Not all of Douglas Adams' writing is easily grasped first time round. This section includes explanations of some of the trickier sections, or best guesses in the case of the rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.
This book comes first because it often requires more explanation than all of Douglas Adams' other books... put together. The producers and adaptor of the novel for the stage production Dirk have found similar problems and resorted to resolving some of the trickier parts of the novel by simply ignoring them... see C.5. for details.
In our reality, Coleridge claimed to have composed Kubla Khan in its entirety while on a laudanaum trip (and not in his sleep as previously stated in this FAQ), and was in the process of writing it down when a local interrupted him. When Coleridge returned to his work, he found that he could not remember the rest of the poem. Hence, there never was a second part of the poem. Yet, at the end of Chapter 6 when The Director Of English Studies is reading Kubla Khan the book states 'The voice (that of the director of english studies) continues, reading the second, and altogether strange part of the poem.'
In the book, Kubla Khan has a second part. The book is not actually set in our existence. It is set in an existence in which the second part of Kubla Khan exists. This second part of the poem tells the ghost about the existence of the time machine and how to travel back and stop the ship from exploding. As we well know the explosion of the ship is what caused life to begin on this miserable little planet of ours. When Dirk and Reg realised this they simply went forward in time to when Coleridge was writing the second part of Kubla Khan and stopped him. Dirk just interrupted him and talked so much that Coleridge forgot what the second part was going to be about and therefore could not finish it! This change of history sent reality back into our perspective and the human race lived on (Yay, yippee!).
Quite simple really.
In an interview in a back issue of Mostly Harmless (see section Z), Douglas mentioned that he had made this pattern of 42 squares into a puzzle that depicted the number '42' in ten different ways. Here are six of the solutions:
1. There are 6 rows of 7 spheres, making a grand total of 42.
2. One of the globes has a bar code- 4 of the lines have no thick line next to them, 2 of them do. The barcode is 42.
3. If a red-tint filter is used so that red, purple, 'dark yellow' and black become black (binary 1) and the rest become white (binary 0) then the lines of the diagram become 0101010, which is 42 in binary.
4. Similarly, using a blue-tint filter shows the number '42' in quite big letters.
5. Using a yellow-tint filter shows up 'XLII' across the top of the page, which is forty-two in Roman numerals.
6. The Earth is the forty-second sphere (this may sound tenuous but this was admitted by Douglas Adams himself...)
It's a mistake, actually. What happened is that the original 6 episodes were 35 minutes long in the original BBC run. When they came to the States, in the interests of American advertising they were edited and cut, giving birth to a 'legendary' seventh episode.
Why was Pink Floyd's music taken out of the radio series? Well, from the man himself:
"That's a very good question, and quite an instructive answer (I think!). The BBC Clearing the Use of Seventies Rock Music in Comedy Science Fiction Stories Department tried to clear the use of this snatch of music. They didn't ask me about it and had no idea that I knew any of the band. In fact there's no reason why they should ask me P if I had every detail of every obscure copyright negotiation referred back to me it would be a full time job. The BBC department in question would have been dealing with PF's lawyers, and exactly the same applies.
So we were all locked in a legal battle without any of the principals having the remotest idea. Another point is that I think that the actual piece was probably copyrighted at least in part to Roger Waters, whom I don't know at all. In fact, being a friend of Dave and Nick would probably have weighed against me in that case..."
Anyway, to sum it up: Copyright Law. 'nuff said.
Okay, this is the footnote from the original radio scripts, and clears up all this speculation and questioning of how it is everyone calls Ford by his Earth name, and not by his Betelgeusian one.
Not that we want to encourage discussions about this, but one thing that's not explained is how Arthur can read the words "Don't Panic" written on the Hitch Hiker's Guide that he is given by Ford. Go figure that (silently).
Paul Neil Milne Johnstone is a real person, who wrote some appalling poetry. Douglas Adams used his name, but was force to retract it for the books and later recordings of the radio series. Hence the original programmes have Paul Neil Milne Johnstone, whereas the later works have Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings.
Either way, the poetry still sucks. Check it out here.
The bit about monkeys was a reference to a probability theory that if you were to put an infinite number of monkeys at typewriters, pressing keys randomly at a steady rate, eventually one will bash out the script to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Although why Shakespeare kept pet monkeys has never quite been properly explained to me.
For brief details on where to find this Hitch Hiker's Guide short story by Douglas Adams, see X.1..
The big questions surrounding this story seems to be about the escaped robot, and his/her identity. So who/what exactly is this? Good question. The reference to the shining city on a hill is probably a reference to Matthew 5:14. Some people also assume the "mystery person" in question is Jesus Christ. As YZPIS was originally published in the Comic Relief Christmas special book, that would make sense.
However, Douglas Adams himself now claims that the mystery person is, in fact, Ronald Reagan. A short piece by Douglas in the compilation book The Wizards of Odd (which also features the entire story) quotes parts of the story as evidence to support this, so it seems even more feasible than any other explanation you might care to come up with.
Cast your mind back to the party scene in "Life the Universe and Everything". Remember how someone had won an award. 'So what?' Well it turns out things happened rather differently in the American version of the book; the passage was altered almost certainly for fear of offending people...
Original UK phrasing (page 114):
Has been filled out to become:
In case it doesn't all fit together...
The Grebulons were set up by The Guide MKII to blow up the Earth after all of the stray earthlings were back on it. The astrology wasn't important, but it may have helped them to decide to blow up the Earth. The Grebulons were set up by the Vogons who took over the Guide and made The Guide MkII. The psychologists hired the Vogons to destroy the Earth because knowing The Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything would put them out of a job. The Earth was made to find out The Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. The first time the Vogons blew up the Earth, they failed to do it throughout the Whole Sort Of General Mish Mash, and Arthur and Trillian utterly failed to be blown up at all. This was supposedly fixed at the end by The Guide MK II (which made the destruction of the Earth inevitable in all realities), and so the Earth was finally destroyed, the Prostetnic Vogon Geltz could check off the little box, and the psychiatrists could live knowing they were going to have jobs for as long as they cared to live.
Now for Arthur. After meeting Agrajag, Arthur knew he couldn't die until he had been to Stavromula Beta. At the end, they all met coincidentally (as a result of The Guide MkII as described above) and Arthur ducked when he was shot at. The guy who got hit was, of course, Agrajag, and commented on it being Arthur who killed him again. Then Arthur picked up a card from a table and noticed what it said. Stavoro Muller: Beta. Notice the similarity to Stavromula Beta. There was now nothing keeping Arthur from dying, so he figured that there was no way out of this one.
This answer is newly added (and thoroughly nicked from Brian Kofford) so if you have a different take on what happens, make a post about it.
"They can't all be dead!"
They can, and they are, until the next book.
Of course it's fifty-four. We all know it's forty-two. We're not thick, and neither is Douglas Adams. The thick one is whoever actually genuinely asked this question, and didn't get the idea that the joke is that it is the wrong question for the answer (or the wrong answer for the question, if you prefer). Got it?
Arguably, 6x9=42 in base 13. Some people refute this with the common sense that people don't write jokes in base 13.