“Life. Don’t talk to me about life.”
I spent a large part of my teenaged years emulating Marvin the Paranoid Android, the depressive robot in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
“I seem to be at the bottom of a five mile deep hole. What does that remind me of? Ah yes – life.”
One friend and I would recite passages of dialogue from the book as we were walking home from school. This was from the book only – neither of us had heard the radio show since it had been broadcast too late at night for us to hear, and the BBC tapes didn’t come out until years later.
“Making it up? Why would I want to make anything up? Life’s bad enough without inventing any more of it.”
I read the first book many times. A dozen, two dozen… honestly, I don’t know. My Dad bought me that, along with the records. The records were the only audio I had of the stories for a long time. Those scripts for the records later surfaced as the TV version of the story.
“The first ten millions years were the worst. And the second ten million? They were the worst too.”
My Dad and I were waiting in the car once for my Mum and sisters to turn up at Leeds train station. That was where we figured out that six times nine really is forty two, as long as you use base thirteen.
“I seem to have this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side.”
There are many authors whose work I like, some who I admire, and a few whose books I actively collect, but Douglas Adams was the first author whose work I was really obsessed by. The Dirk Gently books are great, too – I love the way that a complex emerges from seemingly disparate elements.
So if you ever happen to notice a character of mine who is described in sympathetic detail only to be killed off suddenly at the end of the chapter, that is an echo of Douglas Adams’ whale slamming into the surface of Magrathea.
I should go and read those again.