- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
- The Salmon of Doubt
The robot stopped and looked at the mattress. It looked at it quizzically. It was clearly a very stupid mattress. It looked back at him with wide eyes. After what it had calculated to ten significant decimal places as being the precise length of pause most likely to convey a general contempt for all things mattressy, the robot continued to walk round in tight circles.
“Listen, bud,” said Ford, “if I had one Altairan dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin.”
There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind.
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
It was his subconscious which told him this – that infuriating part of a person’s brain which never responds to interrogation, merely gives little meaningful nudges and then sits humming quietly to itself, saying nothing.
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
“In this replacement Earth we’re building they’ve given me Africa to do and of course I’m doing it with all fjords again because I happen to like them, and I’m old fashioned enough to think that they give a lovely baroque feel to a continent. And they tell me it’s not equatorial enough. Equatorial!” He gave a hollow laugh. “What does it matter? Science has achieved some wonderful things of course, but I’d far rather be happy than right any day.”
“This must be Thursday”, said Arthur musing to himself, sinking low over his beer, “I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”
One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn’t be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid. He was renowned for being amazingly clever and quite clearly was so – but not all the time, which obviously worried him, hence the act. He proffered people to be puzzled rather than contemptuous. This above all appeared to Trillian to be genuinely stupid, but she could no longer be bothered to argue about it.
The road suddenly turns out to be impassable because it’s being rebuilt by the Chinese, only we’re not supposed to know that. And exactly what is meant by ‘suddenly’ I don’t know because they’ve apparently been at it for ten years.
I didn’t notice I was being set upon by a pickpocket, which I am glad of, because I like to work only with professionals.
“We would love to stay and help,” shouted Ford, picking his way over the mangled debris, “only we’re not going to.”
Arthur shook his head and sat down. He looked up. “I thought you must be dead …” he said simply.
“So did I for a while,” said Ford, “and then I decided I was a lemon for a couple of weeks. A kept myself amused all that time jumping in and out of a gin and tonic.”
“You’ll have to excuse me,” said Arthur. “I’m terribly happy.”
When it had enjoyed its little spin and had calmed down a bit, Arthur reached out for the bedside light, not expecting it to come on. To his surprise it did. This appealed to Arthur’s sense of logic. Since the Electricity Board cut him off without fail every time he paid his bill, it seemed only reasonable that they should leave him connected when he didn’t. Sending them money obviously only drew attention to yourself.
The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Dirk was unused to making such a minuscule impact on anybody. He checked to be sure that he did have his huge leather coat and his absurd red hat on and that he was properly and dramatically silhouetted by the light of the doorway. He felt momentarily deflated and said, “Er…” by way of self-introduction, but it didn’t get the boy’s attention. He didn’t like this. The kid was deliberately and maliciously watching television at him.
If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god – in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously.
I’d take the awe of understanding over the awe of ignorance any day.
“All right,” said Ford, “I’ll try to explain. How long have we known each other?”
“How long?” Arthur thought. “Er, about five years, maybe six,” he said. “Most of it seemed to make some sense at the time.”
Well all right, I wasn’t doing very well with her. I’d been trying all evening. Hell, she was something though. Beautiful, charming, devastatingly intelligent, at last I’d got her to myself for a bit and was plying her with a bit of talk when this friend of yours barges up and says ‘Hey doll, is this guy boring you? Why don’t you talk to me instead? I’m from a different planet.’ I never saw her again.
One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the obvious, as in It’s a nice day, or You’re very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical and decided he quite liked human beings after all, but he always remained desperately worried about the terrible number of things they didn’t know about.
“You’re proposing twenty hours on a boat-”
“A small boat,” added Mark.
“On violently heaving seas-”
“With a three-day-old dead goat.”
“I hardly know what to say.”
I say roughly, because the gorillas are not yet sufficiently advanced in evolutionary terms to have discovered the benefits of passports, currency declaration forms, and official bribery, and tend to wander backwards and forwards across the border as and when their beastly, primitive whim takes them.
“What was that?” hissed Arthur.
“Something red,” hissed Ford back at him.
“Where are we?”
“Er, somewhere green.”
“Shapes,” muttered Arthur. “I need shapes.”