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Volume 4 - So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

Douglas 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.


  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

  Mostly Harmless

  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

  Starship Titanic

  First published 1984 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 978-0-330-51318-0 in Adobe Reader format

  ISBN 978-0-330-51317-3 in Adobe Digital Editions format

  ISBN 978-0-330-51319-7 in Mobipocket format

  Copyright © Serious Productions Ltd 1984

  Foreword copyright © Neil Gaiman 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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  For Jane

  with thanks

  To Rick and Heidi

  for the loan of their stable event

  To Mogens and Andy and all at Huntsham Court

  for a number of unstable events

  And especially to Sonny Mehta

  for being stable through all events


  by Neil Gaiman

  Note to the reader: If you have not read this book before, and have come here having just read the previous three books, you should skip this introduction and go straight to the beginning of the book. I give stuff away here. There are spoilers ahead. Just read the book.

  I’ll be here when you get back.

  No, I mean it.

  I’ll put down some asterisks. I’ll see you after them, when you’ve read the book.

  * * *

  Douglas Adams was tall. He was brilliant: I’ve met a handful of geniuses, and I’d count him as one of them. He was a frustrated performer, a remarkable explainer and communicator, an enthusiast. He was an astonishing comic writer: he could craft sentences that changed the way a reader viewed the world, and sum up complex and difficult issues in aptly chosen metaphors. He combined the trappings of science fiction with profound social commentary and a healthy sense of humour to create fresh worlds. He loved computers and was an astonishingly fine public speaker. He was a bestselling author. He was a competent guitarist, a world traveller, an environmentalist, a man who held remarkably wonderful parties, a gourmand.

  What he was not, and this may seem somewhat odd, especially when you consider how many of them he wrote and sold, and how famously well he wrote them, was a novelist. And this, I suspect unarguably, is the oddest of his novels.

  So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish was Douglas’s first attempt to write a novel from scratch.

  In many ways it could be seen as an experiment. A transitional novel between the galaxy-spanning romps of the first three Hitchhiker books and the more Earthbound adventures of Dirk Gently. It was, after all, the first of the three of Douglas’s books not to have originated in the extraordinary period of creativity that took him from the creation of the Hitchhiker’s radio series to the end of his time as script editor of Doctor Who. His first two books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, had strong foundations: they were built on the backs of the scripts that Douglas, and (for the second series) Douglas and John Lloyd, had crafted for the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy BBC Radio 4 series. The third book, Life, the Universe and Everything, was adapted from an unused outline Douglas had written for a Doctor Who film, Doctor Who and the Krikketmen. His next book, the remarkable Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, was adapted from Douglas’s unfilmed Doctor Who story Shada (with a sprinkling of ideas from the filmed Doctor Who story City of Death).

  The first books had been written by Douglas as a young man for a world that expected nothing, as paperback originals. Now Douglas was, for the first time, being published in hardback. He was a bestselling novelist, who had not yet written a book he was proud of. This may partly have been because he was not a novelist.

  Now he needed to write a book he had been paid a lot of money to write. His accountant had embezzled most of the money and then killed himself. Douglas Adams had gone to Hollywood on his first, abortive, quest to get The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy made into a film. He had lived there for over a year, doing drafts of the film, did not have a good time and, surprised and a little battered, he had returned home to a small converted stable house off Upper Street in Islington where, eventually, and under pressure, he put off actually writing So Long, and Thanks for All the

  His publishers, Pan, found themselves, early in 1984, soliciting a book that was, for the most part, unwritten and, for that matter, mostly unplotted. The lenticular image on the original cover showed a walrus that became a dinosaur, because Douglas had mentioned that there would be a walrus in the book.

  There would be no walrus in the book.

  It became part of the story of the book that, as the publishing date of the book got closer and the book got no closer to being written, publisher Sonny Mehta had taken a hotel suite and essentially locked Douglas in to write it, editing the pages as they came through. It was a strange way for a book to be written, and something Douglas used as an excuse for any problems that the book had.

  But it was a book he was still particularly proud of when it came out. I remember that.

  Douglas Adams had returned from America to Islington, and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish occurs in the space that Southern California isn’t. Which is to say that both Douglas’s Outer Space and his Southern California are extremely Californian: the hotel in which rock stars read Language, Truth and Logic by the pool and the bar in which Ford Prefect attempts to pay his bill with an American Express card are not a galaxy apart, and the hooker who has a special service for rich people could exist as easily in one world as another.

  Arthur Dent, in previous stories a flat character who existed mostly to boggle at the improbabilities, often infinite, he was confronted with, became someone significantly more like Douglas. Douglas’s return from America was echoed in Arthur Dent’s return from hitchhiking across all of time and space to an Earth that the readers believed to have been destroyed, and his explanation to the world that he had been in America.

  It might be seen as a problem for a writer who was considered a social satirist to have, a few pages into the first book in a bestselling series, destroyed the Earth. On the good side it sets you free to explore the vastness of the infinite. On the downside, it rather limits you as an observational humourist, when it comes to specifics, and while Douglas may not have been a novelist, he was definitely an observational humourist.

  Still, I think there’s another reason for the restoration of the Earth at the beginning of this book.

  Like it or not, and when it came out some people did and some people didn’t, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish is a love story, and the novel puts an Earth back for there to be a love story on. Underneath all the glitter, Arthur and Fenchurch and the unlikely circumstances of their meeting, their love and the travails thereof are the true subjects of the book.

  And as we grow older our reading of books changes. As a young man, writing a book about Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I remember picking up on the awkwardness of Chapter 25, and Douglas’s rhetorical question as to whether or not Arthur Dent has . . .

  ‘. . . spirit? Has he no passion? Does he not, to put it in a nutshell, fuck?’

  Those who wish to know should read on. Others may wish to skip on to the last chapter which is a good bit and has Marvin in it.

  I took it, at the time, as a manifestation of Douglas’s contempt and discomfort with his audience, and was uncomfortable with it. Rereading it a quarter of a century later, I found myself reading those paragraphs as worried bluster, as if Douglas was scared that he was out of his depth, and was trying to respond to critics or to friends ahead of time. I still suspect that, had there been time to rewrite, to rethink, to revise, that strange breaking of the fourth wall and the author–reader compact, might never have happened.

  I do not think it would have been a better book for not having been finished in a hotel bedroom while Sonny Mehta watched videos in the room next door. After all, it is part of its charm that So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish reads as if it has not so much been plotted as stumbled upon or backed into. It is surrealist in the way that a book extracted from the author without pause for inspection, for second thoughts or thousandth thoughts can only be. Characters appear and fade, dreamlike. Reality is frangible. The novel circles one event: a couple making love naked in the clouds, in perfect flying magical dream-sex, an event that is practically a poem.

  So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish has, beneath the elegant veneer, the simplest, easiest, most traditional of plots: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, makes love to her in the clouds and sets off with her to find God’s Final Message To His Creation. And does. After all, for a book suffused from start to finish with gloom and melancholia, a book in which the universe itself is fundamentally perverse, when it is not actually malicious, So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish is often peculiarly upbeat: Chapter 18 for example, gives us, triumphantly, something unseen in the Hitchhiker universe until now: transient and barely recognizable, but it’s there: joy.

  He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones till it now said something it had never said to him before, which was ‘Yes’.


  Author of Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams

  and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,

  and subsequently a famous author




  Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

  Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

  This planet has—or rather, had—a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.

  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

  And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

  Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

  And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

  Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, the Earth was unexpectedly demolished to make way for a new hyperspace bypass, and so the idea was lost, seemingly for ever.

  This is her story.


  That evening it was dark early, which was normal for the time of year. It was cold and windy, which was normal.

  It started to rain, which was particularly normal.

  A spacecraft landed, which was not.

  There was nobody around to see it except for some spectacularly stupid quadrupeds who hadn’t the faintest idea what to make of it, or whether they were meant to make anything of it, or eat it, or what. So they did what they did to everything, which was to run away from it and try to hide under each other, which never worked.

  It slipped down out of the clouds, seeming to be balanced on a single beam of light.

  From a distance you would scarcely have noticed it through the lightning and the storm clouds, but seen from close up to it was strangely beautiful—a gray craft of elegantly sculpted form; quite small.

  Of course, one never has the slightest notion what size or shape different species are going to turn out to be, but i
f you were to take the findings of the latest Mid-Galactic Census report as any kind of accurate guide to statistical averages you would probably guess that the craft would hold about six people, and you would be right.

  You’d probably guessed that anyway. The Census report, like most such surveys, had cost an awful lot of money and told nobody anything they didn’t already know—except that every single person in the Galaxy had 2.4 legs and owned a hyena. Since this was clearly not true the whole thing eventually had to be scrapped.

  The craft slid quietly down through the rain, its dim operating lights seeming to wrap it in tasteful rainbows. It hummed very quietly, a hum that became gradually louder and deeper as it approached the ground and which at an altitude of six inches became a heavy throb.

  At last it dropped and was quiet.

  A hatchway opened. A short flight of steps unfolded itself.

  A light appeared in the opening, a bright light streaming out into the wet night, and shadows moved within.

  A tall figure appeared in the light, looked around, flinched, and hurried down the steps, carrying a large shopping bag under his arm.

  He turned and gave a single abrupt wave back to the ship. Already the rain was streaming through his hair.

  “Thank you,” he called out, “thank you very—”

  He was interrupted by a sharp crack of thunder. He glanced up apprehensively, and in response to a sudden thought started quickly to rummage through the large plastic shopping bag, which he now discovered had a hole in the bottom.

  It had large characters printed on the side which read (to anyone who could decipher the Centaurian alphabet) DUTY FREE MEGA-MARKET, PORT BRASTA, ALPHA CENTAURI. BE LIKE THE TWENTY-SECOND ELEPHANT WITH HEATED VALUE IN SPACE—BARK!