Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy reaches 40

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet where on 10:30 pm on Wednesday, 8th March 1978 a radio program went out on Radio 4 called Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

To say this program, and the books, TV series, film and yes even a towel that followed it changed my life is an understatement. I was 8 when I saw the TV series a little later in 1981 (you’d have not caught me listening to Radio 4 anyway at that age, I was purely Radio 1 and commercial radio, R4 was for Archers fans and serious adults and my parents). I promptly went and bought all the books, and became an avid fan of it’s mix of science fiction that always goes wrong, warm intelligent wit and resigned yet friendly humanism. And the radio and TV series combines my love of the Radiophonic Workshop as well, and I suspect that was my real introduction to the world of electronic and library music, more so than Doctor Who who he also wrote for. I certainly have mentioned it many times on here and the podcasts back to appropriately episode 42, even mashups. And I think that will continue this week!

To celebrate, there’s a new radio series on the way of the 6th novel based off his notes, and also BBC has put out a radio documentary with John Lloyd looking into those very papers (hopefully the documentary is not geolocked, if not let me know ;-). The bit by Andrew Lane writing to him at 15 made me tearful – as a child that’s exactly the sort of letter I’d have written, if I had gotten the idea you could actually WRITE to someone who loomed so large in my childhood. I hesitate to say godlike since like me he wasn’t a believer in gods, but certainly a genius, and like Geoffrey Perkins, gone way too soon.

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