How to write like . . . Douglas Adams

Third in a series of 7 Pastiches of Little Red Riding Hood in the style of my favourite authors. Today I give you another retelling of the Red Riding Hood story, culled from the original text LITTLE RED CAP by the Brothers Grimm and in the style of the late, sorely missed, Douglas Adams. Afterwards I shall give you the matching commentary as to how it was done, and so on for all 7 stories. I hope you enjoy it. So now, let’s get to it…


Zen and the Art of Whup-ass
Douglas Adams)

VOICE OF A BOOK: (over twinkly starlike music) In the Nut Tree Nebula there is a planet known as Three Oaks, a surprisingly named place because a) there more than three oaks there, and b) in fact every piece of land on the entire planet is covered with trees.

It was speculated in the past that the name comes not from three OAKS, but three YOLKS. But this has since been discredited as a transparent ruse by the Three Oaks Egg Marketing Board. Someone certainly had egg on their face.

In any event you would assume, and who could blame you, that the major industry of a planet covered in trees would be wood.

And bird guano.

And actually those are two of the major industries, but not THE major industry…

This eventually became clear to ARTHUR DONT, an Earthman, and FRED PERFECT, an Alien of deliberately indeterminate lineage, who at the time of our story were strolling nonchalantly along in the forest of infinite unbroken trees. They had clearly just been jogging as they both had towels around their necks. Although on closer inspection neither had broken a sweat, both were a little paunchy, and it was impossible to run in a straight line on that planet for longer than about 4 seconds without running into a tree. In any event, they had towels.

Fred is about to explain to Arthur why they can’t leave.

FRED PERFECT: We can’t leave, we haven’t seen all the sights. I tell you Arthur, this place is amay-zing, you dig? Trees as far as the eye can see…

ARTHUR DONT: Which is not very far because of all the trees. At this point I’m craving a cup of tea and any kind of view that’s not obscured by tree trunks.

FRED: But don’t you feel at one with nature, surrounded by all this wood?

ARTHUR: Can’t see the wood… too many trees! And what sights? All we’ve seen for four days is trees. All the same. All on the same level.

FRED: Communing with nature, come on, doesn’t it speak to you, man?

ARTHUR: I talk to the trees, but like YOU, Fred… they don’t listen to me.

FRED: Okay okay, I get it. You wanna go. According to the guide it’s actually not far to the next ranger station, somewhere called Grand Mars Haus?

VOICE OF A BOOK: And indeed it wasn’t far, because a mere quarter league further down the road (or the distance it takes a man to stumble in bedroom slippers across bracken in an hour) in a grove of the aforementioned Woodfer Trees, they arrived at the Grand Mars Haus Ranger station.

FRED: Hello? Anybody home?

ARTHUR: Why do they paint Ranger stations to look like cottages made out of candy?

FRED: Tradition I think. Hello?

RANGER: (muffled) Hello? Who’s there?

FRED: Ah hello, you don’t know us, but we are Fred Perfect and Arthur Dont, tourists. We were wondering if you could direct us to the next transport station, or perhaps give us a lift?

RANGER: (muffled) Ah. Please come in, lift the latch and come in.

ARTHUR: For some reason I have a very bad feeling about this.

VOICE OF A BOOK: Inside the dark and dingy station the Ranger loomed large, a huge furry creature stuffed into a tiny ranger uniform clearly not meant for him.

FRED: Oh, hello. Gosh, sorry but er what big eyes you have.

RANGER: All the better to see you with. In fact they are very sensitive to light so can you close the door, there’s a good chap.

FRED: Of course. (FX: creak, slam)

ARTHUR: And sorry to mention it but I’m struck by, well, what big ears you have.

RANGER: Bit personal.

ARTHUR: Sorry.

RANGER: Okay so they are, you know, all the better to hear you with, but veeerrrrrry sensitive so stop shouting.

ARTHUR: (softly) sorry.

FRED: And er, can’t help noticing, but you know, what big, uh, oh dear, teeth you, er…

RANGER: Okay, enough already… (FX: growl, gnash, scream, GULP)

FRED: (inside the Ranger) Arthur?

ARTHUR: (inside the Ranger) Yes?

FRED: (inside the Ranger) I don’t think this guy is the Ranger.

ARTHUR: (inside the Ranger) Whatever gives you that idea?

FRED: (inside the Ranger) Apart from the fact he just gobbled us up whole, you mean?

ARTHUR: (inside the Ranger) Oh be quiet. At least there are no trees in here.

(FX: muffled knock knock from outside)

RANGER: (muffled) Who’s there?

LITTLE RED: (muffled) It’s Little Red, come to deliver cake and wine.

RANGER: (muffled) Please come in, lift the latch and come in. Ha ha ha… Oh shit!

(FX: Roar, battle sounds followed by final howling roar and a disgusting wet ripping sound.)

LITTLE RED: You boys okay in there?

ARTHUR: Thank god you opened him up in time and let us out. Although now there’s air around my face oh god I can smell how bad this is… Augh! Who are you, anyway, slightly built, gore covered woman?

LITTLE RED: I’m Little Red. I don’t open up wolves. I open up cans of whup-ass. This laser axe here is my can opener.

FRED: Ah. Thats a bit of cliché, isn’t it?

LITTLE RED: You got a smart mouth for a man covered in giant wolf guts.

FRED: Point taken.

LITTLE RED: Let’s go, I’ve got a ship waiting. Zipgun Beetlebrows needs you. Bring the monkey.

ARTHUR: (fade into distance) You know Zipgun? What is whup-ass? Is it a martial art? Where are we going? Is there tea? Hey, what monkey?!?

VOICE OF A BOOK: And so it was that our heroes found their way out of the forest through the guts of an evil wolf creature from the planet Grimm, reconnected with their friend Zipgun Beetlebrows via their meeting with the tiny but gorgeous warrior princess, Little Red, and how they established that when all’s said and done, planet Three Oaks’ major industry was in fact small, feisty, bipedal female-dispensed cans of whup-ass.


 Another enormously satisfying pastiche based on my love of dear late Douglas’ work.

The keynotes of his style are a razor wit, word play, and an attitude culled from the different parts of his personality. Ford Prefect, or Fred Perfect as he is known here, was the classless, adventurous guy who’d been everywhere and done everything, travelled widely and knew how to do things. He was enthusiastic and up for new experiences. Arthur Dent, or Dont as I have him here, was the opposite, middle class curmudgeon wearing a dressing gown and slippers who didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything, was constantly grumbling, wanting tea and not being able to get it anywhere they travelled, and contantly self depreciateing and yet wanting to be appreciated.

These two opposing personalities were the driving force of the Hitchhiker’s series, and I feel they were aspects of Douglas, wanting to be the adventurous Ford, but feeling like Arthur. Travelling and experiencing the sensual pleasure of new things and places and experiences, but being a bit crestfallen that he couldn’t get a proper cup of tea anywhere but home. Their arguments and bickering drove the plot and gave Douglas time to put forth his own ideas about Life, The Universe and Everything through the opinions of his cast.

All the place and character names, like in Philip K Dick’s work, are puns or jokes, but in common with Sir Terry Pratchett they are much more overt, staunchly British, and much less in-jokey than PKD. You always knew with Douglas, as with Sir Terry, that if someone had an obviously funny name which was begging for a joke, that at some point that joke, the very reason they were named that way, would be along shortly and would be worth the wait. Slartibartfast springs to mind.

And the woman were always very strong in his tales, modern women who stood up for themselves and never took any BS from the clearly childish male characters. In tight situations it was the women, and in rare cases and to his own surprise more than anyone Arthur, who stepped up and saved the day.

Douglas also had this way of writing long sentences with many clauses, sometimes with two or three asides inserted within commas, and yet no matter how long or wordy the sentences got, he refined and doubtless said them out loud until they read smoothly and naturally.

When all was said and done Douglas had a lot to say about life and had an unquenchable thirst for it. He chose comedy as a platform for his ideas, the way PKD chose science fiction as a platform for his philosophy. I tend to think of his stories not as stories, not in the way Neil Gaiman tells stories, but as yarns, a tall tale which entertains and informs while leaving you with a happy camp fire glow, and the comfort of knowing you can always come back to it or retell it to each other whenever you want to.


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