Douglas Adams

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Douglas Adams, photography by Michael Hughes

Douglas Noël Adams (born March 11, 1952 in Cambridge , † May 11, 2001 in Santa Barbara , California ) was a British writer . He was best known for the satirical science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy .


Douglas Adams' signature from 1995

Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge to Janet (1927–2016) and Christopher Douglas Adams (1927–1985) . After his parents divorced, his mother moved to Brentwood , Essex with five-year-old Douglas Adams . There he grew up with his younger sister Sue. In 1964 his mother married a second time. From this marriage came the younger half-siblings Jane and James.

From 1959 Adams attended the Brentwood School, where he was primarily interested in the natural sciences . It was then that he began to work as a writer, and his texts met with great approval from the teaching staff and won a literary competition. His first published text was a comical short story about a man who lost his memory on the London Underground and asked about it at the lost property office. This text was published in a science fiction magazine for teenagers.

He later studied English at Cambridge as a member of St John's College , where he joined a small comedian group called CULES .

There he met John Lloyd , with whom he later shared an apartment. During his studies he worked as a temporary worker to finance his extensive hitchhiking trips through Europe. It was on one of these trips that the idea for his most famous work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy arose . The idea came to him when, as he described to the BBC , after a visit to a pub in Innsbruck, he was drunk in a field and looked at the stars. He himself described this event as follows:

“The idea for the title first cropped up, while I was lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1971. Not particularly drunk, just the sort of drunk you get when you have a couple of stiff Gössers after not having eaten for two days straight. "

“The idea for the title came to me in 1971 when I was lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck. Not really drunk, just as drunk as after a couple of strong drinks when you haven't eaten for two days. "

While at college, Adams worked in another college comedian group called Footlights (which was also the focal point for the Monty Python comedian group about a decade earlier ), where he met Simon Jones , with whom he later worked. In 1974 Adams left college resolved to become a writer.

At first he was only moderately successful. Among other things, he worked with Graham Chapman from Monty Python. In episode 42 of " Monty Python's Flying Circus " he appeared in a supporting role, on the last episode, Party Political Broadcast on Behavior of the Liberal Party, he worked as a writer.

Douglas Adams grave

His breakthrough came in 1977 when he signed a contract with Simon Brett to broadcast a science fiction radio show. The show was called " The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy " and was played for the first time in 1978 on the British radio station BBC Radio 4 . The series was published between 1979 and 1982, initially as a trilogy in book form, in greatly modified and expanded form; a major change is the removal of all portions of radio broadcasts five and six co-written with John Lloyd. The content of the original radio play can mainly be found in the first volume. The books became bestsellers. In 1984 a fourth (German “ Do it well, and thanks for the fish ”) followed, in 1992 a fifth (“Mostly harmless”, German “ Once Rupert and back ”) with the subtitle “Fifth volume of a four-part trilogy”.

Adams married Jane Belson in 1991 and their daughter Polly Jane was born in 1994. The family initially lived in London , but in 1999 Adams and his family moved to California , primarily so that he could support the film adaptation of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" for the cinema.

Adams died on May 11, 2001 of a heart attack in a gym. His grave is in Highgate Cemetery , London.

In his memory, the so-called Towel Day takes place annually on May 25th .


Adams' stories, most notably The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy , are characterized by their sarcastic , satirical style. His novels mostly take place in absurd, strange worlds, which, however, hardly differ from the real world in many ways (e.g. bureaucracy, envious societies, economic systems). Adams always depicted utopian and often supernatural processes in connection with banalities and everyday occurrences. Many elements of the style typical for Adams can be found in other authors, e. B. in the Discworld saga (orig. English Discworld ) by the British author Terry Pratchett . When asked about his role models, Adams said in an interview:

Tom Stoppard . Otherwise, Tolstoy I love. Solzhenitsyn . Kurt Vonnegut , who I think is absolutely superb. I've read The Sirens of Titan six times now, and it gets better every time. He is an influence, I must own up. Sirens of Titan is just one of those books - you read it through the first time and you think it's very loosely, casually written. You think the fact that everything suddenly makes such good sense at the end is almost accidental. And then you read it a few more times, simultaneously finding out more about writing yourself, and you realize what an absolute tour de force it was, making something as beautifully honed as that appear so casual. "

“Tom Stoppard, otherwise I also love Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn. Kurt Vonnegut is absolutely outstanding, I think. I've read Titan's Sirens six times now, and it's getting better and better. It influences me, I have to admit that. The Sirens of Titan is one of those books that when you first read it you think it's very loose, written almost casually. You think the fact that everything suddenly makes sense in the end is more of an oversight. And then you read it more often and at the same time find out more about your own writing and realize what an absolute masterpiece it was to make something that appears as beautiful as it is polished and at the same time so casual. "


The Doctor Who series

Before the Hitchhiker series, Douglas Adams worked as a screenwriter for the BBC and wrote three adventures (14 episodes) for the Doctor Who series :

  • The Pirate Planet (4 episodes)
  • City of Death (4 episodes)
  • Shada (6 episodes): Shada was never completed in the original version due to a strike at the BBC. Instead, a compilation of the filmed material published directly on video cassette was released in 1992. An animated film followed in 2003 with a script adapted to the continuity of the series. An adaptation of the script as a novel was written by Gareth Roberts and published in March 2012. A German publication took place in December 2014. Only in November 2017, after 38 years, was the originally planned version completed by Charles Norton. Missing parts were supplemented by animations, the corresponding parts were dubbed by the original actors. Elements from the original 1979 script were also incorporated into Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency .

Douglas Adams also wrote a draft for an episode of Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen , which later formed the basis for the third hitchhiker novel Life, the Universe and All the Rest .

The books of the Hitchhiker series

The Anhalter is referred to as "the only four-volume trilogy in five parts", since the first three volumes, which roughly correspond to the two original radio play series, achieve a certain inner unity as a trilogy, the fourth volume can be seen as a completion and the fifth as a conclusion .

The hitchhiker's series also includes the short story The young Zaphod plays it safe (1986; Young Zaphod Plays It Safe ), the story is available in two slightly different versions and is in different anthologies, including the legacy volume Lachs im Zweifel (Heyne 2003 , ISBN 3-453-86864-1 ) and as an audio book ( ISBN 3-89940-611-7 ).

More work

  • 1974: After John Cleese left , Douglas Adams worked on the scripts for the final episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus .
  • 1978: Doctor Snuggles , an English animated series to which Adams contributed two episodes.
  • 1983: Der Sinn des Labenz (with John Lloyd; original title The Meaning of Liff )
  • 1985: The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts (with Geoffrey Perkins)
  • 1986: The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book (edited by Douglas Adams)
  • 1990: Der deeper Sinn des Labenz (with John Lloyd; expanded version of Der Sinn des Labenz ; original title The Deeper Meaning of Liff )
  • 1990: The last of their kind (with Mark Carwardine , original title Last Chance to See ) is the report on a round trip to endangered animal species. A non-fictional work with less financial success, but for Adams the most satisfying of his work due to the subject matter . Also on an audio CD: Douglas Adams reads from his travel book, reading in Göttingen 1994, ISBN 3-8077-0290-3
  • 1990: Hyperland , a fictional documentary on hypertext and related techniques that Adams wrote and directed. The film is considered to be an approximation of today's World Wide Web .
  • 1997: Starship Titanic , computer game of the adventure genre. The German version of Raumschiff Titanic was released in 1999.
  • 1997: Douglas Adams' spaceship Titanic , the computer game book (written by Terry Jones , as Adams was busy developing the game).
  • 2003: The estate volume Lachs im Zweifel (original title The Salmon of Doubt ), published after his unexpected death, contains interviews with Adams, various short stories as well as the first eleven chapters of a planned continuation of the Dirk Gently series from the estate found on his various computers.
  • 2014: The volume created from the paper estate, The Frood: The Authorized and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, compiled by Jem Roberts.


In 1984 Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky from Infocom created the text adventure " The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy " based on the book . Later he took part in another Infocom adventure called " Bureaucracy ".

Together with his company The Digital Village , he created the adventure Starship Titanic and the website h2g2 in 1999 , which in a sense represents the hitchhiker 's project , in which everyone can publish their articles about Life , the Universe and Everything .

In 2004 and 2005, BBC Radio 4 produced volumes 3-5 of the Anhalter series as a radio play sequel to the original radio plays The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy under the titles Tertiary Phase , Quandary Phase and Quintessential Phase .

The movie , which was launched in 2005, has been criticized by some fans for the fact that it initially sticks to the literary model, but later increasingly falls into slapstick, and because it contains scenes and incidents that are neither contained in the radio play nor in the novel. The latter, however, also applies to the books, the plot of which does not exactly correspond to the original, the radio play. The entire work of Douglas Adams contains such passages, since he implemented his works in various media forms (radio, television, record, computer, cinema); mostly he himself was the author of these deviations.


Towel Day 2005 in Innsbruck, Austria, where Adams first came up with the idea for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy .

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is his most important work. The sarcastic science fiction satire made Adams world famous, and many of its quirks have made the leap through literature and science fiction into the real world:

  • An asteroid discovered on February 7, 1998 (# 18610) was named after Arthur Dent, the protagonist of the hitchhiker's book. Arthurdent is 2.39 AU from the Sun. Douglas Adams died two days after the official naming.
The Macintosh SE 30 from Douglas Adams
  • Adams' ingenious supercomputer Deep Thought , which is supposed to answer the last question about life, the universe and the rest, served as the namesake for the chess computer of the same name , which defeated master players like Igor Ivanov in 1988 . Adams' computer inspired IBM to name their world-famous chess computer Deep Blue - a synthesis of Big Blue , as IBM is also known, and Deep Thought . Finally, the name Deep Thought itself is an allusion to the classic pornography Deep Throat , which sparked great debates around the time the novel was written.
  • Adams' Babelfisch is the namesake for the translation software Babel Fish for the search engines AltaVista and Yahoo . In Adams' novel, the Babelfish is a creature that, when put in your ear, translates any foreign language.
  • The number 42 is represented in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as the final answer to the last of all questions. References to it can be found today in numerous songs of various genres as well as in newspaper articles and essays. Among other things, the British pop group Level 42 named itself after it.
  • The Sub-Etha communication network, which is mentioned several times in The Hitchhiker , gave its name to the first collaborative text editor SubEthaEdit .
  • The instant messaging program Trillian was named after the fictional character Tricia McMillan (Trillian) from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy . The release of version 4.2 of the software, which is also available as a paid pro version, was withheld until May 25, 2010 ( towel day 2010 ).
  • The company SuSE gave the first version of its central configuration management program ( YaST ) the number 0.42 and the first version of Suse Linux the number 4.2. When installing Suse Linux 7.2, an obituary for Douglas Adams appears on a hidden console, and version 10.1 of May 11, 2006 (5th anniversary of his death) is dedicated to him.
  • Wolfram Alpha , the calculator function from Google and the voice control Siri deliver the result 42 on request from answer to life, the universe and everything .
  • In the logical programming language Prolog , questions can be asked of a system of facts and rules. If you enter a single free variable X (which corresponds to the question of general truth), the program answers as follows:
"%… 1,000,000 ………… 10,000,000 years later"
"% >> 42 << (last release gives the question)"
  • When a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launched for the first time, a Tesla Roadster was used as a test payload , with the words DON'T PANIC! On its central screen . are displayed. This is a nod to the cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy which shows the same words. In the glove compartment of the vehicle was a copy of the book and a towel, also an item from the novel.

Adams about himself

Adams expressed his disappointment in numerous interviews that he was only seen in the public eye as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and that the rest of his work went largely unnoticed.

In particular, Adams highlighted The Last of Their Kinds, of which he was very proud. It is a documentary report about a journey to several extinct animal species in the world. Adams was convinced that if he had had another choice, he would have become a zoologist instead of a writer. A special role model for him was the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins ; Adams has described himself as a "Dawkinsist" several times. He was also a staunch atheist , he even called himself a "radical atheist" to deliberately differentiate himself from agnosticism .

Dawkins' 2006 book Der Gotteswahn is dedicated to Adam. The book begins with a quote from Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy :

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that fairies live in it?"



Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Dirk Gently
  • 1 Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
    • English: The electric monk. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz. Rogner & Bernhard at Zweiausendeins, 1988, ISBN 3-8077-0226-1 . Also as: Dirk Gently's holistic detective agency. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz. Ullstein, 1990, ISBN 3-548-22231-5 .
    • Audiobook: The Electric Monk. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz. Der Hörverlag (The Dirk Gently Series # 1), Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-8445-1894-8 .
    • Comic: Dirk Gently's holistic detects: Schrödinger's cat killer. Text by Chris Ryall. Drawings by Tony Akins (part 1–2) & Ilias Kyriazis (part 3–5). Translated by Claudia Kern. Panini Verlags GmbH, Stuttgart 2017, ISBN 978-3-7416-0444-7 .
  • 2 The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988)
    • English: The long, dark five o'clock tea of ​​the soul. Rogner & Bernhard at two thousand and one, 1989, ISBN 3-8077-0230-X .
  • 3 The Salmon of Doubt (2002, in: The Salmon of Doubt )
    • German: Salmon in doubt. In: Salmon in Doubt: Hitchhiking the Galaxy for the Last Time. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz. Rogner & Bernhard at Two Thousand One, 2003, ISBN 3-8077-0129-X .
    • Audiobook: salmon in doubt. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz. Der Hörverlag (The Dirk Gently Series # 3), Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-8445-1104-8 .
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (collective edition of 1 and 2; 1993; also: The Dirk Gently Omnibus , 2001)
Doctor Who
  • with Gareth Roberts: Shada: The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams (2012: also as Shada , 2013)
    • English: Doctor Who: SHADA. Translated by Claudia Kern. Cross Cult (Doctor Who # 4), Ludwigsburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-86425-444-4 .
    • Audiobook: SHADA: The Lost Adventure. Audible, Berlin 2010, DNB 1121543243 .
  • City of Death (2015)
    • English: Doctor Who - the city of death. Based on a story by David Fisher. Translated by Claudia Kern. Cross Cult (Doctor Who # 8), Ludwigsburg 2015, ISBN 978-3-86425-793-3 .
    • Audiobook: The City of Death. Audible, Berlin 2010, DNB 1119374626 .
  • with James Goss: The Pirate Planet (2017)
    • English: Doctor Who: The Pirate Planet. Translated by Andrea Blendl. Cross Cult, Ludwigsburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-95981-180-4 .
    • Audiobook: The Pirate Planet. Audible, Berlin 2017, DNB 115363600X .
  • with James Goss: Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen (2018)
    • English: Doctor Who and the Krikkit Warriors. Translated by Axel Merz. Bastei Entertainment (Doctor Who Romane # 8), Cologne 2019, ISBN 978-3-7325-7196-3 .
    • Audiobook: Doctor Who and the Krikkit Warriors. Translated by Axel Merz. Bastei Lübbe AG (Doctor Who Romane # 8), Cologne 2019, ISBN 978-3-8387-9061-9 (abbreviated).
  • The Salmon of Doubt (2002)
    • English: Salmon in doubt: Hitchhiking the galaxy for the last time. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz. Heyne, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-453-86864-1 .
Short stories
  • The Private Life of Genghis Khan (1986, in: The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book )
  • with Peter Fincham: The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book (1986)
  • with John Lloyd: The Meaning of Liff (1983; also: The Deeper Meaning of Liff (rev & exp 1990) , 1990)
    • German: The deeper meaning of Labenz: the dictionary of previously unnamed objects and feelings. With illustrations by Bert Kitchen. Rogner and Bernhard at Two Thousand One, 1992, ISBN 3-8077-0262-8 .
  • with John Lloyd: The Deeper Meaning of Liff (1993)
    • German: The deeper sense of the Labenz: The dictionary of previously unnamed objects and feelings. With illustrations by Bert Kitchen. Translated by Sven Böttcher . Heyne books (general series # 9891), Munich 1996, ISBN 3-453-09982-6 .
  • with Mark Carwardine : Last Chance To See (1991)
    • German: The last of their kind: A journey to the dying animals of our earth. Translated by Sven Böttcher. Hoffmann and Campe, 1991, ISBN 3-455-08384-6 .
    • Audio book: The last of their kind: A journey to the dying animals of our earth. Reading with Stefan Kaminski. Translated by Sven Böttcher. Der Audio Verlag, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-7424-0200-4 (full reading, CD), 978-3-7424-0304-9 (abridged version, MP3 download).
more publishments
  • with Graham Chapman : A Liar's Autobiography
    • German: Autobiography of a Liar: With guest contributions by David Sherlock & Alex Martin and, oh, David Yallop and Douglas Adams (but is not his autobiography). With drawings by Jonathan Hills and a funeral speech by John Cleese and a little something at the end by Eric Idle . Translated by Harry Rowohlt. Haffmans & Tolkemitt, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-942989-11-4 .


Web links

Commons : Douglas Adams  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams
  2. BBC: the hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy - guide to the guide
  3. Ian Shiroce, Douglas Adams: The First and Last Tapes ( online )
  4. BBC - Doctor Who - Classic Series - Webcasts - Shada. Retrieved November 15, 2018 .
  5. Doctor Who: Adapting Douglas Adams . In: gamesradar . ( [accessed November 15, 2018]).
  6. Doctor Who: Shada - Cross Cult - Comics & Novels. Retrieved November 15, 2018 .
  7. BBC regenerates 'lost' Tom Baker Doctor Who story Shada . In: Radio Times . ( [accessed November 15, 2018]).
  8. Trillian 4.2: Release of Trillian 4.2
  9. Andreas Marx, Oliver Marx: Easter Egg in Linux SuSE 7.2. In: PC WORLD. June 20, 2001, archived from the original on April 2, 2010 ; accessed on January 8, 2016 .
  10. ^ Wolfram Alpha: answer to life, the universe and everything - Result: 42
  11. answer to life, the universe and everything = 42
  12. Hayley Tsukayama: iPhone's Siri shows off her sense of humor. Washington Post , October 12, 2011, accessed November 28, 2011 .
  13. Dagny Lüdemann: Abgewrackt in space. February 7, 2018, accessed February 12, 2018 .
  14. ^ Leonard David: Is the Tesla Roadster Flying on the Falcon Heavy's Maiden Flight Just Space Junk? In: , February 5, 2018.