“A cult radio serial by Douglas Adams (1952-2001), broadcast in 1978 and 1979. The story begins with the imminent destruction of Earth to make way for a hyperspace express route, and the escape of Earthling Arthur Dent and his exterrestrial friend Ford Prefect by hitching a ride on a Vogon spacecraft. The programme combined the comic with the surreal and introduced a host of eccentric characters. In 1981 the serial was adapted for television. The fictional book mentioned in the title gives handy tips to space travellers, and is frequently quoted; its verdict on the Earth is ‘mostly harmless.’ It transpires that the Earth was originally constructed to solve the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, to which the answer turns out to be 42.
Adams went on to adapt and extend the idea in book form, characteristically producing a “trilogy in five parts’: A Hitch-Hiker’s 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), and Mostly Harmless (1992).”
Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.