Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Canon of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.]
[In response to: Given the state of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with the radio plays and the books and the games and the movie and et cetera and stuffnsuch, is it even possibly to refer to 'canon'?]

The radio series is canon in one universe.

In the other the first three books are definitely canon, the fourth book of the trilogy is disputed in some areas, and Young Zaphod Plays it Safe is generally classed as deuterocanonical. The video game (text adventure) is, I think, apocryphal. Possibly midrash, but really I just don't know the scholarship on it all that well.

Starship Titanic is of a separate religion entirely. Yes, the name is briefly mentioned in the canonical texts, but everything else is clearly part of a later seperate tradition outside of the Hitchhikerism mainstream. Thus it make no sense to think of it as being canonical or not. It would be like asking if the Quran were in the Christian canon, no it is not but it's still in somebody's canon. The two separate accounts of the events surrounding the Starship (one written, the other interactive) are quire divergent and cannot be easily combined. Some ignore this problem, combining them like the two creation accounts in genesis. Others privilege one account over the other. (Sometimes to the point of excluding the non-privileged account.) Thus we can see the reason for the three major schools of Starship Titanicism. To understand the many subsects of each school would require more space than currently advisable.

The television series, and the status thereof, is not well attested. It is believed that some accept it as a useful apocryphal work that can shed light on the Truth while not, itself, being factually accurate, and that others reject it outright, but it is possible that the most widely held position is a simple lack of knowledge that the text (if VHS can be called text) actually exists.

Thus we have covered all of the incarnations of the guide, but it remains important to do one more thing. What does it mean for something to be canon in one universe but not another? For those who hold the books as canonical, what becomes of the radio series? Some simply ignore the existence of the radio series, but for others it is a source of deep truth. Perhaps their Arthur Dent did not travel to Brontital, but a deeper understanding can still be gleaned by studying the story of the Arthur Dent who did travel there.


Note that after this was written a reliable source came forward claiming that in her studies the television series was in fact well known, so perhaps more research is needed on its status.


  1. That last reminds me of the obviousness joke - "See, I was right, it is well known".

  2. I don't know if I would consider "well known among people who during the first half-decade of the twenty-first century went to bed at 3 AM*" to equal "well known".

    (Whee! I'm a reliable source!)

    *And thus were able to watch a lot of late-night PBS.
    (I also watched a fair bit of Captain Planet, a fascinating historical piece on the life and times of a Soviet superhero and her teammates.)

    1. My way sounds better. And yes, you are a reliable source.

      The problem I see with Captain Planet is that they had a solar powered flying car. You know what would have done a hell of a lot of good for the planet? To share that technology with the world. Imagine if all of the cars on earth were run on solar power. How much pollution would that eliminate?

      Other than that, I have not seen it in years so my memory is hazy, but sure, go Linka!

      Only now does it occur to me that Australia was left out Linka was from the European part of the Soviet Union, Gi from Asia, Kwame from Africa, Wheeler from North America, Ma-Ti from South America, of the six inhabited continents one is left out.

  3. What about the movie? Or does everyone pretend it doesn't exist, like Ana in the original post?

    Captain Planet was one of those shows that I felt was very well-intentioned but horribly executed. For one thing, it made it look like all environmental problems were caused by evilly-laughing bad guys instead of collective issues. I still enjoyed it as a kid though.

    1. Since this was originally in the thread about pretending things don't exist, I put my own pretending things don't exist into the description. Thus no movie, and no book five.