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“There is nothing better — at any age — than writing and reading purely for the pleasure of it”

My nascent writing skills took a huge leap forward when I started writing fan fiction as a teenager… I lost all the inhibitions and hang-ups of the classroom… and wrote purely for the fun of it.

@snazdoll on the value of writing (and reading) fan fiction. I agree totally: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy inspired me to fill whole exercise books with thinly-disguised knock-offs; even if the writing was terrible, I was learning the conventions of dialogue, paragraph rhythm, even stuff as rudimentary as indenting text for readability. Later I got into fan fiction through reading and publishing stories in Doctor Who fanzines. Fan fiction was far less visible then than it is now, so I guess that’s why I never felt much shame about it; there was nobody around to sneer at it.

There isn’t a university of writing. There are courses that help talented writers reach their potential or forge professional networks, sure, but for that talent to exist in the first place, would-be writers need the freedom to fill exercise books or post to fanfic boards, without inhibitions or hang-ups.

The middle-class guide to the galaxy

As the publication date nears for Eoin Colfer’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy continuation novel, the Guardian surveys the place of the original work (which is to say, the radio series, novels and TV series combined) in the British psyche. “The Hitchhiker stories make up a sort of folk-art depiction, like on a tribal carpet, of the late-1970s English middle-class cosmic order,” says Jenny Turner.