Way ahead of its time, The Hitchhiker's guide to Galaxy is about Arthur Dent, the only survivor after Earth's destruction. Story delves into his misadventures as he gets hitched into a spaceship ...(more)
There was no way his imagination could feel the impact of the whole Earth having gone, it was too big. He prodded his feelings by thinking that his parents and his sister had gone. No reaction. He thought of all the people he had been close to. No reaction. Then he thought of a complete stranger he had been standing behind in the queue at the supermarket two days before and felt a sudden stab--the supermarket was gone, everyone in it was gone. Nelson's Column had gone! Nelson's Column had gone and there would be no outcry, because there was no one left to make an outcry. From now on Nelson's Column only existed in his mind. England only existed in his mind--his mind, stuck here in this dank smelly steel-lined spaceship. A wave of claustrophobia closed in on him. England no longer existed.
He'd got that--somehow he'd got it. He tried again. America, he thought, has gone. He couldn't grasp it. He decided to start smaller again. New York has gone. No reaction. He'd never seriously believed it existed anyway. The dollar, he thought, has sunk for ever. Slight tremor there. Every Bogart movie has been wiped, he said to himself, and that gave him a nasty knock. McDonald's, he thought. There is no longer any such thing as a McDonald's hamburger. He passed out. When he came round a second later he found he was sobbing for his mother. He jerked himself violently to his feet.
"Ford!" Ford looked up from where he was sitting in a corner humming to himself.
He always found the actual traveling-through-space part of space travel rather trying.
"Yeah?" he said.
"If you're a researcher on this book thing and you were on Earth, you must have been gathering material on it."
"Well, I was able to extend the original entry a bit, yes."
"Let me see what it says in this edition then, I've got to see it."
"Yeah, okay." He passed it over again.
Arthur grabbed hold of it and tried to stop his hands shaking. He pressed the entry for the relevant page. The screen flashed and swirled and resolved into a page of print. Arthur stared at it.
"It doesn't have an entry!" he burst out.
Ford looked over his shoulder. "Yes, it does," he said, "down there, see at the bottom of the screen, just above Eccentrica Gallumbits, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon 6."
Arthur followed Ford's finger, and saw where it was pointing. For a moment it still didn't register, then his mind nearly blew up.
"What!? Harmless!? Is that all it's got to say? Harmless! One word!"
Ford shrugged. "Well, there are a hundred billion stars in the Galaxy, and only a limited amount of space in the book's microprocessors," he said, "and no one knew much about the Earth, of course." "Well, for God's sake, I hope you managed to rectify that.
"Oh yes, well, I managed to transmit a new entry off to the editor. He had to trim it a bit, but it's still an improvement."
"And what does it say now?" asked Arthur.
"Mostly harmless," admitted Ford with a slightly embarrassed cough.
"Mostly harmless!" shouted Arthur.
"What was that noise?" hissed Ford.
"It was me shouting," shouted Arthur.
"No! Shut up!" said Ford. "I think we're in trouble." "You think we're in trouble!"
Outside the door were the clear sounds of marching footsteps.
"The Dentrassis?" whispered Arthur.
"No, those are steel-tipped boots," said Ford. There was a sharp ringing rap on the door.
"Then who is it?" said Arthur.
"Well," said Ford, "if we're lucky it's just the Vogons come to throw us in to space."
"And if we're unlucky?"
"If we're unlucky," said Ford grimly, "the captain might be serious in his threat that he's going to read us some of his poetry first...."
Vogon poetry is of course the third worst in the Universe. The second worst is that of the Azgoths of Kria. During a recitation by their Poet Master Grunthos the Flatulent of his poem "Ode to a Small Lump of Green Putty I Found in My Armpit One Midsummer Morning" four of his audience died of internal hemorrhaging, and the President of the Mid-Galactic Arts Nobbling Council survived by gnawing one of his own legs off. Grunthos is reported to have been "disappointed" by the poem's reception, and was about to embark on a reading of his twelve-book epic entitled My Favorite Bathtime Gurgles when his own major intestine, in a desperate attempt to save life and civilization, leaped straight up through his neck and throttled his brain. The very worst poetry of all perished along with its creator, Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex, England, in the destruction of the planet Earth.