Archive for September, 2015

THE FROOD: FIT THE FINAL?

This month The Frood is excitingly relaunched in paperback form – which, after all, was always the natural format for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, from its first release.

This is a completely updated, fine-tuned edition, which will hopefully spread Douglas Adams’ incredible, improbable, never-holistically-told-before story further than ever, and see this Hitchhiker celebration finally reach the legions of froody fans in the USA and all around the world, who seem to clamour for it despite there being no US publisher as yet. The first editions’ few niggles have been extinguished with the strictest niggle destroying technology, the back end has been updated, and I’ve even requested that the cover be made at least 25% more shiny (sending the Arrow designers grabs from 1980s Doctor Who credits as reference material).

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I’ve also added many more acknowledgements, thanking everyone who helped with the original release last year, and the events that followed. Sadly – very sadly – the book went off to the printers before the news emerged of the loss of Susan Sheridan, the original and ultimate Trillian, otherwise extra tribute would have been paid to her within. She was wonderfully generous with her time for this book, sharing an article she’d written as well as putting up with all my impertinent questions. It was an honour to meet her, and tragic to lose another of the Hitchhiker family.

This time last year there was a rather cheeky story in the Radio Times (It’s £2 these days! Honestly!), in which some staffer who had stolen into The Frood’s wonderful Cheltenham Literary Festival event with Terry Jones, Clive Anderson and Douglas’ brother James Thrift, specifically ignored the very existence of The Frood itself, but instead selectively quoted James (a really wonderful bloke who was unstintingly helpful and enthusiastic throughout the book’s creation) when he suggested on the hoof that The Frood would be the last word from the Douglas Adams archive. Of course, if there is a firm insistence on this from everyone who makes up the Adams estate, then yes, that is so, and The Frood is all that you can expect to read, unpublished Adams material-wise – certainly for a generation or three.

However, even though I did not have time to cover more than about 80% of the archive at St. John’s college, the material I was lucky enough to capture two years ago is still very exciting. A tiny fraction of it – not so much all the cream, just the most pertinent passages – has made its way into The Frood, and all of it a real fan-frothing dream-come-fact to read, after so many years believing that the Salmon of Doubt was the full stop. But what about everything else I have lovingly secreted here on this hard drive? The tale of Dirk Gently and the Nameless Horror? Or the Demon Mafioso? That weird sketch extract starring Theseus and Ariadne? The Zaphod chapters in the courtroom at Argabuthon? Be assured, none of these Adams pieces could be described as scraping any barrels. Of course, there’s plenty of rough Adams material which should never be thrust into the public gaze for all sorts of reasons. But there’s still a large amount of well revised laugh-out-loud comic material here, and if there’s one thing of which I am certain, it’s that making people laugh out loud was always one of Douglas Adams’ core reasons for being. For his jokes to continue to make his fans laugh after he’s gone is the best posthumous respect you can show the man.

With so much activity in the Dirk Gently camp, both from IDW’s comics, and the related BBC America TV series, I am tempted to tentatively suggest a kind of special profile of Mr. Svlad Cjelli and his holistically shady interconnected world, examining his two published adventures, unravelling the Salmon of Doubt, presenting the very best, cogent, funny material to build up a truly definitive picture of Adams’ own plans for his singular detective. This would be the true story, to be kept distinct from the further adventures dreamt up (extremely entertainingly and convincingly, let’s presume) by those who follow in the creator’s footsteps: IDW Comics, Max Landis, and the BBC. To me, this seems the most respectful course of action, faced with the possibility of Douglas’ ideas being recycled in various media – to present the real stuff, tastefully and entertainingly, once and for all, and then let the portly private eye go off and have all the new adventures he likes. I have many irons in the fire, but what an honour it would be to compile this celebratory dossier on Dirk!

It’s one of the hardest jobs imaginable, to decide how any beloved artist’s work should be presented after their terminal taps at the keyboard, and thank the universe that there’s such a loving and furiously protective network surrounding Adams’ reputation, so only the most worthwhile projects can carry his name. But then, as he was the author of the introduction to PG Wodehouse’s posthumous, unfinished novel Sunset at Blandings (which Plum wouldn’t even have named that), it would be hypocritical to deny Douglas a similar tribute, if the rarities he left behind are of sufficient quality. I’m hoping to discuss some of this with a live audience at this year’s Chortle Book Fest – perhaps in the company of Dirk Maggs, who has similarly laboured with the question of What Douglas Would Have Wanted. Adams’ fans are so passionate, we all have the right to debate these issues openly. If Chortle can’t accommodate, perhaps we’ll find some other route.

So there may be a very eye-opening hour on the Adams archive coming up (right now the paperback publicity runs to a chat above a chippy in Ludlow – such is publishing), and there MAY even be the possibility of a new book. If any of the above ideas do come to fruition, you’ll probably hear about it here first, but for now, I hope any Adams admirers who have yet to take the intergalactic journey that is The Frood will get to experience it for themselves in paperback, and see for themselves just how much gold the great man left behind for us to enjoy.

TV Doug & 42 Wall

Pic ©Kevin J Davies, I believe…

PS This is my first blog since the great political disaster of May 2015, and in today’s Britain, we need Douglas Adams’ utopian – or rather, anti-dystopian – philosophy more than ever before:

‘It’s very important that we give ourselves optimistic views of the future. If we allow ourselves to be hypnotised by the view of the future where the whole world will look like a sort of rusty version of LA, then that’s what we’ll get. But on the other hand, if we see the technologies coming along at the moment… in the best possible way, then we’re more likely to get something great coming out of it. The models we have in our mind are very important… The future is invented by those who are excited about it, and it has never been as inventable as it is now.’

I sincerely hope that tomorrow, victory is announced for Jeremy Corbyn, and politics can begin to turn the corner, and advance into the 21st century. Either way, I’m equally proud to have joined the Women’s Equality Party. Be positive. Have hope. Stay Froody.

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