Neil Gaiman's third book was a history of the Hitchhikers Guide the Galaxy called Don't Panic, which Adams described as "devastatingly true – except the bits that are lies."
In 2005, after Adams' untimely death, Gaiman wrote an introduction for MJ Simpson's Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams, a lovely remembrance of his friend and colleague, who featured so prominently in Gaiman's own career. Motherboard has just reprinted the introduction, it remains powerful and warm, even a decade after its initial publication.
Douglas was unique. Which is true of all of us, of course, but it's also true that people come in types and patterns, and there was only one Douglas Adams. No one else I've ever encountered could elevate Not Writing to an art form. No one else has seemed capable of being so cheerfully profoundly miserable. No one else has had that easy smile and crooked nose, nor the faint aura of embarrassment that seemed like a protective force field.
After he died, I was interviewed a lot, asked about Douglas. I said that I didn't think that he had ever been a novelist, not really, despite having been an internationally bestselling novelist who had written several books which are, a quarter of a century later, becoming seen as classics. Writing novels was a profession he had backed into, or stumbled over, or sat down on very suddenly and broken.
I think that perhaps what Douglas was was probably something we don't even have a word for yet. A Futurologist, or an Explainer, or something. That one day they'll realize that the most important job out there is for someone who can explain the world to itself in ways that the world won't forget; who can dramatize the plight of endangered species as easily (or at least, as astonishingly well, for nothing Douglas did was ever exactly easy) as he can explain to an analog race what it means to find yourself going digital. Someone whose dreams and ideas, practical or impractical, are always the size of a planet, and who isgoing to keep going forward, and taking the rest of us with him.
Neil Gaiman Remembers Douglas Adams
(Image: Douglas Adams portrait, Michael Hughes, CC-BY-SA)