Science in Film

Introduction to Douglas Adams

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Douglas Adams was an English sci-fi novelist as well as a radio/TV writer, comic author, and dramatist. He is best known for his series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy novels, which sold over 15 million copies. The very gifted Adams wrote other publications such as Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and The Deeper Meaning of Life. He also wrote a handful of stories for the award-winning British sci-fi television series Doctor Who.

Douglas Noel Adams (also known as DNA) was born on March 11, 1952, in Cambridge, England. As a child, he was very interested in science, technology, and outer space. 

When he was younger, he attended Primrose Hill Primary School, where he literally stood out among his classmates. Being exceptionally tall made him the brunt of many jokes, but Adams countered this with his writing talent. His schoolmaster, known for being frugal in awarding students high marks, gave Adams a perfect 10 out of 10 grade for creative writing. Inspired and encouraged, Douglas started to write his first short stories when he was just 12 years old.

In 1971, Douglas entered St. John’s College, Cambridge University, majoring in English. While still a student, he supported himself by working at odd jobs. His work took him hitchhiking to many parts of Europe, traveling to places such as Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria, and Turkey. According to Douglas himself, he was inspired to write The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while lying drunk in the Innsbruck fields in Austria, while carrying a book about hitchhiking and gazing at the stars.

 

Douglas Adams
Douglas Adams

During Douglas’ second term at Cambridge, he wanted to join the Footlights, an invitation-only theatrical/comedy club but was rejected. Instead, he formed a group, Adams-Smith-Adams, along with Martin Smith and Will Adams where he did his own writing. He was eventually accepted in 1973 into the prestigious Footlights club.

When Adams graduated, his goal was to work as a TV and/or radio writer. He entered a brief collaboration with Monty Python’s Graham Chapman and also appeared twice on the Python’s cult, Flying Circus, TV series.

Adams’ early radio work included skits for BBC Radio 4’s, The Burkiss Way, and the long-running BBC Radio 2 series, The News Huddlines. These earlier experiences set the stage for Adams to begin writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a science-fiction story that revolves around, Arthur Dent, who barely escapes Earth before it explodes; he then experiences all sorts of adventures throughout the galaxy along with other human and non-human characters. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was first aired in March 1978 on the BBC 4 Radio. The first series was successful and led to the recording and broadcast of other episodes.

Adams in San Francisco, California
Adams in San Francisco, California

 

Although Douglas Adams had a strong aversion toward deadlines, he managed to write five books: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy(1979) that was based from the original BBC Radio series; The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe (1980); Life, The Universe and Everything (1982); So Long And Thanks For All The Fish (1984) and Mostly Harmless (1992). The Hitchhiker’s Guide developed such a strong international following, that a television series was made in 1981. Three years later, a computer game based on the Hitchhiker’s stories was produced. In fact, the game was designed by Adams himself, who was a big fan of computer technology.
The comic sci-fi series has also been adapted into stage plays and a comic book series. In 2005, a film adaptation was released based on the Hitchhiker series, which also received good reviews.

The very gifted Adams went on to write the humorous detective novels, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Adams also wrote The Deeper Meaning Of Life, with comedy writer John Lloyd.

Douglas Adams’ deep concern for the environment led him to produce a BBC radio documentary entitled The Last Chance to See, which exposed the plight of some of the world’s most endangered species. He went on to publish a book with the same title which was also well received.

Adams, his wife, and daughter moved to Santa Barbara, California to work on the screenplay to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. While in Santa Barbara, Adams suffered a massive heart attack and died on May 11, 2001. He was only 49 years old. Despite Douglas Adams’ untimely death, he left behind a legacy in the science fiction world that was marked by his wit and humor and will be enjoyed for generations to come.

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