back to article Is the answer to life, the universe and everything hidden in Adams' newly uncovered archive?

We all know that the, er, "bad guys are Vogons". Douglas Adams explained as much in his cracking 1979 sci-fi novel The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. But what if there are new baddies to be unearthed and nerdish gags to marvel at – well, nerdishly – from the words of the great man himself? Wait no longer: a new biography – …

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  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    A great man

    Such a shame he died young, but good to see some of his stuff is coming out from the metaphorical locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'.

    An example of his mind is in the El Reg article when he died in 2001:

    "What we are now focussed on at h2g2 is what happens when people start to share information while they are on the move. Soon we will start to see devices arriving that combine palmtop computers with cellphones with Internet devices with GPS systems. That - in a phrase we hear over and over again when people talk about the Internet - will change everything. You'll be able to read and write to the Guide wherever you are: at the station, in the plane, on a park bench, in your car (pulled over to the side of the road with the handbrake on, of course) in a café. And when you write in something as simple as 'The coffee here is lousy!' the Guide will know exactly what to do with that information and where to put it. And if you see, a few seconds later, a note which says 'Yes, but the cheesecake is good' it might be worth looking round the other tables to see who you've just made contact with."

    See, basically he invented the iPhone and Facebook!

    Just a shame there were not actually invented by him and he had lived, I bet they would have been a whole lot less shitty to the end user's respect.

    1. Stuart Moore

      Re: A great man

      H2G2 - the website - was basically wikipedia before wikipedia.

      I have read a previous biography - http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Panic-Douglas-Hitchhikers-Galaxy/dp/1848564961 - which was very good and (amongst other things) had the H2G2 plot with the Krikket robots as it originally was - as a Dr Who plot! That biog is highly recommended to anyone else who doesn't want to wait.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: A great man

        Much as I love most of Adam's work reading Don't Panic lead me to a interesting conclusion. And this was that by the eighties he was running out of original ideas. Much of Life the Universe and Everything was as you say largely rehashed from an unshot Doctor Who plot, and as it says in the book you can hear the tyres squealing as the plot is forced to fit the H2G2 characters. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency was essentially a rewrite of Shada.

        So Long and Thanks for all the Fish was good apart from the bits that weren't and The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul really worked.

        But then we come to Mostly Harmless. In Don't Panic Gaiman suggests that Certain passages in So Long and Thanks hinted at a resentment of the success of Hitchhikers and specifically the expectations of fans. In Mostly Harmless that resentment is almost tangible.

        It's sad really. If Adams had completely stepped away from Hitchhiker after the third book I think he might have produced some great work.

        1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

          Re: A great man

          I thought it also contained chunks of City of Death as well.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't help but think

    Adams would have been the first person to satirise the Douglas Adams industry. (He invented the rock singer who was spending a year dead for tax purposes, after all.)

  3. Ol'Peculier
    Thumb Up

    Going to be good

    Have it on very good authority this is going to be a very good book - the guy knows his DNA, Looking forward to it.

  4. TitterYeNot

    Anticip......

    Wha?!!! Not out till autumn but they tell us about it now?!!!

    Belgium man, Belgium!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anticip......

      I was sorely tempted to click the 'report abuse' link in response to your use of that unacceptable word! Surprised the mods didn't shun you, bar you from polite society and shoot you through the lungs ;)

      1. Kobus Botes
        Coat

        ...............pation! (Re: Anticip......)

        Why exactly is that word unacceptable??? Love the music and the movie - seen it too many times to count.

        But now the music is stuck in my head!

        ------------------> Obviously

        1. Pet Peeve

          Re: ...............pation! (Anticip......)

          Seriously? I think this is how it goes...

          One of the many reasons Earth is shunned by the galactic community is because we name countries after the most unspeakably rude word in the galaxy. Even loose-tongued people like Zaphod Beeblebrox don't use the word except under dire provocation.

          If you've never heard the original radio serial, DAMN I envy you for being able to hear it for the first time. I first heard it on public radio 20 odd years ago, and to this day I remember having to pull off the road (or drive into a ditch) when a quartet of robots started singing a certain song (which involves sticking your head in a pig). SO GOOD.

          1. Stuart Moore

            Re: ...............pation! (Anticip......)

            I will second that. Listen to the radio series. Then read the books. The film had good bits but was nothing on the original.

            1. Kobus Botes

              Re: ...............pation! (Anticip......)

              @Pet and Steve

              Mmmmm. My bad (Thinks - I'll have to re-listen to the radio series).

              I was actually thinking of Dr. Frank 'n Furter (I can see you shiver with anticip...... pation!).

              Hence the reference to the coat, etc.

              Now where is that hide under the rock icon?

          2. F0rdPrefect

            Re: ...............pation! (Anticip......)

            For those who missed it, the radio series is available on CD http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0563504196/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_dp_ss_1?pf_rd_p=479289247&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0563477024&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_r=1RC4RE9W5TFP6DH1510Z

            It is the only thing that has ever been on radio that I ensured that I was at home and locked in my room for.

            Somewhere I still have my bootleg cassettes ;-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...............pation! (Anticip......)

          The radio series are the definitive and original versions. I heard them three times, each in a different country and better with each hearing. The books were all right. The film was awful (Trillion, the brilliant physicist, was turned into a squawking twit, missed the point completely).

  5. stucs201

    The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

    I have a theory he actually gave us the question before the answer:

    "What's the use of our arguing half the night whether there may - Or may not! be a god if this machine gives you his phone number in the morning!"

    It might not have been the next morning, but Deep Thought did produce a numerical answer...

    1. Chemist

      Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

      "It might not have been the next morning, but Deep Thought did produce a numerical answer..."

      Ah, but what number base was '42' in ?

      1. Matt 52

        Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

        Reminds me of a daft joke...

        Q: How many software engineers does it take to change a lightbulb?

        A: 10 ... One to hold the ladder and one to swap the bulbs over.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

          There are 10 types of people in the world, those who know binary and those that don't.

          1. Rob 5

            Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

            No, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

        2. Woodnag

          Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

          No. The answer is "None, it's a hardware problem."

          However, the are 10 sort of engineer: those that understand binary, and those who don't.

      2. thx1138v2

        Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

        Number base, shamumber base! Who needs a number base with an infinite improbability (AKA quantum) machine.

        1. Beau
          Go

          Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything. (thx1138v2)

          OK, OK, OK.

          So, how many mice are needed to screw in a light bulb?

          A:- 10

          1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

            Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything. (thx1138v2)

            Is that one to think of having a planet to use light bulbs and the other to get the contract arranged designed and paid for and 8 children between them while waiting thousands of years for Thomas Edison?

          2. Jedit
            Headmaster

            "how many mice are needed to screw in a light bulb?"

            Just two. The real question is how you get them into the light bulb.

            1. Tom 13

              Re: "how many mice are needed to screw in a light bulb?"

              That joke is so 1980s. These days you couldn't get 2 cockroaches in a light bulb. Or at least, what laughingly passes for a light bulb.

      3. John Sager

        Re: The ultimate question of life the universe and everything.

        "Ah, but what number base was '42' in ?"

        13 AFAIR. Find the question.

  6. Phill 3

    Ask Marvin.

    I've often thought that Douglas had this in mind but didn't get round to revealing it. If it takes a computer the size of the Earth to think about L,TU&E and we know that Marvin has a brain the size of a planet. Then why not ask Marvin for the answer? Maybe he's so depressed because he knows the answer and nobody has bothered to ask for his opinion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Marvin did know, but...

      ...it was only the (incorrect) answer that the Earth had computed:

      ZAPHOD: Hey look Earthman, you’ve got a job to do remember? The Question to the Ultimate Answer right? I mean there’s a lot of money tied up in that head thing of yours, I mean, just think of the merchandising: Ultimate Question T-shirts, Ultimate Question Biscuits…

      ARTHUR: Well, yes!

      ARTHUR: But where do we start?! I don’t know! The Ultimate Answer so-called is “Forty-Two”! Well what’s the question? How am I supposed to know?! Could be anything! I mean, “What’s six times seven?”

      FORD, ZAPHOD and TRILLIAN: Er… Forty-two!

      ARTHUR: Yes, I know that! I’m just saying the question could be anything! How should I know?

      FORD: Because you and Trillian are the last generation products of the Earth computer matrix, You must know!

      MARVIN: I know.

      FORD: Shut up, Marvin, this is organism talk.

      MARVIN: It’s printed in the Earthman’s brainwave patterns, but I don’t suppose you’ll be very interested in knowing that.

      ARTHUR: You mean you can see into my mind?

      MARVIN: Yes.

      ARTHUR: And?

      MARVIN: It amazes me how you manage to live in anything that small.

      ARTHUR: Ah. Abuse!

      MARVIN: Yes.

      ZAPHOD: Oh, ignore him, he’s only making it up.

      MARVIN: Making it up? What should I want to make anything up? Life’s bad enough as it is without wanting to invent any more of it.

      TRILLIAN: Marvin if you knew what it was all along why didn’t you tell us?

      MARVIN: You didn’t ask.

      FORD: Well we’re asking you now, metal-man, What’s the question!?

      MARVIN: The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?

      FORD, ARTHUR, ZAPHOD and TRILLIAN: [Editorial note: The line here is missing from all transcripts I can find, but I think it's "Yes!"]

      MARVIN: To which the answer is forty-two?

      FORD, ZAPHOD and TRILLIAN: [Editorial note: The line here is missing from all transcripts I can find, but I think it's "Yes!"]

      MARVIN: I can tell that you’re not really interested.

      FORD: Will you just tell us you motorised maniac!?

      [Electronic noise]

      ARTHUR: Oh, look the control panel’s lighting up! We must’ve arrived!

      ZAPHOD: Hey yeah, we’ve zapped back into real space.

      MARVIN: I knew you weren’t really interested.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Marvin did know, but...

        But wasn't the answer in Arthurs brain brought to the fore using the scrabble pieces randonly selected when they were stuck in Earth's past? i.e. What do you get when you multiple six by nine? (iirc)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ask Marvin.

      We don't know how big the planet that Marvin's brain is the size of, is. (Sorry about the sentence construction).

      HHGG was written before Pluto was downgraded, so Marvin's brain might only have been Pluto sized (or less, if the planet he's referencing orbits a brown dwarf.) So it might not be big enough.

  7. AlexS

    Xpletive

    Maybe Timberlake can invent some dance moves to go with it.

  8. Nick Kew
    Headmaster

    Correction!

    Please get your basic history right! The original Hitchhikers guide was certainly earlier than 1979. Wikipedia says 1978, which is at least credible. Has to be beginning of '78, as it was in winter that we first heard of the Vogons.

    Oh, and Nick Webb's official biography of Adams is well worth a read!

  9. Acme Fixer

    Ah-HAH!

    Now I know why the Norwegian in me likes the fiddly bits of the fjiords... or however it went.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah-HAH!

      I seem to remember Slartibartfast describing them as "crinkly".

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. OrsonX
    FAIL

    I recently had the misfortune to listen to Fit III - V

    Available on YouTube if you really must, but I don't recommend it.

    They have a Hollywood ending.

    Sorry, spoiler alert.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I recently had the misfortune to listen to Fit III - V

      It's all available on TPB. I got it a couple of months back. Listened to the original series again (after getting on for 30 years!). Then started listening to the 'new' one. Then stopped listening to and deleted the new one.

      Of course, you also need the albums for a slightly different version.

      1. Neil B

        Re: I recently had the misfortune to listen to Fit III - V

        @Peter "Of course, you also need the albums for a slightly different version."

        This is the definitive version in my opinion. The dialogue is is whizz-bang sharp, every joke top notch, and the music absolutely brilliant. I couldn't give a toss about the rest of my vinyl but I bought a USB record player to make sure I could listen to this whenever the fancy took me!

      2. Mark York 3 Silver badge

        Re: I recently had the misfortune to listen to Fit III - V

        A friend had told me about HHG, but it wasn't until I wandered into Pitts Record dept & found the LP playing very very close to the start. Just wandered about the area listening & was torn between staying to the very very end or dashing home to watch Doctor Who (as it was I managed both just), thus starting me on the road as a fully fledged towel carrier.

        The LP is my definitive version of the first four fits, given the better sound quality & tighter editing but I prefer the Haggunenons over the Disaster Area scenario for the final two fits when I finally managed to find a Radio 4 repeat.

  12. TRT Silver badge

    I don't know if he's writing a book or not.

    To you it may seem like he's writing a book, whereas to some he might seem to be singing to my cat. It would seem very odd behaviour to go to such lengths researching archive material just to sing a song to my cat. Or so it seems to me. Who can tell?

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

      Re: I don't know if he's writing a book or not.

      The Universe is in good hands then.

    2. TitterYeNot

      Re: I don't know if he's writing a book or not.

      "Or so it seems to me. Who can tell?"

      The Lord knows, of course...

  13. Chris G Silver badge

    Treasure

    I can't wait until the release in the Autumn so here is something FIT to listen to; http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/The+Hitchhiker+s+Guide+To+The+Galaxy/232148

    I love that homespun quality that both Douglas Addams and Terry Pratchett are able to present in such a rich 'tea down the nostrils' style.

    British comedy genius!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Treasure

      It's quite simple really. It takes 20 Harvard graduates to write The Simpsons, it took 1 (one) DNA to write HHGG, and it took 1 (one) T Pratchett to write most of his books.

      Writing scripts by committee delivers consistency, but so does the Chorleywood Bread Process.

  14. Cipher

    Who Gives a Fuck...

    ... about an estate eger to make a few more bucks off his work? The answer to the universal riddle will not be found in this book of tripe...

    1. Arachnoid

      Re: The answer to the universal riddle will not be found in this book of tripe...

      Of course not, Im sure its bound up in some long corrupted religious book of epic propositions and mass murder throughout the ages but one has to laugh at the lengths human kind will go to to reinvent the mysterious contemplation of ones own belly fluff

  15. David Austin

    Obligatory XKCD Link

    http://xkcd.com/548/

  16. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

    The Salmon of Doubt

    I wonder if this new book will have much the same or (hopefully) different material from which to draw. According to Amazon's description, The Salmon of Doubt is a collection of letters, fragments of book/movie/TV ideas, and random thoughts on a variety of topics. It unfortunately SOUNDS like the same source material as this new biography, just from a different perspective. I hope to be incorrect about that as I would very much like to enjoy both works without essentially reading the same thing twice.

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