Tribute to Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”


Science, art, imagination and above all a lot of humor accompanied the far too short life of Douglas Adams. Today we celebrate Towel Day in honor of him

“Far in the uncharted backwaters of the old-fashioned end of the Galaxy’s western spiral arm lies a little ignored yellow sun. the descending lifeforms are so incredibly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty cool idea”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

On this utterly insignificant planet, for 49 circles around this ignored little yellow sun, there lived an author who was not at all insignificant. His name was Douglas Adams, and he taught us the most important lesson for anyone who wants to travel the galaxy cheaply: never leave home without a towel.

Adams was born on March 11, 1952 in Cambridge, England, and showed a fondness for writing from an early age. In 1974, after earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature, comedian Graham Chapman of the Monty Python troupe invited her to write with him. Two sketches on the fourth season of “Monthy Python’s flying circuswere created by this partnership, and so began the writing career of one of science fiction’s greats.

His career was slow to take off, during which he held casual jobs, such as hospital porter, barn builder, and chicken coop cleaner. His breakthrough came in 1977, when his radio comedy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxyaired on BBC-4, and Adams himself was named a producer on the radio channel.

Library (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

don’t panic

The hitchhiker’s guidewas the culmination of his work. The radio show became a book series (“a five-part trilogy” as he described it), a television series, and finally a movie which was released after his death. At the center of the plot is Arthur Dent, the embodiment of the English bourgeois whose highest ambition is to have his five o’clock tea at the right temperature, but who unfortunately finds himself frolicking around the galaxy with the alien. neurotic Ford Prefect, Marvin. the paranoid android and the two-headed megalomaniacal alien Zaphod Beeblebrox.

All he has in his possession to make sense of the incomprehensible universe around him is a used electronic copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a kind of guide for the confused traveler through the galaxy. Here is how Adams describes it:

“In many more relaxed civilizations on the eastern outer rim of the galaxy, The hitchhiker’s guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains many apocrypha, or at least extreme inaccuracy, it surpasses the works older and simpler in two important respects. First, it’s a bit cheaper; and two, it has the words DON’T PANIC written in big, friendly letters on its cover.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy The book series was first published in 1979 and its fourth book “Goodbye, and thank you for all the fishwas published in 1984. Eight years later they were joined by a fifth book,Mostly harmlesswhich was more melancholic and less funny. In between, Adams also dabbled in fantasy, with two books by Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, in which he ridiculed new age ideas, combining them with time travel, Norse gods, and a seasoning. subtleties of quantum physics and chaos theory.

Adams’ science fiction took its lack of seriousness very seriously. Unlike classic science fiction writers, who focused on science and technology issues, Adams was more interested in the ever-widening gap between hard science, especially physics, and the ordinary person’s ability to grasp it. This awkwardness was well expressed by its protagonist Arthur Dent, who, despite having above-average intelligence, is in a constant state of panic about the unexplained universe.

Arthur continues to search for answers using his common sense, which repeatedly leads him to a dead end due to his inability to explain reality. While with Dirk Gently, Schrödinger’s Quantum Physics Cat Paradox is used as proof of the protagonist’s sanity, Arthur struggles to maintain his sanity in the face of revelations that conflict with everything he thought he knew. What would you do if you found out that the Earth is nothing more than a giant supercomputer created to find the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything (the answer, by the way , is 42) and that the dominant creatures in our world are in fact mice?

science and the absurd

Adams’ works were steeped in criticism and breaking convention. His self-proclaimed “radical atheism” was also prominent in his works, through his ridicule of mystical thought and his critique of the concept of God’s existence. Despite the great absurdity of his books, they expressed a great appreciation for rationality and scientific thought, while recognizing the limits of human knowledge and its smallness in the face of the great questions posed by the universe. The innovative science in his books, however, is based on absurdity, such as a method of propulsion based on improbability, or advanced calculations based on the unique mathematics of server checkbooks.

Hitchhiker’s Guides have become a big hit around the world. All the novels in the series have been translated into several languages, as have the Dirk Gently books, the non-fiction book “last chance to seewhich deals with endangered species, andThe salmon of doubt: one last time hitchhiking in the galaxy“, which is a posthumous collection of short stories, unpublished material and unfinished passages and thoughts from the estate of Adams

Adams also participated in writing episodes for the British science fiction television program “Doctor Whowrote the video game “Starship Titanic”, played the guitar and was even invited to accompany the band Pink Floyd on its 42nd birthday. But despite his varied and storied career, he also frequently suffered from writer’s block and was infamous for his inability to meet deadlines.

On May 11, 2001, at the age of 49, Adams died of a heart attack after a gym workout. Two weeks after his passing, his fans declared May 25 “International Towel Day” in honor of his life and work, and it is still celebrated around the world to this day.

He received a special Google Doodle in his honor, and even an asteroid named after him: DA42 2001, which includes his initials, the year he died and, of course, the fateful number 42. When entrepreneur Elon Musk launched his Tesla car into space in 2018, as dummy cargo in a launch experiment for his new rocket, which was to travel to the Moon and Mars, the words “DON’T PANIC!” flashed on the vehicle’s dashboard and a towel was placed in the glove box – an appropriate move for Adams. In Israel, a veteran online science fiction magazine “Don’t Panic” (Bli Panika), edited by yours truly, has been named in his honor.

So Long Douglas, and thanks for all the books.


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