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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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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author, who was born on this day in 1896. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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10 Terrific Facts About Stephen King
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As if being one of the world's most successful and prolific writers wasn't already reason enough to celebrate, Stephen King is ringing in his birthday as the toast of Hollywood. As It continues to break box office records, we're digging into the horror master's past. Here are 10 things you might not have known about Stephen King, who turns 70 years old today.

1. STEPHEN KING AND HIS WIFE, TABITHA, OWN A RADIO STATION.

Stephen and Tabitha King own Zone Radio, a company that serves to head their three radio stations in Maine. One of them, WKIT, is a classic rock station that goes by the tagline "Stephen King's Rock Station."

2. HE'S A HARDCORE RED SOX FAN.

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Not only did he write a story about the Boston Red Sox—The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (who was a former Red Sox pitcher)—he also had a cameo in the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore movie Fever Pitch, which is about a crazed Sox fan. He plays himself and throws out the first pitch at a game.

In 2004, King and Stewart O'Nan, another novelist, chronicled their reactions to the season that finally brought the World Series title back to Beantown. It's appropriately titled Faithful: Two Diehard Boston Red Sox Fans Chronicle the Historic 2004 Season.

3. HE WAS HIT BY A CAR, THEN BOUGHT THE CAR THAT HIT HIM.

You probably remember that King was hit by a van not far from his summer home in Maine in 1999. The incident left King with a collapsed lung, multiple fractures to his hip and leg, and a gash to the head. Afterward, King and his lawyer bought the van for $1500 with King announcing that, "Yes, we've got the van, and I'm going to take a sledgehammer and beat it!"

4. AS A KID, HIS FRIEND WAS STRUCK AND KILLED BY A TRAIN.

King's brain seems to be able to create chilling stories at such an amazing clip, yet he's seen his fair share of horror in real life. In addition to the aforementioned car accident, when King was just a kid his friend was struck and killed by a train (a plot line that made it into his story "The Body," which was adapted into Stand By Me). While it would be easy to assume that this incident informed much of King's writing, the author claims to have no memory of the event:

"According to Mom, I had gone off to play at a neighbor’s house—a house that was near a railroad line. About an hour after I left I came back (she said), as white as a ghost. I would not speak for the rest of the day; I would not tell her why I’d not waited to be picked up or phoned that I wanted to come home; I would not tell her why my chum’s mom hadn’t walked me back but had allowed me to come alone.

"It turned out that the kid I had been playing with had been run over by a freight train while playing on or crossing the tracks (years later, my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket). My mom never knew if I had been near him when it happened, if it had occurred before I even arrived, or if I had wandered away after it happened. Perhaps she had her own ideas on the subject. But as I’ve said, I have no memory of the incident at all; only of having been told about it some years after the fact."

5. HE WROTE A MUSICAL WITH JOHN MELLENCAMP.

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King, John Mellencamp, and T Bone Burnett collaborated on a musical, Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, which made its debut in 2012. The story is based on a house that Mellencamp bought in Indiana that came complete with a ghost story. Legend has it that three siblings were messing around in the woods and one of the brothers accidentally got shot. The surviving brother and sister jumped in the car to go get help, and in their panic, swerved off the road right into a tree and were killed instantly. Of course, the three now haunt the woods by Mellencamp's house.

6. HE PLAYED IN A BAND WITH OTHER SUCCESSFUL AUTHORS.

King played rhythm guitar for a band made up of successful writers called The Rock Bottom Remainders. From 1992 to 2012, the band "toured" about once a year. In addition to King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Barbara Kingsolver, Matt Groening and Ridley Pearson were just some of its other members.

7. HE'S A NATIVE MAINER.

A photo of Stephen King's home in Bangor, Maine.
By Julia Ess - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

King writes about Maine a lot because he knows and loves The Pine Tree State: he was born there, grew up there, and still lives there (in Bangor). Castle Rock, Derry, and Jerusalem's Lot—the fictional towns he has written about in his books—are just products of King's imagination, but he can tell you exactly where in the state they would be if they were real.

8. HE HAS BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL PROBLEMS.

Throughout much of the 1980s, King struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. In discussing this time, he admitted that, "There's one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all. I don't say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page."

It came to a head when his family members staged an intervention and confronted him with drug paraphernalia they had collected from his trash can. It was the eye-opener King needed; he got help and has been sober ever since.

9. THERE WAS A RUMOR THAT HE WROTE A LOST TIE-IN NOVEL.

King was an avid Lost fan and sometimes wrote about the show in his Entertainment Weekly column, "The Pop of King." The admiration was mutual. Lost's writers mentioned that King was a major influence in their work. There was a lot of speculation that he was the man behind Bad Twin, a Lost tie-in mystery, but he debunked that rumor.

10. HE IS SURROUNDED BY WRITERS.

A photo of Stephen King's son, author Joe Hill
Joe Hill
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Stephen isn't the only writer in the King family: His wife, Tabitha King, has published several novels. Joe, their oldest son, followed in his dad's footsteps and is a bestselling horror writer (he writes under the pen name Joe Hill). Youngest child Owen has written a collection of short stories and one novella and he and his dad co-wrote Sleeping Beauties, which will be released later this month (Owen also married a writer). Naomi, the only King daughter, is a minister and gay activist.

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