by Susan L. Fox, executive producer
To fans of science fiction on film, this is the day the world changed in 1977, as the anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars feature film. To fans of British humorous science fiction, this is a day to remember our fallen, fictional and otherwise: Towel Day for Douglas Adams; Lilac Day for Sir Terry Pratchett.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author Douglas Adams passed away suddenly of a heart attack on the evening before he was supposed to deliver the commencement address for Harvey Mudd College, a high-end math/science program of the Claremont Colleges in California, on 25 May 2001. Those poor kids were only the first of the world of mourning fans to find out. Thinking quickly, one fan in the Internet proposed that two weeks from the death day should be a worldwide commemoration as “Towel Day” where every one carried a towel, as all galactic hitchhikers should. And so they have, from that day to this.
Sir Terry Pratchett wrote 41 novels in his Discworld series, which started out spoofing modern fantasy literature but took on a life of their own. His battle with early onset dementia cut short a brilliant career, but only slowed him down a little as he kept writing books with the help of his family and assistants, with one more yet to be published this summer. 2002 entry Night Watch was set around “The Glorious 25th of May,” the date of an important incident in the city of Ankh-Morpork and the commemoration of the death of several policemen, which the current cast of characters observed every year, as the lilacs bloomed. That is all we may say without spoilers, but the fans latched on to the symbol of the lilac as the bond between Discworld fans, even before the author’s “embuggerance” of illness. This year’s “Lilac Day” is particularly poignant since the author’s passing two months ago.
Both authors share greater popularity in the UK than the US, which this American reader finds a crying shame, and were both noted atheists, for whose souls are prayed by kind devout fans every day. Ironic, isn’t it? Wear a flower today, whether the red poppy for US Memorial Day or the lilac for Geek Pride Day.
In the meantime, before those gentlemen came to prominence, 25 May 1977 happened. What would our genre be like without Star Wars? That’s when everything changed and Science Fiction suddenly became Profitable, and therefore of interest to the big corporations at long last. A lot of bad copies came out quickly, but on the other hand a lot of good people were enabled to practice their craft who would not have had a chance otherwise.
Those of us who were SF fans before 1977, stand proud; those who have come to us since then, be welcome. The best is yet to come.
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