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Saturday 12 May 2001

Douglas Adams, 1952 - 2001

Douglas Adams, author of the popular Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series, died Friday, May 11, in Santa Barbara, California, of a heart attack.

"Hitchhiker" began as a BBC radio series in 1978, with a TV series and the first book (a novelization) following in 1979. Sequels were The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), and Mostly Harmless (1992). The original radio scripts were also published, in 1985, as were various omnibuses of the novels. Other works included novels Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (1987) and its sequel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988); nonfiction about wildlife conservation Last Chance to See (1991); and a CD-ROM computer game, Starship Titanic (1998).

Adams's background was in radio and TV (he was editor on the Dr. Who series 1978-1980) and the Hitchhiker series richly satirized familiar components of genre SF, including robots, interstellar travel, universal translators, and aliens. It was popular both among genre readers and the general public, achieving place in pop culture on par with that of "Monty Python's Flying Circus". Icons of the series include Marvin the Paranoid Android, characters named Slartibartfast and Zaphod Beeblebrox, and a computer called Deep Thought that announced the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything to be...42.

The first book sold 14 million copies worldwide, and ranked 25th in a 1999 readers' poll of the top 100 books of the past millennium.

Adams was British-born and lived near London until 1999, when he relocated to California. He's survived by wife Jane Belson, and their daughter, Polly. A full obituary will appear in the June issue of Locus.

Douglas Adams's official site has a message board of fan tributes. Online obituaries:

The obituary in the Guardian (UK) includes reactions from Adams's friends, and brief tribute by Stephen Fry.

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© 2001 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.