- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (fictional)
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" is a fictional electronic guide book in the multimedia comedy series of the same name by
Douglas Adams. Entries from the guidebook are used as comic narration to bridge events and provide background information in every version of the story. The guide is published by "Megadodo Publications", a publishing company in the constellation of Ursa Minor.
In the original radio scripts, the Guide's voice was called the "Narrator" and in the 2004-2005 series, "The Voice." [cite book | author=Adams, Douglas | editor = Geoffrey Perkins (ed.), additional Material by M. J. Simpson. | title= | edition=25th Anniversary Edition | publisher=Pan Books | year=2003|id=ISBN 0-330-41957-9] [cite book|author=Adams, Douglas.|editor =
Dirk Maggs, dramatisations and editor. | title=The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Scripts: The Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phases | publisher=Pan Books | year=2005 | id=ISBN 0-330-43510-8 ] For all of the radio series and the 1981 TV series, the role was credited as "The Book", though this was changed to "Narrator/The Guide" for the 2005 movie.
In the first two phases of the radio series, the LP album adaptations of the first radio series and in the television series, the Guide was voiced by British actor
Peter Jones. During the 2004-2005 radio series, "The Guide" was voiced by William Franklyn. In the film version, it was voiced by Stephen Fry.
The "Guide"'s numerous entries are quoted throughout the various incarnations of the "Hitchhiker's Guide" series. As well as offering background information, the Guide's entries often employ irony, sarcasm and subtle commentary on the action and on life in general. For instance, the entry on the
Sirius Cybernetics Corporationdescribes their marketing division as "a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes (with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent)." [ The original Radio Series Fit the Second] The entry on the villainous Vogons begins, "Here's what to do if you want to get a lift from a Vogon: forget it." [cite book|author=Douglas Adams|title=The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Four Parts|publisher=Pan|year=1992 |pages=48] The entry on "What to do if you find yourself stuck in a crack in the ground underneath a giant boulder you can't move, with no hope of rescue" suggests that you "consider how lucky you are that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your current circumstances seems more likely, consider how lucky you are that it won't be troubling you much longer." [Original radio series, Fit the Seventh] Its advice on drunkenness is simply, "Go to it, and good luck." [ aDAMS P.358]
Despite the work of dedicated field researchers such as Ford Prefect, much of the contributions to the "Guide" are made on a strictly ad-hoc basis. With the permanent staff more likely to be on a lunch break than working, "most of the actual work got done by any passing stranger who happened to wander into the empty offices of an afternoon and saw something worth doing." [Adams p. 397] This has led to the "Guide" being patchy in its coverage, cobbled together (Its entry on "The Universe" was copied from the back of a packet of breakfast cereal) [Adams p. 244] and often riddled with errors. The "Guide" tends to focus on certain topics. For instance, for information on "sex", the "Guide" suggests reading "chapters seven, none, ten, eleven, fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, nineteen, twenty-one to eighty-four inclusive, and in fact most of the rest of the "Guide"." [Adams p. 246] On the "Guide"'s outdated and typo-filled entries (some of which could cause serious injury or death, such as "Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts often make a very good meal for visiting tourists," rather than "Ravenous bugblatter beasts often make a very good meal "of" visiting tourists." [ Adams p. 178] ) Adams wrote, "...though it cannot hope to be useful or informative on all matters, it does make the reassuring claim that where it is inaccurate, it is at least "definitively" inaccurate. In cases of major discrepancy it was always reality that's got it wrong." [Original radio series, Fit the Tenth.]
The Guide can receive updates to its data base via
Sub-Etha. Field researchers (like Ford Prefect) can also use the Guide to edit entries and transmit these back to the publisher. [Adams p. 478]
Within the series, the Guide was said to have been originally published by
Megadodo Publications, one of the "great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor." [Adams p. 16] When Megadodo was bought out by Infinidim Enterprisesin " Mostly Harmless", the new editor in chief, Vann Harl, changed the Guide's demographic from penniless hitchhikers to families in billions of billions of alternate worlds, thus altering the Guide's original purpose. Ford Prefect, in resistance of this, knocked out Vann Harl, stole his Ident-I-Eze card to increase all limits on Ford's own Dine-O-Charge card. Ford was thus able to use his Dine-O-Charge to buy a pink spaceship, all the foie gras in London, and The London Zoo, in addition to buying the hotel he was staying at for the concierge, all charged to the Guide and Infinidim Enterprises.
The Guide is described as resembling "a small, thin, flexible lap computer" encased in a "sturdy plastic cover" with the words "Don't Panic" inscribed on it. [Adams p. 537] It is presumably of robust construction, able to withstand falling through time/space wormholes and being thrown into swamps, being rescued, and still operating. Its entries are arranged alphabetically on the screen and accessed via typing entry codes on a keyboard; "Earth" is on the same page as "
Eccentrica Gallumbits, the Triple-Breasted Whore of Eroticon 6." [Adams p. 54]
At the start, the "Guide" is merely an information resource, although one with a distinctly flippant and exuberant tone. Its introduction begins with the words, "Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen..." [ Adams p. 63] However, in the fifth novel, "Mostly Harmless", a new edition of the "Guide", the "Guide" Mark II, is published that is artificially intelligent and capable of interacting with the reader. This "Guide", which takes the form of a black, birdlike robot, appears pleasant and friendly but is in fact deeply malevolent and in league with the Vogons in a plot to destroy Earth.
In the original radio series,
Peter Jonesprovided the voice for "The Book" as both the "Guide" itself and as the overall narrator. When speaking as the "Guide", Jones's voice was electronically filtered to sound mechanical, and spoken against simple electronic music. When speaking merely as the narrator, his voice was left unfiltered. In the television series, Jones's voice was left unfiltered for both the "Guide" and "general" narrations, which were accompanied by hand-drawn animations representing computer readouts. These animations often contained little jokes, such as the full text of the "worst poetry in the universe", the equation of 37 Earth miles as "1 Altairian long way" and the outcome of an intergalactic war represented as a video game score. The 2006 film, which featured Stephen Fry as the voice of the "Guide", also employed animations, but far less detailed than those that appeared in the TV series.
Adams conceived of the "Guide" while hitchhiking from London to Istanbul in 1971. Drunk and penniless in a field in
Innsbruck, Austria, Adams looked up at the stars and then at his stolen copy of " Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe" and thought that someone should write "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." [cite book|title=Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy|author=Neil Gaiman|year=1993|publisher=Titan Books|pages=1] "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe" claimed in its introduction that it was possible to survive in Europe on less than US$25 a week, a claim echoed in the catchphrase of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" that it was the best source for advice on those who wanted to see the universe "on less than 30 Altairian dollars a day."
Douglas Adams, who was deeply involved with computer technology, founded the website
h2g2in 1999. In keeping with the "Hitchhiker's Guide"'s tradition of being edited by random people off the street, h2g2 is an encyclopedia edited by thousands of contributors. [cite web|title=The h2g2 Tour - An Introduction to h2g2|year=2000|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/dontpanic-tour|accessdate=2008-10-06] The site's creation predates Wikipediaby two years, though several commentators have noted the similarities between Wikipedia and the "Hitchhiker's Guide", particularly its wild variance in reliability and quality and its tendency to focus on topics of interest to its writers. [cite web|title=Wikipedia is a real-life Hitchhiker's Guide: huge, nerdy, and imprecise|author=Paul Boutin|url=http://www.slate.com/id/2117942/|work=slate|year=2005|accessdate=2008-10-06] [cite book|title=The Anthology at the End of the Universe: Leading Science Fiction Authors on Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy|editor=Glenn Yeffeth|pages=31|publisher=BenBella Books, Inc|year=2005]
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