Archive for the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ Tag

[50/50] Computer Game #15: “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Computer Game #15: “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

Hitchhikers_Guide_box_artWay back in the year 1984, when personal computers were the size of small goats and had the power of pocket lint, computer games were essentially bits and bloops that implied something more than represented it. There just wasn’t enough memory or power in the hardware of the day.

The fastest way around this limitation was by using … text … just words. Simply describe the scene and let the player fill in the details. Infocom made millions selling a dozen or so of these text-only games, wherein players typed in what they wanted to do (“Get Lamp“), and proceeded to have grand adventures exploring dungeon mazes, vast kingdoms‚ or a whole galaxy, all by typing in a few words or phrases.

“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” — first a radio show, then a book, then a TV show, then a computer game, thereby entirely by accident becoming the first transmedia success story — became Infocom’s all-time best seller by tapping into what made “Hitchhiker’s Guide” so successful in the first place: Douglas Adams’ adroit use of language. Each iteration of H2G2 followed the hapless protagonist, Arthur Dent, on a improbable adventure across the universe after Earth is destroyed, and the computer game proudly continued this tradition in suitably maddening fashion.

Best yet, because the game was text-based it wasn’t limited to the latest operating system, meaning  — unlike virtually all other computer games that are eventually left behind as upgrades abandoned them — it could still be played on today’s computers. And even if you didn’t buy a copy back in the day, the BBC offered a free, updated version of the game to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the original.

[50/50] Short Story #3: “The Days of Solomon Gursky”

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Short Story #3: “The Days of Solomon Gursky” — Ian McDonald (1998)

410197Truly one of the more ambitious short stories ever, “The Days of Solomon Gursky” focuses on a scientist who discovers a form of immortality and follows his career over the next, oh, 40 billion years or so, dropping in on him during seven key days. This “one week” in the life of the character is both a play on the English nursery rhyme “Solomon Grundy” and a re-envisioning of the creation story from the book of Genesis. McDonald crams dozens of scientific concepts onto each page, daring you to keep up as he skips from idea to idea on the long arc of Gursky’s adventure to the end of the universe and beyond. And yet, thanks to the pathos at the core of the story, the frantic pace of “Days” has genuine gravity: Although he has reshaped reality in his own image, Solomon Gursky cannot find the lost love of his life, who once sacrificed herself helping humanity escape from a losing war in deep space.

Many of the ‘big ideas’ in this story echo those found in “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” but with a serious bent. McDonald’s writing is just as often poetic as it is prose — think “The English Patient” — giving it a different feel than most sci-fi dealing with nanotechnology, genetic engineering, custom-made planets and pan-dimensional beings. You can find a pirated version of “The Days of Solomon Gursky” online, but this is one story worth tracking down.