Tag Archives: Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I badly need my towel. Coming face-to-face with two mice in such a short time can take it out of a witch. One [dead] mouse the day I finished reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the next one – highly alive – on the eve publication day, which is today.

To celebrate the fact that it’s been 42 years since Douglas Adams iconic guide was first published, it’s been reissued, filled to the brim with illustrations by Chris Riddell. Except I have to admit to having been so taken with reading this book again, that I barely had time to look at the pictures of Zaphod and Marvin and the rest.

This is surely testament to the book’s charm; that rereading it after decades it’s almost as if it was new, except that I remember most of the witty quotes as though it was yesterday. Basically, dear reader, this book is as much fun as it ever was. Possibly more.

I’m hoping that 42 years on there will be countless new readers discovering this story about hitching lifts through space. For me, it’s almost impossible to decide whether I like Arthur Dent or Marvin the most. It used to be Marvin, but Arthur is so very, well, British. ‘Why, do you think it’s the sort of thing you’re likely to say?’

And I’m almost getting the Ford Prefect name thing now. It was a completely meaningless joke four decades ago. As it was to Ford Prefect himself.

Hitchhiking again

I’m not too proud to republish an old post. It’s saying exactly what I wanted to say and I’m too lazy to write it again. It’s from October 2009. Doesn’t time fly?

“Who needs it? The history. The background to one of the funniest ideas in – well, in what? – literature? Broadcasting? Television? Film?

I started at the wrong end, if there is one. I read the books first. Though, come to think of it, since the radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a lot better than the books, it would have been more disappointing to go the other way. OK, maybe I did it the right way. In fact, I have a feeling I may even have watched the television series before getting to the radio. It was on just as I met the Resident IT Consultant, and I recall us watching it in the early days.

I looked on in fascination as the trilogy grew to five books. That’s British humour for you. It’s why I like my adoptive country so much. It has stuff like H2G2.

Fast forward to the unfashionable end of the last century, when I came across the radio series on audio cassette in the mobile library, and borrowed it for Son. I thought he might like it. He did. It wasn’t exactly news at the time. Nobody much – other than nerds – talked about it, so Son was educated in something vaguely historical and dated. Who cared, as long as he laughed and learnt a few new good quotes. It turned out useful, too. How his leaders at Pilots at the local church could even begin to think that children his age would be able to answer any questions on this subject in their fun quiz, is beyond me. Old-fashioned Son could, but his friends had never heard of it. Very handy, too, when it came to dressing up for World Book Day at school. We just needed to send Son to school in his dressing gown, holding a ‘book’ which said Don’t Panic.

From then on I’d say that H2G2 woke up again. More stuff on the radio, a film, and now the sixth book, written by Eoin Colfer. He is not Douglas Adams, but since we can’t have him, Eoin is a good second. I hope.

Anyway, that history. Who needs to know? I mean, who doesn’t already know about it? There was a long description/history thing in the Guardian a week ago, and I just wondered what the point was. As a fan, I do like reading about what I like, but there was something not quite right about this article. And I don’t just mean the fact that facts were wrong. Ford and Arthur did not hitch a ride with Zaphod when Earth was demolished.

The point of the new book is surely to educate a new generation of readers, and anybody old who happened to miss it the first time?”

Give it a Dent

‘Do you feel like lying down in front of the tree-cutters next week?’ I asked the Resident IT Consultant. He did not wish to channel his inner Arthur Dent, so I suspect neither of us will demonstrate our displeasure with Stirling Council (and yes, I’m sure those plans have been there for anyone to see for a long time. I mean, we do know about them, so…) in the near future.

But we ought to. Do it. Wanting is saying too much, but why would we want them to spend £3m on something really stupid and unnecessary, when at the same time they need to cut down on services because they need to save £8m. If they were to ask me, I could show them how they would only need to find a way to not spend £5m.

We’re not activists. But even if we were, can one afford to engage in physical protest at a time like this? Fear of covid means no one is likely to get up close to any workers, to prevent the council from chopping down a dozen huge trees to make way for a road no one needs.

What I suspect might happen is that it’s too late to save the trees, so they will go. And then someone has second thoughts or discovers they don’t actually have the money after all, and nothing much happens. But let’s start by demolishing a wooded green area near the town centre.

I’ve often wanted to believe I was an Arthur Dent, slightly ridiculous, but a little bit brave, standing up for my rights. Not this time.

Going to Mars

Am I the only one to think of Douglas Adams when reading about the people who made it on to the list of travellers to Mars? I didn’t even know you could apply (not that I would have done so), let alone did I imagine people would sign up for it, seeing as it’s not exactly NASA.

Is it insanity? Or are they so grounded in reality that they realise it will never happen, so they might as well cause a stir? Does it sound good in interviews and on CVs? I ask, because Daughter was flabbergasted to find that someone she met in an interview round was one of the ‘lucky’ ones. And reading about them, the ratio of astrophysicists does seem remarkably high.

If I interviewed someone like that, would I think it showed admirable ambition, or would I feel that I mustn’t waste a position on someone that crazy who would get themselves killed in ten years’ time? Or, at least, not come back.

Then I discovered that Sheldon Cooper had applied. Not that that is a recommendation or a sign of mature thinking, but still.

Back to Douglas Adams, though, and the crashlanded batch of hairdressers and telephone sanitisers who had ‘gone ahead.’ Is this not the same thing? Almost.

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.