The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (HHGG) is the first book of a five part science fiction Trilogy (sic!) by Douglas Adams - fondly adored by legions of fans around the world, for its hilarious situations and characters (/Babel fish, Vogon poetry, Slartibartfast, The answer to life, the universe and everything), and for its dark ironic humour and subtle social commentary (honestly, it's there if you look hard enough!) In the series, the protagonist actually possesses a guide by that title, and very often the phrase is used to refer to the entire series, so usage must be taken from context.
Initially, HHG/HHGG/H2G2 (as it is often referred to) was a radio series airing on the BBC(?), which (due to its huge following) encouraged Adams to novelise the story. A second radio series was produced, and the novels grew sequels. Quickly a trilogy, but before long a trilogy in four parts and eventually in five parts.
The popularity of the books then gave rise to a TV mini-series (retaining most of the same cast as the radio series), followed in 1984 by a piece of best-selling interactive fiction (i.e., text adventure game), distributed by Infocom and designed by Adams and Infocom regular Steve Meretzky. Lesser known variants of HHG include a vinyl recording (same cast as radio series, but it is a different recording with an altered script) and a towel.
Adams proclaimed a number of times that the HHG series had ended. Despite this, neither the 2nd, 3rd or 4th book was the final one of the series (thank Zarquon). The 5th book was written to bring the "trilogy" to a supposedly conclusive ending. However, it was known that he was working on a sixth book (tentatively entitled The Salmon of Doubt). It is not known how complete this book was at the time of his death, but the existing draft will be published in a collection of unfinished works titled So Long and expected to be published in the first quarter 2002.
More recently, HHG has become an online entity (a sort of Wikipedia, if you will, in that it tries to be the altogether cooler version of the Encyclopedia Galactica), in a way a tribute to the futuristic vision of DNA. Visit http://www.h2g2.com/, or DNA's homepage at http://www.douglasadams.com/ for more information.
The books in the trilogy are named:
- The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
- The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)
- Life, the Universe and Everything (1982)
- So Long and Thanks for all the Fish (1984)
- Mostly Harmless (1992)
A short story was also written, Young Zaphod Plays it Safe. It appears in some HHG omnibus. It is almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the trilogy.
There is some ambiguity about the exact nomenclature of "Hitch Hikers". Should there be no space, a dash or a space between hitch and hiker? Similarly, should hikers be apostrophised? (hiker's). Most variants are formalised in print somewhere. Wikipedia currently uses Hitch Hikers (see /Talk).
Cult hero status like that accorded to Adams has brought certain awarnesses to our world.