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Sunday, November 23, 2003

It was 20 yrs ago today...

There's a long interview at the SFweekly site with me about Don't Panic! and Douglas Adams. It's at http://www.scifi.com/sfw/advance/24_interview.html. And, I just realised, give or take a few days, it's exactly twenty years ago that a starving (well, fairly hungry) young just-turned 23 year old journalist turned up at Douglas Adams' flat in Islington to interview him for the first time.

One tends to burble in interviews, and not always remember what one has said. So this bit of the interview, trying to explain why Douglas wasn't a novelist, took me by surprise, and may bear repeating:

I suspect that whatever Douglas was is the equivalent of us all standing around in the 14th century trying to talk about a science-fiction writer. If we were all in the 14th century and we'd just witnessed the passing of the equivalent of an Arthur C. Clarke, we'd be standing there going, "He's a balladeer, really. But he wasn't really happy as a balladeer. I don't know, maybe he was sort of an illuminated manuscript man." It seemed like most of what he was doing was about the future, and you don't really have words for it. In the case of Douglas, he wasn't a science-fiction writer, he wasn't a novelist. I don't know what he was. I feel as awkward trying to describe what he was as I think Chaucer would trying to describe "ye science-fiction writer," because it begins from a set of assumptions that we don't have.

...

Also, I never posted a link to the delighfully silly Jill Karla Schwarz's Attention Deficit Girl comic. Jill is a marvellous artist (she did the illustrations to my story Cinnamon, at neilgaiman.net -- just go down to the bottom of the page and click), and if you click on the version with sound, she also does the voice of ADGirl, who sounds -- and acts -- amazingly like Jill Karla Schwarz.

...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/sci_nat/03/piltdown_man/html/default.stm# is the link to the BBC Piltdown Man site. Lots of nice bits there...

I was obsessed with Piltdown Man when I lived in the Sussex village of Nutley (which is just round the corner from Piltdown, after all) and came up with my favourite theory after reading all the books that were around then, which was that the Piltdown Man skull was perfectly genuine, but became deeply inconvenient, and so was replaced by a fake version of the skull while it was off-display, during the war, which is why all the top authorities were convinced it was genuine at first, and why everyone could suddenly see it was a clumsy fake thirty years later.

It's a lovely theory, every bit as good as trying to solve a puzzle where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin are both suspects. I never believed it for a second, mind you, but it fit most of the facts (except for the way that no fossils turned up post 1916 in the gravel pit) in a comfortable sort of way.

(I tend to believe the hoaxer was Charles Dawson, who died in 1916, mostly because he lived in Uckfield, and according to the old gentleman who lived in the bungalow in the back of my old house in Nutley, he'd never met anyone from Uckfield who wasn't up to no good, no, not in eighty five years he hadn't. And he knew a thing or two.)
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