Douglas Adams

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(March 11, 1952 – May 11, 2001)

Douglas Noel Adams, an English SF writer, humorist, and script writer, is best remembered as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a chronicle of the misadventures of Arthur Dent, the last Earthman. Other important characters include Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Robot.

The Hitchhiker's Guide originated in 1978 as a quirky six-part BBC radio comedy before developing into further episodes (called “fits”), a series of five books that sold millions of copies in Adams’ lifetime (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; and Mostly Harmless), a television series, stage plays, comics, a computer game, and a feature film in 2005. An authorized sixth book in the series, And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer, was published in 2009.

U.S. fans who traveled to the UK and visiting Britfen in the late ’70s brought back cassettes and shared them around, so the program was already well-known in American fandom by the time it aired on NPR in 1981. The cheesy TV show further enamored fans, and the series spawned many popular catchphrases and fanspeak terms.

Adams died of a heart attack at age 49. On May 25, 2001, two weeks after his death, fans held a tribute called Towel Day, with events at Baycon 2001 and elsewhere, a commemoration observed annually around the world ever since.

More reading:

Awards, Honors and GoHships:

Posthumous honors:


Many terms and catchphrases from Hitchhiker have been adopted by fandom.

  • “...almost, but not quite, entirely unlike...”: The Nutri-Matic Drinks Dispenser, the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. computer-based drinks machine, produced something “almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.” This snowclone tends to be applied to all kinds of substances.
  • “Always know where your towel is”: A towel is a Hitchhiker’s essential accessory, so this phrase means to be prepared.
  • Babel fish: A small, yellow, leechlike fish. “If you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language.... Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that something so mind-bogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.”
  • “Don't Panic”: Words printed in large, friendly letters on the cover of The Guide. Graham England-Koch used it as a fanzine title, and many fannish guidebooks have employed the phrase.
  • 42: The answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything. (See also: The Little Book of 42s, Forty-Two.)
  • frood, hoopy: A frood is someone with sangfroid, who has his act together. A frood always knows where his towel is. All froods are hoopies, though a hoopy might not quite rise to the amazing level of a frood. Frood also has somewhat more currency in fannish use. The adjectival forms are froody and hoopy. (Frod is an Old English word meaning “wise, experienced.”)
  • “Mostly Harmless”: Revised description of Earth in The Guide. Also the title of the fifth book in the Hitchhiker series.
  • Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster: An alcoholic beverage, which The Guide calls “the best drink in existence.... It says that the effect of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped round a large gold brick.” Ingredients are Ol’ Janx Spirit juice, Santraginean seawater, Arcturan Mega-gin ice cubes, Fallian marsh gas, Qualactin Hypermint extract, the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger, Zamphuor, and an olive.
  • “Share and Enjoy”: Motto of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints Division, part of a song sung by a choir of robots on special occasions. Often used fannishly when giving someone bad news or something else the recipient probably won’t like.
  • “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish”: Message to the humans on Earth from the dolphins leaving the doomed planet. Also the title of the fourth book in the Hitchhiker series. Used as a farewell. Announcing her terminal cancer diagnosis, London fan Judith Hanna used the phrase.

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