The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as international phenomenon

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as international phenomenon

Within a couple of years after the original 1978 radio broadcasts in the UK, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy became a large international phenomenon. The original radio episodes have been broadcast in English, worldwide, and have been translated and adapted anew for radio in non-English speaking countries. The TV series, similarly, has also been broadcast worldwide (in English, in some instances with subtitles, or redubbed into a new language). CDs of the original or locally-adapted radio series are available worldwide, as are VHS tapes and DVDs of the TV series.

The books, as of 2005, have been translated into more than thirty languages, including Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swedish, Spanish, Turkish and Ukrainian. However, despite the wide translations, several of these editions have gone out of print (editions in Japanese and Portuguese are out of print as of July 2005). The German, French and Italian editions have remained readily available, and the Dutch and Spanish paperback editions of the first novel, like their counterparts published in France, the US and the United Kingdom, have been reprinted with a "movie tie-in" cover, replicating art from the movie's poster. The "movie tie-in" editions published in the UK, US and Spain, in addition to the full text of the novel, contain an essay by one of the film's producers, and interviews with members of the cast and the screenwriter, whereas the Dutch "movie tie-in" edition has none of these, but instead has a printed preview of the second novel in the series.

The 2005 movie received worldwide release, opening first in the United Kingdom and Australia, then the United States and Canada one day later, and covering most of the rest of the world through the summer of 2005. DVDs of the movie followed a similar release pattern, starting with the United Kingdom, the US and Canada in September 2005.


Early international exposure

Many science fiction fans and radio listeners outside of the United Kingdom were first exposed to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in one of two ways: shortwave radio broadcasts of the original radio series, or by Douglas Adams attending the 1979 World Science Fiction Convention, Seacon, held in Brighton, England, UK. It was there that the radio series was nominated for a Hugo Award (the first radio series to receive a nomination) but lost to Superman. A convention exclusively for H2G2, Hitchercon I, was held in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, in September 1980, the year that the official fan club, ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, was organised. In the early 1980s, versions of H2G2 became available in the US, Canada, Germany, Sweden and Finland.

Online fan activity

During the 1990s, as Hitchhiker's fans appeared on the Internet, many took notice first of Douglas Adams's USENET newsgroup ( and its later spinoff, both of which are still active), and then his website. After the website and its forum were closed following Adams's death, many other fan websites and forums appeared on the World Wide Web to provide fans with another discussion venue. This also includes the official fan club, which maintains its own website (but no forum). While many of these sites and forums peaked in traffic as the third, fourth and fifth radio series and feature film were released, a few remain active for fans of Hitchhiker's and the works of Douglas Adams, and others have all but disappeared in terms of active traffic.

Douglas Adams' passing has sparked a number of commemorative initiatives amongs his online fans. Since 2001 every 25 May numerous fans celebrate Towel Day by carrying a towel, as a reference to the Hitchhiker's guide. The most active relevant site is

For English speakers, the most active fan site of note is the Douglas Adams Continuum - - which includes an active forum, and has also hosted chats for its members with Nick Webb, Dirk Maggs, Terry Jones, Terry Pratchett, Robbie Stamp and Stephen Fry.[1] Life, DNA & H2G2 aka [1] has a lot of content too with exclusive interviews and articles about Douglas Adams, H2G2 and other various subjects (as the famous Dirk Gently theatre adaptation). Past English fansites of note have included Floor42, HHGTTGonline and the home page at Other fansites currently exist in Finnish, Swedish, French, Japanese and Polish. There was a "Milliways Brasil" site for a while, in Brazilian Portuguese, but it is now defunct.

ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha

ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha is the official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Appreciation Society, and is named after the Galactic Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha where Earth can be found according to the book. In recent years, the appreciation society has effectively become a fan club for all things to do with Douglas Adams, and is also known by the shorter name of ZZ9 with its members being called ZZ9ers.

ZZ9 was formed around November 1980. There was another fan club called Hitchhikers Anonymous around at this time, and slightly later the Marvin Depreciation Society. In Australia there was the Hitcher's Club. The 'Official' status of the society was granted when the then secretary of the society wrote to Adams in 1992 and received a positive reply, this was after the other UK fan organisations had folded.

The society produces a quarterly magazine, called Mostly Harmless, which has been published since the society's inception, and so pre-dates the book of the same name. Issue #100 was reached in April 2006. Issues #51-#58 were edited by MJ Simpson who went on to write a biography of Douglas Adams, and David Julyan edited issues #31-#34 and #38.

ZZ9 was featured on a programme in the BBC's Big Read series, that saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy voted the fourth best loved book in Britain. ZZ9ers were invited to fill a fan table at the gala final in London.


The five books have been published in Finland as follows:

A Finnish radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Primary and Secondary Phases was broadcast in 1984. The third and fourth books were adapted in a six part radio series, featuring the same cast, in 1991, and a seven part adaptation of the final book was broadcast in 1995.


The five books have been published in France as follows:

The first French edition of the book was published as Le guide du routard galactique, which was a literal translation of the original English title. However, the French publisher, Denoël, was threatened with legal action by the publishers of a non-fiction travel guide entitled Le guide du routard. The series was then called "Le Routard Galactique", "Le Guide Galactique" and since 2005 just "H2G2" with the first book of the series being called "Le Guide du Voyageur Galactique".

A French radio adaptation, drawn from the 12 radio scripts of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Primary and Secondary Phases was made by French fan Nicolas Botti and broadcast in 1995. There's also an A-Z "Guide to the Guide" available, written by Jean Bonnefoy.

Notable in the French adaptation were slight changes in the names of the main characters. Thus Arthur Dent became "Arthur Accroc", Ford Prefect became "Ford Escort", Zaphod Beeblebrox became"Zappy Bibicy", and Slartibartfast became "Saloprilopette". In 2005, these names were replaced by the original ones. Trillian, Eddie and Marvin had and still have the same names.

There is a very active French website online since 2001 and managed by Nicolas Botti here:"Le Voyageur Galactique - Tout sur H2G2, Douglas Adams et le reste...". Retrieved 9 June 2009. 


The five books have been published in Germany as follows:

Unlike the French translations, many of the main characters in the German language printed editions have exactly the same names (and spellings) as the original English printed editions. After the publication of the first novel in Germany (the first translation of H2G2), a German adaptation of the first six radio episodes was recorded, entitled Per Anhalter ins All. This was a co-production of Bayerischer Rundfunk, Südwestfunk (now Südwestrundfunk) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk, and the series was first transmitted in 1981 and 1982. The six episodes were translated by Benjamin Schwartz, who also translated the first four novels, and the series is available on CD. This first series uses complete and uncut versions of the radio episode scripts as its basis. Material in the English Edition script book, as well as Don't Panic, indicated as being cut or left out of the original BBC performances, is included in the German episodes. Because of the inclusion of this material, the first six BBC radio episodes were actually transmitted on radio in Germany in twelve parts. The CDs of the first series, as released in 2003 and 2005, contain all of the material for a single original BBC episode on each of six discs, but do not include the announcements read at the conclusion of each episode.

German poster for the 2005 film adaptation

A second radio series, Per Anhalter ins All 2, adapted from the third and fourth novels by Walter Andreas Schwarz and comprising seventeen episodes, followed in 1990-91. The adaptation of Life, the Universe and Everything starts with episode thirteen, and ends partway through episode twenty-two. The adaptation of So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish begins with the conclusion to episode twenty-two and ends with episode twenty-nine. This adaptation was not as popular with fans in Germany (reportedly due to most of the original cast not returning to record the second series).[2] CD sets of the 1981-82 and 1990-91 radio adaptations were re-released in 2005 with cover art that ties in to the 2005 movie release, and retitled Per Anhalter durch die Galaxis. [Per Anhalter ins All means, roughly, "hitchhiking in space" and Per Anhalter durch die Galaxis means, roughly, "hitchhiking through the galaxy."] The LP adaptations were also made available in 1990 and 1991. Adams travelled at least once to Germany, giving readings from his Hitchhiker's novels in 1994, and these were available as "Douglas Adams Live" on CD.

A one man show, consisting of Axel Pape, was performed at the Comedia Colonia in February 1987. An adaptation with a full cast was staged in Berlin in December 1987.[3] Another amateur adaptation was staged by a Tübingen student theatre group in February 2000, and again in Freiburg in May 2000.

The BBC TV series was originally broadcast on Das Erste in 1984. Each episode was edited to be a few minutes shorter than the original, thus omitting a few scenes, in order to create space for the continuity announcer. Such edits were common practice at the time.

The six episodes of the series are available in a 2 DVD set in Germany, packaged in a replica of the prop used as the "outer case enclosure" for the TV series' Guide prop. The release contains both the German and the English soundtracks and several extras (all in English). The episodes appear as they went out on the air, i.e. with the above edits. The producers of the DVD release could not reinsert the missing scenes as a German overdub for them was never produced.

An audiobook version of the short story Young Zaphod Plays it Safe was released as Der junge Zaphod geht auf Nummer sicher on a 30 minute CD, read by Boris Aljinovic, in May 2005. The 2005 movie was released on DVD in Germany in October 2005.


The first two books have been translated into modern Greek as follows:

The translations are by Dimitris Arvanitis and were first published by Ekdóseis Phantastikós Kósmos, Athens 2005.


The five books have been published in Hungary as follows:


The five books have been published in Italy as follows:

The collection of Douglas Adams' sketches and notes The Salmon of Doubt was also published with the title Il salmone del dubbio by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore in 2002, translated by Laura Serra.

The short story Young Zaphod Plays it Safe, translated by Laura Serra, can be found with the title Sicuro, sicurissimo, perfettamente sicuro inside the latest prints of Praticamente innocuo.

The five books of the "trilogy" have been reprinted several times by the same publisher, and are still in print.

The Italian translation of the book titles strictly follows the original ones. The main characters of the novels have the same names as in English; on the other hand, the names of some objects and planets have been adapted in order to retain their original meaning and/or feeling, rather than the English pronunciation. For example, the Zap-O-Matic Gun[dubious ] is called in Italian Fucile Crepaben (Die-Well-Gun). The Italian name of the living mattresses from Sqornshellous Zeta is not Zem, but Lorro.

There hasn't been any radio adaption of the series in Italian so far.

The Netherlands

Around 1980 Vincent van Engelen and Martin Cleaver made a 225 minute-long Dutch adaptation of the radio play. It was originally broadcast by the KRO and had the name 't Transgalactisch Liftershandboek.

All five novels were first translated and published starting in 1981 and retranslated and reprinted in 2004–2005. In 2004, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was reprinted with a new cover that would have linked the artwork across all five books, but this was withdrawn and printed again with a movie tie-in cover. Each book in the series (except for the first in its movie tie-in edition) bears the legend "Part [1-5] in a trilogy of five parts."

The books in the series were translated as:

In the original 1980s translation, the setting of the story has been transferred from the UK to the Netherlands, so Ford Prefect is no longer from Guildford but from Schagen. Also, as in the French translation, many names have been slightly changed to fit with the Dutch setting, thus Arthur Dent becomes "Hugo Veld", Ford Prefect becomes "Amro Bank" (a widely known bank company), Zaphod Beeblebrox becomes "Zefod Bijsterbuil", Slartibartfast becomes "Magdiragdag" and so on.


The five books in the series were first published in Poland from 1994–1996 by the "Zysk i S-ka" company. A reprint of the first three books were released in 2005 and 2006 by the "Albatros" publishing house.

The books in the series were translated as:

There is no radio adaptation of the series in Polish. The reprints of the fourth and the fifth book are said to be published later this year.


The five books in the series were translated into Romanian for the first time in 2005. The five books were sold individually, and are also sold in an omnibus edition. The books were translated by Eugen Dumitrescu and published by Nemira Grup Editorial. The omnibus edition, a paperback, also contains a translation of the "Guide to the Guide" written and revised by Adams in the mid-1980s. An English version of the text appears in The Hitchhiker's Quartet. The final paragraph about the Infocom game and the Hitchhiker's script book is omitted, however the phone number for NASA in the included translation of "How to Leave the Planet" has been updated for their new area code.

The books in the series were translated as:

Spanish-speaking countries

The cover of the Spanish language edition of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

For Spain and the Latin American market the first five books are published by Anagrama in their Spanish translations by Benito Gómez Ibáñez.


In Sweden, the national radio company staged a translation of the radio series in the summers of 1987 (episodes 1-6) and 1988 (reruns of episodes 1-6, and then episodes 7-12).

The five books in the series have been translated as follows:

United States

Harmony Books published the first Hitchhiker's novel as a hardback in October 1980. A few months after this, in March 1981, the original radio series was first broadcast on NPR. In August 1981, Pocket Books placed an ad in an issue of Rolling Stone, which gave away 3,000 copies of the first US paperback edition. A repeat of the radio series was broadcast by NPR in September, and the paperback edition was released to the public in October. Douglas Adams began making trips to the US in 1981, to promote his books, and to first discuss a US adaptation of the TV series in 1981, and later a Hollywood movie adaptation of the story (his first trip to Hollywood, and his first attempt at making a movie version of The Hitchhiker's Guide were in 1983).

In September 1982, Adams appeared at Chicon IV, that year's Worldcon, held in Chicago, Illinois, US from 2–6 September. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe was published in the US in October 1982, followed by the TV series appearing on PBS stations in November 1982. Life, the Universe and Everything was published in the US in 1983. The first ever omnibus (multiple volume) printing, entitled The Hitchhiker's Trilogy and containing the US editions of the first three novels, appeared in 1983. After the release of Life, the Universe and Everything, Adams had three bestselling novels on the lists of both Publishers Weekly and The New York Times.

Infocom launched their "interactive fiction" version in October 1984, in New York City, a month before So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish was published, simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, for the first time. The computer game was also promoted at Comdex in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the radio series was re-transmitted on NPR, to create further publicity. Adams himself toured the US to promote both the computer game and the fourth novel, including an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman.

A new omnibus edition, The Hitchhiker's Quartet, was published in 1986. Abridged audiobook versions of all four novels were published in the early 1980s, read by Stephen Moore, who played Marvin (among other roles) in the original radio series. Copies of the LP adaptations were also released in the US and Canada, first by Hannibal Records in 1982, and a slightly abridged version of these were later released by Simon and Schuster as part of their Audioworks series. Cassettes of the actual radio episodes first appeared in 1989.

Mostly Harmless was published simultaneously in the US and UK again in 1992. VHS tapes of the complete TV series and The Making of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy were published by CBS-Fox video in 1993. Also in 1993, Adams spent some time living in New Mexico, working on another version of the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Unabridged audiobook versions of all five novels were published in 1994. A new omnibus edition of the five novels, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, was published in 1997. Hollywood Pictures got the rights to the movie in 1998, and released it worldwide (under the banners of Touchstone Pictures and Spyglass Pictures) in 2005.

Stage adaptations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy appeared in California in 1990 and 1994, Hawaii in 1999, New York in 2002, San Francisco in 2003, Florida in 2004, and Philadelphia in 2006. Some of these were adaptations from the books, and the New York and Florida versions were adaptations of the first six radio scripts.


  1. ^ Transcripts of exclusive chats on
  2. ^ Simpson, M. J. (2005). The Pocket Essential Hitchhiker's Guide, Second Edition. Pocket Essentials. ISBN 1-904048-46-3. 
  3. ^ Photographs from a 1987 stage adaptation in Berlin


  • Adams, Douglas (2005). Le Guide galactique. Translated by Jean Bonnefoy (French paperback edition ed.). Denoël. ISBN 2-07-041568-6. 
  • Adams, Douglas (2005). Het Transgalactisch Liftershandboek. Translated by S. Commandeur and Rien Verhoef (Dutch "Movie tie-in" paperback edition ed.). Uitgeverij Luitingh. ISBN 90-245-5749-6. 
  • Adams, Douglas (1990). Per Anhalter durch die Galaxis. Translated by Benjamin Schwarz (German paperback edition ed.). Verlag Ullstein GmbH. ISBN 3-548-22491-1. 
  • Adams, Douglas (1999). Guida galattica per gli autostoppisti. Translated by Laura Serra (Italian paperback edition ed.). Piccola Biblioteca Oscar Mondadori. ISBN 88-04-46463-1. 
  • Adams, Douglas (2005). Guía del autoestopista galáctico. Translated by Benito Gómez Ibáñez (Spanish "Movie tie-in" paperback edition ed.). Editorial Anagrama. ISBN 84-339-1247-X. 
  • Adams, Douglas and John Lloyd (Lloyd uncredited) (2003). Per Anhalter ins All (German adaptation of The Primary Phase). Translated by Benjamin Schwarz (Compact Disc ed.). Der Hörverlag. ISBN 3-89940-276-6. 
  • Adams, Douglas (1996). Per Anhalter ins All Teil 7-15 (German radio adaptation of Life, the Universe and Everything and So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish). Translation and audio adaptation by Walter Andreas Schwarz (Compact Disc ed.). Der Hörverlag. ISBN 3-89584-171-4. 
  • Adams, Douglas (2005). ghidul autostopistului galactic. Translated by Eugen Dumitrescu (Romanian omnibus edition, paperback ed.). Nemira. ISBN 973-569-732-7. 
  • Adams, Douglas. Foreword by Terry Jones, Introductory Essay by M. J. Simpson, Afterword by Peter Guzzardi. (2004). The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: 25th Anniversary Illustrated Collector's Edition. Harmony Books. ISBN 1-4000-5293-9. 
  • Gaiman, Neil (1993). Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Titan Books. ISBN 1-85286-411-7. 
  • Simpson, M. J. (2003). Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams (First U.S. hardback edition ed.). Justin Charles & Co. ISBN 1-932112-17-0. 
  • Webb, Nick (2003). Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams (First UK hardcover edition ed.). Headline Book Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7553-1155-8. 

External links

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