Read The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Online

Authors: Douglas Adams

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The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

A Del Rey ® Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
, copyright © 1979 by Douglas Adams
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
, copyright © 1980 by Douglas Adams
Life, the Universe and Everything
, copyright © 1982 by Douglas Adams
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
, copyright © 1985 by Douglas Adams
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe
, copyright © 1986 by Douglas Adams
Mostly Harmless
, copyright © 1992 by Serious Productions

Foreword copyright © 2002 by Neil Gaiman
Introduction copyright © 1986 by Douglas Adams

All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Del Rey Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. This edition was previously published by Random House Value Publishing as
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide
and also in separate volumes.

Grateful acknowledgment is given for lyric excerpts from “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Copyright 1945 by Williamson Music, Inc. Copyright renewed. All rights managed by T. B. Harms Company c/o The Welk Music Group. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Del Rey is a registered trademark and the Del Rey colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

www.delreybooks.com

eISBN: 978-0-307-49846-5

v3.1_r1

Contents

Foreword:
What Was He Like,
Douglas Adams?

He was tall, very tall. He had an air of cheerful diffidence. He combined a razor-sharp intellect and understanding of what he was doing with the puzzled look of someone who had backed into a profession that surprised him in a world that perplexed him. And he gave the impression that, all in all, he was rather enjoying it.

He was a genius, of course. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot these days, and it’s used to mean pretty much anything. But Douglas
was
a genius, because he saw the world differently, and more importantly, he could communicate the world he saw. Also, once you’d seen it his way you could never go back.

Douglas Noel Adams was born in 1952 in Cambridge, England (shortly before the announcement of an even more influential DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid). He was a self-described “strange child” who did not learn to speak until he was four. He wanted to be a nuclear physicist (“I never made it because my arithmetic was so bad”), then went to Cambridge to study English, with ambitions that involved becoming part of the tradition of British writer/performers (of which the members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus are the best-known example).

When he was eighteen, drunk in a field in Innsbruck, hitchhiking across Europe, he looked up at the sky filled with stars and thought, “Somebody ought to write the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Then he went to sleep and almost, but not quite, forgot all about it.

He left Cambridge in 1975 and went to London where his many writing and performing projects tended, in the main, not to happen. He worked with former Python Graham Chapman writing scripts and sketches for abortive projects (among them a show for Ringo Starr which contained the germ of
Starship Titanic)
and with writer-producer John Lloyd (they pitched a series called
Snow Seven and the White Dwarfs
, a comedy about two astronomers in “an observatory on Mt. Everest”—The idea for that was minimum casting, minimum set, and we’d just try to sell the series on cheapness”).

He liked science fiction, although he was never a fan. He supported
himself through this period with a variety of odd jobs: he was, for example, a hired bodyguard for an oil-rich Arabian family, a job that entailed wearing a suit and sitting in hotel corridors through the night listening to the ding of passing elevators.

In 1977 BBC radio producer (and well-known mystery author) Simon Brett commissioned him to write a science fiction comedy for BBC Radio Four. Douglas originally imagined a series of six half-hour comedies called
The Ends of the Earth
—funny stories which at the end of each, the world would end. In the first episode, for example, the Earth would be destroyed to make way for a cosmic freeway.

But, Douglas soon realized, if you are going to destroy the Earth, you need someone to whom it matters. Someone like a reporter for, yes, the
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
. And someone else … a man who was called Alaric B in Douglas’s original proposal. At the last moment Douglas crossed out Alaric B and wrote above it Arthur Dent. A normal name for a normal man.

For those people listening to BBC Radio 4 in 1978 the show came as a revelation. It was funny—genuinely witty, surreal, and smart. The series was produced by Geoffrey Perkins, and the last two episodes of the first series were co-written with John Lloyd.

(I was a kid who discovered the series—accidentally, as most listeners did—with the second episode. I sat in the car in the driveway, getting cold, listening to Vogon poetry, and then the ideal radio line “Ford, you’re turning into an infinite number of penguins,” and I was happy; perfectly, unutterably happy.)

By now, Douglas had a real job. He was the script editor for the long-running BBC SF series Doctor Who, in the Tom Baker days.

Pan Books approached him about doing a book based on the radio series, and Douglas got the manuscript for
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
in to his editors at Pan slightly late (according to legend they telephoned him and asked, rather desperately, where he was in the book, and how much more he had to go. He told them. “Well,” said his editor, making the best of a bad job, “just finish the page you’re on and we’ll send a motorbike around to pick it up in half an hour”). The book, a paperback original, became a surprise bestseller, as did, less surprisingly, its four sequels. It spawned a bestselling text-based computer game.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
sequence used the tropes of science fiction to talk about the things that concerned Douglas, the world he observed, his thoughts on Life, the Universe, and Everything. As we moved into a world where people really did think that digital watches
were a pretty neat thing, the landscape had become science fiction and Douglas, with a relentless curiosity about matters scientific, an instinct for explanation, and a laser-sharp sense of where the joke was, was in a perfect position to comment upon, to explain, and to describe that landscape.

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