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The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was initially a radio comedy series written by Douglas Adams. It has been adapted as a series of novels, as a television series and as a computer game, and as of 2003 there are still plans for a film version.
The title The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is often abbreviated as "HHG", "HHGG", or "H2G2". As well as the several incarnations of the story, of which the books are the most popular, this can also refer to:
The books are described as "a trilogy in five parts" (sic). They have a wide following around the world, thanks to their hilarious situations and characters (Babel fish, Vogon poetry, Slartibartfast, The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything), their anarchic, ironic humour and subtle social commentary.
The first radio series was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1978. The radio series was split into episodes, known as "Fits" (from Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark); the original series comprised Fits the First through Sixth, and Fit the Seventh was broadcast separately at Christmas. (Fits the Fifth and Sixth were co-written by John Lloyd; subsequent versions of the story omit most of Lloyd's material.)
The success of the series encouraged Adams to write a novel of the series, which was based on the first four Fits and released in 1979. Also released that year was a double LP re-recording of the first four Fits, slightly contracted, followed by a single LP featuring a revised version of Fits the Fifth and Sixth. A second radio series, comprising Fits the Eighth through Twelfth, was produced and broadcast in 1980, originally on five consecutive days, and the original novel produced a sequel based on Fits the Fifth through Twelfth (but not entirely in that order). Thereafter the radio series ended and the books developed independently.
The radio series (and the subsequent LPs and television spin-off) greatly benefited from the voice-over commentary by noted radio comedy actor Peter Jones, playing The Book; his lugubrious tones undoubtedly gave the series a tremendous boost in establishing the tenor of the piece.
The popularity of the first two books gave rise to a 6-episode television series, which aired in 1981. It used most of the actors from the radio series, and was based on the novel versions of Fits the First through Sixth. The complexities of adapting the material for television meant that each episode was 35 minutes in length, and some of the best jokes from the radio series have still had to be cut. There have been several different edits of the series; PBS recut the series into seven 30-minute episodes; the videotape release added some previously unseen material and remixed the soundtrack into stereo. The DVD edition claims to be the final and definitive version. The TV series was followed in 1984 by a piece of best-selling interactive fiction - effectively a text adventure game - distributed by Infocom and designed by Adams and Infocom regular Steve Meretzky.
The theme tune used for the radio and television series and the LPs comes from an instrumental by The Eagles called "Journey of the Sorcerer", though the version used on the LP and TV versions is a new recording, not by the Eagles.
In the original radio series, Fit the Third originally included a scene where Marvin the Paranoid Android "sang" snatches of "Echoes" by Pink Floyd, "Rock and Roll Music" by The Beatles and "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (The theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey). For copyright reasons these were cut from the tape and CD editions, causing a slight lapse in continuity. There have been other minor changes. For example, the name originally given for the worst poet in the universe was that of a real person, who didn't treat it as a joke.
Marvin "himself" (played and sung by actor Stephen Moore) released two novelty singles, "Marvin" and "Marvin, I Love You". There was also an EP featuring the re-recorded "Journey of the Sorcerer" together with "Reg Nullify In Concert" by "Reg Nullify", and "Only the End of the World Again" by "Disaster Area". All of these discs are now collector's items.
More recently, the series spawned an online entity not unlike Wikipedia, known as H2G2; see that article for more information.
The fifth book was written to bring the "increasingly inaccurately named trilogy" to a supposedly conclusive ending. However, it was known that Adams was working on another book (tentatively entitled The Salmon of Doubt) when he died. This book was originally to be the third novel of the Dirk Gently series, but Adams had expressed the desire to recast it as a Hitchhiker book. An existing draft was published posthumously in 2002 in a collection of Adams' miscellaneous writings titled The Salmon of Doubt, with Dirk as the main character.
The books in the trilogy are named:
A short story was also written, Young Zaphod Plays it Safe[?]. It appears in some of the HHG omnibus editions. It is almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the trilogy.
Neil Gaiman has written Don't Panic: The Official Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion[?]. The original edition was published in 1984; the book is now in its third edition.
Two collaborative Internet projects were inspired by the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The original is Project Galactic Guide, which has no official affliation. There is also h2g2, a project started by Douglas Adams' company The Digital Village and currently hosted by the BBC.