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May 12, 2001

sad news

Douglas Adams is dead, of a heart attack. Still looking around online for more details, I'm sure obits and tributes will pour in over the next few days. I'm sure the the official site will be swamped for a while.

I'm stunned.

I didn't know Mr. Adams personally, but I know people who do and like him a whole lot. And I met him once at a reading/signing thing years ago when he was promoting Last Chance To See (a wonderful book). He was funny and kind and seemed really cool. From all accounts, he was.

Of course The Hitchhikers Guide books were a Big Deal to me, as was the infocom game and the radio series and the tv series and so on. In a way, I think of Adams of being the guy who led a lot of folks of my generation to science fiction. Especially to the written stuff, to the funny stuff.

I'm sure my first .sig files were Adams quotes.

So today I'm heading back to Marscon and I suppose it's kinda comforting to know I'll be at a con where everyone knows who Adams is. And will likely be as stunned and saddened as I am. I wish I knew where my "Don't Panic" t-shirt is, the one with the big green Hitchhiker's guy on it and the friendly letters.

But I think maybe I'll take a towel with me today:

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-t0-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you-- daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit, etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might accidently have "lost." What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle agains tterrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in "Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There's a frood who really knows where his towel is." (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)

- Douglas Adams, from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Posted by Laurel Krahn at 12:05 AM

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