RH: First, let's go over how this book came about. I gather it's a
pretty convoluted story.
DA: Well, it is, actually, and this is one of the reasons we have
such a convoluted accreditation. It's currently called "Douglas
Adams' Starship Titanic, a novel by Terry Jones," which sounds
absurd, but there's a perfectly logical explanation for how we got
there. Of course, once we got there, we should have seen that there
was a simpler place to be, and that it should be "Starship
Titanic, by Douglas Adams and Terry Jones," because although it
wasn't a collaboration in the sense that we were sitting around a
table swapping lines with each other, it was a serial
collaboration. I did my work and then Terry did his.
TJ: Douglas did a twenty-page treatment with a storyline and
characters. That existed when I came aboard, and I came aboard
because I was asked to be a parrot...
DA: ...in the thing we haven't mentioned yet, the way the
whole thing got started, which is the CD-ROM. I've been working on
the Starship Titanic CD-ROM for the last couple years, and
when I realized that there would have to be a novel as well, I was up
to my ears working on the CD-ROM, so I couldn't do the novel then,
while the publisher insisted that the book had to come out at the
same time as the CD-ROM. Terry happened to be coming in, because
he was doing the voice of the semi-deranged parrot. He came in to
discuss the parameters of the character, its motivation...
TJ: The motivation of the parrot, by the way, is generally
millet seed or pistachio nuts.
DA: Anyway, he saw what we'd been doing for the game, the
graphics and the animations, and he asked, "Is there anything else I
can do?" So I said, "Well, would you fancy writing the novel? We
need it in five weeks." And he said, "Oh, no trouble at all. In fact, I'll
just do it in the mornings, do it in three weeks, and then take two
TJ: I didn't know it was going to take three weeks.
That's just how long it took for me to run out of treatment.
DA: After all the furor to get the book done in time to release
it with the game, the game has done what every single piece of
software in the history of multimedia software has done, which is
turn out to be six months late. But it's brilliant.
TJ: When I went in to do my work for the parrot, Douglas
showed me the designs for the game. They're absolutely stunning.
DA: And what's particularly special about it is that not only
does it look fabulous -- and I can say that since I didn't do any of the
design --, you can carry on conversations with all the characters.
We've had to develop a highly sophisticated language machine into
the game, and have recorded over twelve hours of dialgoue snippets
which can then be strung together to create a conversation. When it
works, it's pretty damn devastating. We just have to make sure it
happens all the time.
RH: You're both used to working in cross-media platforms by now,
DA: I enjoy it. For the last few years, I've only been writing
novels, and while I'm happy to write novels from time to time, I'd
like the freedom and opportunity to do other projects.
TJ: It's a peculiarity of modern times, that we think that
everybody should be just one thing, that you're a writer of comedy,
or of science fiction, and you should just do that one thing and stick
RH: In fact, this is your first science-fiction novel, but you've
previously written some fantasy material.
TJ: Usually for children, right. In fact, I just had another book
come out a few weeks ago called The Knight and the Squire, a
historical epic for children. And I directed a movie, The Wind in
the Willows, which was released by Columbia recently.
DA: And how did it get reviewed, Terry?
TJ: It got absolute raves, Douglas, since you ask. The New
York Times said it was one of the best children's films ever...
RH: Variety even took Columbia to task for not releasing the
film widely enough, right?
TJ: You're right, they did. Although I think their exact words
weren't "broadly enough," but "at all." I suppose, though, that
technically they did release it, they're just not advertising it.
Although we're told it did very well in Salt Lake City.
RH: Now, if I'm reading the press kit right, Douglas did some work
with Monty Python?
DA: Almost none at all, really.
TJ: Douglas appeared in some small cameos.
DA: If you put them all together, it might add up to a good
three seconds... There is one other, tiny connection. When you were
doing the album to Holy Grail, and for some Pythonic reason
you decided you didn't want to do material from the film on the
album, there was a sketch I'd written some time before that, along
with several other people, about a film director wanting to make a
new movie with Marilyn Monroe. I rewrote the sketch with Graham
[Chapman], then I think you and Michael [Palin] rewrote it yet again.
By the time it got on the album, I think one of my actual lines still
appeared in it. So there's one tiny, tiny, little remote bit of a
RH: Both Starship Titanic and Monty Python have websites.
How much involvement do you each have in the respective sites?
TJ: I can answer that quickly: not very much. Eric [Idle] has
really been the vanguard of PythOnline. I answer some email on it
occasionally, but that's about it.
DA: In my case, I was involved in the conceptual stages: what
would be on the site, how it would work. But Michael Bywater did
the bulk of the actual writing. It's very well-written, and I can say
that because I didn't write it.
RH: What's next for each of you?
TJ: I'm making a series of films for the Discovery Channel
called Ancient Inventions, and I'm writing a screenplay for a
film called Longitude.
DA: My next planned project is a new novel called The
Difference Engineer, but what may derail that is that we're close
to finally reaching a deal to do Hitchhiker's Guide as a