Highly regarded during his time, British author Douglas Adams left behind a powerful legacy with his witty and extremely incisive brand of irreverent science-fiction. With both intelligence and creativity, he was to create a universe that would shed light on some of the greatest philosophical questions known to mankind. This is something that has not only been seen in print, but also within a variety of different mediums, such as radio, film, video-games and television.
Early and Personal Life
Born in 1952 on the 11th of March, Douglas Adams was brought up in East London after his family moved there from Cambridge. Shortly afterwards his sister, Susan, was born three years later followed by the divorce of their parents in 1957, as his mother then went to live in an RSPCA shelter in Brentwood with his grandparents. Douglas himself attended Brentwood School after passing their entrance exam before going onto learn at the prestigious Cambridge University where he graduated with a B.A. in English literature.
With an interest in writing formed at an early age, he was remembered for his creative work even as a child where he was regularly marked highly for his stories. This would lead him to write later on at great volume, giving him the encouragement he required as and when he needed it. Holding a strong interest in comedy, he took part in the highly exclusive ‘Cambridge Footlights’ after gaining an invitation to take part in their famously selective group. That then led to him developing his talents over time as he managed to create the unique and distinctive voice that his readers would come to appreciate him for. As some of his writing was published during his school days, he was already well prepared for what was to follow.
Originally wanting to make his break in radio and television, Douglas Adams headed to London with the hopes of getting his start there. That was when he met Graham Chapman from the legendary Monty Python, who gave him a role as a writer on the show, giving him an opportunity that had only been offered to one other being Neil Innes. Here he wrote a sketch for the show, as well as starring in it briefly, thus giving him his head-start within the industry.
Later they both worked briefly together on the comedy sketch-show ‘Out of the Trees’, but this didn’t get past the first TV pilot and was thought to then be wiped for a period of time until it resurfaced years later. After this Adams had to make ends meet through a series of low paid jobs, including hospital porter, builder and bodyguard. During this time he had a number of experiences that helped inform his later work, developing it even further. All the while he continued to write sketches and comedy as he carried on creating what was to be his unique voice.
After that he eventually got his next big opportunity when he wrote and performed to good review at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, followed by a period where he worked once again with Chapman. He soon got a chance to work in radio creating his infamous ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ show which he was to become famous for. Subsequently made a producer, then a script editor, he also worked on the show ‘Doctor Who’, writing a few episodes for that too. Soon writing the series of books derived from the show, he went onto create Dirk Gently in 1987, thus making his name and fulfilling his legacy as one of the most idiosyncratic voices within science-fiction to date.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
This was the series that would make his name creating a unique and distinctive look at the world that’s been unrivaled since. Famously starting out as a radio series that brought the medium forwards with its pioneering use of sound technology, it was soon adapted into this book. Later that was followed by a much beloved cult television series and, most recently, a Hollywood movie featuring Martin Freeman as its chief protagonist Arthur Dent.
Whilst the narrative has transformed a number of times across its many different mediums, it’s principal core plot remains ostensibly the same. Focusing on the journey of one Arthur Dent, it charts his travels after unwittingly getting his house bulldozed down by the council to make way for a bypass. Unbeknownst to the rest of humanity though is that, at that precise moment in time, the earth is also scheduled for demolition by a fleet of alien Vogons who aim to build their own intergalactic bypass. It quickly transpires that he’s befriended an alien himself over the years in the form of Ford Prefect, an intergalactic traveler writing for the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ guidebook. They both then escape aboard the Vogon spacecraft just in time, as the earth is subsequently destroyed along with humanity, thus leaving Arthur as the sole human (or so he initially believes). What then occurs are a series of events that take them all across the universe, charted over a collection of highly influential novels that Adams wrote for the duration of his life.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
An underrated series that followed in the wake of the aforementioned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Warm and humorous, it provided a smaller scaled counterpart to his other more epically scaled work. Also made into a television series of its own, it’s gained its own following over the years thanks to its witty observations and insightful characters.
Using a fragmented narrative device, the novel focuses on time travel as Dirk Gently solves mysteries of the inexplicable kind. Charting the evolution of humanity from the alien Salaxalans who populated the earth in ancient times, right up to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, it’s expansive plot stretches across the entire progress of the human race. Within all this though is Dirk Gently who must piece together the case at hand, which begins with a seemingly innocuous magic trick performed at the Coleridge charity dinner he attends at his old college. Making a vase disappear might not be just a simple trick though as Dirk Gently traces it back through the wormhole into a world mystery and intrigue answering questions about the very nature of existence itself along the way.
Books in order of publication by series:
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Books
|The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy||(1979)|
|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 Another Thing…||(2009)|
Dirk Gently Books
|Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency||(1987)|
|The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul||(1988)|
|The Salmon of Doubt||(1995)|
Doctor Who Book
|The Meaning of Life||(1983)|
|Last Chance to See||(1990)|
|The Deeper Meaning of Life||(1990)|