I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be
A gloomy, paranoid android, the definitive meaning of life (which – spoiler alert – turns out to be the number 42) and the definitive visitor’s guide to travelling outer space.
These were just some of the bizarre and original ideas dreamed up by author Douglas Adams for his comedy sci-fi series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which begins when a man called Arthur Dent, is whisked away from Earth in his dressing gown, just moments before the planet’s blown up by aliens clearing the way for a new interstellar bypass.
Adams, a Cambridge graduate who once wrote for Doctor Who, claimed to have come up with the idea while he was drunk in a field, during a hitchhiking holiday in Austria.
The Hitchhikers’ Guide began on the radio before becoming a series of books, a TV series, a computer game, a film (starring Martin Freeman) and mostly recently a radio series again. Billionaire Elon Musk’s a fan and featured the Guide’s catchphrase, Don’t Panic! on dashboard sticker in the sports car he launched into space.
In his books, Douglas described the Hitchhiker’s Guide itself a portable electronic encyclopaedia, just like the tablets of today. But incredibly, the first book was written in the 1970s, long before the internet was developed and decades before the advent of mobile technology.
A keen environmentalist, Douglas climbed Mount Kilimanjaro dressed in a rhino costume in 1984, in support of charity Save the Rhino.
His fans also use costume of sorts to pay tribute to the author every year. Two weeks after Douglas died, they honoured him by tucking a towel – the only belonging that Hitchhikers hero Arthur Dent escapes Earth with – under their arms. Since then, May 25 has been marked by aficionados as Towel Day.