The Ditmar Awards are named for Australian fan Martin James Ditmar Jenssen. Founded in 1969 as an award to be given by the Australian National Convention, during a discussion about the name for the award, Jenssen offered to pay for the award if it were named the Ditmar. His name was accepted and he wound up paying for the award for more years than he had planned. Ditmar would eventually win the Ditmar Award for best fan artist twice, once in 2002 and again in 2010. Primarily an Australian Award, for most years from 1969 to 1989, an award was presented for International Fiction. The International Fiction Award was one of the Ditmar’s original awards and the first one was won by Thomas M. Disch for Camp Concentration. In 1980, the Ditmar Award for International Fiction was presented to Douglas Adams for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at Swancon 5, held in Perth. The last time the award was presented was in 1989 to Orson Scott Card for the novel Seventh Son. On two occasions, in 1971 and 1984, no award was presented.
I bought my first copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy at a small independent bookstore that, amazingly enough, still exists forty years later. When I bought the book, I had already heard the radio series and knew what to expect. Of course, the novel and the radio series are in no way the same thing. Adams was able to flesh things out a little more in the book and could add descriptive passages that weren’t possible in the radio show. In addition, jokes that had been in the radio series were dropped if Adams felt they didn’t quite work.
Taking a break from award winners, several authors published their first novels in 1979. Some of these authors had previously published short stories and one notable one was active in radio and television and wound up winning several awards for work done in 1979 (Douglas Adams). Here is a look at some of the debut novels of 1979.
Perhaps the biggest splash for a debut novel in 1979 was Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, although it was really a novelization and abridged version of his radio show of the same title, which had previously aired in 1978. The novel, of course, sparked a series of five novels by Adams, plus one more by Eoin Colfer, and adaptations for stage, television, screen, and upcoming, a streaming service. A satire on the tropes of science fiction, the absurdity of the situations and responses in the books hit a nerve with the public and have expanded beyond the genre, with people who haven’t read science fiction at least recognizing that the number 42 is a cultural touchstone.
The British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards have been presented by the British Science Fiction Association since 1970 and were originally nominated for and voted on by the members of the Association. The Media Award was created in 1979, when it was won be the original series of the radio show The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In its first three years, the award was won by the first and second series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show as well as the record. The award was presented annually until 1992, when the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day won the final award.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was originally a radio show which aired on the BBC from March 8, 1978 to April 12, 1978, with an additional episode (called a fit) airing on December 24, 1978. The show was so popular that a stage show based on the radio show ran from May 1-9, 1979 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The first four episodes of the radio show were also adapted (with some alterations) for release on a double LP set in 1979 (released in the US and Canada in 1982). The recordings used the original scripts, but cut some sections for timing while adding in alternative lines that were cut from the radio shows (including one that I really enjoy). Most of the original radio cast returned for the record, although Susan Sheridan, who had voiced Trillian, was unavailable since she was recording the voice of Princess Eilonwy for Disney’s animated film The Black Cauldron, and was replaced by Cindy Oswin, who had performed the role in the ICA stage production.
Pat Terry was an Australian fan who was born in the mid-1880 and died in 1970. The Sydney Science Fiction Foundation established an award in his name to recognize Humour in science fiction. The award was only presented 8 times over the course of 12 years, from 1970, when it was given to John Sladek for Mechasm until 1982, when it was presented to Randall Garrett. Despite being an Australian Award, in 1971 and 1980, the award was presented at the Worldcon, which happened to be in Boston both of those years. The 1980 award, for work done in 1979, was presented to Douglas Adams for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and was accepted on his behalf by Chris Priest at Noreascon II.
Douglas Adams was born on March 11, 1952. He attended Cambridge, where he formed a comedy troupe called Adams-Smith-Adams with Will Adams and Martin Smith before becoming a member of the Footlights. His work with Footlights brought him to the attention of Graham Chapman, and the two wrote a few sketches together, with Adams being one of only two non-Pythons to receive a writing credit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Adams would also later contribute to Chapman A Liar’s Autobiography.
I first became aware of Douglas Adams in the late 1970s when I received recordings of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show sometime between the first series and the second series, before the publication of the first book based on them. By that time, of course, I had already seen some of his work on Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Samhain Publishing has just awakened Sleeping Bear, the second Renner and Quistadventure by Mark Rigney to see publication as an ebook. I discovered the series last year when the same publisher unearthed The Skates, a screwball quest involving tormented Victorian souls, a pair of magic ice skates, a ghostly hound, and dimensional time and space travel.
For the benefit of newcomers, Renner and Quist are an odd couple double act comprising a stuffy Unitarian minister and a rather crude, sometimes boorish, ex-linebacker and former private eye, who team to solve occult mysteries in Michigan. This quirky series is surprisingly literate fiction that calls to mind Douglas Adams’s delightful Dirk Gently detective series.
Rigney’s fiction is built around his characters’ faith (or their lack thereof) in the supernatural and preternatural. The series is thought-provoking as much as it is entertaining. This time out, Sleeping Bear finds Reverend Renner suffering through a crisis of faith as his attempts to minister at a local hospice have fallen on not just deaf ears, but unbelieving ones.