Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide
How it began,
According to Douglas Adams the way he got the idea for the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy, although it started as a Radio series for the BBC called “The Ends of the Earth”, was while he was hitchhiking around Europe with a copy of “The Hitchhiker’s guide to Europe”. He was in Innsbruck, Austria, was totally lost and looking for an address. Tough job because he didn’t speak German and the first person he stopped to ask directions was deaf and dumb. (For American readers Dumb = Mute) He disentangled himself and stopped another man who also turned out to be a deaf mute. He then went and bought some beers. Staggering back onto the street the third person he accosted was not only deaf and dumb but blind as well. He was now feeling that the world was conspiring against him. He hurried along, bumped into someone else, muttered an apology only to find that this man was also a deaf mute. He believed his mind would have cracked irreparably if he had not stumbled past a hotel where a convention for the deaf was being held.
He lay down in a field and when the stars came out he wished that if someone would write a Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, he would be off like a shot.
The BBC repeated this story but said it happened in Spain. Douglas Adams used to remark that this was because the BBC couldn’t spell Innsbruck.
Planet Earth's version of the Guide
How the book came to be.
The way the book came together happened, more or less, like this;
It began as a radio series for the BBC called “The ends of the Earth” because each episode ended with a different way of the Earth ending. It was first aired in a series of six episodes in March of 1978. Later that year another episode was added called “The Christmas episode. It contained no reference to Christmas but it was aired on December 24th, which is not Christmas day. Then things start to get complicated.
The first Hitchhiker book was published in the UK in 1979 an expanded version of the first four episodes of the radio show. In January of 1980 five new episodes were broadcast on BBC radio bringing the total number to twelve. Later that year the second Hitchhiker book was released in the UK at about the same time as it made its debut in the States. It was a reworked version of episodes, 7,8,9,10,11,12,5 and 6 in that order. It was called “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe” Because it drew from material in episode 5 that referred to Milliways, (The Restaurant at the end of the Universe)
Meanwhile, a series of six television episodes of “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy” was made by the BBC and broadcast in January of 1981. This series was based on the first six episodes of the radio series so it incorporated most of the book “The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy” and the second half of “The Restaurant at the end of the Universe” Therefore it incorporated revisions from the books though the books themselves had not been revised at that time.
Keep up with me here.
In the summer of 1982 a third Hitchhiker book was released simultaneously in the UK and the States called “Life, the Universe and Everything” This book was not based on anything seen or heard to that date, in fact it contradicted most of the episodes in the radio series. If you’ve been following, and God knows I’m having enough trouble keeping up with this myself, you will recall that the first books were based on the radio series.
The series of books was intended as trilogies so Adams wrote a fourth part, don’t ask me I don’t know. This was called “So long, and thanks for all the fish” The fourth book flatly contradicts everything that has happened so far including contradicting itself.
There you have it, the recipe for a best selling book radio and TV series, not to mention the movie. I mean I won't mention it if you won't.
The Movie, which also contradicts most of what happened elsewhere.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy follows, more or less, the adventures of Arthur Dent. A normal, everyday Englishman who wakes up one morning to discover that the Earth is about to be demolished to make way for an interstellar by-pass. A fate shared by many communities who were foolish enough to build their homes in the path of future progress. The other surprise he gets that day is when he discovers that his friend, Ford Prefect, is actually an alien researcher assigned to Earth by the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy. The Ford Prefect is the name of a car very popular in the UK in the 70’s. Arthur’s friend chose the name on his arrival on Earth because he mistook the dominant life form. The dominant life form on Earth is described as being Ape descended creatures that are so primitive they still think digital watches are a neat idea. Most of these creatures are unhappy and believe that the solution to their unhappiness lies in the moving around of little green pieces of paper. Which is very strange because the little green pieces of paper are not at all unhappy.
The problem of understanding alien speech is accomplished by the use of the Babel Fish. A fish that is placed in your ear and then translates any language you may hear into the language you are most comfortable with. Use of the Babel fish with all its attributes can be found in the Hitchhiker’s guide. The Guide is the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great publishing house of Ursa Minor and in many parts of the Galaxy outsells the Encyclopedia Galactica mainly because it’s cheaper and also because on the back are the words “Don’t Panic”
Arthur and Ford meet up with Zaphod Beeblebrox an old friend of Ford’s and an interstellar rogue, Trillian, Zephod’s girlfriend that he picked up while partying on Earth and Marvin, the paranoid Android. Other characters come and go as we discover that the fjords of Norway were designed by none other than Slartibartfast, who won an award for them. That the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything is 42, that’s the answer, the question hasn’t quite been figured out yet. Though it is explained that the question and the answer cannot occur in the same universe at the same time, one famous quote is;
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”
According to the Guide, somewhere in the Galaxy is a race of creatures with fifty arms. They are the only race to have invented under-arm deodorant before they invented the wheel.
Also the guide informs us of the method of obtaining unaided human flight. Climb to the top of a high building, jump off, aim for the ground and miss.
In the Restaurant at the end of the universe a dialogue occurs that has always made me wonder if Douglas Adams was talking about himself. It takes place between Arthur and a woman named Mella;
“You’re very strange,” she said.
“No, I’m very ordinary.” Said Arthur. “But some very strange things have happened to me. You could say I’m more differed from than differing.”
How to leave Planet Earth
For those who would like to leave the planet I offer some helpful information supplied by Douglas Adams himself.
1) Phone NASA. Their phone number is (711) 483-111. Explain that it is very important that you get away as soon as possible.
2) If they do not co-operate, phone any friend you may have in the White House (302) 456-1414 to have a word on your behalf with NASA
3) If you don’t have any friends in the White House phone the Kremlin. 0107-095-295-9051 They don’t have friends in the White House either, at least none that they talk about, but they do seem to have a little influence.
4) If all that fails phone the Pope. 011-39-6-6982 I understand his switchboard is infallible.
5) If all these attempts fail, flag down a passing flying saucer and explain that it’s vitally important you get away before your phone bill arrives.
So long and thanks for all the laughs
I always wanted to meet Douglas Adams, or “Bop-Ad” as he was known from the way he wrote his signature. It wouldn’t have been too difficult; he lived in Santa Barbara, California. Not too far from where I live these days. Unfortunately I didn’t know that until I heard of his Death. It was May 11th 2001. He was taking a rest period during his regular work out at a gym when he had a fatal heart attack. He was unaware that he had been suffering a gradual narrowing of the coronary arteries that caused, at that moment, a myocardial infarction and a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
He was married to Jane Belson and they had one daughter Polly Adams. Shortly after the funeral they returned to London.
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