We will begin today with a bit of a side note. For some odd reason mail chimp has been slow to send out post emails. For subscribers to the site it makes it seem that my posting schedule has been even more out of whack than it actually is. With this in mind I will be doing some change ups to try and make it all come out in a more routine manner and all that. Please be patient if it seems like the world has gone a bit topsy turvey for a little while.
I Never Met Douglas Adams
I don’t remember the year, heck I can’t even think of how old I was exactly. But I didn’t come to Douglas Adams through his books. It wasn’t even through any of the comedy sketches he wrote. That would be mundane and we wouldn’t have a story here now would we. No, I discovered him through a game of all places.
Sure sure, he had been around for a while, had even been on the best seller lists with his Hitchhiker’s guide (the misnamed five book trilogy). But I hadn’t read the books. I knew of them but hadn’t touched them. They were a bit outside the worlds I traveled in. At the time I was still reading mostly fantasy type stuff. The occasional science fiction story came across as well but I tended to enjoy that more on the big and small screen than in the printed word.
And then I bought a Commodore 64. See, I had never really been a console video game player. I started with the arcades like many of the kids my age and then went almost straight to my commodore. I did own an Atari (the original) at one point but it wasn’t a big part of my gaming experience. Instead I played games like Zork on my computer. Who needs visuals in their gaming experience, right?
As part of the text product line of gaming they came out with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text based game. And I had no clue what the heck was going on. But that didn’t stop me from popping the floppy disk into my disk drive and exploring the thing. And again, I had no clue. I had so little a clue that when I was at a friend’s cousin’s house and he had the number 42 sitting on a shelf, I missed the reference. He had made it in wood shop as a tribute to the books and of course the game.
And I still hadn’t read the books.
Instead for a time, NPR had a run of radio plays on Saturday nights. I heard Star Wars as a radio play and Lord of the Rings (long, long, long, before I read the books, mind you I am a LotR fan from the cartoons that came out in the 70s). And they did a run of the Guide as radio plays that I made a point to listen to every time they were on.
The game had come with some interesting trinkets. A microscopic space fleet in a plastic bag, some pocket fluff, Danger resistant sunglasses, and of course the official letters that were the proclamations of the bypass that would demolish Arthur Dent’s home and of course the earth. I think I still have my microscopic space fleet in one of my trinket drawers to this day. But I digress…
When I finally read the books it all became part of my life. I can’t count the number of readings I have gone through at this point, and of course even the radio plays have been read through a number of times as well. But it wasn’t just this. You have to add in to it, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency as well. And then the Monty Python skits. And the shows and movies based on the books…
Much like my super long Dr. Who scarf, I also had a towel at one point. You always need to know where your towel is.
When Douglas Adams died, it was almost like a foot note in history. The Internet wasn’t like it is now. We didn’t see every waking moment of the world around us in a constant stream. Nope, for me, I hadn’t heard anything about his death until sometime later. It was one of those moments when you want to call up an old friend only to find that they had moved with no forwarding address. The person is just gone from your life with little to show for it but your memories of them.
Mind you, I also never really paid much attention to the news, so that could also be a factor in why I missed anything about it. But still, when we consider the difference in such things now to back then, it is like night and day. People are connected 24 hours a day in a way that seems like madness or a dream from long ago. Instant global communication is the stuff of science fiction. And yet another digression…
Where was I?
I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap seats. And I ran across his memories of Douglas Adams. The snippet of thought he had written for the biography of the man brought to light someone I didn’t know from the books I had read. But again that is something we don’t often think about. The books we read are part of those who write them. We see something about the writers that doesn’t exist outside of the stories. It is a deeper look into who they are beyond what we might learn when we talk to them face to face.
I had never met Douglas Adams, not in person. But at the same time a part of him had become part of my life in unexpected ways. And as a side note, the way I came to know of him was through the way he had been introduced to the world. The radio series came before the books. Sure I might have started with a game but that game was more along the lines of a passing introduction. I never knew the stories that were a part of him until I heard the radio plays.
It was the words he had used that awakened a part of me that I hadn’t realized existed. His humor and truth to the life we live moments were something that had become a part of me.
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