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The Graverobber's Guide To The Galaxy

This is a stupid idea. A really stupid idea. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly stupid it is. I mean, you may think the movie was a lame attempt to wring further cash out of Douglas’ memory, but that’s just peanuts to this. Listen…

And so on.

Some points, then :

• First of all, as I’m sure has been pointed out numerous times already, the titles of all the other books are memorable quotations from the first book. Off the top of my head, I genuinely can’t recall if the words “And another thing…” appear in the first book - but if they do, they hardly jump out at you in the way that “So long and thanks for all the fish” or “Life, the universe and everything” do.

• Now, I’m not going to add my voice to the throng that says “It all wrapped up with Mostly Harmless! There shouldn’t ever be another!” Yes, MH had a pretty definitive ending, what with wiping out not only all the lead characters and the planet Earth, but all possible versions of the lead characters and the planet Earth. But that’s not to say Douglas couldn’t have come up with one of his fabled “completely ignoring everything that’s gone before for the sake of convenience” jobs and wrangled a sixth book if he’d wanted to. And he was on record as saying that, due to the personal circumstances that informed the writing of that last book, it wasn’t really the sort of ending that he’d wanted - and so, if the opportunity ever arose, he’d like to have another go. Indeed, as we all know, it was touch and go as to whether The Salmon of Doubt might have come out as a Hitchhiker’s, rather than a Gently, book. So in principle, no objection to the idea of a sixth book.

• .. but not written by Douglas? NO. Fuck right off. New Hitchhiker’s material by anyone other than Douglas is NOT ALLOWED. Note that I’m not including material added to adaptations of existing work in this sweeping statement - whatever you might think of the quality of the movie or the Maggs sequels, any material they added in was allowed because it was part of the process of adapting (the tacked-on happy endings to the Quintessential Phase get a free pass by virtue of the knowledge that Douglas wanted to lighten up the ending himself, and because they’re essentially glorified fan-fiction). And I certainly wouldn’t be against any future adaptations (I’ve got a long-gestating article for this very site about a dream future sequel to the TV series). But a new book - and not just a universe-expanding spinoff or that kind of thing, but an actual new book featuring the further adventures of Arthur and Ford - is right out. Some franchises can survive past their original creator, it’s true. Hitchhiker’s simply isn’t one of them.

• None of this is intended as a slight against Eoin Colfer, who for all I know (I’ve never encountered him or any of his work) could be an absolutely lovely bloke and a brilliant writer. But he’s not Douglas. On the other hand, he says that his first instinct was “semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series”. Presumably he stuck with that instinct right up until they told him how much they’d pay him.

• And shame on Jane Belson, too. You could argue that as Douglas’ widow, it’s her right, and she knew him best, and would be most likely to know what he would have wanted, and that she would never want to tarnish his memory or greedily profit from an extension of his work, or anything like that. And I’m sure that in the cold hard light of day and logical reason, you’d probably be right. You could also argue that it’s not worth getting angry about something you can just completely ignore the existence of. But let me have my self-righteous anger, won’t you?

And just because I’m an arse, let’s pick up on a couple of sloppy bits of reportage, since it’s not like the BBC have ever had anything to do with Hitchhiker’s, is it? First off, Belson says that she “could not think of a better person to transport Arthur, Zaphod and Marvin to pastures new” - which makes me wonder if she’s ever read her husband’s books, since Zaphod was gone from the series after book three, and Marvin died at the end of the fourth. Meanwhile, an excellent bit of fact-checking states that “the book also spawned a BBC TV series”. Yes. That would be the TV series that was a direct adaptation of the same radio series the book was based on, then, yes?

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Absolutely spot on, Seb.

I think the reason why this is clearly going to kick up so much stink among the fans, despite the fact that the old “you don’t have to read it” argument will likely crop up is that we clearly all DO have to read it. It’s what being fandom is all about. The fact that we can see from a mile off that this is a really bad idea doesn’t change that because we’ve got to see what’s happening to our franchise.

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By Jonathan Capps
September 17, 2008 @ 1:53 pm

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>You could argue that as Douglas’ widow, it’s her right, and she knew him best, and would be most likely to know what he would have wanted

True. It’s possible that had Douglas survived, he might have willingly handed over the rights to a further book. But I think we’d still be disappointed by that decision. The difference is in that scenario we’re disappointed in the author himself, and here we’re disappointed by a greater degree simply because they weren’t her books/characters to begin with.

And to echo Capps, I’ll read it. I’m sure I will. And honestly, I’d love to be blown away by it. But the whole project does just reek of unnecessary, and kind of unfair.

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By Phil Reed
September 17, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

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I’ll have to buy the bastard thing - albeit not until it comes out in paperback - because if it’s an official book, then it’ll otherwise be missing from my set of original-edition paperbacks…

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By Seb Patrick
September 17, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

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I checked a digital copy of the first book I have lying around, and the phrase “And another thing” doesn’t appear anywhere in it. There’s one “and another” and two “another thing”s but NO “And another thing” which, if you ask me, makes the thing a complete fuckup from the word go, if they can’t even sort the naming out.

Genuinely, this is the worst, most stupid idea conceived this year. I don’t want to second guess what Douglas Adams might have wanted, but surely, no fan of the books wanted a sequel written by someone else? Someone like Stephen Fry - close friends of Adams’ - could possibly pull it off with the necessary integrity, but whatever way you look at it, this book is going to be nothing but fan-fic.

By James H
September 17, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

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Not to take anything away from the THIS IS A STUPID IDEA stuff (because, well, THIS IS A STUPID IDEA!), but just pointing out that:
1) Marvin was many times the age of the universe by the time he died at the end of SL&TFAtF. In that context, bringing him back at a time before he died is hardly impossible
2) The TV series incorporated most of the revisions from the books (to pick two easy examples: the Dish of the Day appeared, the Haganemmons [sp?] didn’t), except for the means of getting away from the space cops/to Milliways.
3) Any Continuation By A Different Author almost inevitably brings with it a reset to the “classic” status quo, so expect Arthur, Trillian, Zaphod, Ford and Marvin all on board the Heart of Gold as a status quo….

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By Somebody
September 17, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

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“I’ll have to buy the bastard thing - albeit not until it comes out in paperback - because if it’s an official book, then it’ll otherwise be missing from my set of original-edition paperbacks…”

And, right there, you have the reason this sort of thing will continue to happen. If even the fans who loathe the idea feel they “have” to buy it, they can’t lose. It’s like crappy horror remakes - the horror audience is one who says “I’ll go buy a ticket anyway, just so I can slag it off and see how bad it is.” The people bankrolling these types of projects don’t care *why* you’re buying a ticket (or book), only that you *are* buying it - the only message they understand is not parting with your money.

By CatherineBray
September 17, 2008 @ 4:36 pm

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I mean, you may think the movie was a lame attempt to wring further cash out of Douglas’ memory

Wasn’t Adams the one trying to do a movie in the first place?

By Ridley
September 17, 2008 @ 6:31 pm

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I didn’t mean the fundamental *idea* of doing a movie, I meant the execution.

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By Seb Patrick
September 17, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

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Yeah, I thought the film was a real mixed bag (hated movie!Zaphod, Arthur and Trillian, liked movie!Marvin and Ford, had problems with the plot) but at least it was based on Douglas Adams’ work.

I’ve read some of Eoin Colfer’s work—he works mainly in YA fiction, I thought. The work isn’t too bad, it’s serviceable, but it’s nowhere near the quality of anything DNA wrote. Not by a long shot. Not by light-years. The Five-Part Trilogy and the Artemus Fowl series are at opposite ends of the galaxy, practically.

I’ll see if my library gets it when it comes out, then borrow it.

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By Meg
September 18, 2008 @ 9:30 am

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Trillian looked more accurate in the movie, at least. Sandra Dickinson was very good, but she wasn’t quite what I had in my head. I thought Zooey had a decent crack at a character which isn’t that well defined.

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By Tanya Jones
September 19, 2008 @ 6:41 am

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I liked a lot of bits of the movie, however flawed. But you’re on such a hiding to nothing with that adaptation - it’s pretty much impossible to beat the lack of narrative shape into a three-act film structure.

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By Andrew
September 19, 2008 @ 10:03 am

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Well I was similarly shocked when I read the news. It just seems so fundamentally wrong. No scrub that IT IS fundamentally wrong. HitchHikers is just so unique and the only possible way I could buy into a ‘handover’ would be if Douglas Adams had personally made that choice. As this doesn’t appear to be the case then I have absolutely no interest in the book which is no more than fan-fiction.

It’s no different to if a complete different group of musicians tried to past themselves of as your favourite band just because they kept the same band name.

So no I agree with Cat above, we don’t HAVE buy it. If you must read it at least borrow the sodding thing from a library.

By Temporary Karl
September 20, 2008 @ 12:34 am

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