Douglas Adams – Did I Imagine It?

My novel continues to climb the authonomy ranks, the Harper Collins website for new writers.

Every day, I adjust the pitch, the synopsis, tinker with the opening, and tweak the layout. Flying so close to the burning light of the mass market is great fun for an arts writer like me. It shows me exactly how people are manipulated.

My novel has no commanding authorial voice, no omniscience, and so people seem to feel free to slam it. This is good because I can then change it and sell it to more people. But there is another kind of comment. A sort of faint praise.

One is “the Douglas Adams” comment. I was pleased with the endless comparisons. That’s why I’d paid homage to Adams by choosing the Bar at the End of the Universe in the first place. But it just took one brave soul this week to say, “this isn’t the Hitchhiker’s Guide, nor should it be”. Nor should it be? Why shouldn’t it be? I like it to be! You used to like it to be!

The Bar At the End of the Universe was once the book title, but it didn’t really take off, so I demoted it to the pitch, and that worked very well indeed.

“Suki Chen never thought she’d hug a tiger, until she discovers the Bar at the End of the Universe.”

Months ago, when deciding to go for the obvious Adams label, I checked out whether he’s still revered. Fashionable atheist. Lover of the Apple Mac and environmentalist. So what could possible go wrong by standing in a bit of reflected glory?

The problem is he’s just not down with the kids any more. It’s meaningless twaddle that dads like.

Going back three months, there was one small note of caution at the time. Although classed as ‘science fiction’, Adams’s work is also classed as parody and satire of science fiction. In fact, it’s a parody of the power of Marketing. Perfect, I thought. However, I did know, at the time, and it’s my own fault, that it’s okay to satirise science fiction, but it’s not okay to satirise Marketing, because nobody understand that Marketing is a tool being used on them. How would they know? It’s like the sound of the Earth turning. How would you know what it sounded like, unless it stopped? So I kept this one note of caution in mind.

Adams questioned why the man has a fish in his ear. The Marketing man just wants to sell him his fish.

It’s just such fun to tune in to shifting fashions. The BBC used to adore Adams in a way they now adore the BBC. Once, they’d never stop talking about him, and yet now, in the New Age of mass markets, global data collection, it’s winner takes all. They would like to forget he ever even existed. And even thinking back, not all of us liked his work at the time. And that’s the key. Everyone has to like everything all the time.

So how are people made to go off someone? In a word, triangulation. You want to go from A to B, but Mr Dad is seen to be standing in your way. You can see Mr Dad in a lot of ads, officious older figure with a tash. Only a matter of time before he’s seen waving his copy of Hitchhikers.

Adams is long gone. And the result is no more Mr Adams in my pitch. I took the Bar at the End of the Universe out yesterday, and my novel rose in the ranks for the first time in a week. End of story.

The next thing to think about. Do I start my novel like all other novels?

“Today was like any other day for Jules Jewell, but little did he know that he was about to be catapulted through time and made to feel really awful.”

Read Tiger Hugs