Long before I discovered Neil Gaiman, before Ray Bradbury even, there was Douglas Adams.
I remember when I was a child, my mom would take us to the library. I remember the brightly coloured covers, the way four books could be combined, like a puzzle, to complete the pictures. I remember sitting with her as she read to me from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I also remember at one point looking up at her and saying that when I grew up, I wanted to be drunk like Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox, but what did I know? He made it sound really fun. My mom of course, claims not to remember me saying this at all.
The point is, I grew up with Douglas Adams as a huge influence in my life. Not only did I read the whole five part trilogy and try my hand at the computer game, my dad taped the BBC mini-series for me (this was in the days before PVR’s, people. Before DVD’s, even!) Between the questionable quality of the cassette tape and the pathetic budget at the BBC at the time, it was grainy and the picture wavered at times, but it was magic to me. Looking back, I think that was part of its charm.
I also read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and later, The Salmon of Doubt. The last is always a bitter-sweet book for me since before reading it, I don’t think I even knew he had died.
Is it possible to mourn a man you’ve never met? Absolutely. Through his books, the commentaries, prefaces and posthumous rememberings within, I feel that I know him. I know his humour, and something of his insecurities. I know his process, something he talked about at length in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts. I know how much he’s missed out on these last ten years.
How much would he have loved the iPhone, the iPad, and all the rest that Apple has put out? He was a devout Mac person, and the fact that he missed the launch of the iPod by less than a year is tragic. In 1999 he talked about the future of the internet and information technologies. How wonderful would it have been from him to see it today? Can you imagine him on Twitter? I can only think that he would have been in heaven.
He was a man made for this era, a man who would understand and appreciate the way the internet has shaped the world. In his time, he got to see the first glimmers of dawn, and it saddens me that he could not walk with us into the morning. I admire him, and while he left us many wonders, I miss him.
Douglas Adams, wherever you are, may you always know where your towel is.