Douglas Adams has been my favorite author since childhood. I celebrate the man’s entire library and I am always in the mood to revisit the eccentric worlds of Arthur Dent or Dirk Gently. I even dedicated my novel Max and the Multiverse to his memory. In fact, my dream as an author is to hoist the sci-fi comedy mantle that he left behind. Those are big shoes to fill. Literally. The dude was 6′ 5″.
But anyhoo, this post isn’t about my affinity for Douglas Adams more than it is about an obscure connection that makes me very happy as a fan. My wife and I moved to Albuquerque several years ago and we love living in the magical wonderland that is New Mexico. Apparently, so did Douglas Adams, who was a voyaging Brit. This is a man who traveled the world and saw some seriously crazy things (I highly recommend his hilarious odyssey book Last Change to See). And yet, Santa Fe was his favorite place on the planet, just a short drive from my home. He loved to visit the area and did a large chunk of his writing there.
Ironically, I didn’t know that fun fact before moving to New Mexico. I had intentionally refused to read The Salmon of Doubt, a posthumous publication of various essays and the unfinished manuscript of the third Dirk Gently novel. It was the only Adams book I hadn’t read and reading it meant that I had no more Adams to read, which would make me a sad panda. And so, I saved it for a rainy day. After publishing my own sci-fi comedy novel, I thought the time was right to complete the canon. As it turned out, much of it took place in my own backyard.
I first learned of Adams’s love of New Mexico through his essay Maggie and Trudie. It’s all about writing and living in Santa Fe while dealing with a few excitable dogs. One particular passage made me giggle with nerd glee: “To give you an idea of the sort of place that Santa Fe is, I could bang on about the desert and the altitude and the light and the silver and turquoise jewelry, but the best thing is just to mention a traffic sign on the freeway from Albuquerque. It says, in large letters ‘GUSTY WINDS’ and in smaller letters ‘may exist.'”
I chuckled like an idiot when I read that passage because, well, I know that sign! I have passed it a hundred times while driving to Santa Fe. Furthermore, I remember thinking to myself that the sign made no sense. It was a big bold warning with a tiny-lettered brush off. Of course Adams thought it was hilarious, it’s one of the most British signs I have ever seen.
And then it came time to read the unfinished Dirk Gently manuscript. I knew it was going to make me sad, but dammit, it was the last piece of Adams lore that I needed to assimilate. And without giving too much away, Dirk Gently travels to New Mexico, is on his way to Santa Fe, sees the Gusty Winds sign, and is convinced that it will help him find the missing half of a Schrödinger cat. Once again, I chuckled like an idiot.
I couldn’t help but feel a connection to my favorite wordsmith after reading The Salmon of Doubt. And with the canon officially complete, there was only one thing left to do…