Home > Advice, cultural commentary, Process and technique > The world according to Douglas Adams

The world according to Douglas Adams

You probably haven’t been asking yourself ‘What’s Jon been doing for the last week or so?’. Because I haven’t posted. But I’ll tell you anyway.

I’ve been living life in accordance with some of the musings of the late and wonderful Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame.

There are several different themes in what follows, but don’t worry, just go with the flow.

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

Well actually, I don’t. It’s a sound I hate, but real life has been somewhat chaotic largely due to a particular individual who I have no obligation to help, but try to help anyway because he’s kind of family. This has meant days out ensuring he gets to doctor’s appointments and the like; days trying unsuccessfully to persuade him that doing something means getting up before 3pm, which in turn means going to bed before 5am; sorting out stuff he wanted for a camping trip that fell apart after the first night (the fact that you know someone who’s a distant relative of the site owner isn’t enough to get a free pitch, plus we had to drive over there to retrieve his tent and other stuff that he managed to leave behind…); also a whole load of other stuff.

I’m deliberately missing out the more sensational episodes because you probably wouldn’t credit it, and anyway I want to save it for a story. I’ve always threatened that bits of his life will end up fictionalised if he’s not careful.

Partly it’s ADHD that gives the impression of sheer bloody-mindedness and non-co-operation because he gets distracted, confused, genuinely insomniac and so forth. Partly it’s sheer bloody-mindedness and non-co-operation. Often it’s difficult to tell which.

From his point of view another quote applies: He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. From my point of view: Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

This has been the case with the dishwasher in the past. This time it was the oven, which wasn’t satisfied with just being an oven because it wanted a second career as a flamethrower. Turns out when it overheated, it fried the circuit board which led to the flamethrowing issue. Why should a gas oven have a circuit board in the first place? Can I not use it if there’s an electricity power cut then?

It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

Not sure about this one. A pile of chips can solve many problems… We decided to strip the walls in the living room, finally, which was entertaining because prior to me moving here a few years back the place had been a multi-occupancy student let and commensurately poorly maintained. Paper had gone over a plaster skim which had been put over older wallpaper which covered holes from old pipework that had been filled with pages from children’s comics… Not found any holes that had been filled with potatoes yet but there’s still time.

And finally:

He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which.

I may not have done a whole lot of actual work – though I have, finally, finished a rewrite of a distance learning module and my latest story is progressing at the rate of one whole sentence each day. But I have, in between interruptions, been able to plan my global domination of the e-book publishing market.

Some time ago I had an idea about how e-books enable authors to take control over pretty much everything to do with publication and publishers really now only have the function of providing a ready-made readership. So if you can develop your own readership, you no longer need them. The only problem from the writer’s point of view is developing the readership – and of course persuading people that something is worth purchasing.

The purchasing thing is also something I’ve blogged about. On the whole people who use the internet want free stuff. So the paid-for stuff has to have some add-ons. These might range from a physical copy, to artwork or podcasts or videos or Easter eggs embedded in the file, to running a membership-only chatroom/forum related to the work(s).

I don’t think anyone’s going to be wanting to use a forum or chatroom relating to my work, no least because my author blurb usually says something like ‘Jon Vagg writes late at night under the influence of too much caffeine. He has no other life to speak of and is socially inept. You really wouldn’t want to know him.’ But the other options are all still very much possible. We have the technology… or at least in the next new weeks, I’ll have some of it and various friends of mine have other forms of expertise that mean we can collectively put some stuff together.

So I (or, in fact, we) are now in a planning phase, and stuff should start to come together in the next couple of months. It largely depends on me being able to write more than one sentence of fiction a day…

There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

I’ll go with the second theory. That fits both my life at the moment and the ideas and project I’m trying to work on. Watch this space…

Or, alternatively, this space –> [.]

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