Thursday, November 26, 2015

Windycon Chi-SF discussion- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Yet more Windycon notes! The Chicago Speculative Fiction Community convened to discuss the theme of the con: Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". We primarily focused on the original novel, but with many leaps to its other incarnations.

In fact, our first point of discussion was just recapitulating it's history to date. The Guide has taken the form of:

Notes in brief on our discussion! We talked about:
  • Cultural prevalence of Hitchhiker refs, like babelfish and "42"
  • Versus still being a "secret fan language"
  • Contrasted with LOTR, Trek, Star Wars, which are more definitely mainstream culture now.
  • Actual "laugh out loud moments" in the book.
  • Comparisons to other comedic SF/F, like Windycon GoH Christopher Moore and the late great Terry Pratchett.
  • "Digital watches are neat"--some asides on the mechanics of the early digital watches, and also the recurring humor of this observation, of which the Apple watch is an obvious example.
  • Simon Jones vs. Martin Freeman
Dents & Marvins
  • Adams' connection to other comedic figures like Monty Python & Stephen Fry, and his involvement with Dr. Who.
  • Richard Dawkins' eulogy.
  • A lot of interesting discussion around the babelfish's connection to war, and the Total Perspective Machine: there's an idea here that communicating/understanding too well is not a good thing.
  • The relative scarcity of other comedic SF, and the way Hitchhiker's pokes fun at the fundamentally silly premises that most SF tries to take seriously.
  • Political climate of the UK during the original productions, how that affects things like police brutality & queueing, paperwork obsession in the novel.
  • Arthur's changes and heroism over time in the novels vs. the film.
  • Much praise for the various audio versions, and discussion of Adams & Fry's readings and what they bring to it.
Also: the increasing unlikelihood that reader's will get
the joke in Prefect's name if it's not spelled out for them.
  • Marvin the robot & making comedy about/using depression. Kind of a sticky wicket.
  • Issues with lack (and type) of female representation throughout all the Hitchhiker-verse. What's that about?
  • Windycon was also hosting a Vogon poetry session!
  • Adams and environmentalism, particularly his "Last Chance to See", a radiodocumentary/book/television. You can watch some of that material online.
Fun talk.

Chi-SF's next book club will discuss Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End". Slightly different date/location-- it will be Saturday, December 12th, at Erik's Deli in Oak Park.

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