Peter Wang, my webmaster, unwittingly, reminded me of Douglas Adams a few days back when he sent me an sms about the anniversary of his death.

I wrote this way back in 2006, so some of the examples may sound dated. I hoped to get it published somewhere. Alas, no editor ever picked it up, for reasons best known to the cosmos.

Now that I have my own website however … 🙂

Why do I heart Douglas Adams? For sure, there are other equally clever writers, but there was an innocent quality to his writing that spoke volumes to the idealist in me.

So, without further ado, I would like to dedicate this to the great Douglas Adams, who left for greater pastures somewhere in the galaxy out there ten years ago on 14 May.

Dear Douglas,

Somewhere in the galaxy, a Trillian fans must have simultaneously whooped with joy when word came out that your best-selling book was going to be turned into a movie. Not just an ordinary book, mind you, but one which is ” …more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty-Three More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid’s trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person anyway?”

Your novel about the adventures of an intergalactic hitchhiker, who is evicted from Earth when it has to make way for a hyperspace expressway, was a legacy bequeathed to me by my hippie then-boyfriend. It was his one and only volume, which – to my everlasting shame – i initially regarded with mild curiosity, then banished to alongside my secret stash of trashy bodice-rippers. Little did I realise that I was holding the landmark work of one of the finest sci-fi humorists that ever walked this earth.

When I rescued the yellowing tome out of exile last year, I quickly made up for lost time. I gobbled up the next four volumes in the Hitchhiker series, “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe”, “Life, the Universe and Everything”, “So long, and thanks for all the fish” and “Mostly Harmless”. After a great deal of hemming and hawing, I finally plonked my moolah on “The Salmon of Doubt”.

It was vintage Adams, oh joy! Except for the pedestrian blurb on the dustjacket, that is – it trumpeted: “Culled from Adams’ fleet of beloved Macintosh computers, this selection of essays, articles, anecdotes and stories offers a fascinating and intimate portrait of the multifaceted artist – as a devout Beatles and Bach fan, radical atheist, enthusiastic technophile, crusading conversationist, and of course delightful wordsmith.” I shelled out a whopping RM55.90 for the book, the most i’d ever paid for a book, although i was uncomfortably aware that it was a shameless marketing ploy to milk the proverbial cow for all its worth.

The blatant boot-licking would have made you turn in your grave.

Oops, that last detail kind of slipped out accidentally. I didn’t plan on revealing so early on, your unexpected demise in 2001 at the young age of 49, because it makes the writing a little harder going forward, knowing that you’re no longer around.

As you might have guessed by now, i’m a fan of yours.

Just what did you do that made you so unforgettable?

For starters, you made science accessible by giving it a human face. You evoked our sympathy for even the most inanimate objects by humanising them. Nothing is merely scenery, or padding in your novel, even furniture. Reading H2G2 was a throwback to childhood, when, tucked under bedcovers at night, we would fantasise about our toys coming to life. You made it happen – only in your chosen medium of books and short stories instead of our imagination.

A less knowlegdeable reader would have all too easily missed the sharp satire and social criticism beneath the off-the-wall humour. In H2G2, you poked fun at your countrymen’s obsession with tea, made a dig at the Republican political system via the zany three-headed President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox, and made mincemeat out of the municipal road transport council. You elevated goofy humour into an subtle art form.

If you were still around (bless your cosmic soul), your inquiring mind would have been delighted by the technological strides we’ve made in four years. All self-respecting mobile phones come standard with cameras now. PCs are shipping with 30GB hard disk space minimum. Oh and the latest news to rock the IT world, Apple will be running on Intel processors effective 2006. You would have felt like a kid in a candy store, or in your case, a nerd in wired nirvana.

Personally, you showed me how to do marvellous things with the English Language. You coined words and employed vivid metaphors and analogies which made experiences come alive, without resorting to big words and fancy devices. For instance, your account of a mattress’s dismayed reaction as it listened to the rantings of an anal retentive robot in H2G2: “The mattress flurred and glurried. It flolloped, gupped and willomied, doing this last in a particularly floopy way.” When you described your underwater jet ski ride in Australia (Riding the Rays, Salmon of Doubt), I could imagine myself enjoying “the long, slow, balletic curves it let you make through the water.”

Thanks for the ride, Douglas. Without you, mucking around in this mostly harmless planet wouldn’t be nearly this fun.

Yours froodily,
Alexandra Wong

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