraid I was calling him something bad, when I was simply complaining about automated translations. Phew. That could easily have escalated into a Swedish/Norwegian incident.

The extremely brave and kind Debi Gliori ventured into these dangerous waters in a comment recently, in order to speak to me in my own language. The effect was similar to that which your beloved child might come up with when they try really hard, and you actually like the result better for all its imperfections. You won’t catch me doing it, though.

When the witch was ten she acquired an English penfriend and, with the help of mother-of-witch, wrote some seriously weird letters to this poor girl in Sidcup. (The girl was quite well off, as a matter of fact.) By eleven I got tired of waiting for the overworked mother-of-witch to help, so wrote the letters on my own, with brief glances at dictionaries. They must have been awful! Although, a few years on the letters got a lot better.

Practice makes – if not perfect – at least better. Someone in my German class at school was often late. The price for being allowed in late was to apologise in German. She had that phrase down to perfection in the end.

Undskyld! (It’s harder to say than it looks. And fyi it’s not German.)

The Gates to Hell and all that

I should have known you can’t have just one book about dead bishops. Here is another one, although the bishop isn’t the main character, or anything. This is a Halloween book, so go get a copy to get you into a nice demonish mood for the day.

It can be very dangerous for the TBR pile development to go and poke around on other people’s blogs, but when Declan on Crime Always Pays put the first chapter of John Connolly’s The Gates up, I couldn’t resist. And John was extremely charming about being begged for a copy.

The Gates is a very funny book, and very exciting, too. (And what’s more, it’s short, in this age of four-inch thick books.) Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are out trick-or-treating, slightly prematurely, when they come across something at the neighbours’ house that doesn’t look very good.

It’s not good. Earth is about to be invaded by really bad demons. (But as the more alert readers can work out, Halloween is not a good time for demons to invade anywhere.) 11-year-old Samuel and his friends and his dog have to try and save the world from this new threat. They get some assistance from a friendly demon called Nurd, and information – if not useful help – from the scientists involved with the Large Hadron Collider. Because it just happens to accidentally help the demons find a way in.

John believes in footnotes. Lots of them. They are very amusing footnotes, which is lucky, because I really don’t like the flow of my reading interrupted all the time. But I forgive him, because they are funny. And necessary.

As with far too many authors, I don’t know John’s books at all. In the case of The Gates, think Douglas Adams meets Eoin Colfer. That should do it.

And Another Thing

Seamless, said someone in the audience last week, when talking to Eoin Colfer about his new Hitchhiker novel. And she’s right. After a year of Eoin saying he wasn’t going to try and be Douglas Adams, he has got much closer than you’d imagine possible. And that’s good. Seamless means that we don’t really notice the change from one writer to another. I’ve read other sequels where the style is very different, and with good reason. You can’t be someone else.

I feel that Eoin could be some kind of honorary little brother of Douglas’s. Like most others, I found And Another Thing to be more Hitchhikery than I’d thought possible. It’s very enjoyable. Someone said he’d not laughed reading this one, unlike with the other five Hitchhiker books. I agree to some extent, but wonder if that’s because we are not only older now, but the concept is less new and we have come to expect certain things, so don’t laugh out loud. But I could be wrong.

Eoin Colfer and And Another Thing

It’s good that Eoin didn’t seek to write this book. I think you do a better job when a little reluctant. So I was surprised at the Guardian reviewer’s comment that Douglas’s family allowed Eoin to write this sequel. They asked him to! There is a big difference.

To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t totally remember how we left Arthur and Co in book five. It’s been a while. But it was easy to get back into the flow, and it’s good that Eoin came up with his own plot, rather than use the notes Douglas left. I daresay we wouldn’t have had an Irish character without an Irish author, so Hillman Hunter is a fun invention.

The use of Norse Gods is also good. Would quite like people to settle on the spelling of Leif, however. I like it correct, and I don’t want both spellings competing with each other. And is it just my background, or is there some deeper meaning in Thor’s appearance and the fact that Arthur has some dislike for Thursdays?

Random Dent is quite lovely, really, particularly given the weird adults she’s surrounded by. Zaphod is better with the one head, but still stupid. Nice to see Trillian finding love. And I suspected Fenchurch would turn up, somehow.

Eoin hasn’t written a definitive ending, just really carried the story on a little. He’s left it so that we can stop here, or his idea of other relay authors taking over would be a feasible project. I would like to see poor Arthur sorted. He’s really a most unfortunate man. At least he’s getting used to his bad luck.

And there is something almost loveable about Vogons.

He’s too short, and too prompt

I suppose the tiny pixie-like creature with the green, painted face, curling up in a basket on the floor near Eoin Colfer at his book signing, should have made it obvious it was only a dream. The same goes for Eoin’s pixie green shirt and long, wild hair; not to mention that his face was wrong. After all, we were clearly in the wrong book. And Another Thing is Hitchhiker-land, not Artemis country.

I forgot to bring my book to the signing, so I decided to take pictures instead. That’s when I realised I had no camera with me either. So, very lucky indeed that it was only a dream. The staff at John Lewis were very friendly, even giving me a cream bun to eat, but I felt the shop’s hologram fire doors were not quite right. Still just a dream. But it was a nice touch to video-film every fan sitting next to Eoin, except for his slightly off-putting grin.

Eoin Colfer in Manchester

So, the real signing was in Waterstones, Deansgate, where the witch snuck in, to case the joint shortly before Eoin turned up. They had a cleverly hidden queue behind some shelves, but it didn’t extend into the street. I took up shooting position to catch Eoin to start with, except he discovered me and waved. Then I joined the fans behind the shelves for my five minutes of fan behaviour for the day. He almost remembered that I’m the one without an e. Might be the school teacher in him.

Eoin Colfer at the Contact Theatre

At the Contact Theatre last night we learnt that Douglas Adams’s brother quite liked Eoin, except he’s too short and too prompt. Meaning that Eoin doesn’t engage in the kind of procrastination Douglas used to. And Eoin’s short. Shorter than Douglas, at least. He wrote And Another Thing in six months, partly because he writes fast and partly because the publishers were in a hurry to get the book out for the 30th anniversary of the original Hitchhiker. Eoin described his first impression of Douglas Adams’s book as ‘Monty Python meets Pink Floyd, in space’.

Eoin reading

We were treated to another stand-up performance from Eoin, who claims he can only be funny because he doesn’t have to do it all the time. He explained how he wrote this sixth book about someone who has spent the first five wanting a cup of tea, which as Eoin rightly pointed out, is a fairly thin plot. It was relatively easy building a story around characters he already knew well, but he totally ignored Douglas’s notes, not wanting to ‘mess up Douglas’s plot’.

Eoin Colfer and And Another Thing

He won’t want to write any more Hitchhiker books, since he feels he’s an interloper in this world, although thinks the job could be passed round a few other writers. We learned that he has already arranged with Morris Gleitzman that they will finish each other’s books ‘if the plane goes down’. Right now Eoin is happy to be back writing Artemis Fowl, and he’s supposed to be done by Christmas, though there has been a slight set-back over a fairy brain disease called the Atlantis Complex, which is too complex to explain here.

Eoin Colfer questions

The man is obsessed with Kate Bush. He does have other obsessions, but keeps coming back to her. He likes Apple computers, Zaphod is his favourite in Hitchhiker, he joined a group on Facebook to protest against himself writing the sixth Hitchhiker book – which made him feel a lot better – and he became an author simply because he had no friends when he was young. Oh, and he thinks the number 43 is far funnier.

Charlie and Eoin

This was a nicely mixed family entertainment kind of event, with many ‘old’ Hitchhiker fans turning up with their questions, and Eoin came face-to-face with Charlie, his interviewer in Cheltenham a year ago. As Daughter and the witch sat sipping very reasonably priced cokes afterwards, Eoin came up and inquired whether we had managed to get any decent photographs. That will be as opposed to the photographer he told us about, I should think.

Well, did we?

(All good photos by H Giles)