42. Life, The Universe, and Everything

I have no idea where it came from, but some 5 years ago, a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy appeared in my house.

I’m sure everyone has experienced this one way or another – things just… appear, seemingly out of nowhere. Hair clips, colorful candy, little chocolate sweets. Maybe somewhere on the other side of the earth, someone is wondering where on earth are their hair clips disappearing to. Maybe somewhere, someone is wondering why do extra socks keep coming out of their washing machine.

In the house where I live, the walls are lined with books. Fiction books, textbooks, biographies, self-help books, dictionaries, manuals – it’d probably be easier for me to list down what kind of books I don’t have.

(the annotated Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Hint hint)

Some people have their game collections, and some people have their stamp or coin collection; but my family apparently has a book collection going on. Not that we actively seek for books to be added to our collection – but they just appear. On my own, I buy at least 10 books in a year, and that’s discounting textbooks. Multiply that by 6 people in my family (my parents buy more, because they end up buying books for us kids when they get books for themselves), and you’ll get a whole lot of books. To give you a picture: with the exception of the bathrooms, every room in my house has at least – at the very least – 50 books stored within their walls.

So sometime in 2008, while I was halfway through Form 5, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy appeared on my house. I waited for a little bit, because borrowed items tend to disappear on their own after a while; but this book persisted. And no one seemed to know where it came from. Looking at the yellowed pages, I’d be willing to bet that it was bought some time in the 90s.

At that time, it seemed like an odd little book to me. What was up with that robot on the cover? Looking at the synopsis: the earth being destroyed? Why does it look like such a happy, cheerful little book? It was the time when I was reading some serious literature (in a prolonged case of artwritis) – The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Pearl, Terrorist, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were my reading companions for most of the year.

It was also the year that I came up with the idea of the anthropomorphic personification of Death (after having read excerpts from Terry Pratchett’s legendary book series), a concept that would become rather popular when I eventually came around to writing and publishing the short stories in 2011. One day, with nothing else to do, I flipped open the covers to read the first pages of the late Douglas Adam’s enduring masterpiece.

I read.

And I chuckled.

And I eventually laughed out loud.

In time, the style and delivery of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, alongside the Discworld series, would become a primary influence in my writing style, especially when it came to writing for humor and comedy. In fact, a good chunk of my writings were written as absurdist comedies, usually with the average man caught up in events far, far beyond his control. The original draft for Epitaph and Epiphanies (a novel I had intended to write in 2009, and am still fully intending to complete one day) had Jake Smith, an average American man, finding himself hunted by Death and being brought to hell – only to find out that it had been a horrible, horrible mistake due to a mixup in the records. A bureaucracy nightmares ensues as Jake Smith tries to find his way back to the land of the living, and only begins to learn to live while dead.

Looking back, I guess I owe a big deal to Mr. Adams. for his influence and genius. Last year, when I participated in the 48 Hour Film Project in Kuala Lumpur, I knew I needed to give my team a name that was dignified, but unpretentious. You can probably guess that I did in the end.

I named my team 42.

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