Volume 3 - Life, The Universe And EverythingDouglas Adams
Douglas Adams was born in 1952 and created all the various and contradictory manifestations of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: radio, novels, TV, computer game, stage adaptation, comic book and bath towel.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was published thirty years ago on 12 October 1979 and its phenomenal success sent the book straight to number one in the UK bestseller list. In 1984 Douglas Adams became the youngest author to be awarded a Golden Pan. His series has sold over 15 million books in the UK, the US and Australia and was also a bestseller in German, Swedish and many other languages.
The feature film starring Martin Freeman and Zooey Deschanel with Stephen Fry as the Guide was released in 2005 using much of Douglas’s original script and ideas.
Douglas lived with his wife and daughter in California, where he died in 2001.
BOOKS BY DOUGLAS ADAMS
The Hitchhiker series
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Life, the Universe and Everything
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Scripts: The Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Film Tie-in
The Making of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’
The Dirk Gently series
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul
The Salmon of Doubt
With John Lloyd
The Meaning of Liff
The Deeper Meaning of Liff
With Mark Carwardine
Last Chance to See . . .
By Terry Jones, based on a story/computer game by Douglas Adams
First published 1982 by Pan Books
This electronic edition published 2009 by pan Books
an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd
Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world
ISBN 978-0-330-51315-9 in Adobe Reader format
ISBN 978-0-330-51314-2 in Adobe Digital Editions format
ISBN 978-0-330-51316-6 in Mobipocket format
Copyright © Serious Productions Ltd 1982
Foreword copyright © Simon Brett 2009
The right of Douglas Adams to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders of material reproduced in this book. If any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers will be pleased to make restitution at the earliest opportunity.
The Macmillan Group has no responsibility for the information provided by any external websites whose address you obtain from this book. The inclusion of external website addresses in this book does not constitute an endorsement by or association with us of such sites or the content, products, advertising or other materials presented on such sites.
You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
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by Simon Brett
I am unique in the history of the world – and indeed of the entire universe. I am the only person who ever got a manuscript from Douglas Adams on time. The reason for this rare distinction is that I was the BBC producer who commissioned the first radio script for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and since the pilot episode could not be recorded until we had some words to record, Douglas duly delivered on time. Thereafter, of course, his propensity towards procrastination and missed deadlines became legendary.
I had first met Douglas with a bunch of other Cambridge revue writers and performers, including John Lloyd, Griff Rhys Jones and Mary Allen. He had contributed a few surreal sketches (including a classic about an unsuccessful kamikaze pilot) to a Cambridge Footlights revue to which a group of young radio Light Entertainment producers (including me) had paid a visit. I subsequently produced a radio version of that stage show.
So I saw a lot of Douglas round the BBC. I was aware of his comedy potential, but also of his huge frustration that he couldn’t find a niche for his unusual talents. Most radio comedy round that time was very stratified. Sketches were carefully structured with beginnings, middles and punchlines, and formats like that didn’t suit the sprawling, insatiable intellectual curiosity of Douglas’s mind.
I was also then producing the topical comedy programme Week Ending, and tried to get him to contribute to that. Never had there been a greater mismatch between programme and writer. A brain like Douglas’s is singularly incapable of writing wacky thirty-second quickies about Margaret Thatcher. Some of his material did appear in The Burkiss Way, another show I was producing, and that was closer to the Adams style. But the show’s main writers, David Renwick and Andrew Marshall (both subsequently to have stellar careers in television comedy), were developing the programme in a way which left little room for outside contributions.
I still thought there was untapped potential in Douglas Adams, and so I asked him to come up with some ideas for a show of his own. On Friday 18 February 1977 we met for lunch in a Japanese restaurant, where he presented me with three ideas. I said that I thought the most promising was the science-fiction comedy which he had entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and that I would try to persuade my bosses in the Light Entertainment Department to commission a pilot script. The rest, as they say, is history. (And, incidentally, neither Douglas nor I could ever remember what the two ideas we rejected were.)
So, on Tuesday 28 June 1977, in the Paris Studio in Lower Regent Street, we recorded the pilot script of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was to be the first and last episode that I produced. Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to continue, but I had recently agreed to take a new job at London Weekend Television. And the ensuing series couldn’t have been in better hands than those of the person I recommended should take over from me – Geoffrey Perkins, a brilliant comedy producer, whose death, like Douglas’s own, came far too early.
On the 12 July I played back the edited recording of the pilot to my immediate bosses. The three of them sat in stony silence for the full half-hour. At the end of the playback the Head of Light Entertainment, Con Mahoney, recognizing that what he had just heard was rather different from the department’s usual output, asked me, ‘Simon, is it funny?’ I assured him it was, and from that moment on he gave the project his full support.
Of course it was from that pilot script that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy developed into an international publishing sensation, the ‘trilogy of five’, of which Life, the Universe and Everything is volume three.
In this book you will find all of the trademarks of Dougla
s Adams’s writing, of which probably the most striking is his sheer glee in the potentialities of the English language. Sometimes the effects are very simple, as when he says of the party spaceship, ‘It tried to right itself and wronged itself instead.’ Other images are more complex, but always note-perfect. Here’s a description of the Norse god Thor: ‘He expanded his chest to make it totally clear that here was the sort of man you only dared to cross if you had a team of Sherpas with you.’
Then there are the words Douglas makes up. In a characteristic scene where a mattress engages in conversation with Marvin the Paranoid Android, we encounter ‘flolloped’, ‘globbered’ and ‘vollued’, none of which would have been out of place in Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.
I think Douglas’s was the most original mind I’ve ever encountered. He had a unique ability to make connections between disparate ideas. In the world of Hitchhiker it appears quite logical that a drinks party should hurtle endlessly through space, or that a new mathematical system should be based on people’s behaviour in restaurants.
Life, the Universe and Everything is the book in which Douglas gets closest to actually having a plot. But as he would readily admit, he wasn’t really good at plots, and it isn’t a very good plot. That couldn’t matter less, though. You don’t read Douglas Adams for his plots any more than you read Raymond Chandler for his. You read both authors for their language and the imaginative world that they create.
So enjoy this book. The writing process for Douglas was an agonizingly slow one, but the results were always worth waiting for. And Life, the Universe and Everything has another rare distinction. It is one of the very few books featuring cricket ever to have been a success in the States.
Producer of the Radio 4 pilot
episode of The Hitchhiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy
LIFE, THE UNIVERSE
The regular early morning yell of horror was the sound of Arthur Dent waking up and suddenly remembering where he was.
It wasn’t just that the cave was cold, it wasn’t just that it was damp and smelly. It was that the cave was in the middle of Islington and there wasn’t a bus due for two million years.
Time is the worst place, so to speak, to get lost in, as Arthur Dent could testify, having been lost in both time and space a good deal. At least being lost in space kept you busy.
He was stranded on prehistoric Earth as the result of a complex sequence of events that had involved his being alternately blown up and insulted in more bizarre regions of the Galaxy than he had ever dreamed existed, and though life had now turned very, very, very quiet, he was still feeling jumpy.
He hadn’t been blown up now for five years.
He had hardly seen anyone since he and Ford Prefect had parted company four years previously, and he hadn’t been insulted in all that time either.
Except just once.
It had happened on a spring evening about two years ago.
He was returning to his cave just a little after dusk when he became aware of lights flashing eerily through the clouds. He turned and stared, with hope suddenly clambering through his heart. Rescue. Escape. The castaway’s impossible dream—a ship.
And as he watched, as he stared in wonder and excitement, a long silver ship descended through the warm evening air, quietly, without fuss, its long legs unlocking in a smooth ballet of technology.
It alighted gently on the ground, and what little hum it had generated died away, as if lulled by the evening calm.
A ramp extended itself.
Light streamed out.
A tall figure appeared silhouetted in the hatchway. It walked down the ramp and stood in front of Arthur.
“You’re a jerk, Dent,” it said simply.
It was alien, very alien. It had a peculiar alien tallness, a peculiar alien flattened head, peculiar slitty little alien eyes, extravagantly draped golden robes with a peculiarly alien collar design, and pale gray green alien skin that had that lustrous sheen about it that most gray green races can acquire only with plenty of exercise and very expensive soap.
Arthur boggled at it.
It gazed levelly at him.
Arthur’s first sensations of hope and trepidation had instantly been overwhelmed by astonishment, and all sorts of thoughts were battling for the use of his vocal cords at this moment.
“Whh …?” he said.
“Bu … hu … uh …” he added.
“Ru … ra … wah … who?” he managed finally to say and lapsed into a frantic kind of silence. He was feeling the effects of not having said anything to anybody for as long as he could remember.
The alien creature frowned briefly and consulted what appeared to be some species of clipboard that it was holding in its thin and spindly alien hand.
“Arthur Dent?” it said.
Arthur nodded helplessly.
“Arthur Philip Dent?” pursued the alien in a kind of efficient yap.
“Er … er … yes … er … er,” confirmed Arthur.
“You’re a jerk,” repeated the alien, “a complete kneebiter.”
The creature nodded to itself, made a peculiar alien check on its clipboard and turned briskly back toward its ship.
“Er …” said Arthur desperately, “er.…”
“Don’t give me that,” snapped the alien. It marched up the ramp, through the hatchway and disappeared into its ship. The ship sealed itself. It started to make a low throbbing hum.
“Er, hey!” shouted Arthur, and started to run helplessly toward it.
“Wait a minute!” he called. “What is this? What? Wait a minute!”
The ship rose, as if shedding its weight like a cloak falling to the ground, and hovered briefly. It swept strangely up into the evening sky. It passed up through the clouds, illuminating them briefly, and then was gone, leaving Arthur alone in an immensity of land dancing a helplessly tiny little dance.
“What?” he screamed. “What? What? Hey, what? Come back here and say that!”
He jumped and danced until his legs trembled, and shouted till his lungs rasped. There was no answer from anyone. There was no one to hear him or speak to him.
The alien ship was already thundering toward the upper reaches of the atmosphere, on its way out into the appalling void that separates the very few things there are in the Universe from one another.
Its occupant, the alien with the expensive complexion, leaned back in its single seat. His name was Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. He was a man with a purpose. Not a very good purpose, as he would have been the first to admit, but it was at least a purpose, and it did at least keep him on the move.
Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged was—indeed, is—one of the Universe’s very small number of immortal beings.
Most of those who are born immortal instinctively know how to cope with it, but Wowbagger was not one of them. Indeed, he had come to hate them, the load of serene bastards. He had had his immortality inadvertently thrust upon him by an unfortunate accident with an irrational particle accelerator, a liquid lunch and a pair of rubber bands. The precise details of the accident are not important because no one has ever managed to duplicate the exact circumstances under which it happened, and many people have ended up looking very silly, or dead, or both, trying.
Wowbagger closed his eyes in a grim and weary expression, put some light jazz on the ship’s stereo, and reflected that he could have made it if it hadn’t been for Sunday afternoons, he really could have done.
To begin with it was fun; he had a ball, living dangerously, taking risks, cleaning up on high-yield long-term investments, and just generally outliving the hell out of everybody.
In the end, it was the Sunday afternoons he couldn’t cope with, and that terrible listlessness that starts to set in at about 2:55, when you know you’ve taken all the baths you can usefully take that day, that however hard you stare at any given paragr
aph in the newspaper you will never actually read it, or use the revolutionary new pruning technique it describes, and that as you stare at the clock the hands will move relentlessly on to four o’clock, and you will enter the long dark teatime of the soul.
So things began to pall for him. The merry smiles he used to wear at other people’s funerals began to fade. He began to despise the Universe in general, and everybody in it in particular.
This was the point at which he conceived his purpose, the thing that would drive him on, and which, as far as he could see, would drive him on forever. It was this.
He would insult the Universe.
That is, he would insult everybody in it. Individually, personally, one by one, and (this was the thing he really decided to grit his teeth over) in alphabetical order.
When people protested to him, as they sometimes had done, that the plan was not merely misguided but actually impossible because of the number of people being born and dying all the time, he would merely fix them with a steely look and say, “A man can dream, can’t he?”
And so he had started out. He equipped a spaceship that was built to last with a computer capable of handling all the data processing involved in keeping track of the entire population of the known Universe and working out the horrifically complicated routes involved.
His ship fled through the inner orbits of the Sol star system, preparing to slingshot around the sun and fling itself out into interstellar space.
“Computer,” he said.
“Here,” yipped the computer.
Wowbagger gazed for a moment at the fantastic jewelry of the night, the billions of tiny diamond worlds that dusted the infinite darkness with light. Every one, every single one was on his itinerary. Most of them he would be going to millions of times over.
He imagined for a moment his itinerary connecting all the dots in the sky like a child’s numbered dots puzzle. He hoped that from some vantage point in the Universe it might be seen to spell a very, very rude word.