New Worlds Weekly 42: 42 things I learnt because of ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’

Gautham Shenoy April 21, 2017 9 min

Here they are, in no particular order:

42. That 42 is the Ultimate Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. Even Google thinks so! Try googling for ‘the answer to life the universe and everything’. 42 also happens to a nice number that you can take home and introduce to your family.

17. That ‘Don’t Panic’ as a motto beats ‘Keep Calm’ any day. Arthur C Clarke, by the way, thought that this was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.

2. That it is currently the world’s only trilogy in five parts — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish and Mostly Harmless. Used to originally be a trilogy in four parts. Can be considered a trilogy in six parts if you count Artemis Fowl-author Eoin Colfer’s And Another Thing

40. That when in an intergalactic bar, always order the best drink in existence, Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, and experience that exquisite feeling of “having your brains smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.”

4. That I must always be aware, and in the know of, where exactly my towel is. At all times. Because only somebody who knows where his or her towel is can stay in control of virtually any situation.

4. That I must always be aware, and in the know of, where exactly my towel is. At all times. Because only somebody who knows where his or her towel is can stay in control of virtually any situation  

27. That reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the most pun you will have while reading sci-fi.

5. That that flying is, in fact, easy. There is an art to flying, or rather a knack. Quite simple actually. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and missing it. It’s the second part, the missing, that presents some difficulties, because it shouldn’t be deliberate. That is, it’s no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won’t. Try it sometime.

18. That space is big. As in really big big.

21. That nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.

32. That I can always go back to it for #MondayMotivation-style quotes too. Like “I’d rather be happy than right any given day” or that “Improbable does not mean impossible.” Because “the impossible” often has a kind of integrity to it which “the merely improbable” lacks. Also, just when you think life can’t get any worse, surprise! It does!

11. That it’s always SEP. An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s Somebody Else’s Problem  

28. That no self-respecting geek, or nerd, or pop culture enthusiast, can call himself that without reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, if not for pure reading pleasure then to finally get all the dozens and dozens of pop culture references and geek tributes to the series (and Douglas Adams).

8. That the Azgoths of Kria are responsible for producing the third worst poetry in the universe. So bad, that during a recitation by their master poet Grunthos the Flatulent — the poem in question being, Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning — four members in the audience died of internal haemorrhaging, while the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off.

11. That it’s always SEP. An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s Somebody Else’s Problem.

16. That the best way to describe earth is “mostly harmless”.

3. That the Vogons are the most unpleasant bureaucratic race in the galaxy (was anyone with the adjective “bureaucratic” ever pleasant?) who just about managed to crawl out of the primordial soup before even evolution gave up on them. How unpleasant are they really? This should give you a clue: They have as much sex appeal as a road accident.

33. That Hitchhikers was a radio show before it got turned into books. Since then it has been seen as stage shows, a computer game, as a feature film and in many towels.

35. That reality is frequently inaccurate.

16. That the best way to describe earth is “mostly harmless”.  

24. That there exists a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

15. That there is in fact a place where you can read God’s Final Message to His Creation, and it makes perfect sense! I could tell you what it is, right here and now, but I’d rather you find out for yourself. I apologise for the inconvenience.

9. That the 2005 Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie wasn’t half as good or a partial fraction as funny as the book (are they ever?!)

6. That the name Elon Musk gave to the first Mars-bound SpaceX craft, ‘The Heart of Gold’, is a tribute to H2G2, because obviously it is amongst his favourite books.

34. That the title for Hitchhikers and the idea came to Douglas Adams as lay drunk in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, looking up at the stars with a copy of the Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe in hand.

26. That spaceships hang in the sky the same way bricks don’t.

19. That humans are the third most intelligent species on Earth. Dolphins are smarter than us. And mice smarter than dolphins.

12. That time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.

38. That the history of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases — those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why, and Where phases. For instance, the first phase is characterised by the question “How can we eat?” the second by the question “Why do we eat?” and the third by the question “Where shall we have lunch?”

25. That you should never underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools, especially if you are designing something foolproof.

13. That Douglas Adams was the coolest, funniest, most eccentric science fiction author who ever lived.

31. That meeting Douglas Adams as a 22-year-old journalist to speak to him about Hitchhiker’s Guide, amongst other things, and his friendship with him later inspired Neil Gaiman to be a writer. In fact, the only time Gaiman, by his own admission, has ever put in a joke purely and simply as an act of homage — in Neverwhere, where the hero gives his name as “Richard. Richard Mayhew. Dick” — was as a nod to Douglas Adams (Adams by the way, approved of it).

20. That people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. In other words, anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

36. That even androids have feelings. Especially if they have the a huge brain and lots of intelligence and not enough opportunity to use it. It can make one depressed even.

23. That in the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move  

10. That Radiohead called their song Paranoid Android in reference to Marvin, the paranoid android from the book.

30. That I should carry a towel with me everywhere and openly on May 25 or international Towel Day, as thousands do across the world in tribute to Douglas Adams and to demonstrate their love of his books, especially H2G2.

23. That in the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

39. That Sass means “know, be aware of, meet, have sex with”, Hoopy means “really together guy” and Frood means “really amazingly together guy.” Usage: “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is!” Ford Prefect is not just a model of a car from Ford. And you’d be forgiven for thinking cars are the dominant lifeform on this planet.

39. That Sass means “know, be aware of, meet, have sex with”, Hoopy means “really together guy” and Frood means “really amazingly together guy.” Usage: “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect?  

7. That a towel has many uses, depending on where in the galaxy you are and what you want to do. Not counting drying yourself.

1. That it is by far the funniest science fiction series to be ever printed anywhere in the Milky Way, and ranks right up there (don’t ask where) with the funniest novels ever written in the English language.

22. That all you need to do to instantly understand anything and everything said in any language is just to put a small, yellow fish called the Babel Fish in your ear. (Now you know where the Altavista-then-Yahoo translation site got its name from!)

41. That “So long and thanks for all the fish” is a better way of saying farewell forever.

14. That two heads are not always better than one, especially if you have two heads all by yourself.

37. That you must definitely and surely read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (or have I said that already?)

29. That rather than a copy of the Hitchhikers Guide itself, it is a better idea to give away — as the prize for this week’s #NWWonFD contest — a copy of the latest & updated edition of Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by a friend of Douglas Adams called Neil Gaiman. Formerly called The Official Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion, it’s the definitive companion to Douglas Adams and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A celebration of all things Adams and Hitchhikers in book form, it’s filled with devastatingly true things, except for the bits that are lies.

Left: Douglas Adams on the sets of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy TV show (Via: BBC). Right: A guitar with Douglas Adams and a 22-year old journalist called Neil Gaman in 1983

And all you have to do to win Don’t Panic is tell us what you think should have been the question to which ‘42’ is the answer. In the book, with Earth being destroyed just before it throws up the question, and in desperate need of a question, they settle for ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ But if it was up to you, 42 would be answer to what question.

Make it funny, irreverent and tell us by leaving a comment below, or tweeting to us with #NWWonFD or leave a comment on the FactorDaily Facebook page before Friday, April 28, 2017, and if your entry is adjudged the best, your own copy of this great book shall be delivered to your door.

That’s it for this week, dear readers and I’ll see you again next week with another edition of New Worlds Weekly. So long, and live long and prosper!


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