Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Towel Day!

Today is Towel Day, a day where Nerds, Geeks and Hoopy Froods of all stripes pay homage to writer Douglas Adams and his brilliant series of Hitchhiker's Guide books. Towel Day (and its accompanying slogan "Don't Panic!") has been celebrated every May 25th since Adams' death at the age of 49 in May of 2001; with each passing year, it gains more and more followers. This year, because of Twitter, it seems to be taking off like crazy. It's been funny watching #towelday race neck and neck with #SusanBoyle on Twitter's trending topics. (Also, in case you didn't know, "Don't Panic!" has become the unofficial slogan of the entire publishing industry of late.)

Why a towel?
A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
I met Douglas Adams once and shared lunch with him when he came to speak at Stacey's Bookstore many years ago for the Starship Titanic tour. He and his co-writer Terry Jones (of Monty Python fame) led about 500 of our bookstore customers (and our general manager!) in a sing-a-long, which was completely hilarious. Years later, when I was at Del Rey Books, I was lucky enough to be able to work on the PR for the Hitchhiker's Guide backlist, as well as the omnibus Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, and the Douglas Adams biography, Wish You Were Here by Nick Webb.

Last September, Adams' widow, Jane Belson, stirred up a bit of controversy among Adams' fans and in the SF/F book community when she gave noted children's writer Eoin Colfer (best known for his Artemis Fowl series) her blessing to write the sixth (and supposedly final) book in the Hitchhiker's Guide Trilogy. (Yes, it's still called a trilogy, which is part of the joke. Adams had often commented that he wanted to end his trilogy with a sixth book and was quoted as saying "I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note, so five seems to be a wrong kind of number, six is a better kind of number.")

The new book, called And Another Thing, is scheduled for release on a one-day laydown on October 12th. It'll be published in the UK by Penguin Books, and here in the United States by Hyperion. Both publishers are aleady going gangbusters with promotions for the new book, but only time will tell whether true Douglas Adams fans will be happy with Colfer's offering. (Meanwhile, Eoin Colfer fans - no slouches in the devoted and obsessive department! - seem to be thrilled at the pairing of Colfer and the Hitchhiker's Guide universe.)

Some fun links for Towel Day:
In the meantime, I'm off to enjoy a frothy Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!


Renovation Therapy said...

Today I won a Don't Panic towel on Twitter. Was so excited I screamed. My Fiance who was driving the car at the time was not so thrilled (with my scream).

Word identification for this comment: Hyptism.

clindsay said...

SWEET! You'll have to take a picture and show off your towel. (Don't let Penny Kitten near it! Hairball danger!)

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

Happy Towel Day to you and everyone else! in fact, as i am typing this, i am wearing a towel around myself ^_^

writtenwyrdd said...

I did not know it was towel day, but I did make effective (and appropriate) use of a towel this morning...and I Did Not Panic!

I loved those books. I think I need to reread them. It's been years...

Cassandra said...

Because you posted this, I have EVEN MORE respect for you! You are AWESOME, Colleen!

Happy Towel Day!

Jane George said...

Sooner or later a story will appear written in word-verification-ese.

Sponder, everyone.

adrcremer said...

Great post, Colleen. And I especially love Renovation Therapy's comment. I have serious problems with loud exclamatory responses (amidst reading) in front of my partner who instantly panics (clearly not an Adams' devotee) and doesn't understand the depth of my reactions to lit (or email). Happy Towel Day.

Leatherdykeuk said...

I still have fond memories of listening to HHGG on Radio 4 in the seventies.

Casey said...

My fiance always travels with at least one towel because of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

He freaks out if he forgets. Cracks me up.

Happy towel day!

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Happy Towel Day, you hoopy froodette. :)