Editor’s note: Today is Towel Day, and to celebrate, we’re putting up our massive look back at The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, completely free. Don’t panic, and enjoy.
“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.” And if its creator can’t be trusted to tell it correctly, an enterprising biographer stands about as much chance as the Earth did of escaping the fate Douglas Adams created for it: collateral damage in the construction of the Vogons’ intergalactic super-highway.
The mixture of stunning intellect and surreal, incisive wit that defines Adams’ writing is a precise reflection of his personality. Listen to an interview, or sample his essays on science, technology, religion and biology. You’ll find the same sense of wonder at the vastness of the universe and the complexity of its systems, all tinged with the nagging doubt that humanity’s place within it is far too small to be of much consequence.
For every comment that seems to adequately describe the real creation of Hitchhiker’s Guide, there is another version in existence somewhere that’s usually apocryphal, and invariably more entertaining. Many authors make the events of their lives a matter of intense personal pride; for Adams, they’re simply something to riff on. Like the radio shows and novels that secured his place in the canon of science-fiction literature, the details mean everything, and nothing.
Next: Short stories, Cambridge University and comedy troupes…