This week was the anniversary of the death of a writer I have always admired – Douglas Adams, the author of the increasingly-inaccurately named Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, the Dirk Gently books, some of the very best Doctor Who episodes and much more.
Douglas Adams once said ‘I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.’. He was notorious for not meeting deadlines. On the other hand, when he did finally turn in his work it was so utterly, gloriously wonderful that no-one really minded the wait. (Well, didn’t mind it enough to sack him, anyway). As a writer who is seeing my very first deadline rapidly approaching, and is not absolutely certain I’ll meet it, this cavalier attitude to deadlines is very reassuring.
Douglas Adams took a genre that was already well-established, with it’s own rules and conventions, and turned it all upside down on it’s head. Yes, he wrote sci-fi, with a human hero, and an alien sidekick and big scary aliens and big spaceships and laser guns. But his human hero travelled in a dressing gown, and was utterly confused by the entire thing, the alien sidekick was a hoopy frood who always knew where his towel was and the scary aliens were building a bypass, and had ordinary lives and ordinary problems. Oh, and it was deliciously funny. He took something we all knew very well, and made it completely different, whilst also keeping it exactly the same. A neat trick for a writer to pull if off. And he also made it look so damn easy….
Douglas Adams fans celebrate his work by carrying a towel on Towel Day, 25th May. This is also Geek Pride day. This is also the anniversary of the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road, when those who there should wear lilac.
That last one commemorates an event in a Terry Pratchett book, Nightwatch. (If you never read another Terry Pratchett, I highly recommend you read that one. It’s wonderful. But do read the others. They’re very good).
Like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took a well-established genre, with conventions and rules, and turned it on his head, brilliantly.
And like Douglas Adams, it’s the fans who celebrate the Glorious Revolution. Towel Day is entirely fan created. Douglas Adams, and now Terry Pratchett, through their books, have touched enough people that nearly the entire world (well, those who are geeks and nerds, anyway) celebrate them one day a year. That’s pretty cool.
You’re sadly missed, Mr Adams. In gratitude for your humour, your fine example of missing deadlines, and making me see that not all sci-fi is the same, I shall carry a towel on Towel Day. And for you, Mr Pratchett, for much the same reason, I shall wear the lilac.