Douglas Noel Adams was a British comedy author whose satire and surreal works are often compared to the television quartet Monty Python. His father, Christopher Douglas, was a management consultant, and his mother, Janet, was a nurse. It was while, at age nineteen, hitchhiking and reading a copy of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Europe, that Adams thought that somebody should write the same book on a galactic scale. He filed this memory away, not then thinking anything else about it.
After graduating from Cambridge in 1974 (where he was a member of the comedy troupe Footlights), Adams became a freelance comedy writer for BBC Radio as well as performing odd jobs to make ends meet. Eventually he was given a full-time job both writing for BBC Radio and as a script editor and writer for the long-running television show Doctor Who. Remembering his idea of hitchhiking throughout space, Adams proposed a pilot series called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. BBC Radio executives agreed, and in 1978 Adams wrote a twelve-part series.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy involved a middle-of-the-road English gentleman named Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect, who Dent learns is an alien right before the earth is destroyed to make way for an interstellar highway. Dent is a writer for the encyclopedia “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” a galactic guide to everything that is of interest throughout the known universe (including a creature called a Babel fish that is used to translate alien languages and the uses of a common beach towel). Absurd beyond belief, Adams’s radio series was a hit, and soon he was asked to turn it into a book. He did so in 1979, to critical acclaim. It later became a television series as well.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Life, the Universe, and Everything, the second and third books in the series, solidified Adams’s reputation on both sides of the Atlantic as a science-fiction comedy writer whose flare for pointing out the problems of everyday life was timely and impeccable. Now a full-time writer, Adams soon found himself speaking at science-fiction conventions and college campuses, much to his own bewilderment. His opinion of Hollywood, where Adams lived in 1984 trying to write a “Hitchhiker” film script, was even worse. The work was droning, the film was never made, and Adams returned to England...
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Douglas Noel Adams was born in 1952 in Cambridge, England, where he spent much of his early life and his years of education. Adams’s signature trait was unpredictability. He was master of the unexpected—when his life story trudged toward the usual university chapter, Adams set off on a hitchhiking trip through Europe that stimulated one of his most innovative ideas: a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy.
The years at Cambridge University for Adams were centered not so much on studying English as on Footlights, the undergraduate comedy society that he shared with his lifelong comedic hero John Cleese, a member of the Monty Python comedy troupe. Like many Footlighters, Adams attained fame in the comedy world, contributing to episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the science-fiction series Dr. Who. He was inspired by such popular icons as his literary favorites P. G. Wodehouse and Kurt Vonnegut and was influenced even more by the Beatles.
Adams’s career took off with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979). The popular series started out as a radio program for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that aired from 1978 through 1980; he adapted the program as a book in 1979 and a television series in 1981, and it later was used as the basis of an animated film, a computer game, and a feature-length film. He extended the Hitchhiker’s series with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe...
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Douglas Adams’s innovative narrative and inimitably warm humor earned him a place among the best-loved British authors. His science fiction may lack the usual rapid-fire action plot, but his novels are filled with creative descriptions, witty wordplay, and charming characters.