Hitchhiker history

Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent

Who needs it? The history. The background to one of the funniest ideas in – well, in what? – literature? Broadcasting? Television? Film?

I started at the wrong end, if there is one. I read the books first. Though, come to think of it, since the radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a lot better than the books, it would have been more disappointing to go the other way. OK, maybe I did it the right way. In fact, I have a feeling I may even have watched the television series before getting to the radio. It was on just as I met the Resident IT Consultant, and I recall us watching it in the early days.

I looked on in fascination as the trilogy grew to five books. That’s British humour for you. It’s why I like my adoptive country so much. It has stuff like H2G2.

Fast forward to the unfashionable end of the last century, when I came across the radio series on audio cassette in the mobile library, and borrowed it for Son. I thought he might like it. He did. It wasn’t exactly news at the time. Nobody much – other than nerds – talked about it, so Son was educated in something vaguely historical and dated. Who cared, as long as he laughed and learnt a few new good quotes. It turned out useful, too. How his leaders at Pilots at the local church could even begin to think that children his age would be able to answer any questions on this subject in their fun quiz, is beyond me. Old-fashioned Son could, but his friends had never heard of it. Very handy, too, when it came to dressing up for World Book Day at school. We just needed to send Son to school in his dressing gown, holding a ‘book’ which said Don’t Panic.

From then on I’d say that H2G2 woke up again. More stuff on the radio, a film, and now the sixth book, written by Eoin Colfer. He is not Douglas Adams, but since we can’t have him, Eoin is a good second. I hope.

Anyway, that history. Who needs to know? I mean, who doesn’t already know about it? There was a long description/history thing in the Guardian a week ago, and I just wondered what the point was. As a fan, I do like reading about what I like, but there was something not quite right about this article. And I don’t just mean the fact that facts were wrong. Ford and Arthur did not hitch a ride with Zaphod when Earth was demolished.

The point of the new book is surely to educate a new generation of readers, and anybody old who happened to miss it the first time?

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3 responses to “Hitchhiker history

  1. After reading your post below I am not sure whether I should admit that I’ve never read/watched Hitchhiker’s. I would blame the fact that I haven’t been brougt up in this country but neither have you so it would be a pretty lame excuse!!!

  2. Yes, to some extent that was my point. I was visiting in 1980/1981 and noticed these fun looking books in the shops, so had to ask what they were. Informed that they were must-reads, I bought and read. That’s also the reason I’d not heard of the radio series, which came first.

    I was just not sure whether a long, and somewhat inaccurate, summary of Hitchhiker history is necessary. If you’ve not heard of it, or read it, you might be enticed by the new book and publicity. Or not, depending on how you feel.

    Actually, the article reminded me of the problem of not knowing what you don’t know. Such as, should you preach to the masses, when most of them know more than you?

    The article by Eoin in Saturday’s Guardian was much more appropriate, I thought. And better written.

    I think I’m back in the territory of being tired of just getting the beginning of something every single time people write about it. Fans like something new on their topic, not same old, again, and again. And it’s useful if it’s correct.

  3. SPOILER WARNING!

    Now that I’m part way into Eoin’s book, I realise that the article writer may have got her books mixed up. Zaphod does indeed do something in this sixth instalment, but that was unclear from her writing.

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