Today is the birthday of Douglas Adams. He was born in Cambridge, England in 1952. He studied literature and spent many years struggling to make his mark as a writer.
He had nearly given up hope when in 1978 BBC radio accepted an outline of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for a radio comedy. He wrote 12 episodes for the radio series, which was a big hit.
It was nominated for a Hugo award and it is the only radio show ever to make it to the shortlist. It was nominated in the category “Best Dramatic Presentation” and it lost to Superman, the movie.
The success of the radio show resulted in an offer from a publisher and the show turned into a book. When the book came out, it went straight to number one in the UK Bestseller List and in 1984 Douglas Adams became the youngest author to be awarded a Golden Pen. He won a further two (a rare feat), and was nominated – though not selected – for the first Best of Young British Novelists awards.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the first in a series of comic science fiction novels that have sold over 15 million copies and have been translated into more than 30 languages.
The idea for the book came to Adams when he was backpacking through Europe at the age of 19, lying drunk in a field with his tour book called the Hitchhikers Guide to Europe. He said it occurred to him then that somebody ought to write a hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy.
The book is about an Englishman named Arthur Dent and his alien friend Ford Prefect who has been posing as a human (and an out of work actor) for nearly 15 years.
He comes to find Arthur seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway. Arthur is plucked off the planet by Ford who is in fact, a researcher for the revised edition of
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by advice from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers:
Zaphod Beeblebrox–the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie, Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur had tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years.
The book was followed by four others, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long and Thanks for all the Fish and Mostly Harmless.