Hunter S. Thompson was a hacker of the first order. Not a hacker in technology terms, but a hacker none the less.
HST’s profession was journalism. Instead of choosing to follow the rules and trying to write the way people are taught in journalism school, he instead chose to hack the entire profession.
He threw out the rules and invented his own style of journalism, which he called “Gonzo Journalism”. His idea was to insert himself (as the journalist) into the middle of the story; to literally become part of the story. Then he related the story to the reader from a participant’s viewpoint.
Being in San Francisco in the 1960’s, he absorbed himself in the culture of that time and place — and that was reflected in a great deal of his work. But if you read beyond his most popular work (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas), you find that his desire to literally reinvent journalism led to his doing a great deal of other brilliant work.
Like the time, for example, that he paid someone to take him on a boat to a smuggler’s village on a remote beach somewhere in South America. He waded ashore — not speaking a word of the local language — with a few belongings and his heavy typewriter and got a great story. He noted that, even though they lived in a remote village, they all wore rolex’s and had top of the line scotch and rum (spoils of their smuggler’s lifestyle). He spent time with them and got to the heart of the story; for some reason they spared his life and let him go.
He didn’t like the way journalism was being worked, so he hacked the rules and made journalism work the way he wanted it to.
To steal a quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (via Nat Friedman’s post today):
“There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Some kind of high powered mutant never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
Note: Here’s a page put up by a fan for his admirers to leave their thoughts.