Eddies in the Space-Time Continuum

There’s something ineffably sad about the May 11th cast-and-crew photograph on the new blog documenting the filming of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s such a cheery, optimistic scene, and yet the occasion was the third anniversary of Douglas Adams’s sudden death. More than that, there’s an argument to be made that the endless frustration he encountered while trying to get the film made even contributed to his death. He’d been suffering from stress and depression for some time, and the exercise regime he was following, which took him to the Santa Barbara gym that day, was at least partly an attempt to work through that. Photographs of him taken during the last year or so of his life show a man who’d aged.

What’s not really clear about Adams’s own psychology is why the film mattered quite so much to him. His story existed already in radio, book, and TV form. Perhaps his hatred of the aloneness of the writing process. Perhaps his extroversion made the community of the filming process seem like a sort of home he might find. Perhaps he made the mistake of attributing to film a greater significance — a greater posterity — than he might already have found elsewhere. Or perhaps once he’d started down that road, he just couldn’t give it up.

It’s a tragedy of sorts, and not least because of Adams’s relative youth when he died. He couldn’t help but spill out ideas into the world, and the size of the hole he left when he suddenly wasn’t there surprised a lot of people. There’s still something shocking about it. I think anyone who aspires to produce anything creative has in their mind at least one person who, in those moments when they allow themselves to be self-indulgently, dreamily ambitious, they imagine seeing them as a peer, or merely noticing their existence with a respectful nod. Adams was that sort of person.

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