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Friday, 2 June, 2000, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
Adams hitches a new ride
Richard Vernon as Slartibartfast and Simon Jones as Arthur Dent
Hitchhiker's Guide: Richard Vernon and Simon Jones in the original series
By BBC News Online's Chris Charles

When Douglas Adams gazed up at the stars one drunken evening and dreamed up the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, little did he think it would become a reality.

But, thanks to rapid advances in electronic technology, his fantasy of holding the secrets of the universe in the palm of your hand is taking shape.

Douglas Adams in 1980
The way he was: Douglas Adams in 1980

In the book, The Guide is a portable device that can tell you anything you want to know about wherever you are.

Adams' h2g2.com website invites users to give their views on "life, the universe and everything" as they experience it by punching in the details their PCs, or on mobile phones using Wap (wireless application protocol) technology.

The 47-year-old author, who is also working on a Hitchhiker's movie, is clearly excited by the project.

"Any information you want to put in to h2g2 goes in with the context of where you are," he says.

Douglas Adams
20 years on, and planning the Hitchhiker's movie

"For instance, if you're sitting in a café anywhere in the world, you can type in 'this coffee is lousy', and it suddenly becomes a significant piece of information to somebody else."

Adams admits the speed of events has taken him by surprise.

"When I first devised the whole notion of this little device 21 years ago, I didn't think I was being a predictive science fiction writer - it was just a silly idea."

In fact, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had embedded itself in his brain long before that.

"I was hitch-hiking around Europe in 1971, when I was 18, with this copy of A Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe," he recalls.

Drunk

"At one point I found myself lying in the middle of a field, a little bit drunk, when it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to me that it might actually be me years later."

Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox
Alive and well online: Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox

That "silly idea" has since gone on to be a cult radio and television series and Adams is busy helping it on to its next logical step - Hollywood.

"Everything is moving slowly, but doggedly forward," he says.

"There's been a bit of a logjam where we try to sort out what goes where, but it's getting there."

Will the film deviate dramatically from the book, the radio play and the TV show?

"Every time I've been through it, I've changed it quite a lot, and this time is no exception.

"The story was written as an excuse for lots of different things to happen, a bit like a sketch show, but for a movie you've got to have a story arc.

h2g2.com
Views on life, the universe... and coffee

"As a result, there will be a lot of new stuff, but all the key stuff people will be looking for Zaphod, Prefect, Arthur, will be there," he promises.

The film has not been cast yet, but it is unlikely the actors from the TV series will be asked to resume their roles, due to the passage of time between the two projects.

But with Austin Powers director Jay Roach at the helm, the movie, when it is finally completed, is set to be every bit as zany as you would expect.

In the meantime, fans will have to be content with creating their own Guide, via Adams' h2g2 site - but will it come to the same conclusion as its author, that the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything is...42?

Adams bellows with laughter at the very thought of it.

"Oh dear, I think I disappointed a lot of people with that. They must have been expecting this great, profound piece of genius, but I screwed them!"

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