Subject: uh... It was me : Confessions and Explanations : Part 1 ( 13 of 26 )
Posted by Jeremy Lee
This is probably the best chance I'll have to set the record straight concerning the strange and disturbing events of the last year and a half. Let me tell you a tale...
I wrote it. At least, I believe I did. I distinctly remember staring out the window wondering how people were going to take the Wombat, and carefully rearranging the words of many sentences until quite late. I may have imagined it. It's possible. But I don't think so. The muse was with me that night. I've not written that well since.
I'm not a professional writer. At best, I'm a semi-talented amateur. I did actually get paid for writing something once, but only by accident.
Australia: The Confusing Country (henceforth "A:TCC") was written specifically for h2g2.com. That is where the confusion begins, I think.
The year was 1999, a time of progress and industry! h2g2 had just opened, to great fanfare and enthusiasm. I have always been a bit of a hitch-hikers fan (this, as my friends will attest, is a small understatement. And so was that.) and I managed to be one of the first three thousand people to sign up.
I then proceeded to chew at the rubber of my cursor, wondering what to write. I thought I might begin by fix some of the more glaring omissions in the guide; For example, the entire country of Australia (in which I live) seemed to be absent. Rather a big gap, I thought. I resolved to do something about it.
The 'Original' draft (before editing, including spelling mistakes) can be found here ( http://www.h2g2.com/A12295 ), and the datestamp indicates I first submitted it to h2g2 on the 29th of April, 1999. I'd been fiddling with it for a few days by then, I recall, having written nearly all of it in an inspired state in one night. I wrote two other articles at about the same time ("The Solar System: Parade of Oddities" and "The Stick: Second Most Useful Thing Ever", which is referenced by the Oz entry.) I have yet to write the refered-to "Deserts: How to Die in them" (which will contain advice such as "Leave all your water at home, run out of petrol on the Nullarbor Plain, and then wander away from the car looking for help while occasionally putting your hand down mysterious holes.") and the entry on Australia's astonishing variety of poisonous and venomous creatures. (there is a difference: Poison is by accident. Venom is on purpose.) I realise that it's been over a year since - making me quite tardy - but I've always had the highest regard for Douglas Adams, and seem to have emulated his writing style in nearly every respect. :-)
A word on that: Yes, I write like Douglas Adams. I'm sorry. Really, terribly sorry. It's not a put-on. Honest! I suppose I was severely traumatized by his books as a child, and have never fully recovered. Douglas; there are several of my old English teachers who would probably like to have a stern word with you, in retribution for all those long sentences I put them through.
Not only did I rip off poor DNA's writing style, some of his idioms, and the occasional specific topic (stonefish, for instance) but I also incorporated ideas and elements from Terry Pratchett's "The Last Continent". (The "Poisonous and Venomous Arachnids, insects, animals, trees, shrubs, fish and sheep of Australia" is pretty much straight out of TLC.) There was also specific influence from another of Douglas' pieces, "Riding the Rays" (this used to be available on www.tdv.com, but has since disappeared) of which my favorite sentence is "No wonder the Australians have a particular kind of smile that they reserve exclusively for use on the British."
I have already apologised to Mr Pratchett for A:TCC, in person, at WorldCon last year. (Though I doubt he remembers) Now I get to apologise to Mr Adams as well.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. um... Sorry.
I feel better now.
Of course, a lot of it was my own stuff, formed simply from living here and keeping my eyes open and my brain running. But without the literary background mentioned above it would have been very different, probably less coherent, and definitely not as infamous.
[urg. There's a size limit per post. Continued in Part 2...]