Trivia

Hard

Which Sci-Fi Author Famously Encouraged Us To Never Forget Our Towels?

Arthur C. Clarke
Douglas Adams
William Gibson
Ray Bradbury
Characters from the 2005 film adaptation, carrying towels.
Touchstone Pictures/Walt Disney Studios

Answer: Douglas Adams

Sci-fi writer Douglas Adams, best known for his best-selling novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, used the book to dispense all sorts of wisdom about the nature of the universe, intergalactic travel, and the importance of preparation. In the third chapter of the book he explains the importance of the simple towel:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

In honor of Douglas Adams and his contribution to the sci-fi community, May 25th is International Towel Day—a commemoration wherein fans carry towels around for the day in his memory. Towel Day started in 2001, two weeks after Adams’ untimely death at the age of 49.

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