I was doing a telephone interview about American Gods when I saw it on the screen. The interviewer was in Tokyo where it was gone 1:30 am.
For a weird moment I thought it was a joke, then I realised it wasn't.
"Douglas Adams is dead," I said.
"Yes," said the interviewer. "I know. Did you ever meet him?"
I said yes. And I was obviously shaken enough that the interviewer offered to stop for half an hour, and I said no, it was fine, we should carry on.
After that the interview was pretty much a bust. Or at least, I don't remember anything else that was said. (Sorry, Justin.)
I'd known Douglas fairly well in the 80s -- interviewed him originally for Penthouse then used the leftover material in a dozen other magazines, then in 1987 I wrote "Don't Panic -- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion" for Titan Books, which involved lots more interviews with Douglas and his friends and colleagues, and lots more spending time in his flat going through his files and archives looking for cool stuff.
Saw him at David Gilmour's 50th birthday party, in 1996, and I told him how the Neverwhere TV series was going, and he said at least it wouldn't be the same experience he'd had with the Hitchhiker TV series, but it was.
Saw him in Minneapolis a couple of years ago for a signing for the Starship Titanic game. (Only a dozen people came to the signing. He started out by demonstrating the game, but it kept crashing and he couldn't get out of one of the opening sequences. It was kind of sad.) He'd previously asked me to work on a radio adaptation of the later Hitchhiker's Books, and I'd said no as I didn't have the time.
We'd e-mail from time to time.
He was a very brilliant man. (Not said lightly. I think he really was one of those astonishingly rare people who saw things differently and more clearly and from a different angle.) I don't think he liked the process of writing very much to begin with, and I think he liked it less and less as time went on. Probably, he wasn't meant to be a writer. I'm not sure that he ever figured out what it was that he did want to do; I suspect it's something they don't have a concept for yet, let alone a name -- and if he'd been around when this thing was around (World Designer? Explainer?) he would have done it brilliantly.
(I hope that his death isn't followed by the publishing of all the stuff he hadn't wanted to see print.)
He was immensely kind and generous, with his time and his material, to a young journalist, over 15 years ago; and watching how he, and how Alan Moore (who I met around the same time), treated their fans and other people – graciously, kindly and generously – taught that young journalist an awful lot about how famous authors ought to behave. And how most of them don’t.