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The Salmon of Doubt

Douglas Adams


  Title Page


  An Introduction to the Introduction to the New Edition

  Introduction to the New Edition

  Editor’s Note






  The Salmon of Doubt

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11


  Editor’s Acknowledgments

  For more information

  Praise for The Salmon of Doubt


  Also by Douglas Adams

  Copyright Page

  For Polly

  An Introduction

  to the Introduction

  to the New Edition

  This Introduction to the Introduction to the New Edition is a highly significant one in the history of Introductions. Its presence on these pages means that this book has achieved the World Record for the Number of Introductions in a Book of This Nature. With the addition of this Introduction to the Introduction to the New Edition, The Salmon of Doubt can now claim to have no less than three Introductions, one Prologue, and one Editor’s Note. That is two Introductions more than Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and one Introduction, one Prologue, and one Editor’s Note more than The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Even the Oxford English Dictionary can only boast one Preface, one Historical Introduction, one General Explanations, and a List of Abbreviations—that’s two Introductions short of The Salmon of Doubt.

  You are, without doubt, holding in your hands one of the best-introduced books in the English language. We hope you enjoy the Introduction to the New Edition that follows this Introduction to it and continue to read on even into the book itself.

  —Terry Jones

  FEBRUARY 2, 2003

  Introduction to the

  New Edition

  Hi! I hope you enjoyed that Introduction to this Introduction to the New Edition. I know that some of you may think it unimportant that Douglas’s final volume should have the distinction of a World Record of this sort. But, as a friend, I often felt that Douglas was sadly shortchanged in the matter of Introductions. I could never pick up Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, with its Note on Dickens by Angus Calder, its handsome twenty-three-page Introduction, its Note on the Text, and, finally, its Suggested Further Reading, without recalling sadly Douglas’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which could boast neither Preface, Foreword, nor Introduction. It was the same with The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, and Mostly Harmless. It is true that So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish has a Prologue, but on inspection that turns out to be all part of the book and not an Introduction at all. Even Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency aspires to only an Author’s Note, and even that, I believe, Douglas had to write himself! Indeed the overall lack of Introductions has reduced the majority of Douglas’s work to the level of such poorly introduced books as T. S. Eliot’s Collected Poems, Iris Murdoch’s The Bell, and The Gospel According to St. Matthew—none of which have any preamble of any kind whatsoever.

  But with this handsome volume, I hope that Douglas’s work has finally achieved the full complement of Introductions that it deserves. Perhaps future editions might even boast a Foreword and a Foreword to the Foreword, so as to keep Douglas’s wonderful writing to the forefront of properly prefaced literature.

  Please enjoy this book and, when you have finished it, do not leave it on the train.

  —Terry Jones

  FEBRUARY 1, 2003

  Editor’s Note

  I first met Douglas Adams in 1990. Newly appointed his editor at Harmony Books, I had flown to London in search of Douglas’s long-overdue fifth Hitchhiker novel, Mostly Harmless. No sooner was I buzzed in the door to the Adams residence in Islington than a large, ebullient man bounded down the long staircase, greeted me warmly, and thrust a handful of pages at me. “See what you think of these,” he said over his shoulder as he bounded back up the stairs. An hour later he was back, new pages in hand, eager to hear my opinion of the first batch. And so the afternoon passed, quiet stretches of reading alternating with more bounding, more conversation, and fresh pages. This, it turned out, was Douglas’s favorite way of working.

  In September 2001, four months after Douglas’s tragic, unexpected death, I received a phone call from his agent, Ed Victor. A good friend had preserved the contents of Douglas’s many beloved Macintosh computers; would I be interested in combing through the files to see if they contained the makings of a book? A few days later a package arrived, and, curiosity whetted, I tore it open.

  My first thought was that Douglas’s friend, Chris Ogle, had undertaken a Herculean task—which, as it turned out, he had. The CD-ROM onto which Douglas’s writing had been collected contained 2,579 items, ranging from huge files that stored the complete text of Douglas’s books to letters on behalf of “Save the Rhino,” a favorite charity. Here, too, were fascinating glimpses into dozens of half-brewed ideas for books, films, and television programs, some as brief as a sentence or two, others running to half-a-dozen pages. Alongside these were drafts of speeches, pieces Douglas had written for his website, introductions to various books and events, and musings on subjects near to Douglas’s heart: music, technology, science, endangered species, travel, and single-malt whisky (to name just a few). Finally, I found dozens of versions of the new novel Douglas had been wrestling with for the better part of the past decade. Sorting these out to arrive at the work-in-progress you’ll find in the third section of this book would prove my greatest challenge, although that makes it sound difficult. It was not. As quickly as questions arose they seemed to answer themselves.

  Conceived as a third Dirk Gently novel, Douglas’s novel-in-progress began life as A Spoon Too Short, and was described as such in his files until August 1993. From this point forward, folders refer to the novel as The Salmon of Doubt, and fall into three categories. From oldest to most recent, they are: “The Old Salmon,” “The Salmon of Doubt,” and “LA/Rhino/Ranting Manor.” Reading through these various versions, I decided that for the purposes of this book, Douglas would be best served if I stitched together the strongest material, regardless of when it was written, much as I might have proposed doing were he still alive. So from “The Old Salmon” I reinstated what is now the first chapter, on DaveLand. The following six chapters come intact from the second, and longest, continuous version, “The Salmon of Doubt.” Then, with an eye to keeping the story line clear, I dropped in two of his three most recent chapters from “LA/Rhino/Ranting Manor” (which became Chapters Eight and Nine). For Chapter Ten I went back to the last chapter from “The Salmon of Doubt,” then concluded with the final chapter from Douglas’s most recent work from “LA/Rhino/Ranting Manor.” To give the reader a sense of what Douglas planned for the rest of the novel, I preceded all this with a fax from Douglas to his London editor, Sue Freestone, who worked closely with Douglas on his books from the very first.

  Inspired by reading these various Adams treasures on the CD-ROM, I enlisted the invaluable aid of Douglas’s personal assistant, Sophie Astin, to cast the net wider. Were there other jewels we might include in a book tribute to Douglas’s life? As it turned out, during fallow periods between books or multimedia mega-projects, Douglas had written articles for newspapers and magazines. These, together with the text on the CD-ROM, provided the magnificent pool of writings th
at gave life to this book.

  The next task was selection, which involved not the slightest shred of objectivity. Sophie Astin, Ed Victor, and Douglas’s wife, Jane Belson, suggested their favorite bits, beyond which I simply chose pieces I liked best. When Douglas’s friend and business partner Robbie Stamp suggested the book follow the structure of Douglas’s website (“life, the universe, and everything”), it all fell into place. To my delight, the arc of the collected work took on the distinct trajectory of Douglas Adams’s too brief, but remarkably rich, creative life.

  My most recent visit with Douglas took place in California, our afternoon stroll along Santa Barbara’s wintry beach punctuated by running races with his then six-year-old daughter, Polly. I had never seen Douglas so happy, and I had no inkling that this time together would be our last. Since Douglas died he has come to mind with astonishing frequency, which seems to be the experience of many who were close to him. His presence is still remarkably powerful nearly a year after his death, and I can’t help thinking he had a hand in the amazing ease with which this book came together. I know he would have keenly wanted you to enjoy it, and I hope you will.

  —Peter Guzzardi

  Chapel Hill, North Carolina

  FEBRUARY 12, 2002


  Douglas Adams was—in every sense of the word—larger than life. To begin with he was prodigious in stature, towering over the world at six feet five inches or more. (Indeed, even as a child on school trips, Douglas writes, his teachers “wouldn’t say ‘meet under the clock tower,’ or ‘meet under the War Memorial,’ but ‘meet under Adams.’”)

  He was larger than life as a personality, too: expansive and joyous and perpetually curious, always intrigued by new opportunities, and eager to pursue them with a single-mindedness and charm that usually proved irresistible. I had the good fortune to have lunch with him in Islington a few hours after he had received a formal invitation—as a result of his recent embrace of the “Save the Rhino International” movement—offering him the opportunity to get dressed up as a rhinoceros and, despite being weighed down by the cumbersome costume, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. The event was, apparently, imminent, and, of course, the proposed date for the climb coincided with several important writing deadlines. (Douglas was also peerless in his ability to procrastinate—but more about that later.) “Are you going to do it?” I asked. “Of course,” he replied, “Why wouldn’t I?” (And he did—an adventure recounted in “The Rhino Climb,” which appears, for the first time in book form, in this volume.)

  One of Douglas’s most endearing attributes was the incessant delight he took in sharing his wide-ranging, and always evolving, ideas and enthusiasms with virtually anyone who seemed to appreciate them. Indeed, it was this quality, along with his unparalleled humor, kindness, and generosity, that made him such a unique and wonderful friend. I first met him at an American Bookseller’s Association convention in the early 1980s. We were introduced by our mutual colleague (and literary agent) Ed Victor, who knew that I was an unabashed Hitchhiker fanatic and that Douglas had become intrigued with a medium that I had been busy learning about—the computer text adventure, a genre of interactive fiction that, as Douglas himself has characterized it, allows the storyteller to “respond to the audience, rather than just having the audience respond to the storyteller.”

  Douglas and I, it turned out, were both fascinated by the prospect of trying to anticipate what readers might type into their computers under various circumstances and coming up with witty—and, hopefully, surprising—prepackaged rejoinders. Luckily, I had met Marc Blank, co-creator of Infocom’s groundbreaking Zork adventure game, and was able to introduce him to Douglas—a meeting that, I’m proud to say, helped pave the way for Infocom’s eventual publication of Douglas’s marvelous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game (which he wrote in collaboration with Steve Zeretsky), and set the stage, many years later, for his award-winning resurrection of the text-adventure format with Starship Titanic.

  It wasn’t long before Douglas and I discovered several more common passions: the Pythons, Beyond the Fringe, and The Goon Show; the then newly-released Macintosh computer; the Weekly World News (the funniest tabloid on the planet); and the remarkably eclectic music of Procol Harum and their pianist-lead singer, Gary Brooker, whose work, we instantly agreed, had—with the exception of “A Whiter Shade of Pale”— never really gotten the attention it deserved. (I was amazed to learn that the group’s “Grand Hotel”—one of my favorite songs of all time—had been the inspiration for Douglas’s second Hitchhiker book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.)

  The reference to Procol Harum brings to mind an incident that demonstrates what many of Douglas’s friends regard as perhaps his most seductive quality: his unflagging ability to get us to do things that we were secretly dying to do, but somehow thought were indefensibly silly or irresponsible. I was sitting in my New York apartment one afternoon in the early 1990s—just a day or two before I was to fly across the Pacific to Japan to meet Douglas (and a few hundred others) at an international conference sponsored by Apple Computer—when I received a breathless call from him: “If I can persuade Gary Brooker to have dinner with me in London the day after our meetings are done with, will you promise to fly back to New York via the U.K and join us?”

  “Have you actually ever met Gary Brooker?” I asked.

  “Not yet,” he confessed. “In fact, I’m not even exactly sure how to find him. But England is a small country. . . . So then, will you promise?”

  I did, and the next thing I knew—having traveled three-quarters of the way around the world in less than a week—I found myself sitting with Douglas, his wife Jane, and a somewhat puzzled Gary Brooker at the Adams’s dinner table in Islington. We happily peppered Brooker with questions about his career and work, and it turned out (why should it have been a surprise?) that Douglas—there was apparently nothing he couldn’t do well—actually remembered some of Gary’s songs better that Gary did, and sat down at the piano to remind him how to play them.

  Above all, of course, Douglas Adams was a transcendent, multi-faceted, comic genius. What made Douglas’s work unique, I think, were the wildly contradictory attributes he displayed in his writing. He seamlessly blended world-class intelligence—and a daunting knowledge about an impossible variety of subjects (literature, computers, evolution, pop culture, genetics, and music, to name but a few)—with cosmic silliness; technophobia with a lust for, and fascination with, every high-tech toy imaginable; deep cynicism about virtually everything with an effusively joyful spirit; and one of the quickest wits I’ve ever encountered with a relentless perfectionism in pursuing his craft.

  Mix in a bit of impish mischief (if, indeed, anyone who weighed over 260 pounds could ever be accused of being “impish”), an unrivaled sense of irony, and a peculiar knack for making absurd—yet logical—connections, and you get such one-of-a-kind creations as the line of electromechanical security robots who repeatedly shout “Resistance is useless!” even as they’re destroyed by their attackers; or the guidebook publisher who, after carefully reviewing every aspect of life on earth, decides that all the useful information a space traveler could ever want about the human race can be summed up in the phrase “Mostly harmless”; or—to choose an example from the tantalizing fragment of Douglas’s unfinished (and oft-postponed) next novel that appears in this volume—the cab driver who, having noted that no one has ever jumped into his taxi and shouted the much ballyhooed phrase “Follow that cab!”, reaches the obvious conclusion that his must be the cab that all the other cabs are following.

  The writings collected in the volume you’re holding in your hand were retrieved posthumously from the disk drive of Douglas’s Mac and masterfully assembled by Peter Guzzardi—assisted heroically by Jane Belson, Douglas’s widow, and his long-time assistant, Sophie Astin. The pieces anthologized here not only show off, as do all his books, the remarkable breadth of Douglas’s interes
ts and talent, but also reveal—unlike his novels—the constant, irresistible invitation to share something new and exciting that opened those of us fortunate enough to know him personally to so many rewarding pursuits and pleasures. If you’re at all like me, before you’ve finished reading these pages you’ll have taken Douglas’s advice and picked up a copy of Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene, or listened once again (perhaps more closely than ever) to the Beatles’ “Drive My Car” or Bach’s Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, or taken it upon yourself to learn more about the Dagenham Girl Pipers, or brewed—for the first time in your life—a truly proper British cup of tea.

  And now—at last—it’s time to address Douglas’s extraordinary ability to procrastinate. It has become legendary that at least three of Douglas’s publishers—Sue Freestone, Sonny Mehta, and Shaye Areheart—have found it necessary to lock themselves up in the same room with him for days at a time in order to get him to complete a scandalously overdue book. (I’ve often wondered if they would have resorted to such rash measures if he weren’t such delightful company!) Douglas’s excuses for his books being late in the first place (covering up what was actually a daunting blend of perfectionism and a terror of failing in his quest to put, as he liked to phrase it, “a hundred thousand words in a cunning order”) are even more extraordinary; the rhino climb referenced above must certainly have startled the editor whose deadline Douglas missed because of it, as, I’m sure, did the unexpected news of his hastily-arranged trip to Australia to attempt a “comparative test drive” between a “sub bug”—a sort of underwater jet ski designed to propel scuba divers—and a manta ray, an excursion which caused him to miss yet another crucial due date (see “Riding the Rays,” also reprinted in this book).

  Unfortunately—incomprehensibly!—a heart attack that no one could have predicted has prevented Douglas from postponing the completion of his long-awaited, and many-times delayed next book, The Salmon of Doubt, which interviews just before his death indicate he was still many, many months—if not years!—away from finishing. Would it have remained a Dirk Gently book, or would he instead have transformed it—as he hinted he might—into the sixth and final volume in the Hitchhiker trilogy? Why—I find myself wondering—didn’t he find an excuse to procrastinate during his fateful trip to the gym last spring?