19 January, 2012

Douglas Adams, god of the written word

Well here’s a new one. I’ve been sick…not violently, just wimpily – and that’s not what’s new, this is: when I tried to get in to post a new blog yesterday, I could no longer access it because apparently lying in bed for 2 days straight has addled my brain to the point where I can’t remember my password! What a kick. I create very good, tight, secure passwords because I just think that’s smart. I have a place where they are written down…in code, thankyouverymuch. (just enough to remind me)
So when I couldn’t remember the password, I suddenly realized that I had the wrong little notepad with me. Oops.

I’m feeling much better now, just a little light-headed. So here’s what I had intended to post yesterday:

I’m re-reading “The Increasingly Inaccurately Titled Hitchhikers’ Guide Trilogy” by Douglas Adams. I’ve been reading and rereading this book since 8th grade, and have portions committed to memory. I love it, and simply have to gush, because when I’m lost in the world of Douglas Adams, it is all-consuming.

I will never be as good a writer as Douglas Adams. He is my writing hero – a god of the written word. The way that man could turn a phrase – not just turn it on its head, but get it to do a somersault into a back-flip, as it were – nearly always provides a unique paradigm shift for me. Take this short dialog from the original, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:
Ford: It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.
Arthur: What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?
Ford: You ask a glass of water sometime.

HA! Paradigm shift!

Or his description of the Vogon constructor fleet as “hanging in the air in much the same way that bricks don’t”. Classic.

Currently I’m in Life, The Universe and Everything. It’s probably my least favorite of the 5 books, storyline-wise, but there are some GREAT literary and creative devices at work here. My favorite, that I always want to quote to people when we go out to eat, but nobody else raises the HHGG freak-flag high enough for me to know that I’m in company that might get it, is the description of “Bistromathics”.

The idea of Bistromathics is that numbers dance on a waiter’s check-pad in a way that defies the laws of mathematics that rule elsewhere. It’s an awesome concept! And haven’t we all seen that in action? (There are variables like the number of people who say they will be there vs. the number who show up and the number of uninvited people who randomly join the party, the time that everyone is to be there vs. the time they arrive, how much alcohol is consumed, whether the waiter gets the order right, and so on.) So this space-ship flies via a Bistromathic drive, and the control center is set up like an Italian bistro. HA! Can you see why I love this guy!
Oh, and the ship is protected from detection by a “Somebody Else’s Problem” field, which is a field that makes the ship appear so odd that the observer can’t cope with it, and therefore determines it to be “somebody else’s problem” and simply looks around or through it. Brilliant! How many of us wouldn’t want an SEP every now and then?

Oh, and another favorite, when one character determines that “one thing has suddenly ceased to lead to another, in contradiction of which he had another drink and slid gracelessly off his chair.”

But I think my favorite scene/chapter is when Arthur is running down the hill – so many good things happen here. First, he noticed the land begin to slide and the word “landslide” became real to him in a new way as he “realized that sliding is a sickening thing for land to do”. Teehee. Love it. Then, all the rocks and boulders are bounding past him down the hill “like puppies only much bigger, much, much heavier, and almost infinitely more likely to kill you if they landed on you.”

The man is a god.


  1. I believe that was when Arther began to fly. It was required to fall and not think about it that flying would be possible. I may be a little off. I haven't read those books in years, but I thought the same thing when I read them. THIS GUY IS A GENIUS. I loved his perspective on everything. Floating the way that bricks don't comes to mind for me at least once a week.

  2. That's exactly the scene I mean! I think we of the HHGG clan should have 42 tattooed on our foreheads for recognition purposes.


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