- 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
What human beings are able to do–we arrive in new territories and we colonize this entire world. We can live in the tundra, we can live in the Gobi Desert, we can even contrive to live in New York, for heaven’s sake, because what we do is when we arrive somewhere, and let’s say, again, we arrive somewhere much colder, instead of having to wait generations or–while our natural selection favors genes that have got a thicker coat, we see an animal that has already got a thicker coat, we say, we’ll have it off him!
Mason gave him another grim look from a vast repertoire he had developed which ranged from very, very blackly grim indeed at the bottom of the scale, all the way up to tiredly resigned and only faintly grim, which he reserved for his children’s birthdays.
“Myself I’d trust him to the end of the Earth,” said Ford.
“Oh yes,” said Arthur, “and how far’s that?”
“About twelve minutes away,” said Ford, “come on, I need a drink.”
Bypasses are devices which allow some people to drive from point A to point B very fast whilst other people dash from point B to point A very fast. People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what’s so great about point A that so many people of point B are so keen to get there, and what’s so great about point B that so many people of point A are so keen to get there. They often wish that people would just once and for all work out where the hell they wanted to be.
And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
The aye-aye looks a little like a large cat with a bat’s ears, a beaver’s teeth, a tail like a large ostrich feather, a middle finger like a long dead twig and enormous eyes that seem to peer past you into a totally different world which exists just over your left shoulder.
“Now the world has gone to bed,”
“Darkness won’t engulf my head,
I can see by infra-red,
How I hate the night.”
He paused to gather the artistic and emotional strength to tackle the next verse.
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
Try to count electric sheep,
Sweet dream wishes you can keep,
How I hate the night.”
She didn’t even programme any coordinates, she hadn’t the faintest idea where she was going, she just went – a random row of dots flowing through the Universe. “Anything,” she said to herself as she left, “is better than this.”
“But you don’t understand,” said Ford, his expression slowly ripening from a little taken abackness into rank incredulity. “This is the American Express Card. It is the finest way of settling bills known to man. Haven’t you read their junk mail?”
Indeed there were no casual observers in the Old Pink Dog Bar on the lower South Side of Han Dold City because it wasn’t the sort of place you could afford to do things casually in if you wanted to stay alive. Any observers in the place would have been mean hawklike observers, heavily armed, with painful throbbings in their heads which caused them to do crazy things when they observed things they didn’t like.
People knew how to have a good time, and if they didn’t there were courses they could sign up for which would put that right.
I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
My favourite piece of information is that Branwell Brontë, brother of Emily and Charlotte, died standing up leaning against a mantle piece, in order to prove it could be done.
I didn’t jam with Pink Floyd…[it was] a forty-second birthday present to me from David Gilmour. Which was an invitation to play one number (that actually turned into two) on stage with Pink Floyd, their London gigs at the end of their world tour about three years ago. So I go to play the guitar part–which is the easy bit–of Brain Damage and Eclipse at the end of Dark Side of the Moon. It’s that little sort of finger-picking that any fifteen-year old guitarist can do. That was it. I went out in front of 15, 000 people and played this thing and it was fun. You can see why these guys to do it…It’s a gas.
You have to be careful, I’ve come to realize. Once in a hotel in New York, [I met] the receptionist who was just….mindbogglingly dense. You have one of these conversations where you really think the universe is sort of bending around you, it’s so stupid.
She tried to worry that something terrible had happened to him, but didn’t believe it for a moment. Nothing terrible ever happened to him, though she was beginning to think that it was time it damn well did. If nothing terrible happened to him soon maybe she’d do it herself. Now there was an idea.
“No, wait … I’ll tell you something,” said Zaphod. “I freewheel a lot. I get an idea to do something, and, hey, why not, I do it. I reckon I’ll become President of the Galaxy, and it just happens, it’s easy. I decide to steal this ship. I decide to look for Magrathea, and it all just happens. Yeah, I work out how it can best be done, right, but it always works out. It’s like having a Galacticredit card which keeps on working though you never send off the cheques. And then whenever I stop and think – why did I want to do something? – how did I work out how to do it? – I get a very strong desire just to stop thinking about it. Like I have now. It’s a big effort to talk about it.”
Earthmen are not proud of their ancestors, and never invite them round to dinner.
In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch Hiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.
First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly it has the words “Don’t Panic” inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.
Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
“One thing,” he further added, “has suddenly ceased to lead to another” – in contradiction of which he had another drink and slid gracelessly off his chair.
The air was clear and scented, the breeze flitted lightly through the tall grass around his cave, the birds were chirruping at each other, the butterflies were flitting about prettily, and the whole of nature seemed to be conspiring to be as pleasant as it possibly could.
It wasn’t all the pastoral delights that were making Arthur feel so cheery, though. He had just had a wonderful idea about how to cope with the terrible lonely isolation, the nightmares, the failure of all his attempts at horticulture, and the sheer futurelessness and futility of his life here on prehistoric Earth, which was that he would go mad.
“I was being perfectly serious,” said Arthur. “It’s just the Universe I’m never quite sure about.”
Suddenly he realized what the answer to the problem was, and it was this, that something very weird was happening; and if something very weird was happening, he thought, he wanted it to be happening to him.
“Don’t tell me about the future,” said Ford. “I’ve been all over the future. Spend half my time there. It’s the same as anywhere else. Anywhen else. Whatever. Just the same old stuff in faster cars and smellier air.”