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Biography: Douglas Adams



“When it comes down to it, my principle is this—Arthur should be British. The rest of the cast should be decided purely on merit and not on nationality.”

Douglas Adams was known and loved around the world for his hilarious and wildly successful Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy.

Biography

Douglas Noël Adams was born on the 11th of March 1952 in Cambridge, England. Adams’s parents divorced when he was five, and he and his mother and sister moved to Brentwood, Essex.

Adams attended Brentwood School both as a preparatory and a high school. He was initially more interested in the field of science than the arts, but as he grew up became more interested in writing, specialising in the arts in his sixth form. During this time, Adams had some of his writing published in the school paper, the school magazine, and national boys magazine The Eagle.

In 1971, Adams was awarded a place at St John’s College in Cambridge, reading English. Before he studied at Cambridge, Adams decided to hitchhike around Europe and Istanbul, an activity he repeated during the years he was studying. To fund his trips he worked a variety of jobs, such as chicken shed cleaner, barn builder, and hospital porter. His hitchhiking experiences formed the inspiration for his best known work, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy. During his time at Cambridge he was involved with both the Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society and Footlights, and even formed his own revue group called Adams-Smith-Adams, who put on a performance with great success. When Adams left Cambridge in 1974, he was determined to become a writer.

Adams had some early success with BBC television, and was befriended by Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. This lead to Adams contributing to a couple of Monty Python episodes and some radio shows. He had difficulty selling enough stories to make an income, and supplemented it with odd jobs, including being a bodyguard for a rich Arabian family. In 1977, Adams met Simon Brett, with whom he decided to make a science fiction comedy for radio. This was the beginning of Adams’s employment with the BBC, and the beginning of his success as a writer.

Adams had a variety of passionate interests. He was very involved with technological pursuits; creating an interactive The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy fiction, several computer games, and writing and presenting a documentary called Hyperland. Adams was also very active within the environmental movement, particularly with reference to endangered species, and was a committed, “radical” atheist who expressed vehement views on the subject and had his own theories.

In 1991, Adams married Jane Belson, and they had a daughter, Polly, in 1994. They lived in Islington in London until 1999, when the family moved to Santa Barbara, California.

Adams died on the 11th of May 2001, suffering a massive heart attack at the gym. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery in London.

Adams listed Kurt Vonnegut as one of his influences.

Bibliography

Fiction

Hitchhiker’s Guide

Dirk Gently

  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
  • The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988)
  • The Salmon of Doubt (incomplete, 2002)

Compilations, Non-Fiction, Humour (books)

  • The Meaning of Liff (1983, with John Lloyd)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts, with Geoffrey Perkins (1985)
  • The Utterly Utterly Merry Comic Relief Christmas Book, edited by Douglas Adams and Peter Fincham (1986)
  • The Deeper Meaning of Liff, with John Lloyd (1990)
  • Last Chance to See, with Mark Carwardine (1990)
  • The Illustrated Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1994)
  • The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

Media other than books

  • Monty Python’s Flying Circus Episode 45, Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party (1972)
  • The Pirate Planet—a Doctor Who serial (1978)
  • City of Death—a Doctor Who serial, co-written with Graham Williams (1978)
  • Shada—a Doctor Who serial, originally intended to be broadcast in January/February 1980 (1992)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with Steve Meretzky (computer game) (1984)
  • Bureaucracy (computer game) (1987)
  • Hyperland (TV documentary) (1990)
  • Starship Titanic (computer game) (1998)
  • The Internet: The Last Battleground of the 20th century (radio series) (2000)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Future (radio series) (2001)

Genre

Douglas Adams is most famous for his Humour and, thanks to contributions to Dr Who and the famous Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy, Science fiction. However, he also wrote some Non-fiction.

References

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