“Ford,” he said, “you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.”
Did that grab your attention?
I thought as much.
Originally broadcast as a sci-fi comedy radio show in 1978, H2G2 (dude, I know the slang), otherwise known as Douglas Adams‘ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, was turned into a “trilogy” of six books. The first of which contains the marvelous quote included above for your reading pleasure.
But, and keep up, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a nifty little book of scientific calculator-esque appearance, which I will henceforth refer to as The Guide in order to avoid confusion with H2G2; the latter being the novel that I’ve just read, and the former being the guidebook inside the novel that I’ve just read. So, The Guide advises you on the best ways to see the universe on a budget, should you be so inclined, as well as containing an encyclopedia of very important stuff. Just so:
“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 characterized 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?”
Ford Prefect is a writer for The Guide, and an alien hitchhiker stranded on Earth; his friend, Arthur Dent, is an Englishman who gets a rather rude shock when he finds himself hitching a ride, with Ford, aboard a bureaucrats’ spaceship, after said bureaucrats demolished Earth to make way for a hyperspatial express route. As you do.
Other esteemed characters in H2G2 include Zaphod Beeblebrox, either the brilliant, or really, really stupid, President of the Galaxy; Trillian, an Englishwoman dating Zaphod after being “saved” by him from Arthur’s drunken clutches; and Marvin, the Paranoid Android, who gives Eeyore a run for his money, and wins. Although I’m unsure as to how being more manically depressed than a stuffed donkey counts as a win.
Never you mind, the characters don’t matter! The point, young Padawans, is that H2G2 is a hilarious, frank, and ironically self-aware commentary on human habits, whilst being so bloody British that it makes me want to move to London and gulp down lots of tea. Minus the aliens, of course.
Also, I hate Star Wars.
Unlike Star Wars, H2G2 has something to offer for everyone: Human Resources theories, the reasoning behind peoples preferences for digital watches, and an explanation as to why a towel is the single most important item for a galaxy hitchhiker to carry.
Therefore, I’m going to leave you with a morsel of self-help advice gleaned from the novel. Because I’m nice.
It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.
If you are curious as to who the first most intelligent life-form on Earth is (as opposed to the second and third life-forms, which are mentioned above), I’m afraid you’ll have to pick up the book yourselves. Cheerio!
Edit – I’ve now read books two and three of of H2G2; Life lessons from a hitchhiker: firstly, you may be excused from saving the galaxy if you have a headache.