Please don’t let anyone Americanise it!
Entertaining feedback from Douglas Adams
It was on this day in 2001, at 49 years of age, that Douglas Adams died. Adams was best known for creating The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a wildly successful project that began in 1978 as a science-fiction comedy radio series and eventually evolved to become something much larger, in many formats and in many languages, adored by many millions of people around the world. This typically entertaining letter, which was actually a fax, was sent in 1992 to US editor Byron Preiss, whose company at the time was producing a comic book adaptation of Adams’ ever-expanding opus. Having noticed some unnecessary changes, Adams was keen to give some feedback.
January 13th, 1992
Thanks for the script of the novel… I’ll respond as quickly and briefly as possible.
One general point. A thing I have had said to me over and over again whenever I’ve done public appearances and readings and so on in the States is this: Please don’t let anyone Americanise it! We like it the way it is!
There are some changes in the script that simply don’t make sense. Arthur Dent is English, the setting is England, and has been in every single manifestation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ever. The ‘Horse and Groom’ pub that Arthur and Ford go to is an English pub, the ‘pounds’ they pay with are English (but make it twenty pounds rather than five – inflation). So why suddenly ‘Newark’ instead of ‘Rickmansworth’? And ‘Bloomingdales’ instead of ‘Marks & Spencer’? The fact that Rickmansworth is not within the continental United States doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist! American audiences do not need to feel disturbed by the notion that places do exist outside the US or that people might suddenly refer to them in works of fiction. You wouldn’t, presumably, replace Ursa Minor Beta with ‘Des Moines’. There is no Bloomingdales in England, and Bloomingdales is not a generic term for large department stores. If you feel that referring to ‘Marks & Spencer’ might seriously freak out Americans because they haven’t heard of it… we could either put warning stickers on the label (‘The text of this book contains references to places and institutions outside the continental United States and may cause offence to people who haven’t heard of them’) or you could, I suppose, put ‘Harrods’, which most people will have heard of. Or we could even take the appalling risk of just recklessly mentioning things that people won’t have heard of and see if they survive the experience. They probably will – when people are born they haven’t heard or anything or anywhere, but seem to get through the first years of their lives without ill-effects.