Douglas Adams: A Man Ahead of His Time

Posted on June 29, 2005

Douglas Adams, the popular author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and other popular mystery and science fiction novels, was clearly a man ahead of his time. Adams, who died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 49, also wrote occasionally about the Internet and technology. Douglas Adams even started the h2g2 website, which was an encyclopedia created by the public for the public -- before there was Wikipedia. This article, which was published in The Sunday Times on August 29th 1999, shows that Adams foresaw the importance of the interactive nature of the Internet and the major impact it would have on entertainment and publishing:

For instance, "interactivity" is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal tweezers, but the reason we suddenly need such a word is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport - the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn't need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don't (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.

I expect that history will show "normal" mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. "Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn't do anything? Didn't everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?"

"Yes, child, that's why they all went mad. Before the Restoration."

"What was the Restoration again, please, miss?"

"The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back."

Douglas Adams also had some smart advice for beginning writers:
First of all, realise that it's very hard, and that writing is a gruelling and lonely business and, unless you are extremely lucky, badly paid as well. You had better really, really, really want to do it. Next you have to write something. Unless you are committed to novel writing exclusively, I suggest that you start out writing for radio. It's still a relatively easy medium to get into because it pays so badly. But it is a great medium for writers because it relies so much on the imagination. You will learn a tremendous amount from it, and maybe get some useful exposure.
He is greatly missed.



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