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Lost Douglas Adams draft found...
May 30, 2014 10:13 AM   Subscribe

Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide drafts to be published Writing that Douglas Adams cut from his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels is to be published for the first time after being found in his archive.
posted by dfm500 (58 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can think of 42 reasons why Adams probably wouldn't appreciate this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:17 AM on May 30 [16 favorites]


Oh, good. It'll be interesting to see what an alternate version of that story looks like.
posted by bondcliff at 10:18 AM on May 30 [12 favorites]


This sort of thing always gives me mixed feelings. On one hand, "yay, new DNA!". On the other, sometimes editing results in a much better work. All the more so when it's self-editing.
posted by tommasz at 10:19 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Cooooool! Awesome news.
posted by zarq at 10:25 AM on May 30


I think the Hitchhiker's Guide worked because Adams knew what he was about. If he put something on the cutting room floor, therefore, it's almost certainly better left there.
posted by Mooski at 10:25 AM on May 30 [9 favorites]


aww ... early drafts are so spelunkingly interesting. :)
posted by tilde at 10:25 AM on May 30


DO N'OT GET ALL PANICKY ABOUT THIS!.
posted by yoink at 10:30 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Some English Lit PhD candidate just got his/her wish.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:31 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


Can we, as a culture, stop skullfucking the rotting corpses of our more iconic SF and Fantasy writers? And slap some sort of restraining order on Brian Herbert while we're at it?
posted by signal at 10:32 AM on May 30 [21 favorites]


Yeah, I'm pretty much against this sort of thing. Sometimes, if it's an entirely new work they just never finished, *maybe*. But stuff they explicitly removed? What the hell.
posted by freebird at 10:37 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


It's all part of the process, which can be fascinating. Early manuscripts can be a huge boon for writers and fans. We get to see how works are created and observe choices made and paths not taken.

I could be wrong about this, but I suspect Adams would be the last person to want his work to remain static in the minds of his fans and followers.
posted by zarq at 10:42 AM on May 30 [6 favorites]


Generally I agree with the "he cut it, so there was probably a reason" crowd, but there's actually a lot in the last two (or three) books that I wish he had cut, so maybe this won't be so bad after all.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:43 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


This is a good thing. It takes nothing away from the work as finally published, and could give a lot of insight into how it took that final form. A writer could learn a lot from this.
posted by Longtime Listener at 10:45 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


Can we, as a culture, stop skullfucking the rotting corpses of our more iconic SF and Fantasy writers? And slap some sort of restraining order on Brian Herbert while we're at it?

Can we? Hmmmm, let me see.

Is there money to be made from said skullfucking? Yes/No.

If No: then sure, let's stop. It's clearly unseemly.

If Yes: I'm sorry, but why are you standing in the way of responsible scholarship?
posted by yoink at 10:46 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


And now that I RTFA, it is (primarily) an early draft of the third book, "Life, the Universe and Everything" which always seemed more like a Dr. Who script than a HGTTG book to me, probably because that's what he originally wrote the plot as.
posted by Curious Artificer at 10:46 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Can we, as a culture, stop skullfucking the rotting corpses of our more iconic SF and Fantasy writers?

At the risk of wild hyperbole, I think perhaps that's not quite what's happening here.
posted by clockzero at 10:46 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


Well, there isn't a literal connection, Dude.
posted by davidjmcgee at 10:51 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Also: DOUGLAS ADAMS FOUND ALIVE LIVING ON REMOTE PACIFIC ISLAND. 12 MORE HGTTG BOOKS READY TO BE PUBLISHED!
posted by blue_beetle at 10:54 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


You don't have to read it if you don't want to - I probably won't. On the other hand, the "you cannot do that, because it will Spoil The Sanctity Of The Work" approach that some estates have had towards anything remotely inventive that needs permission has always annoyed me intensely. Did the various post-DNA HHGTTG projects affect the original work? Never found it myself, even though I really didn't enjoy those of them I encountered. Creators who flog their original invention to death are common enough, after all.

And it's not as if the first radio series, the real pearl of the whole oyster farm, was the product of enormous amounts of editing. I recently re-listened to that and series 2, after a long break from being reasonably obsessive, and Series 1 stands apart. That was written and produced at break-neck speed, by people who didn't really know where things were going or, often, WTF was going on. Don't know how much of that would have changed if it had been intensively edited...

So - for those who want it, this is a good thing. For those who don't, move on. No harm, no foul.
posted by Devonian at 10:55 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


I'm sort of shocked that there was any editing done at all on the later books. I love the first two but the ones after that are mostly a mess.
posted by octothorpe at 10:59 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Now we get to find out what the Vogon poetry that didn't make the cut sounds like.
posted by phong3d at 11:02 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


As a writer (of much much smaller stature) myself, I find this sort of thing gross and essentially unholy, much as I feel about the images of dead people being put into advertisements for products they never lived to hear of.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:09 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


But nothing is grosser than what Brian Herbert has done to Frank Herbert.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:10 AM on May 30 [7 favorites]


I'm glad they'll just release the notes rather than let someone work from them as some sort of finished product. *Glares at Brian Herbert* I'll read them.
posted by charred husk at 11:21 AM on May 30


We're talking about a work of comedy here. Adams probably kept his drafts in order to have material for subsequent work.

It's the equivalent of scraping the floor with a razor to snort the coke that spilled over the last few weeks, because your supplier's gone.

But man, Douglas Adams's coke was the best.
posted by ocschwar at 11:26 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


But nothing is grosser than what Brian Herbert has done to Frank Herbert.

Is it worse than what L Frank Baum's idiot great-grandson Roger Baum did to Oz?

Hop on over to over to your local multiplex and soak in Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return if it will help you decide.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:29 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Adams tinkered with the main beats and set pieces of the story as it moved from the radio to the first novel to the LPs (that's where Disaster Area first shows up if memory serves) to the TV series to the third novel, and was reportedly threatening to rewrite the whole thing shortly before his death. I don't have a problem with publishing these drafts.

Eoin Colfer and Dirk Maggs can go stick their heads up pigs though.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:32 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


The existence of writing and media that I personally do not approve of for lofty moral reasons, despite being under no pressure whatsoever to read or watch, should not exist at all. If I do not personally think dead authors draft work should be read, then no one at all should be able to read them. Who do other people think they are? Don't they know that by reading his work, it causes the ambiguous and unclear concept of being disrespectful towardsthe dead, which directly frustrates me? And I dislike being frustrated.
posted by jjmoney at 11:35 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Hitchhiker's Guide has always felt more like a loosely defined, mutable story constellation than something with a definite, fixed, planned form. Having drafts available doesn't really do anything worse than make the boundary a little fuzzier.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:36 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


This seems like historical scholarship, like what Christopher Tolkien is doing with his father's unpublished and unfinished notes. It seems to be more about the artist than the art itself.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:37 AM on May 30


I'm sort of shocked that there was any editing done at all on the later books. I love the first two but the ones after that are mostly a mess.

He's talked a zillion times about his inability to make deadlines. If the draft is late either the book just comes out late, which is really bad if you have been advertising it or arranging retail space, or editing is rushed and limited. Fixing any structural problems would take time.

I think the biggest reason the first book held together as well as it did is that it was the, what, fourth time he'd written that story?
posted by aubilenon at 11:40 AM on May 30


Still would like to see the release of papers from the abandoned Infocom sequel.
posted by johngoren at 11:41 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Hitchhiker's Guide has always felt more like a loosely defined, mutable story constellation than something with a definite, fixed, planned form.

The best way I saw this phrased was: "Hitchhiker's doesn't have a canon. It has suggestions."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:49 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


"...though [the Guide] cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does make the reassuring claim that where it is inaccurate, it is at least definitively inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it was always reality that's got it wrong."
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:51 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


It's not being released as a new DA book. It's being published as an appendix to a new biography. It doesn't interfere with the main works in any way. And considering how different (and often contradictory) each iteration of HGTG was from all the ones that came before, I'm guessing all this extra work will do is enhance the overall insanity.

Still, I totally get the fear that maybe it won't be good, or as good (I have learned to appreciate the Dirk Gently books, but I just can't love them).

So I'm squeeeing right now. But it's a squeee tinged with apprehension. And no tea.
posted by Mchelly at 11:58 AM on May 30


What got left on the cutting room floor couldn't be worse than non-DNA-written And Another Thing..., which was a pale imitation of the original indeed.
posted by me3dia at 11:59 AM on May 30


And this is why you need a literary estate executor and explicit instructions on what you want to have happen when you are gone.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:14 PM on May 30


Can we all agree that Douglas Adams would have been the best person on Twitter, ever?
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:21 PM on May 30 [16 favorites]


The Tolkein papers that that family have made a career of publishing, are interesting too, but mostly academically and for other nerdily types that want to dive deeper into that lore. They're not really great reading, being a mish-mash of half-formed ideas, sketches and revisions. They may be useful to scholars who want to understand how the creative process worked (for JRRT at least), but, in my experience anyway, they're not particularly compelling reading.

What Adams wrote reflects his intent. We already have three? four? versions of the Guide story, all by him. More variants might be fun to think about, but probably won't be as enjoyable as stories.
posted by bonehead at 12:24 PM on May 30


I hear someone wanted to do that with some of Neal Stephenson's post-Snow Crash output, but couldn't find anything that had been cut out.

(Note, an earlier draft of this comment read "...but 40 pages into a digression in which the protagonist muses on an obscure and metaphorically significant correlation between the friction coefficient of gummi bears and the Incan use of textile armor the would-be editor committed suicide.")
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:46 PM on May 30 [8 favorites]


I would read this while sipping a nice warm cup of Soylent.
posted by nerdler at 1:01 PM on May 30


This is probably closer to an estate making available the sketchwork created in the process of creating a painting or sculpture, rather than a Brian Herbert or even a Christopher Tolkien "lost tales reworked" kind of thing.

The Salmon of Doubt, which was published 12 years ago, contains half-finished essays, about a third of a manuscript, and plenty of sidebars and odd notes from DNA's archives. It's also a brilliant read, as one might expect, but that's neither here or there. The more salient point is that this is hardly the first time that unfinished DNA material has been released, and I don't recall anyone finding their appreciation of the published works to have been substantially diminished by it, or finding it an unseemly intrusion on the privacy of his estate.
posted by Errant at 1:13 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: "Can we all agree that Douglas Adams would have been the best person on Twitter, ever?"

Like he needed one more way to procrastinate.
posted by octothorpe at 1:35 PM on May 30 [7 favorites]


Really nice guy to have a drink with, and I think if giving up his drafts had bought him another free hour in the pub he would have gone with it.
posted by Segundus at 1:41 PM on May 30


What is this new Douglas Adams bio of which you speak? I haven't wanted to read the previous one because Neil Gaiman's self-congratulatory writing style makes me cringe.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:22 PM on May 30


The way the comment about Snow.Crash was phrased I thought Stephenson had died and I had to go google. Whew.
posted by sio42 at 2:27 PM on May 30


Not like Adams was known as a great self-editor to begin with. Much of the radio series that started it all was written in a rush just before deadline. The long gaps between books were due to writer's block, not finicky editing. What I'd love to see is a draft of Doctor Who and the Krikketmen, the version of Life, the Universe, and Everything that was attached to a completely different franchise. I'm not sure if there ever was a draft, or if it got scotched at the proposal stage.
posted by rikschell at 2:28 PM on May 30


Like he needed one more way to procrastinate.

Oh gawsh, he could be paling around with GRRM during breaks on the HBO production of a Dirk Gently miniseries.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:35 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


Would someone pullleeease re-do the HHG2TU movie?
posted by Artful Codger at 3:55 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Hitchhiker's Guide has always felt more like a loosely defined, mutable story constellation than something with a definite, fixed, planned form. Having drafts available doesn't really do anything worse than make the boundary a little fuzzier.

I'm with this. HHGTTG has had so many incarnations (and the book isn't even the first one) that it's kind of silly to claim this is a violation of authorial intent.
posted by neckro23 at 4:01 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I think Douglas was always a bit too hard on himself. He told me he didn't like So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, and called it "half-baked", but I think it's great. He was very prone to throwing things out and starting again, or getting fed up with writing and going off on tangents and doing other stuff, which is how he became ridiculously expert on Macintoshes, computer music and endangered species. And probably other subjects too.
posted by w0mbat at 5:27 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


which is how he became ridiculously expert on Macintoshes, computer music

And this led to one line of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (on, I believe, page 128 of my paperback edition) that had my high-school self laughing to the point of pain, at first in the wee hours of the night when I read it and almost fell out of the top bunk, and then for weeks after that every time it popped into my head, which was frequently, and caused me some hard to explain troubles in school.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:32 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


People are always interested to see sketches, cartoons, and failed work for great works of visual art; hell we even use modern technology to see what painters painted over in existing paintings. This is essentially no different.

Seeing what an artist decided not to include lets us appreciate them in new ways and better understand how they thought.
posted by Ferreous at 6:16 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


And this is why you need a literary estate executor and explicit instructions on what you want to have happen when you are gone.

And at times ignore it. I can't imagine never having the opportunity to read Kafka's "The Trial", which he instructed to be destroyed:

Dearest Max, my last request: Everything I leave behind me ... in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others'), sketches, and so on, [is] to be burned unread". Brod decided to ignore this request and published the novels and collected works between 1925 and 1935. He took many papers, which remain unpublished, with him in suitcases to Palestine when he fled there in 1939.


Source

posted by juiceCake at 10:41 PM on May 30


The funny thing about the later books is that when I read them, all those years ago, I didn't know they were supposed to be not as good, so I enjoyed them as much as the earlier books in the series. It wasn't until recently (probably here) that I learnt Mostly Harmless, SLATFATF etc. were considered to be crap. Sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, that trilogy should have gone on for another 42 volumes or so.
posted by Jimbob at 12:33 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Nobody told me they were crap before I read them either, and IMO So Long And Thanks For All The Fish isn't. It's a different sort of book than the others but has a lot to offer in its own right. But if I could go back and unread Mostly Harmless, I would.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:44 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Oh gawsh, he could be paling around with GRRM during breaks on the HBO production of a Dirk Gently miniseries.

It existed for four episodes but no more. It's good; I'm not going to say great but it's as good as it could have been without direct DNA involvement, but the story is there and Stephen Mangan was a fantastic casting choice for Dirk.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:42 AM on May 31


But if I could go back and unread Mostly Harmless, I would.

That book is why I drink. It was irredeemably awful.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:24 PM on May 31


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