For the dozen or so readers of Geekend who haven’t heard, the fact that Douglas Adams died in 2002 won’t stop another Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novel being written (hat tip, SF Signal). Artemis Fowl writer Eoin Colfer is going to be writing the sixth part to the Hitchiker’s “trilogy” — And Another Thing…, due out in October of 2009 — with the Adams estate’s blessing.
So, is this a moment for celebration, or a time for outrage? I’m having trouble deciding.
My gut instinct is to say no, you can’t continue the series without Adams. I mean, Douglas Adams has his own holiday for a reason. His work was that wondrous, delightful, and unique.
That said, Charlie Jane Anders at io9 reasonably points out that the true genius of Hitchhiker’s was the original radio plays, but the Hitchhiker’s book series rapidly degrades in quality after the first two or three entries. Seriously, there’s no reason to read beyond Life, the Universe, and Everything. It just gets bleak and derivative after that, with most of your favorite characters miserable, dead, or both. Adams should have quit while he was ahead (and stopped some of the more awful adaptations of his work from getting made, if possible).
George Lucas is perhaps the prime example of a creator who simply couldn’t leave well enough alone and thus debased a great franchise by expanding it into mediocrity. Adams’ later Hitchhiker’s novels weren’t Episode I bad, but they were well into an “Ewoks vs. AT-ATs” level of fan discomfort.
However, the Lucas parallel can go either way. You can argue it’s a reason for letting Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent lie, or — given that Star Wars can still be pretty cool if someone besides Lucas is in charge — it’s an argument for giving Colfer a turn at bat.
Further complicating the issue is that, when he passed, Adams was himself working on a sixth Hitchhiker’s novel… sort of. The Salmon of Doubt was supposed to be the third Dirk Gently novel but, in mid-writing, Adams decided it would make a better endcap to the Hitchhiker’s series. A composite of several Salmon drafts, along with several Adams essays, was released under the Salmon of Doubt title in 2002. In some respects, we already have a final Hitchhiker’s story, though it’s incomplete.
Part of the reason Adams felt he needed another Hitchhiker’s novel was because he acknowledged the series had turned dour and deserved a happy ending. Thus, another Dent and Prefect adventure was one of Adams’ wishes but, again, a creator’s desire to expand a series isn’t always what’s best for the story or its fans.
So now I put it to you all: Are you excited about And Another Thing, outraged, or merely indifferent? I’m probably all three at once, but it’s likely you’ll have a more coherent reaction. The comments section awaits your answers.
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