Tag Archives: douglas adams

Like a Phoenix, H2G2.com will rise…

h2g2

Our old friend Robbie Stamp, erstwhile friend and business partner of Douglas Adams, has just completed a buy-back of H2G2.com from the BBC after it spent the best part of a decade in its care.

Robbie was part of the team that got the original platform off the ground with Douglas Adams’ ‘The Digital Village’ company back in the late 90s/early 2000s, but the dot com bust forced a certain rethink of their strategy and the site was sold to the Beeb, who looked after it until budget cuts last year forced them to cull it (along with a number of other sites). [Aside – my first UK-based ‘work’ experience was at TDV, a day spent beta testing Starship Titanic)

The community, alongside Robbie, has staged a buy-back and are working on moving the site back into its own space.

I’ve never been a massive user of H2G2.com but I love the concept – a kind of friendlier, less formal wikipedia -style community proving wisdom and insight on all things – and look forward to what Robbie and his team do to develop it beyond what the Beeb did with it. Robbie tells me that he’s getting vast amounts of volunteer support from the community to make it great, and I love that as well. I suspect Douglas Adams would have too.

It is interesting, given the Guide app I wrote about recently, to note that the rights issue around the ‘Earth Edition’ of the Hitchhiker’s Guide is far from clear cut, and H2G2 retain the rights to produce that. So what these iPad/iPhone app gaming people are doing may raise an eyebrow with the relevant copyright people when it comes out.

I hope to learn and write more about this venture, which I find fascinating, in due course – I only had a few minutes to chat with Robbie the other night and will hopefully catch up with him for insights soon.

Hitchhiker’s Guide iPhone and iPad app to launch

miek's hitchhiker's guide to the galaxyMost people who know me that even in the reams of sci-fi and fantasy I consume there are a few authors that have a special place in my heart. Douglas Adams is one of those; notwithstanding his personal history with my family – my brother co-adapted Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency years ago and I sat next to him at a performance of it in Oxford – Arthur Dent is perhaps the greatest sci-fi/fantasy semi-hero ever. He’s the British equivalent of Spider-man, trading witty banter for sarcastic whinges and web-slinging for tea. And powers for a dressing gown. Otherwise, the same.

I’m not sure how to feel about the news that an H2G2 app is coming. I have a feeling that 90% of the stuff you put into it will come out with some generic, smart-arsey, “we don’t have an article on that” response, because – after all – how could the app genuinely be about everything in the galaxy? And – if we’re being true to Douglas’ narrative – the entry for Earth as a whole – it’s people, history, plant-life, etc., – simply reads ‘Mostly harmless’ – then what use is it on this planet? It’s been a while since I saw a pan-galactic Gargle blaster on the menu at any unfashionable London bar. Certainly not one that uses real gold.

Anyway, it’s piqued my curiosity. I gather the people making it are true gaming experts, so might have successfully ‘gamified’ the guide… but I’ll believe it when I see it. Read more over on Wired.

H2G2 6: And another thing – sort of review

It was with some sadness that I finished reading the Eoin Colfer tribute to Douglas Adams ‘…and another thing’ – book six in the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s guide trilogy. Sad for a number of reasons…

Unnecessary sequel
This was not a story that needed telling, as Eoin himself was well aware. Douglas may have had a sixth novel planned but there was no obvious place to go – the last we saw of our heroes, they were on the verge of being dead and, well, unless you’re writing a Zombie thriller, a novel full of dead people isn’t massively compelling…. something which Eoin recognised but thought he’d have a go at anyway.

Too courageous
Eoin tried really, really hard to pay tribute to the best traditions of Douglas’ series. Really, I think this should have meant that he took more than eight months to write it and he should have torn it up several times in the course of its development. After all – Douglas’ love of deadlines is well documented (especially the sound of them whooshing past). Where Douglas’ books felt painstakingly iterated, moulded, cajoled, and sometimes brutally hammered into place, Eoin seems to write with the same, effortless grace with which he produced his Artermis Fowl books. For me, this meant it read like something completely different…

Too linear
The charm of Douglas – in many regards – was that his brain worked in ways that no-one else’s did. Eoin himself writes in the afterword to the edition I read that he specifically picked on “the obvious way” of getting our heroes out of the pickle Douglas left them in at the end of Mostly Harmless. Would Douglas have done that? Maybe. But somehow I think repeating a trick would have been on the far end of the probability spectrum for Douglas.

The wrong stars
The previous books were about Arthur. He was the character you could empathise with, he was the character whose muddle-headed, dressing-gowned, tea-drinking Englishness that made it real for the reader. This book? Features The Guide, Zaphod and Trillian as its main characters. How easy is it to empathise with the mega-egotistical president of the Universe? Not that easy, even for me. And the guide’s interruptions seemed more frequent and expansive than Douglas’ own diversions, amusing as they often are.

In short, this was a valiant effort, by Mr Colfer. But I really wish you hadn’t.

Postscript: I’d like to add that I am a big fan of Eoin Colfer. I own and have read every one of his books. I wanted to like this novel more than I did, and it wasn’t terrible by any means, despite my harshness above – I did get through it in a week! But touching on something as good (I want to say sacred but that seems ludicrously sanctimonious and Douglas would probably have hated that) as the H2G2 series was perhaps a challenge too far. Especially as Mostly Harmless itself was already something of an unnecessary extension, IMHO…

H2G2 continued

douglas adams

Douglas Adams was something of a hero of ours – I’ve always loved his books, and my brother (and his schoolmate James) even adapted one of them – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – into a play that still gets performed around the world.

So its with some trepidation that I’ve picked up his estate’s authorised sequel to the Hitchhiker’s guide series – ‘And another thing, part six of three’, (ironically not available on Kindle) by Irish children’s writer Eoin Colfer (famous for Artemis Fowl et al).

I’m working my way through it slowly and not too sure what to make of it yet; full thoughts to follow in the next week or two. I’m a fan of Eoin but I’m not sure this is a mantle I’d have wanted to take up. Unlike The Wheel of Time, people were mostly happy with the H2G2 canon – it didn’t need any further storytelling. But – I’m not done yet – so will reserve judgement.

One immediate thing that I’m not sure whether to like or not – Eoin quotes Tenacious D on the opening page of the book. Now, I love the D and Douglas probably would have thought they were OK… but it doesn’t feel right for the H2G2 books. Maybe for Zaphod, but Arthur? He’s more of a Radio 3 sort of guy. And this was never a series of books about Zaphod…