Take a few seconds and try to recall as many science-fiction-related clichés as you can…

W. Shatner
Please don’t let Captain Kirk’s gaze distract you.

The science-fiction genre has commonly been associated with a parade of recurring themes, plots and characters. It isn’t rare to find robots, alien races (usually the green kind), the mandatory human hero and the occasional appearanace of a higher intelligence. These and many more ‘ingredients’ have been constantly re-worked and updated through the years and according to the ever-evolving nature of our technological context.

Quite often, however, lack of imagination and overuse of those elements can lead even the most patient reader/watcher on the planet to wish they weren’t wasting their time on with the story (or that they were wasting it in a more useful way at least).

So, how about throwing a good bit of humour into the mix and making fun of all those old clichés? That’s exactly what the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy does.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Picture yourself in this scenario: you wake up, mildly hungover, and discover that your entire race has got less than 15 minutes before being completely wiped out by a troop of interstellar civil servants. What would you do?

Option A
a)
Option B
b)
Beer!
c)

Although option B would seem the most sensible one, for Ford Prefect, an alien living undercover (or more precisely: stranded) on Earth, option C is unquestonably the wisest one as he prepares to ‘hitch’ a ride aboard a spaceship full of poetry-loving bureaucrats from outer space. His best friend, a human called Arthur Dent, unaware of the planet’s fate, prefers to spend his time complaining about an equally unaware troop of human civil servants trying to destroy his house.

The destruction of the planet sets in motion the plot of the story, sending them into a series of crises across time and space; one of which is the impossibility of finding a decent cup of tea anywhere else in the universe.

Don’t Panic!

These two words are printed in large letters on the cover of another of the protagonists of this story. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is an electronic book, published in Ursa Minor, which in spite of being largely inaccurate and outdated, is the most popular source of information for those “impoverished hitchhikers trying to see the marvels of the Universe for less than thirty Altairan Dollars a day”.

I went to lie in a field, along with my Hitch Hiker’s Guide to Europe, and when the stars came out it occured to me that if only someone would write a Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy as well, then I for one would be off like a shot. Having had this thought I promptly fell asleep and forgot about it for six years.”

This is how Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy first came up with the idea for the story while lying drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in 1971. His idea was finally materialised as a comedy radio series broadcasted by BBC Radio 4 in the United Kingdom in 1978. During the production of the radio show, Adams and his team were passionate about making sound effects that would stand out as innovative and original.

The radio show was soon followed by the first of five novels in the books series, a TV adaptation by BBC 2, LP recordings, a computer game, a second radio series, stage shows and more recently, three more radio series and a movie from 2005.

During the course of our 3rd Book Club, we’ll jump from adventure to adventure with Arthur and Ford while trying to discover the answer to the greatest questions in life. We’ll go on a journey across the universe at the same time that we laugh about those silly bits of our very earthly reality. Perhaps you’ll be surprised by the answer!

Watch the first episode of the TV series:

More Reading:

The 42 Things You Should Know About ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 30 years on: why we should still be reading it – The Guradian

Original Radio Scripts