Douglas Adams’ 61st birthday: A hitchhiker’s puzzle filled with clues

March 11, 2013 | 9:53 a.m.

Douglas Adams’ 61st birthday is being marked with a Google Doodle that would make the author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” proud.

But “Don’t Panic” if you looked at the Google Doodle and wondered … “what is that supposed to be?”

The late Douglas Adams, author of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" series.

The late Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” series.

The interactive doodle draws on several allusions to the late English humorist’s writing, down to the rumpled towel said to be an important part of any trip. There’s a cup of tea, a packed back, a manuscript, the galaxy whizzing by outside the window. You can also see Marvin the robot by clicking on the sliding doors to the left, and you can tap the e-reader’s keyboard for several inside references.

Most of it, though, will likely be lost on those unfamiliar with the author, who died at the age of 49 from a heart attack. He would have been 61 today.

You can also enjoy today’s Google Doodle as a video.

Adams began “Hitchhiker’s Guide” as a BBC radio comedy, but it was quickly turned into a “trilogy” made up of five wildly popular novels. Some say the guide to interstellar travel that Adams also used to raise awareness about endangered species is the funniest sci-fi series ever written. “THHGTTG,” as it is referred to by fans, has also been adapted for other mediums, including TV, film, games and the stage.

Our sister blog Jacket Copy explains that Adams’ final book blew up several key characters. There were plans for a sixth book, but Adams died before it could be finished. Author Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl fantasy series, stepped forward to complete the sixth book with the blessing of Adams’ widow. That book was called “And Another Thing…”

Describing “THHGTTG” is… difficult. Fans will tell you to “just read it!”

A 2008 Hero Complex post on Colfer’s plans for a sixth novel had this to say by way of description:

“The Guide” is a slice of satirical genius. A marvel of quantum tomfoolery. A dissection of the absurdities of our human condition. A space odyssey that forces us to face ourselves and collapse in hysterics. Imagine if Messrs. Hawking and Fry were locked in a room with the entire cast of Monty Python and forced to write a book which would subsequently be edited by Pink Floyd, then the result would need a lot of work before it could be cut from Douglas Adams’ first draft.

Are you a fan of “THHGTTG”? Do you think Adams would like this Google Doodle?

–Rene Lynch


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16 Responses to Douglas Adams’ 61st birthday: A hitchhiker’s puzzle filled with clues

  1. RichardSoBay says:

    He'd comment on the absurdity of Google – the massive amount of technology and human ingenuity dedicated to the task of allowing us to view pictures of cats and get into petty squabbles with strangers.

  2. thearchivest says:

    Douglas is terribly missed. His brand of humour was unique. But it does live on in others like Neil Gaiman, and in comic novels like THE MYOSHI EFFECT. Happy Bday DNA.

  3. Christine says:

    they say H2G2 not all those letters. lol.

    • Will says:

      Speak for yourself. I know some people who say THHGTTG. I follow your convention, but you know. Whatever floats your spacecraft.

  4. steve says:

    I will miss him, he helped me get though my cancer therapy and recovery. His books made me laugh when I did not fell like it. I have re-read all of the books many times, mostly when I have post op depression, it always goes away. I hope someone will find the courage to right something close to what Mr Adams accomplished

  5. David Clark says:

    Don't Panic!

  6. Leif says:

    Thank you Douglas for letting me know I was not the only one thinking those thoughts most of my life!

  7. patricia graff says:


  8. Angelina says:

    You know you're a crazy THHGTTG fan when you knew what the doodle was about just by seeing the towel and tickertape……

  9. Batman says:

    Vote. this. comment. down.

  10. Maria says:

    Such a cool way tobe remembered

  11. Shreck says:

    I was lucky enough to see him at a symposium at UCSB about a month before his passing. Having been a fan since I was very young (I remember my parents being concerned about me as I laughed hysterically in the back seat of the car when I was eight), I thought I'd give you my takeaway from that event. What we fans… nerds, really, were concerned with held no weight for him. He was singularly concerned with conservation; his desire to save the inhabitants of this planet was very strong. I think he viewed us all as Vogons in a way – carelessly rubberstamping the destruction of our own world. After that, I looked through H2G2 again and found that many of the analogies I'd loved before were only superficial, and the deeper, ecological implications came from a much darker place. There's always been a tinge of melancholy mixed in with the sweetness of his prose since that time.

    Miss ya, Douglas.

  12. Faith says:

    Thank-you for reminding me how much I love these books. They were introduced to me some 30 years ago and I've had the pleasure of reading, re-reading and sharing over the course of those years. My small library has never been with copies of HHGTTG for nearly 25 years.
    Gotta go now. I think I hear Ford and Zaphod and Trillian calling me. What fun!

  13. Tatts says:

    If you haven't heard the original BBC radio series that aired on NPR in the US–you must. Priceless.

  14. Jilliberatioon says:

    I loved his book "Last Chance To See", where he visited several endangered species and, in his own special way, described them and their plight. At least one of the species he covered, the Yangtze River dolphin, have been gone without a trace for over a decade, now. Douglas Adams is my hero. I still weep for the world's loss.

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