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:
- The Official Douglas Adams home page.
- The Don't Panic! Forum
- Kevin Thompson at CyberLaw Central hosted a Towel Day Blog Carnival! (And you thought lawyers didn't know how to have fun.)
- Wired Magazine's "Geek Dad" columnist Curtis Silver writes about Towel Day.
- Pan Macmillan, Douglas Adams' UK publisher, are holding a Towel Day contest on Flickr. Upload a photo of your most creative use of a towel to win.
- Hyperion Books has created a new Twitter feed for news about And Another Thing, called @PartSixofThree. Today they're giving away special "Don't Panic!" towels. (At least they still had some left when I checked an hour ago. And a little birdie at Hyperion publicity told me that they were going to be giving away a lot of the same towels at San Diego Comic Con International in July.)
- There's a Facebook fan page for Douglas Adams as well as a new one for And Another Thing.
- If you had any questions about whether it was Towel Day or not, go here.
- Geeks of Doom also posted about Towel Day.
- The folks at Penguin UK are pulling out all the stops in their search for a creative digital team to help spread the word about And Another Thing.
- ThinkGeek.com has a very cool "42" towel of their own!
- Join in the Towel Day conversation on Twitter here or here.
- Hilarious music video (starring Sam Rockwell) from the film version of Hitchhiker's Guide: Vote for Zaphod Beeblebrox!