The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
( The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - 1 )
Join Douglas Adams's hapless hero Arthur Dent as he travels the galaxy with his intrepid pal Ford Prefect, getting into horrible messes and generally wreaking hilarious havoc. Dent is grabbed from Earth moments before a cosmic construction team obliterates the planet to build a freeway. You'll never read funnier science fiction; Adams is a master of intelligent satire, barbed wit, and comedic dialogue. The Hitchhiker's Guide is rich in comedic detail and thought-provoking situations and stands up to multiple reads. Required reading for science fiction fans, this book (and its follow-ups) is also sure to please fans of Monty Python, Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, and British sitcoms.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
For Jonny Brock and Clare Gorst and all other Arlingtonians for tea, sympathy, and a sofa
A Guide to the Guide
Some Unhelpful Remarks from the Author
The history of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is now so complicated that every time I tell it I contradict myself, and whenever I do get it right I'm misquoted. So the publication of this omnibus edition seemed like a good opportunity to set the record straight--or at least firmly crooked. Anything that is put down wrong here is, as far as I'm concerned, wrong for good.
The idea for the title first cropped up while I was lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1971. Not particularly drunk, just the sort of drunk you get when you have a couple of stiff Gossers after not having eaten for two days straight, on account of being a penniless hitchhiker. We are talking of a mild inability to stand up.
I was traveling with a copy of the Hitch Hiker's Guide to Europe by Ken Walsh, a very battered copy that I had borrowed from someone. In fact, since this was 1971 and I still have the book, it must count as stolen by now. I didn't have a copy of Europe on Five Dollars a Day (as it then was) because I wasn't in that financial league.
Night was beginning to fall on my field as it spun lazily underneath me. I was wondering where I could go that was cheaper than Innsbruck, revolved less and didn't do the sort of things to me that Innsbruck had done to me that afternoon. What had happened was this. I had been walking through the town trying to find a particular address, and being thoroughly lost I stopped to ask for directions from a man in the street. I knew this mightn't be easy because I don't speak German, but I was still surprised to discover just how much difficulty I was having communicating with this particular man. Gradually the truth dawned on me as we struggled in vain to understand each other that of all the people in Innsbruck I could have stopped to ask, the one I had picked did not speak English, did not speak French and was also deaf and dumb. With a series of sincerely apologetic hand movements, I disentangled myself, and a few minutes later, on another street, I stopped and asked another man who also turned out to be deaf and dumb, which was when I bought the beers.
I ventured back onto the street. I tried again.
When the third man I spoke to turned out to be deaf and dumb and also blind I began to feel a terrible weight settling on my shoulders; wherever I looked the trees and buildings took on dark and menacing aspects. I pulled my coat tightly around me and hurried lurching down the street, whipped by a sudden gusting wind. I bumped into someone and stammered an apology, but he was deaf and dumb and unable to understand me. The sky loured. The pavement seemed to tip and spin. If I hadn't happened then to duck down a side street and pass a hotel where a convention for the deaf was being held, there is every chance that my mind would have cracked completely and I would have spent the rest of my life writing the sort of books for which Kafka became famous and dribbling.
As it is I went to lie in a field, along with my Hitch Hiker's Guide to Europe, and when the stars came out it occurred to me that if only someone would write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as well, then I for one would be off like a shot. Having had this thought I promptly fell asleep and forgot about it for six years.
I went to Cambridge University. I took a number of baths--and a degree in English. I worried a lot about girls and what had happened to my bike. Later I became a writer and worked on a lot of things that were almost incredibly successful but in fact just failed to see the light of day. Other writers will know what I mean.
My pet project was to write something that would combine comedy and science fiction, and it was this obsession that drove me into deep debt and despair. No one was interested, except finally one man a BBC radio producer named Simon Brett who had had the same idea, comedy and science fiction. Although Simon only produced the first episode before leaving the BBC to concentrate on his own writing (he is best known in the United Stares for his excellent Charles Paris detective novels), I owe him an immense debt of gratitude for simply getting the thing to happen in the first place. He was succeeded by the legendary Geoffrey Perkins.
In its original form the show was going to be rather different. I was feeling a little disgruntled with the world at the time and had put together about six different plots, each of which ended with the destruction of the world in a different way, and for a different reason. It was to be called "The Ends of the Earth".
While I was filling in the details of the first plot--in which the Earth was demolished to make way for a new hyperspace express route--I realized that I needed to have someone from another planet around to tell the reader what was going on, to give the story the context it needed. So I had to work out who he was and what he was doing on the Earth.
I decided to call him Ford Prefect. (This was a joke that missed American audiences entirely, of course, since they had never heard of the rather oddly named little car, and many thought it was a typing error for Perfect.) I explained in the text that the minimal research my alien character had done before arriving on this planet had led him to think that this name would be "nicely inconspicuous." He had simply mistaken the dominant life form.
So how would such a mistake arise? I remembered when I used to hitchhike through Europe and would often find that the information or advice that came my way was out of date or misleading in some way. Most of it, of course, just came from stories of other people's travel experiences.
At that point the title The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy suddenly popped back into my mind from wherever it had been hiding all this time. Ford, I decided, would be a researcher who collected data for the Guide. As soon as I started to develop this particular notion, it moved inexorably to the center of the story, and the rest, as the creator of the original Ford Prefect would say, is bunk.
The story grew in the most convoluted way, as many people will be surprised to learn. Writing episodically meant that when I finished one episode I had no idea about what the next one would contain. When, in the twists and turns of the plot, some event suddenly seemed to illuminate things that had gone before, I was as surprised as anyone else.
I think that the BBC's attitude toward the show while it was in production was very similar to that which Macbeth had toward murdering people--initial doubts, followed by cautious enthusiasm and then greater and greater alarm at the sheer scale of the undertaking and still no end in sight. Reports that Geoffrey and I and the sound engineers were buried in a subterranean studio for weeks on end, taking as long to produce a single sound effect as other people took to produce an entire series (and stealing everybody else's studio time in which to do so), were all vigorously denied but absolutely true.
The budget of the series escalated to the point that it could have practically paid for a few seconds of Dallas. If the show hadn't worked . .
The first episode went out on BBC Radio 4 at 10:30 P.M. on Wednesday, March 8, 1978, in a huge blaze of no publicity at all. Bats heard it. The odd dog barked.
After a couple of weeks a letter or two trickled in. So--someone out there had listened. People I talked to seemed to like Marvin the Paranoid Android, whom I had written in as a one-scene joke and had only developed further at Geoffrey's insistence.
Then some publishers became interested, and I was commissioned by Pan Books in England to write up the series in book form. After a lot of procrastination and hiding and inventing excuses and having baths, I managed to get about two-thirds of it done. At this point they said, very pleasantly and politely, that I had already passed ten deadlines, so would I please just finish the page I was on and let them have the damn thing.
Meanwhile, I was busy trying to write another series and was also writing and script editing the TV series "Dr. Who," because while it was all very pleasant to have your own radio series, especially one that somebody had written in to say they had heard, it didn't exactly buy you lunch.
So that was more or less the situation when the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was published in England in September 1979 and appeared on the Sunday Times mass market best-seller list at number one and just stayed there. Clearly, somebody had been listening.
This is where things start getting complicated, and this is what I was asked, in writing this Introduction, to explain. The Guide has appeared in so many forms--books, radio, a television series, records and soon to be a major motion picture--each time with a different story line that even its most acute followers have become baffled at times.
Here then is a breakdown of the different versions--not including the various stage versions, which haven't been seen in the States and only complicate the matter further.
The radio series began in England in March 1978. The first series consisted of six programs, or "fits" as they were called. Fits 1 thru 6. Easy. Later that year, one more episode was recorded and broadcast, commonly known as the Christmas episode. It contained no reference of any kind to Christmas. It was called the Christmas episode because it was first broadcast on December 24, which is not Christmas Day. After this, things began to get increasingly complicated.
In the fall of 1979, the first Hitchhiker book was published in England, called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It was a substantially expanded version of the first four episodes of the radio series, in which some of the characters behaved in entirely different ways and others behaved in exactly the same ways but for entirely different reasons, which amounts to the same thing but saves rewriting the dialogue.
At roughly the same time a double record album was released, which was, by contrast, a slightly contracted version of the first four episodes of the radio series. These were not the recordings that were originally broadcast but wholly new recordings of substantially the same scripts. This was done because we had used music off gramophone records as incidental music for the series, which is fine on radio, but makes commercial release impossible.
In January 1980, five new episodes of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" were broadcast on BBC Radio, all in one week, bringing the total number to twelve episodes.
In the fall of 1980, the second Hitchhiker book was published in England, around the same time that Harmony Books published the first book in the United States. It was a very substantially reworked, reedited and contracted version of episodes 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 5 and 6 (in that order) of the radio series "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In case that seemed too straightforward, the book was called The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, because it included the material from radio episodes of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," which was set in a restaurant called Milliways, otherwise known as the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
At roughly the same time, a second record album was made featuring a heavily rewritten and expanded version of episodes 5 and 6 of the radio series. This record album was also called 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 1981. This was based, more or less, on the first six episodes of the radio series. In other words, it incorporated most of the book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the second half of the book The Restaurant at be End of the Universe. Therefore, though it followed the basic structure of the radio series, it incorporated revisions from the books, which didn't.
In January 1982 Harmony Books published The Restaurant at the End of the Universe in the United States.
In the summer of 1982, a third Hitchhiker book was published simultaneously in England and the United States, called Life, the Universe and Everything. This was not based on anything that had already been heard or seen on radio or television. In fact it flatly contradicted episodes 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the radio series. These episodes of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," you will remember, had already been incorporated in revised form in the book called The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
At this point I went to America to write a film screenplay which was completely inconsistent with most of what has gone on so far, and since that film was then delayed in the making (a rumor currently has it that filming will start shortly before the Last Trump), I wrote a fourth and last book in the trilogy, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. This was published in Britain and the USA in the fall of 1984 and it effectively contradicted everything to date, up to and including itself.
As if this all were not enough I wrote a computer game for Infocom called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which bore only fleeting resemblances to anything that had previously gone under that title, and in collaboration with Geoffrey Perkins assembled The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts (published in England and the USA in 1985). Now this was an interesting venture. The book is, as the title suggests, a collection of all the radio scripts, as broadcast, and it is therefore the only example of one Hitchhiker publication accurately and consistently reflecting another. I feel a little uncomfortable with this--which is why the introduction to that book was written after the final and definitive one you are now reading and, of course, flatly contradicts it.
People often ask me how they can leave the planet, so I have prepared some brief notes.
How to Leave the Planet
1. Phone NASA. Their phone number is (713) 483-3111. Explain that it's very important that you get away as soon as possible.
2. If they do not cooperate, phone any friend you may have in the White House--(202) 456-1414--to have a word on your behalf with the guys at NASA.
3. If you don't have any friends in the White House, phone the Kremlin (ask the overseas operator for 0107-095-295-9051). They don't have any friends there either (at least, none to speak of), but they do seem to have a little influence, so you may as well try.
4. If that also fails, phone the Pope for guidance. His telephone number is 011-39-6-6982, and I gather 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.
Los Angeles 1983 and London 1985/1986
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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-two 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 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 who
le 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, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe 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, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.
This is not her story.
But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.
It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy--not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Earthman.
Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book.
In fact it was probably the most remarkable book ever to come out of the great publishing houses of Ursa Minor--of which no Earthman had ever heard either.
Not only is it a wholly remarkable book, it is also a highly successful one--more popular than the Celestial Home Care Omnibus, better selling than Fifty More Things to do in Zero Gravity, and more controversial than Oolon Colluphid's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God's Greatest Mistakes and Who is this God Person Anyway?
In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.