On the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

A Talk with Douglas Adams

By John Shirley

In the most recent book of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, modestly titled Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams’ profoundly incompetent protagonist Arthur Dent finds he’s been flung 200 million years into Earth’s primeval past, into a part of the world one day to be known as the Islington borough of London, England. Two hundred million years later, its possible to find Douglas Adams in this very Islington. You go up a narrow alley off Islington Green, an alley which Adams rightly describes as looking like “some thug’s sure to set about you there.” You find a door to an apartment where there should be only soiled wooden crates and cracked cobblestone. You are admitted, and find yourself in a modern, spacious, multi-leveled apartment, replete with bar, theatrical poster prints, skylight, roof garden, and a six-foot-high yellow toothbrush. The toothbrush leans against a bare white wall, and it looks real, like a giant could use it to brush his teeth. Adams is bearishly big, and “once held a job as a bodyguard.” He’s actually sort of pale and soft-looking but with a classic Brit’s aristocratic nose, featuring arched nostrils, and a mind like a wildly careening gyroscope. When he talks, he interjects qualifiers parenthetically and more qualifiers on top of those, and weaves a complex syntax, then brings it all together and by God, it makes sense. His voice is soft, and despite his restless mind he’s courteous, and listens to tedious anecdotes [not included here] told  …

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