42

By Douglas Adams, edited by Kevin Jon Davies

The wildly improbable ideas of Douglas Adams

Autobiography | Humour
231% funded
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Writing in progress

Publication date: TBC

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The Collector’s Edition features a special French fold dust jacket printed on both sides that folds out into a poster. Signed by Kevin Jon Davies.

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The Collector’s Edition featuring a special French fold dust jacket printed on both sides that folds out into a poster. Signed by Kevin Jon Davies.

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  • Your name printed in the book as a supporter
  • Two A5 notebooks
  • Four postcards
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A book for all fans of Douglas Adams offering a unique insight into his life and work.

After his death in 2001, Douglas Adams's papers were loaned to his old Cambridge college, St John's – over 60 boxes full of notebooks, research, letters, scripts, jokes, speeches, to-do lists, hard drives and even poems.

The book will reproduce in facsimile form extracts from the archive with explanatory text and footnotes to add context. Developed in close association with Adams’s family and literary estate, 42 will be a full-colour, large-format hardback that follows his career from early collaborations with Graham Chapman to his work on Doctor Who, through the Hitchhiker years, Dirk Gently, his groundbreaking non-fiction book Last Chance to See and his later digital work. Alongside this are details of projects that never came to fruition like a proposed theme park ride and a TV series provisionally entitled The Secret Empire.

Just Imagine . . .

'I think Douglas was something that we don’t have a word for yet – a futurologist or an explainer. One day we will realise that the most important job out there is someone that can explain the world to itself in ways the world won’t forget.' Neil Gaiman

As his fans already know, Adams was as much a thinker as he was a writer and one of the reasons for creating this book is to properly explore this aspect of his life. The combination of his deep fascination with technology and his unique imagination meant that he had an uncanny knack for predicting the future direction of the digital world. As far back as 1995, he suggested that computers needed to stop being giant hulks of metal and disappear into the things around us to make them smarter. He also had an extraordinary ability to tackle complicated ideas and explain them in entertaining and memorable ways.

The following is from one of the speeches he gave later in his life. Bear in mind that when he wrote this, the iPhone, the Kindle, Twitter, Facebook and many other things we take for granted didn't exist.

'Imagine if every piece of information we ever generated about the world that passed through a computer, whether it's...

a restaurant typing up its menu for the evening, whether it's

a shop maintaining its stock list, whether it's

 a car noticing what speed it's going, how much petrol it's got left and where the nearest service stations are, and what prices they are charging, whether it's

someone measuring the wingspan of an African swallow, whether it's

someone writing down where and when their grandmother was born, whether it's someone taking a digital photo from the top of the Great Pyramid,

or just of a flower that has bloomed early this year,

Or late, or the settings on your thermostat when it's turned on or off,

Or if every time you took your child's temperature the network remembered.

Imagine all of that gradually creating a shared software model of the world. Just imagine.'

Letters to Douglas

The book will be published in 2022, the year that Adams would have turned 70 years old. A number of his friends and fans are contributing letters to Douglas written for this occasion that will appear in the book. They include Sanjeev Bhaskar, Margo Buchanan, Mark Carwardine, Prof Brian Cox and Robin Ince (The Infinite Monkey Cage), Arvind Ethan David, Sue Freestone, Stephen Fry, Neil Gaiman, Simon Jones, John Lloyd, Michael Nesmith, Dirk Maggs, Caitlin Moran and Robbie Stamp.

The Book

The book will be edited by Kevin Jon Davies, who first met Adams in 1978, knew him for 20 years, and has subsequently worked on a number of Hitchhiker-related projects.

It will be 320 pages long and A4 format (210mm by 297mm). For the standard hardback edition the cover will be printed directly onto the cover boards. The collector's edition features an additional wraparound French fold dust jacket printed on both sides that folds out into a poster.

A Note from Douglas's family

‘What Douglas loved more than a good idea was sharing a good idea, and whether it was the 1st or 100th time you had heard it, his obvious delight never diminished. It's a pleasure to share that delight with you in this book. We hope you enjoy it.’

About Kevin Jon Davies

Kevin Jon Davies grew up enthralled with Doctor Who and The Goon Show. The Hitchhiker’s Guide radio series in 1978 combined the best of both, so the young art student sought out its little-known author Douglas Adams, recording an early fanzine interview. Following a career in film and tv, he went on to direct The Making of Hitchhiker, the 1993 documentary for BBC Video. Adams then invited Davies to art-direct The Illustrated Hitchhiker, a large-format book with pioneering digital composites. Since then he has contributed to a number of Adams-related projects, including as researcher into Adams’ archives for The Hexagonal Phase (2018); the final radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Footnotes:
  • The archive images used on this page are by permission of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge.With thanks to Kathryn McKee and Adam Crothers at the Special Collections library.
  • The front cover and the overall design of the book are preliminary and may change as the project develops.
  • With thanks to Stephen Fry.
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  • 21st May 2021 A towel has an immense psychological value.

    Hello everyone,

    A little announcement!

    Save the Rhino have teamed up with Stand Up for Towel Day and on Tuesday, May 25th they're hosting a spectacular and raucous line up of fun and merriment to celebrate Towel Day and all things Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

    Highlights include:

    • Performance on The Meaning of Liff from John Lloyd (QI, Blackadder)
    • Panel with Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker…

    19th April 2021 Letters to Douglas...

    You may have seen that some amazing people have agreed to write letters to Douglas that we will include in the book. We didn’t have space on the campaign page to properly explain how everyone fits into Douglas’s story so we thought it might be interesting to share with you a few more details …

    Sanjeev Bhaskar is a comedian and actor who starred in the series The Kumars at No. 42 and championed…

    15th April 2021 Notes from a Dark Ride . . .

    From Kevin Jon Davies..

    This is a typical example of Douglas' dot matrix-printed work from the mid-80s, but for an obscure project. He'd met with Ian Hanson, former sculptor, then Head of Studios at the Tussaud's Group. Famous for their waxworks, they were developing a new space-themed 'dark ride' at their Chessington World of Adventures theme park, just outside London in the Surry countryside…

    8th April 2021 Vogon poetry is of course, the third worst in the universe.

    Something from the archive (again).

    Here is an extract from a twelve volume epic poem Zen and the Art of Going to the Lavatory, written by Grunthos the Flatulent, the postmaster of the Azgoths of Kria (the second worst poets in the universe). It appeared in the TV series of Hitchhiker's.

    During a reading of another of Grunthos's poems, 'Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit…

    7th April 2021 Space is big.

    Something from the archive...

    Here is the script for the first episode of the "Hitch-Hiker's" radio series.

    Geoffrey Perkins was the producer of the first two radio series. He later become the BBC's Head of Comedy helping to produce an extraordinary array of great TV shows including Drop the Dead Donkey, Spitting Image, the Harry Enfield programmes, The Fast Show, The Catherine Tate Show…

    24th March 2021 What really is the point of trying to teach anything to anybody?

    Dear all,

    We thought you would like to be made aware of an argument related to the book that is currently raging* in the UK press. A page from the archive that we sent out when announcing the launch of the book included Douglas complaining about being fed up with writing and referring to Arthur Dent as a burk. His peevishness doesn’t last long as you can read on the image below, but it is the spelling…

    23rd March 2021 The Story So Far

    Dear all,

    Just to say a big thank you for everyone who has pledged for the book and helped it reach its target so quickly. We will be posting regular updates to let you all know how the book is progressing and also share with you what we discover along the way.

    One of the most curious artefacts in the archive is this little model of Babel Fish. It was spotted by Kevin Jon Davies. I will leave…

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  • Victor Roest
    Victor Roest asked:

    Is there a difference from buying the book here on unbounds vs on the kickstarter?

    Unbound
    Unbound replied:

    Hi Victor, There's no difference, the rewards are the same on both platforms. Kickstarter will only be open for orders for 30 days, whereas Unbound will be taking pre-orders beyond the Kickstarter deadline. I hope this helps. Unbound Support.