"Lost Tapes" Show Hitchhiker's Author Was First of the Multimedia Pioneers

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Extracts from a long-lost interview with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams prove he was way ahead of his time in understanding how his work must span many different media, from radio to movies. And a huge overnight surge of viral word-of-mouth activity in blogs and social networking media has brought tens of thousands of readers this week to the website of Darker Matter, the free online science fiction magazine that has published these unique insights from the time before Adams found fame and fortune.

Newly published tapes of a long-lost interview with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams reveal that he was many years ahead of his time in seeing his job as developing genuine multimedia creations.

Even way back in 1979, while writing the BBC Radio 4 shows that started the Hitchhiker's ball rolling, Adams was already thinking about how his material could be developed along different lines for radio, novels, television, records and movies.

"All these different media demand that the story goes in different directions - and this is getting me into all sorts of problems," Adams confided in this early interview.

"When the second radio series is in the can and I get down to the second book, the plot may diverge quite widely from one medium to another. At the moment, the radio show generates the material and then I sit down and try to write a book and make sense of this material.

"Occasionally, I get a glimpse and think 'This can go on for ever - it'll be terrific.' And then I get bogged down on the very next sentence."

Although it is 28 years since Douglas Adams and journalist Ian Shircore met to talk about a little-known science fiction comedy series that was about to make Adams a household name, worldwide enthusiasm for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - in all its many forms - has hardly waned.

When the second issue of the free online SF magazine Darker Matter (http://www.darkermatter.com) published a chunk of this previously unknown interview material this week, the word spread like wildfire across a series of media that have come from nowhere in the six years since Douglas Adams's untimely death.

The launch edition of Darker Matter had averaged fewer than 200 web hits a day.

But as people used blogs and social networking sites like Digg, Slashdot, Metafilter, Reddit and del.icio.us to share the news of the fresh Hitchhiker's Guide insights, Darker Matter's popularity went through the roof this week.

Monday saw 240 hits. Tuesday saw 31,000, with no advertising or PR support at all - just on the strength of electronic word-of-mouth recommendation.

In one day, Darker Matter had become the world's most-read SF website.

"I'd like to say I foresaw this happening," says the magazine's editor, Cambridge artificial intelligence guru Ben Coppin.

"I did put out a statement with Darker Matter's launch edition, pointing out that science fiction reputations have always been built by word of mouth and that SF and today's social networking media are a perfect fit.

"But this has astonished me. It's an awesome demonstration of the way Web 2.0 trends are democratizing our media. Remember, no money has changed hands in all of this. People have just spread the news because they want to - and now they have the means to do it."

The original tapes of the three-hour interview with Douglas Adams were recorded at the BBC Television Centre, where Adams was working as script editor for Dr Who, in the summer of 1979. A brief extract was published at the time in Penthouse magazine, but the cassette tapes were then lost, to be rediscovered recently after 28 years in the bottom of a cupboard.

The interview is rich in anecdotes, opinions and previously unpublished detail about Adams' early career, before fame struck. It is being serialized in three parts in the first three monthly issues of Darker Matter.

For further information, or to interview Darker Matter founder Ben Coppin, call Ian Shircore.


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Ian Shircore
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