An epiphany

The Boatman

New Member
I've been an avid Hitch-hiker's fan since I first heard the radio program in college during the summer of 1981, so it's hard to believe that I never connected the dots before now, but I just had an epiphany about the anonymous girl referred to in the first chapter.

Remember, the narrator says that the people on Earth have - or had - a problem, in that most of them were unhappy for most of the time. Suddenly, and seemingly out of the blue, a girl in a cafe realized what had been going wrong all along, and knew how to fix it, and nobody would need to get nailed to anything ever again. Sadly, before she can get to a telephone, an extremely unfortunate event happens, which we soon find out was the destruction of Earth.

Later, we find out that the Earth is actually a massive computer which was designed to find the Ultimate Question, after the answer was found to be 42. It ran for ten million years, but was destroyed just before the crucial moment of readout.

Do you see what's coming?


Yes, I know that she ends up playing a somewhat different role in "So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish," but if we do as Corey urges and consider just the first book in and of itself, it all fits! Deep Thought said that the computer he would design would use organic life as part of its computational matrix, and we later find out that Arthur has the Question imprinted in his brain wave patterns. So the girl likely did as well; and being more intuitive and empathetic than Arthur, it crystallized in her mind sooner than in his, or in anyone else's. But for the intercession of the Vogons, probably everyone on Earth would have been running for the phones or hugging strangers in the dazzling light of revelation in just a few more minutes.

Of course, the Vogons might have done the Universe an unintended favor. A theory proposed several times in the series says that if ever anyone figures out why the Universe is here and what it is for, it will instantly be wiped out and replaced with something even more bizarrely inexplicable. (Another theory states that this has already happened).

Other observations:
I'm listening to the sessions on HHGttG now, and have not gotten too far; but so far, nobody has pointed out the connection with the Encyclopedia Galactica, the Guide's stodgy competitor; that's also the name of the great opus which Hari Seldon's Foundation is working on in Asimov's Foundation trilogy. (I never include Foundation's Edge). I take it to be a tribute to one of the fathers of modern SF.

Corey refers often to some bit in HHGG being Pythonesque; contemporary critics said that the book was like a head-on collision between Monty Python and Kurt Vonnegut. Wacky humor + fatalistic SF.

Understanding that disbelief is suspended in this series higher than the top of the Golden Gate bridge, I don't get how the Babel Fish would translate recorded audio (e.g., the Book's text, Magrathera's "Out of Office" message), and I really don't get how it allows their host to READ anything. But this is the way of many speculative fictions - if the language issue is addressed at all, it's dealt with superficially early on, then just taken as "fixed - on to the next issue!" (Similar to Disney's Pocohantas; she "listens with her heart" to John Smith once early in the movie, and suddenly she can understand and speak English, and so can everyone else).

Fun topic!
Just heard Lecture 4 of the course, where Corey comes to the same conclusion about the girl in the cafe. I bow to the master :)