I've gotten lots of e-mail asking, "Where are Douglas Adams' answers to our questions? Has he forgotten us?" Obviously, no one was forgotten, but the man had a screenplay on deadline and had to work, work, work. Yes, if we had a hall of fame category for "Longest time between interview questions and responses to them," this one would be #1, but it was worth waiting for. Obviously there was never any cause for panic, but all true Douglas Adams fans already knew that, right?
Relationship to Terry Pratchett?
by Enoch Root
One author who is often compared to you in terms of style and humor is Terry Pratchett of Discworld fame. What is your opinion of Pratchett's work? Do you agree or disagree with the comparisons between your works?
I can't really answer this one. I've never read anything by Terry Pratchett.
Did you endorse the use of "Babelfish" by AltaVista or did you consider trying to prevent them from using the word as they are far from proving that God does not exist?
We are working on developing all sorts of cross-promotional opportunities between AltaVista and h2g2.com. Does that answer the question?
Modern Culture as silly as the one in HHGTtG?
by SoupIsGood Food
In the HHGTtG series, you deal with a culture accustomed to instantaneous access to hip information -and- time-travel. It seemed to spiral in on itself, with time being as inconsequential a barrier to getting the best possible parties that geography is in the age of highways and jets.
In the contested twilight of the 20th century, we can go out on any given weekend, and find people dressed up in zoot-suits swing dancing, decked out in bell-bottoms at a disco, and rushing about outdoors attired in the shining armor of medieval knights, whacking each other with sticks.
Has the Internet and recursive nostalgia brought us to a point where modern culture is every inch as silly and fractal as the one you created?
Also: I have the phrase "Don't Panic!" marching cheerily across my web-access cell phone's display when not in use. Did you expect to see the technology you envisioned with "The Guide" come to pass in your lifetime? Are you terrified someone might come up with an infinite improbability drive sometime before dinner?
You obviously go to better parties than I do.
by FascDot Killed My Pr
First, a big thank-you. You've made a lasting contribution to "our" culture (or should that be "culture"?)
I first read HGttG in my early teens. I doubled over laughing the whole time. I read and reread the entire series, bought both Dirk Gently books AND Last Chance to See. Loved them all and wouldn't trade having read them for anything. (btw, the first mental ward scene in Long Dark Teatime is a no-foolin', all-time classic.)
However, a few years ago I was talking to a (then) classmate. Very smart, philosophy-major type. He said (paraphrased) "I thought that HGttG was depressing. Such nihilism." At the time I thought "Hmmm...I didn't SEE a black beret on his head....". But every reading of the series since then his comment has struck me as more true--especially in the case of Arthur Dent. In fact, far from being funny, I now find Dent's character depressing--he's not just a loser, he literally has no control over his life at all (except in So Long for a while). And the control he does have does him no good (e.g. Earth is destroyed while he's trying to save his house.)
So my question is: When you were writing these books did you feel you were being gaily whimsical or did you instead feel frustrated and cynical?
I suspect there is a cultural divide at work here. In England our heroes tend to be characters who either have, or come to realise that they have, no control over their lives whatsoever Pilgrim, Gulliver, Hamlet, Paul Pennyfeather (from Decline and Fall) Tony Last (from A Handful of Dust). We celebrate our defeats and our withdrawals the Battle of Hastings, Dunkirk, almost any given test match. There was a wonderful book published, oh, about twenty years ago I think, by Stephen Pile called the Book of Heroic Failures. It was staggeringly huge bestseller in England and sank with heroic lack of trace in the U.S. Stephen explained this to me by saying that you cannot make jokes about failure in the States. It's like cancer, it just isn't funny at any level. In England, though, for some reason it's the thing we love most. So Arthur may not seem like much of a hero to Americans he doesn't have any stock options, he doesn't have anything to exchange high fives about round the water-cooler. But to the English, he is a hero. Terrible things happen to him, he complains about it a bit quite articulately, so we can really feel it along with him - then calms down and has a cup of tea. My kind of guy!
I've hit a certain amount of difficulty over the years in explaining this in Hollywood. I'm often asked 'Yes, but what are his goals?' to which I can only respond, well, I think he'd just like all this to stop, really. It's been a hard sell. I rather miss David Vogel from the film process. He's the studio executive at Disney who was in charge of the project for a while, but has since departed. There was a big meeting at one time to discuss, amongst other things, Arthur's heroicness or lack of it. David suddenly asked me 'Does Arthur's presence in the proceedings make a difference to the way things turn out?' to which I said, slightly puzzled, 'Well, yes.' David smiled and said 'Good. Then he's a hero.'
In the current, latest version of the screenplay, I think that Arthur's non-heroic heroism is now absolutely preserved, and I'm pleased with the way he works out.
In respect of the screenplay, I'd just mention a couple of things. I finished and delivered this new draft last week, and it's suddenly really working in a way that no previous version really did. It's a very hard circle to square that it should on the one hand be true to the spirit of Hitchhiker, and that on the other hand it should work as a structured movie with a beginning, a middle and an end, and character motivation and so on. Well, I think we've finally got there, after all these years. The other thing I want to touch on is this. There was a bit of a commotion on the Web last month about a version of the screenplay that got leaked, and which people didn't like very much. There is a whole story to be told about that script and the role it played in the politics of the development process, but now is not the time and maybe there won't ever be a time. But it wasn't my script and bears very little relation to any script of mine. The new script is my script and I'm extremely pleased with it.
Interconnectedness of all things.
by Spud the Ninja
Dear Mr. Adams.
While the Hitchhikers' Guide trilogy is very good (I own a copy of the omnibus), I couldn't help but notice that it has 5 (five) parts. For this reason, I enjoy the Dirk Gently books greatly. My question is this:
What is your favourite type of cheese for cucumber, tomato and onion sandwiches on a nice French bread?
There was a Radio Series, a TV series, the books... but no film. What stopped Zaphod becoming the most self-centred person in Hollywood?
My answer above will throw some light on this. But there are some other points. The story started on radio. And while radio and cinema are both extremely visual media (yes, I meant to say that) the way in which they each create pictures is very different. Sound is very important to both of them, but on radio you create pictures with words, and in cinema you create them with cameras. Translating between the two of them is a big stretch. (TV is the worst of both worlds. It's not as good at words as radio is because the pictures are a distraction which demand attention, and it's not as good as cinema because the pictures are not nearly as good.) However, I think we are now well on the way to solving these problems, and I hope that the movie will work out just great. I am very much looking forward to working with Jay Roach, whom I feel very fortunate to have fallen in with.
Interesting Music Software
In Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, the character Richard MacDuff is obsessed with mapping natural processes into music. I really enjoyed this book; not only was it fun to read, it started me thinking about the relationship between math and music when I was a wee lad of 16 (and I still think it's the sort of thing that might be stimulating to young minds; I gave out the fictional essay "Music and Fractal Landscapes" to my high school students this last semester, and some of them took to the ideas. Some of them thought I was a jerk, though).
But my question is: are there any music composition software packages/languages/environments that you find interesting? Anything that Richard MacDuff would find fascinating?
There's one particular package that I bought and found very promising, though I have to confess that I never found the time to climb its steep learning curve. It's called MAX, and it's a high level object oriented music programming language. You can find information about it at www.opcode.com/products/max/.
Distributing copyrighted media over the internet
As someone whose writing talent and sense of humor many of us in the Slashdot community have come to admire and respect, could you explain to us your stance on some of the current issues regarding distributing copyrighted material over the Internet?
For instance, the original BBC recordings of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy have made frequent appearances on various pirate music sites, and they show up frequently in searches on Napster. What are your feelings on this sort of thing? Also, although I'm not aware of it happening currently, how do you think you might react to discovering that some of your various novels were being traded online?
Finally, many of us feel that the issue revolves around one of availability - for instance, if I knew that I could purchase digital recordings of the original HGTTG broadcast over the internet, I would be happy to do so, but as far as I am aware, such a distribution scheme is not currently available. Do you think that this is merely a cut-and-dry issue of intellectual property theft, or do you feel that issues such as these point out that maybe it is time for the publishing industries of these various forms of media need to redefine the way they do business?
I don't think the issues are cut and dried at all, and I think that we will see new models emerge. I don't think any of us can really predict exactly how they will work, but I do think that any model which fundamentally prevents people getting something they want is going to fail. We shouldn't be trying to prevent copying, just trying to make sure that the creator of the copyright gets something for his or her work when it happens.
However, under the current state of copyright law, copyright holders are obliged to protect their rights aggressively, or lose the right to protect them at all. That's why you'll often see people (such as me) whose natural instinct is to be a little flexible and forgiving in this area having instead to take a tough stand.
In fact, there is a very simple way of getting hold of digital recordings of the original Hitchhiker BBC broadcasts. We sell the CDs off my Web site, at shop.douglasadams.com.
Is Radio Drama Dead, or Can the Internet Save It?
by Cy Guy
The Hitch Hiker's Guide is probably the most well-known, if not the only known radio drama to gen-Xrs in the U.S. Do you think that given the vast array of media available today the Radio Drama as an art form is dead? Or do you think it can survive as Internet based streaming audio because the audience can listen to it at a time and place that is convenient to them, and there is a revenue model that works for U.S. listeners?
I think that radio is a great dramatic art form. In the UK it never has died, though obviously it has fewer listeners than it did before TV came along. I'd love to see it gain a new lease of life on the Internet, and I strongly feel that one of the things that might drive this is if the BBC created dozens and dozens of streaming channels and started to pump out all of the radio drama and comedy they have had sitting in their vaults for decades. They could do it on a very cheap subscription basis, and I guarantee you that there are lots of absolute gems sitting there. And a lot of dross as well, of course but there's nothing better for promoting creativity in a medium than making an audience feel "Hmm I could do better than that!'
How do you feel...
....about predicting the Internet?
My mental image of the the Guide (outside of the Don't Panic sticker) was a laptop computer with high speed access. The big hint was when you said (paraphrased) "The Guide contains vast amount of information on every conceivable concept, much of it completely erroneous or actively dangerous." That's about the best description of the Net I've seen, and it came about before the thing was mainstream. I guess my question is, Have you ever thought of it that way? Do you like turkey? And what's the deal with Smithers?
Yes, the Web/net is a bit like that. And I think the reason it's like that is that it is essentially just people talking to each other.
I think that turkey is just big, bland, dry chicken.
I've consulted my lawyer and I have no deal with Smithers.
The Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster
What is the origin of the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster, and how would you make one on Earth?
I need to know.
Unfortunately there are a number of environmental and weapons treaties and laws of physics which prevent one being mixed on Earth. Sorry.