Five Fittingly Peculiar Author Tributes

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Geeks everywhere got a “raging brainer” (thank you, Professor Farnsworth) last week when a photo surfaced of Ray Bradbury reacting to the bubblegum-pop send-up “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury.” It’s a beautiful thing to learn that one of the greatest sci-fi writers of all time lived long enough to see his own tribute — even if it was foul-mouthed and tongue-in-cheek. With that in mind, here are five other (more SFW) tributes to some famous authors who are no longer with us.

Douglas Adams: Towel Day

As anyone who’s read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy can attest, a towel is just about the best thing in the universe to have, whether you’re using it to defend yourself or con someone out of a toothbrush. Carrying one around is also one of the best ways to show your appreciation for Mr. Adams’ unique body of work on May 25 when his fans all around the world display their own towels, many screen-printed with the wisest piece of advice ever written: “DON’T PANIC.” It’s a fitting tribute to the author, and a yearly reminder to reflect on Adams’ writings and offbeat thinking.

Hunter S. Thompson: Having his ashes shot out of a cannon

A man as extraordinary as Hunter S. Thompson can’t have an ordinary funeral. That was made clear in 2005 when Thompson’s close, personal friend Johnny Depp paid to have his ashes fired out of 153-foot-tall cannon in the shape of a double-thumbed fist holding a button of peyote. As Thompson’s cremains soared through the sky, fireworks burst overhead and a PA blasted Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” From the sound of it, Thompson’s funeral was every bit as bizarre and dream-like as his life’s work.

James Joyce: Bloomsday

Bloomsday is something like a hyper-literate bar crawl through Dublin. On June 16, Joyceians from all over the world gather to retrace the steps Leopold Bloom, the protagonist from Ulysses, took on his day-long trek. There are ersatz Bloomsday celebrations in other cities, most notably in Philadelphia, where the handwritten manuscript of Ulysses is kept, but for the truly hardcore devotees, Ireland is the only appropriate destination. Sure, there are also readings, lectures, and performances held in Joyce’s honor, but there’s just something special about celebrating the quintessential Irish writer’s work by getting pissed in his home country.

Kurt Vonnegut: “So it goes” tattoos

Some novels contain little blurbs or snatches of dialog that so encapsulate their thematic foundation that they become mantras in and of themselves. So it went (see what we did there?) with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, which contains the phrase “So it goes” a total of 116 times. It acts as a kind of all-purpose segue, but it conjures the kind of world-weary nonchalance that characterized much of Vonnegut’s work. Fans of every stripe have tattooed the phrase on themselves in Vonnegut’s honor — or maybe just because the phrase seems so untouchably blasé about life, death, and everything else.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Enyalië

Every year, on the weekend closest to September 22 (which makes this a sort of floating holiday), the Tolkien Society gathers in England for Oxonmoot, a celebration of the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Oxonmoot is part renaissance festival and part academic convention, with events titled “Merry and Pippin’s Dance Workshop,” but the final day of the gathering takes on a decidedly sadder tone when the attendees take part in a Middle-Earth-themed wreath-laying and remembrance service, called Enyalië, at the grave site of Tolkien and his wife, Edith. The service includes 11 songs and recitations in Quenya, a fitting tribute to a man who felt so personally about his own work that he had his own headstone inscribed with “Beren” and his wife’s with “Lúthien.” It’s perhaps sadder than some of the other tributes on our list, but, then, sending heroes off to Valinor was always a little melodramatic.