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16 Fun Facts About The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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Why 16 things? Because 42 things would have been far too long. 

1. ACTUAL HITCHHIKING INSPIRED THE SERIES. 

The idea for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came to Douglas Adams—who was born on this day in 1952—as he was drunkenly stargazing in a field in Innsbruck, Austria in 1971. According to Neil Gaiman’s Don’t Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams, who was poor at the time, was hitchhiking from London to Istanbul with a stolen copy of Ken Welsh’s Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe. Adams later wrote to Welsh, “I got frantically depressed in Innsbruck ... When the stars came out I thought that someone ought to write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because it looked a lot more attractive out there than it did around me." 

2. INNSBRUCK IS PROUD OF THE PIVOTAL ROLE IT PLAYED.

In honor of Adams’s inebriated stroke of brilliance, the town (and indeed the rest of the world) has celebrated Towel Day—a towel is the most quintessential item in an intergalactic hitchhiker’s arsenal, according to Adams—on every May 25 since 2001. 

3. REAL LIFE ALSO INSPIRED THE TOWELS.

Towels’ revered place in the series stems from a real-life experience Adams had on a vacation with friends to Greece. According to Adams, “Every morning they'd have to sit around and wait for me because I couldn't find my blessed towel ... I came to feel that someone really together, one who was well organized, would always know where his towel was.” 

4. BEFORE THERE WERE NOVELS, THERE WERE RADIO SHOWS. 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide got its start as a six-part radio play broadcast by the BBC in 1978. Adams had previously written for radio series like The Burkiss Way, so the medium was familiar to him. Nick Webb, editor of Pan Books, heard the series and immediately sought out Adams to write a novel based on the show. Adams later joked, “A publisher came and asked me to write a book, which is a very good way of breaking into publishing.”

5. THE BBC TURNED INITIALLY TURNED DOWN THE PUBLISHERS. 

M.J. Simpson’s Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams includes an anecdote from radio producer Geoffrey Perkins about the BBC’s initial reaction to these overtures from publishers. According to Perkins, the BBC responded with a letter that said, “Thank you very much for asking us. Unfortunately, we can’t do this. In our experience, books and records of radio shows don’t sell.” Eventually Webb won the battle to acquire the book rights. 

6. ARTHUR COULD HAVE BEEN ALERIC. 

Earthling protagonist Arthur Dent was almost christened Aleric B. Dent. Adams changed the hero’s name during a taxi ride to a BBC pitch meeting for the radio series. 

7. ADAMS’S PUBLISHER HAD TO PLAY HARDBALL WITH HIM. 

Adams was a notorious deadline-buster. He was famously quoted as saying, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” As he was polishing The Hitchhiker’s Guide, his publishers called Adams and demanded he finish the page he was writing. To ensure he didn’t hear the deadline’s whoosh, the publishing house immediately sent a bicycle courier to pick up the manuscript.

8. THAT EPISODE DIDN’T IMPROVE HIS DEADLINE SKILLS. 

When writing the fourth book in the Hitchhiker “trilogy,” So Long and Thanks For All the Fish, Adams was locked in a hotel suite for three weeks with his editor (and girlfriend) to ensure the book got written in a timely fashion. 

9. THE SPELLING OF THE TITLE WAS FAIRLY FLUID. 

The spelling of “Hitchhiker” was wildly inconsistent through the series’ publication run—from “Hitch hiker” to “Hitch-hiker”—until Adams announced in 2000 that “Hitchhiker,” one word, sans punctuation, was the definitive spelling.  

10. PROCOL HARUM INSPIRED THE SERIES’ SECOND BOOK. 

Adams got the idea for the follow-up to The Hitchhiker’s Guide, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, where the patrons’ entertainment consists of the universe’s explosion, while listening to prog rock outfit Procol Harum’s 1973 song “Grand Hotel.” 

11. ADAMS WISHED HE HAD QUIT EARLIER. 

Adams wasn’t particularly fond of his last two contributions to the series, 1984’s So Long and Thanks For all the Fish and 1992’s Mostly Harmless. On So Long, Adams stated that, “I really shouldn’t have written (it), and I felt that when I was writing it. I did the best I could, but it wasn’t, you know, really from the heart.”

12. THERE WAS AN EASY EXPLANATION FOR THE SERIES’ GRIM ENDING. 

He also explained the bleak ending (and, well, all the pages before that, too) he penned for Mostly Harmless, saying, “The reason for that is very simple—I was having a lousy year...”

13. THE NUMBER 42 WASN’T ALL THAT MYSTERIOUS.

Why is 42 the answer to life, the universe, and everything? Because it made for a solid punchline. Adams explained his choice on a fansite in 1993, debunking fistfuls of fan theories about his fascination with the number: “The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do.' I typed it out. End of story.” 

14. ADAMS REMOVED A SWIPE AT AN OLD CLASSMATE.

The Guide describes Vogon poetry as the third worst poetry in the universe, two spots shy of one Paula Nancy Millstone Jennings of Greenbridge, Essex. The original radio script used the name of a very real poet—Paul Neil Milne Johnstone of Redbridge, Essex, a classmate of Adams’ at Brentwood School. Adams made the switch when Johnstone complained about the use of his name. 

15. ONE CHARACTER’S NAME IS NOT AS DIRTY AS IT SOUNDS.

Slartibartfast, one of the Magratheans charged with the creation of Earth who is quite fond of the fjords he designed in Norway, was named in an exercise in meeting BBC broadcast standards. According to the notes Adams wrote to accompany the published volume of his original radio scripts, the character was first named “Phartiphukborlz.” Adams played with the syllables until he had “something which sounded that rude, but was almost, but not quite, entirely inoffensive."

16. THE SERIES HAS TURNED FANS INTO MIXOLOGISTS.

If you ever want to feel like “having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick,” WikiBooks offers a recipe for the series’ infamous cocktail, the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Just don’t drink two, unless you’re a “30 ton mega elephant with bronchial pneumonia."

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 118th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."

Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."

By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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12 Fantastic Facts About A Wrinkle in Time
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Madeleine L’Engle’s acclaimed science fantasy novel A Wrinkle in Time has been delighting readers since its 1962 release. Whether you’ve never had the chance to read this timeless tale or haven’t picked it up in a while, here are some facts that are sure to get you in the mood for a literary journey through the universe—not to mention its upcoming big-screen adaptation.

1. THE AUTHOR’S PERSISTENCE PAID OFF.

She’s a revered writer today, but Madeleine L’Engle’s early literary career was rocky. She nearly gave up on writing on her 40th birthday. L’Engle stuck with it, though, and on a 10-week cross-country camping trip she found herself inspired to begin writing A Wrinkle in Time.

2. EINSTEIN SPARKED L'ENGLE'S INTEREST IN QUANTUM PHYSICS AND TESSERACTS.

L’Engle was never a strong math student, but as an adult she found herself drawn to concepts of cosmology and non-linear time after picking up a book about Albert Einstein. L’Engle adamantly believed that any theory of writing is also a theory of cosmology because “one cannot discuss structure in writing without discussing structure in all life." The idea that religion, science, and magic are different aspects of a single reality and should not be thought of as conflicting is a recurring theme in her work.

3. L’ENGLE BASED THE PROTAGONIST ON HERSELF.

L’Engle often compared her young heroine, Meg Murry, to her childhood self—gangly, awkward, and a poor student. Like many young girls, both Meg and L’Engle were dissatisfied with their looks and felt their appearances were homely, unkempt, and in a constant state of disarray.

4. IT WAS REJECTED BY MORE THAN TWO DOZEN PUBLISHERS.

L’Engle weathered 26 rejections before Farrar, Straus & Giroux finally took a chance on A Wrinkle in Time. Many publishers were nervous about acquiring the novel because it was too difficult to categorize. Was it written for children or adults? Was the genre science fiction or fantasy?

5. L’ENGLE DIDN'T KNOW HOW TO CATEGORIZE THE BOOK, EITHER.

To compound publishers’ worries, L’Engle famously rejected these arbitrary categories and insisted that her writing was for anyone, regardless of age. She believed that children could often understand concepts that would baffle adults, due to their childlike ability to use their imaginations with the unknown.

6. MEG MURRY WAS ONE OF SCIENCE FICTION'S FIRST GREAT FEMALE PROTAGONISTS ...

… and that scared publishers even more. L’Engle believed that the relatively uncommon choice of a young heroine contributed to her struggles getting the book in stores since men and boys dominated science fiction.

Nevertheless, the author stood by her heroine and consistently promoted acceptance of one’s unique traits and personality. When A Wrinkle in Time won the 1963 Newbury Award, L’Engle used her acceptance speech to decry forces working for the standardization of mankind, or, as she so eloquently put it, “making muffins of us, muffins like every other muffin in the muffin tin.” L’Engle’s commitment to individualism contributed to the very future of science fiction. Without her we may never have met The Hunger Games’s Katniss Everdeen or Divergent’s Tris Prior.

7. THE MURKY GENRE HELPED MAKE THE BOOK A SUCCESS.

Once A Wrinkle in Time hit bookstores, its slippery categorization stopped being a drawback. The book was smart enough for adults without losing sight of the storytelling elements kids love. A glowing 1963 review in The Milwaukee Sentinel captured this sentiment: “A sort of space age Alice in Wonderland, Miss L’Engle’s book combines a warm story of family life with science fiction and a most convincing case for nonconformity. Adults who still enjoy Alice will find it delightful reading along with their youngsters.”

8. THE BOOK IS ACTUALLY THE FIRST OF A SERIES.

Although the other four novels are not as well known as A Wrinkle in Time, the “Time Quintet” is a favorite of science fiction fans. The series, written over a period of nearly 30 years, follows the Murry family’s continuing battle over evil forces.

9. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST FREQUENTLY BANNED BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Oddly enough, A Wrinkle in Time has been accused of being both too religious and anti-Christian. L’Engle’s particular brand of liberal Christianity was deeply rooted in universal salvation, a view that some critics have claimed “denigrates organized Christianity and promotes an occultic world view.” There have also been objections to the use of Jesus Christ’s name alongside figures like Buddha, Shakespeare, and Gandhi. Detractors feel that grouping these names together trivializes Christ’s divine nature.

10. L’ENGLE LEARNED TO SEE THE UPSIDE OF THIS CONTROVERSY.

The author revealed how she felt about all this sniping in a 2001 interview with The New York Times. She brushed it aside, saying, “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it. Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, 'Ah, the hell with it.' It's great publicity, really.''

11. THE SCIENCE FICTION HAS INSPIRED SCIENCE FACTS.

American astronaut Janice Voss once told L’Engle that A Wrinkle in Time inspired her career path. When Voss asked if she could bring a copy of the novel into space, L’Engle jokingly asked why she couldn’t go, too.

Inspiring astronauts wasn’t L’Engle’s only out-of-this-world achievement. In 2013 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) honored the writer’s memory by naming a crater on Mercury’s south pole “L’Engle.”

12. A STAR-STUDDED MOVIE ADAPTATION WILL HIT THEATERS IN 2018.

Although L’Engle was famously skeptical of film adaptations of the novel, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (13th; Selma) is bringing a star-filled version of the book to the big screen next year. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Galifianakis are among the film's stars. It's due in theaters on March 9, 2018.

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