British author, humorist (and occasional Pink Floyd and Monty Python sideman) Douglas Adams’ absurdly hilarious science fiction landmark The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy first beamed down into Earth’s bookstores on October 12, 1979. Cosmic travelers, fantasy obsessives, high-minded readers (if you catch our drift), and generations who simply love to laugh have sworn by The Guide ever since. The book is particularly beloved by college students: no dorm anywhere has been without dozens upon dozens of copies residing within it now for 35 years.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—or H2G2 as it was affectionately shortened by graphic novelist Neil Gaiman in his official guide to the whole phenomenon—actually began in 1978 as a five-part comedy serial on BBC radio. Adams adapted his own script into a novel of the same name and, within 90 days, sold a quarter-million copies of it. It has not stopped selling ever since.
The plot of H2G2 follows harried Englishman Arthur Dent. When Earth is destroyed to make room for an interstellar highway, Arthur gets rescued by Ford Prefect, a space traveler doing research for the electronic “Hitchhiker’s Guide.” Together, they travel to far-off (and far-out) worlds occupied by eccentrics such as Marvin the Paranoid Android, galaxy president Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian, who was once a sexy woman Arthur knew named Tricia McMillan.
H2G2’s all-out conquest of the multimedia galaxy still endures. Adams penned five books in the “trilogy” of novels over the next thirteen years. A charmingly bizarre BBC TV adaptation premiered in 1981. H2G2 also generated a 1984 computer game, multiple stage versions, LPs, comic books, further radio plays, and a splashy 2005 Hollywood movie starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, and, as the voice of the guide itself, Stephen Fry. Fans even consider a set of H2G2 towels officially “canon,” as the cloth contains text by Adams.
Douglas Adams died of a sudden heart attack in 2001. He was just 49. In addition to H2G2, he penned many other novels and plays, scripted three episodes of Doctor Who, played guitar with Pink Floyd and Procol Harum, and collaborated with Monty Python. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy remains his most famous legacy so, today, on the book’s 35th anniversary, let’s all raise a thumb skyward and proclaim to Adams, “So long, and thanks for all the fish!” And check out the primitive brilliance of the BBC’s version…