Dracula

The classic gothic horror novel Dracula by Bram Stoker was first published 26th May 1897. it features an Estate Agent named Jonathan Harker who is dispatched to Transylvania to finalize the move of a mysterious and enigmatic and charismatic Romanian nobleman called Count Dracula, who is intending to move to England. Unfortunately this proves to rather dangerous. Meanwhile the Count leaves Transylvania and travels to England aboard the vessel Dimeter, and all the crew mysteriously vanish and the ship runs aground at Whitby. Having arrived in England Dracula successfully purchases multiple estates under the alias ‘Count De Ville’ throughout London. Whilst in Whitby Dracula then encounters Lucy Westenra, who also lives in Whitby, and who soon begins suffering from mysterious episodes of sleepwalking and dementia which baffle every doctor. Then Lucy begins to waste away suspiciously for no apparent reason. Meanwhile Dracula communicates with Seward’s mentally unstable patient Renfield, who also worked as as an Estate Agent and was also sent to Transylvania before Harker but has never been the same since he returned.

Mystified, by his daughter’s illness Seward invites his old teacher, Abraham Van Helsing, who immediately determines the true cause of Lucy’s condition. He diagnoses inexplicable blood loss. Helsing prescribes numerous blood transfusions to which Dr. Seward, Helsing, Quincy and Arthur all contribute over time. Helsing also prescribes flowers to be placed throughout her room and weaves a necklace of withered Garlic Blossoms for her to wear as well. She however continues to waste away – appearing to lose blood every night. Then Lucy and her mother are attacked by a wolf; Mrs. Westenra, dies of fright. Van Helsing attempts to protect her with garlic. The doctors find two small puncture marks about her neck, which Dr Seward is at a loss to understand. Helsing then places a crucifix around her neck, but soon after she is discovered dead with the crucifix missing.

Following Lucy’s death, the newspapers report children being stalked in the night. Van Helsing, knowing Lucy has become a vampire, confides in Seward, Lord Godalming, and Morris. The suitors and Van Helsing track her down and confront her. Meanwhile Jonathan Harker arrives from Budapest, where Mina marries him after his escape. They team up to clobber Dracula however Dracula learns of the group’s plot against him, and attacks Mina on three occasions, and feeds Mina his own blood to control her. This curses Mina with vampirism but does not completely turn her into a vampire. Van Helsing attempts to cure Mina and hypnotized her into revealing Dracula’s whereabouts. Having discovered their actions Dracula flees back to his castle in Transylvania and They pursue him under the guidance of Mina leading to an exciting final showdown.

Bram Stoker was born 8 November 1847 in Clontarf, Dublin Ireland and was bed-ridden until he started school at the age of seven, when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, “I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.” He was educated in a private school run by the Rev. William Woods.After his recovery, he grew up without further major health issues, even excelling as an athlete (he was named University Athlete) at Trinity College, Dublin, which he attended from 1864 to 1870. He graduated with honours in mathematics. He was auditor of the College Historical Society and president of the University Philosophical Society, where his first paper was on “Sensationalism in Fiction and Society”.

Stoker became interested in the theatre while a student through a friend, Dr. Maunsell. He became the theatre critic for the Dublin Evening Mail, co-owned by the author of Gothic tales Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Stoker also wrote stories, and in 1872 “The Crystal Cup” was published by the London Society, followed by “The Chain of Destiny” in four parts in The Shamrock. In 1876, while a civil servant in Dublin, Stoker wrote a non-fiction book (The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland, published 1879), which remained a standard work . Furthermore, he possessed an interest in art, and was a founder of the Dublin Sketching Club in 1874. On 31 December 1879, Stoker became acting manager and then business manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, London, he became involved in London’s high society, and met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (to whom he was distantly related)

Managing one of the most successful theatres in London made Stoker a notable if busy man. In London Stoker also met Hall Caine who became one of his closest friends – he dedicated Dracula to him. Although Stoker travelled the world, he never visited Eastern Europe, a setting for his most famous novel. Stoker enjoyed the United States,While working as a manager, secretary and director of London’s Lyceum Theatre, he began writing novels beginning with The Snake’s Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897. During this period, Stoker was also part of the literary staff of the London Daily Telegraph and wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). In 1906, he managed productions at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Before writing Dracula, Stoker spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. At the time of its publication, Dracula was considered a “straightforward horror novel” based on imaginary creations of supernatural life. “It gave form to a universal fantasy and became a part of popular culture.” Stoker’s inspirations for the story, in addition to Whitby, may have included a visit to Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, a visit to the crypts of St. Michan’s Church in Dublin and the novella Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Coincidentally The late great English Actor Peter Cushing OBE (Who starred in many film adaptations of Dracula was born on May 26th in 1913. He debuted in The Man in the Iron Mask, then returned in 1941 after roles in several films. In one, A Chump at Oxford (1940), he appeared alongside Laurel and Hardy. His first major film part was as Osric in Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet (1948). During the 1950s, he also worked in television, notably as Winston Smith in the BBC’s adaptation of the George Orwell novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the films The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and Dracula (1958). He has also played the vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing many times, and the distinguished-looking but sinister scientist Baron Frankenstein amongst many other roles, often appearing opposite Christopher Lee, and occasionally Vincent Price. A familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic, his most famous roles outside of “Hammer Horror” include his many appearances as Sherlock Holmes.

Peter Cushing also appeared as the villainous Imperial Officer Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars episode IV, which came out 25th May 1977 and which celebrates the 40th Anniversary of its release in 2017. His likeness was also digitally created for the film Rogue One. Cushing also starred as the mysterious Timelord The Doctor in the film Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150 AD in 1965 and 1966, both based on Doctor Who. Cushing is best rememberes for his association with the roles of Baron Victor Frankenstein and Van Helsing in a long string of horror films produced by Hammer Film Productions, in which He was often cast opposite the actor Christopher Lee, with whom he became best friends and who also starred in Star Wars episodes II and III.

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Robert Ludlum

The late great American spy thriller writer Robert Ludlum was Born May 25th 1927 in New York City. He was educated at The Rectory School then Cheshire Academy and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. While at Wesleyan, Ludlum joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. After becoming an author later in life, Ludlum would set his mystery novel Matlock Paper at the fictitious Carlyle University in Connecticut, a thinly-disguised Wesleyan. He Also wrote The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and the Bourne Ultimatum, And was very prolific writing 23 thriller novels which reman hugely popular. The number in print is estimated between 290–500 million copies. They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.

Prior to becoming an author, he had been a United States Marine, theatrical actor and producer. His theatrical experience may have contributed to his understanding of the energy, escapism and action that the public wanted in a novel. Ludlum’s novels typically feature one heroic man, or a small group of crusading individuals, in a struggle against powerful adversaries whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways. The world in his writings is one where global corporations, shadowy military forces and government organizations all conspire to preserve (if it is evil) or undermine (if it is good) the status quo. They were often inspired by conspiracy theories, both historical and contemporary. Some novels also reflected the theory that terrorists, rather than being merely isolated bands of ideologically motivated extremists, are actually pawns of governments or private organizations who are using them to facilitate the establishment of authoritarian rule.

Among hs best known novels are The Osterman Weekend, The Chancellor Manuscript, The Bourne Identity, The Holcroft Covenant, The Bourne Supremacy, The Icarus Agenda, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Scorpio Illusion, The Apocolypse watch and The Prometheus Deception. Some of his novels have also been made into films – The Osterman Weekend was turned into a 1983 film starring Rutger Hauer, John Hurt and Dennis Hopper, and The Bourne trilogy was made into a highly successful series of movies, starring Matt Damon in the title role, (The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards in 2008), although the story lines depart significantly from the source material. Sadly, Robert Ludlum passed away on March 12, 2001, at his home in Naples, Florida, while recovering from injuries he sustained in a fire, however his high octane spy thrillers remain popular, rivalled only by Michael Connelly, John Grisham and Lee Child.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

American essayist, lecturer, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson was born May 25, 1802 and his formal schooling began at the Boston Latin School in 1812 when he was nine. In October 1817, Emerson went to Harvard College and was appointed freshman messenger for the president.Midway through his junior year, Emerson began keeping a list of books he had read and started a journal in a series of notebooks that would be called “Wide World”. He took outside jobs to cover his school expenses. By his senior year, Emerson decided to go by his middle name, Waldo. Emerson served as Class Poet And graduated on August 29, 1821, when he was 18. In 1826, Emerson went to seek out warmer climates, travelling to Charleston, South Carolina and St. Augustine, Florida, where he met Prince Achille Murat. Murat, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and they became extremely good friends and engaged in enlightening discussions on religion, society, philosophy, and government, and Emerson considered Murat an important figure in his intellectual education.

Emerson met his first wife, Ellen Louisa Tucker, in Concord, New Hampshire on Christmas Day, 1827, sadly Ellen died at the age of 20 on February 8, 1831, After his wife’s death, he began to disagree with the church’s methods, His disagreements with church officials over the administration of the Communion service and misgivings about public prayer eventually led to his resignation in 1832. Emerson toured Europe in 1833 and later wrote of his travels in English Traits (1856). Leaving on Christmas Day, 1832, sailing first to Malta, spending time in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice, before sailing north to England, Emerson met William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle. He returned to the United States on October 9, 1833, and lived with his mother in Newton, Massachusetts, until October, 1834, when he moved to Concord, Massachusetts, to live with his step-grandfather Dr. Ezra Ripley. Seeing the budding Lyceum movement, Emerson saw a possible career as a lecturer. On November 5, 1833, he made the first of what would eventually be some 1,500 lectures, discussing The Uses of Natural History in Boston. This was an expanded account of his experience in Paris.

Emerson formulated the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay Nature. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series include Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet andExperience. In May 1843 Emerson purchased a 90-acre (360,000 m2) farm in Harvard, Massachusetts, for what would become Fruitlands, a community based on Utopian ideals inspired in part by Transcendentalism. The farm would run based on a communal effort, using no animals for labor; its participants would eat no meat and use no wool or leather. In 1844, Emerson published his second collection of essays, entitled “Essays: Second Series.” This collection included “The Poet,” “Experience,” “Gifts,” and another essay entitled “Nature,” Emerson made a living as a popular lecturer And by the 1850s he was giving as many as 80 per year.Emerson was also introduced to Indian philosophy when reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin. He also read the Bhagavad Gita and Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s Essays on the Vedas, which influenced much of his writing. From 1847 to 1848, he toured England, Scotland, and Ireland.He also visited Paris between the February Revolution and the bloodyJune Days. On May 21 he stood on the Champ de Mars in the midst of mass celebrations for concord, peace and labor and this trip influenced Emerson’s later work. His 1856 book English Traits is based largely on observations recorded in his travel journals and notebooks. Emerson later came to see the American Civil War as a ‘revolution’ that shared common ground with the European revolutions of 1848. In February 1852 Emerson, James Freeman Clarke and William Henry Channing edited an edition of the works and letters of Margaret Fuller, and In 1855 he published an innovative poetry collection called Leaves of Grass.

Emerson—earned the nicknamed the Concord Sage— and became the leading voice of intellectual culture in the United States because of his ability to influence and inspire others, his work not only influenced his contemporaries, such as Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, but would continue to influence thinkers and writers worldwide to the present. Notable thinkers who recognize Emerson’s influence include Nietzsche and William James. Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau. Several of Emerson’s poems were included in Bloom’s The Best Poems of the English Language and Self-Reliance, Circles, Experience, and Conduct of Life” are considered his best essays. Emerson was staunchly anti-slavery and from 1837 give a number of lectures during the pre-Civil War years and in 1844. He gave a number of speeches and lectures, and welcomed John Brown to his home during Brown’s visits to Concord. Emerson believed in immediate emancipation of the slaves. In 1860, Emerson published The Conduct of Life, his seventh collection of essays. In this book, Emerson “grappled with some of the thorniest issues of the moment,” and “his experience in the abolition ranks is a telling influence in his conclusions.

Emerson also embraced the idea of war as a means of national rebirth and in 1862 he visited Washington, D.C, and gave a public lecture at the Smithsonian and also met Lincoln at the White House. Lincoln was familiar with Emerson’s work, having previously seen him lecture.Emerson’s misgivings about Lincoln began to soften after this meeting. In 1865, he spoke at a memorial service held for Lincoln in Concord. Emerson also met a number of high-ranking government officials, including Salmon P. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, Edward Bates, the attorney general, Edwin M. Stanton, the secretary of war, Gideon Welles, the secretary of the navy, and William Seward, the secretary of state. On May 6, 1862, Emerson’s protégé Henry David Thoreau died of tuberculosis at the age of 44 and Emerson delivered his eulogy. Another friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, died in 1864. Emerson served as one of the pallbearers as Hawthorne was buried in Concord. That same year Emerson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

From 1867, Emerson’s health began declining; he wrote much less in his journals and also started having memory problems then in 1872 Emerson’s Concord home caught fire And theEmersons ended up staying with family at the Old Manse, The fire marked an end to Emerson’s serious lecturing career; from then on, he would lecture only on special occasions and only in front of familiar audiences. While the house was being rebuilt, Emerson took a trip to England, continental Europe, and Egypt with his daughter Ellen, and returned in 1873 on the ship Olympus along with friend Charles Eliot Norton. In late 1874 Emerson published an anthology of poetry called Parnassus.

By 1879 Emerson had ceased his public appearances due to ill health. He tragically died 27 April 1882, and was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts. However he has left an enduring legacy Having led the transcendentalist movement in the 19th century and been a champion of individualism and critic of the pressures of society. During his life He published dozens of essays and gave more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. His essays greatly influenced many thinkers, writers and poets.

Star Wars

May 25 celebrates the anniversary of the release of epic science fiction film Star Wars, which was originally released 25 May 1977. Star Wars was the first film to be released in the series. (Although Technically it is the fourth film chronologically as the events in the prequels take place before Star Wars, even though they were released sixteen years afterwards). Star Wars is also the sixth film if you count Rogue One and Solo.

Star Wars sees a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker thrust unwittingly into a Rebellion to rid the galaxy of an evil empire led by the sinister Emperor Palpatine and his apprentice Darth Vader, after acquiring two droids named C3PO andR2D2. They have escaped from a spaceship which has come under attack from Darth Vader and the evil Empire, one of the droids is carrying a very important message. They have crash landed on the desolate planet of Tattooine. They are sold to young Luke Skywalker who ends up meeting an old Jedi Knight named Obi Wan Kenobi who is hiding out in the wastelands and discovers that one of the droids is carrying something very important -the technical data for the Empire’s terrifying new weapon ‘The Death Star’ which is capable of destroying whole planets.

Luke also learns from obi wan Kenobi that he has inherited a special power from his father and asks Obi Wan to teach him to master it. On Tattoine he also meets a charismatic smuggler named Han Solo and his wookiee first mate Chewbacca, who are asked to take them to the planet Alderaaan, home of Princess Leia to help mount an attack on the Death Star. However Princess Leia has been captured by the evil Empire, led by The Evil Sith Lord Emperor Palpatine and his sinister apprentice Darth Vader and taken to theDeath Star and Alderaan is completely destroyed by the Death Star. So the rebels mount a daring rescue attempt to free Princess Leia from the Death Star Luke then gets swept up in the battle to destroy the Death Star before more planets share the same fate as Alderaan.

Empire Strikes Back takes place Three years later, and sees the Rebels hiding on the ice world of Hoth, unfortunately they are located and attacked by the Empire. Meanwhile Luke travels to find Jedi Master Yoda, who is living in exile on the swamp-infested world Dagobah, to begin training. As a Jedi Knight. Luckily The Rebels manage to escape Hoth hotly pursued by the Empire. However this does not go well, and Luke is interrupted from his training after Vader lures him into a trap by capturing Han and the others who have journeyed to Cloud City on Bespin seeking help from Han’s old acquaintance Lando Calrissian. During a fierce lightsaber duel, Vader reveals that he is in fact Luke’s father and used to be Anakin Skywalker, and attempts to turn Luke to the dark side.

Return of the Jedi sees, Luke journeys to Tattoine to save Han from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt and then return to Yoda to complete his training. However, now over 900 years old, Yoda is on his deathbed. Before he passes away, Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke’s father; moments later, Obi-Wan’s spirit tells Luke that he must face his father before he can become a true Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister. The Rebels then attempt to destroy a second Death Star which is being built near the forest moon of Endor and manage to pursuade the local inhabitants to help them. Meanwhile Luke confronts Vader as Palpatine watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side and take him as their apprentice. During the subsequent lightsaber duel, Luke succumbs to his anger and brutally overpowers Vader, but controls himself at the last minute; realizing that he is about to suffer his father’s fate, and he spares Vader’s life and declares his allegiance to the Jedi. An enraged Palpatine then attempts to kill Luke with Force lightning. However Darth Vader Redeems himself at the last moment, switching loyalties from the Empire to his Son, but pays the ultimate price. Subsequently Luke becomes a full-fledged Jedi, and the Rebels destroy the second Death Star.

The film series has become a worldwide pop culture phenomenon and has remained popular to this day, spawning an Expanded Universe including books, television series, computer and video games, and comic books, which have resulted in significant development of the series’ fictional universe. These media kept the franchise active in the interim between the film trilogies. In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced that it would produce three new films, with the first film, Star Wars Episode VII, released in 2015 and the second “The Last Jedi” was released 2017. Two standalone films have also been released “Rogue One”, which deals with events leading up to Star Wars and “Solo”, in 2018 which tells the story of a young Han Solo. 20th Century Fox still retains the distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, and holds the rights to Episodes I–III, V and VI until May 2020.

Revenge of the 25ith

Epic science fiction film Return of the Jedi was released 25 May 1983. six years to the day after the release of the first film, Star Wars. It was the third and final installment in the original Star Wars trilogy and is set one year after The Empire Strikes Back it stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Frank Oz.

It starts when Luke, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2. Attempt to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the hutts palace on Tatooine. Leia disguised as a bounty hunter with Chewbacca as her prisoner releases Han from his carbonite prison, but she is captured and enslaved. Luke arrives soon afterward, but is also captured after a tense standoff. After Luke confronts Jabba’s Rancor, Jabba sentences him and Han to death by feeding them to the Sarlacc. Luke frees himself and battles Jabba’s guards. During the chaos, Leia confronts Jabba and Luke destroys Jabba’s sail barge as the group escapes. While the others rendezvous with the Rebel Alliance,

Luke returns to Dagobah to continue his Jedi training but finds that Yoda is dying. Before he dies, Yoda confirms that Darth Vader, once known as Anakin Skywalker, is Luke’s father, and that there is “another Skywalker”. The spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi confirms that this other Skywalker is Luke’s twin sister, Leia. Obi-Wan tells Luke that he must fight Vader again to defeat the Empire.

The Rebel Alliance learns that the Empire is constructing a new Death Star under the supervision of the Emperor himself. The station is protected by an energy shield, Generated by a shield generator on the forest moon of Endor. So Han Solo leads a team to destroy the shield generator enabling starfighters to destroy the Death Star. The strike team, accompanied by Luke and Leia, travels to Endor in a stolen Imperial shuttle. On Endor, Luke and his companions encounter a tribe of Ewoks and,eventually gain their trust. Later, Luke tells Leia that she is his sister, Vader is their father, and that he must go and confront him. Surrendering to Imperial troops, Luke is brought to Vader and unsuccessfully tries to convince him to turn from the dark side of the Force.

Vader takes Luke to the Death Star to meet the Emperor, intent on turning him to the dark side. The Emperor reveals that the Death Star is actually fully operational and the Rebel fleet will fall into a trap. On Endor, Han’s strike team is captured by Imperial forces, but a surprise counterattack by the Ewoks allows the Rebels to battle the Imperials. Meanwhile, Lando, piloting the Millennium Falcon, leads the Rebel fleet to the Death Star, only to find that the station’s shield is still active and the Imperial fleet is waiting for them. The Emperor tempts Luke to give in to his anger, and Luke engages Vader in a lightsaber duel. Vader senses that Luke has a sister, and threatens to turn her to the dark side. Enraged, Luke attacks Vader and severs his father’s prosthetic right hand. The Emperor entreats Luke to kill Vader and take his place, but Luke refuses, declaring himself a Jedi as his father had been. The furious Emperor tortures Luke with Force lightning. Unwilling to let his son die, Vader kills the Emperor but is mortally electrocuted in the process. At his request, Luke removes the redeemed Anakin’s mask before he dies in his arms.

As the battle between the Imperial and Alliance fleets continues, the strike team defeats the Imperial forces and destroys the shield generator, allowing the Rebel fleet to launch their assault on the Death Star. Lando leads a group of Rebel ships into the Death Star’s core to destroy the main reactor. Meanwhile Luke escapes on a shuttle with his father’s body, back to Endor

Several home video and theatrical releases and revisions to the film followed over the next 20 years. Star Wars continued with prequel trilogy comprising of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II Attack of the Clones and Episode III Revenge of the Sith ’ . In addition A new sequel trilogy is being released which takes place after the events of “Return of the Jedi” and includes Star Wars: “The Force Awakens”, and “The Last Jedi”. Plus two standalone films “Rogue One” which concerns events immediately leading up to Star Wars and “Solo” which concerns the exciting adventures of a young Han Solo before he met Luke. This was released May 2018. There are also numerous novelizations by James Luceno and Harry Dean Foster although whether these are still considered “canon” since being taken over by Disney depends on who you ask.

Towel Day

Towel Day takes place annually on 25 May to celebrate the life and works of English author Douglas Adams, who is most famous for writing the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Dirk Gently’s Hollistic Detective Agency and a couple of Doctor Who episodes starring Tom Baker. On this day, fans carry a towel with them, to demonstrate their appreciation of the books and the Author. The importance of Towels is described in chapter three of Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy thus:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (this mind-bogglingly stupid animal, assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with. Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy. The emphasis on towels is a reference to Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh, which inspired Adams’ fictional guidebook and also stresses the importance of towels.

The first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction series by Douglas Adams was published 12th October 1979. Originally a radio comedy broadcast, it was later adapted to other formats, and over several years it gradually became an international multi-media phenomenon. Adaptations have included stage shows, a “trilogy” of five books, a sixth novel penned by Eoin Colfer, a 1981 TV series, a computer game, and three series of three-part comic book adaptations of the first three novels published by DC Comics between 1993 and 1996. A film version, produced and filmed in the UK, was released in April 2005, and radio adaptations of the third, fourth, and fifth novels were broadcast from 2004 to 2005. All versions, the series follows the adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless Englishman, Ford Prefect, who named himself after the Ford Prefect car to blend in with what was assumed to be the dominant life form, automobiles, and is an alien from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and a researcher for the eponymous guidebook; Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford’s semi-cousin and the Galactic President; the depressed robot Marvin the Paranoid Android; and Trillian, formerly known as Tricia McMillan, a woman Arthur once met at a party in Islington and the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction.

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the characters visit the legendary planet Magrathea, home to the now-collapsed planet-building industry, and meet Slartibartfast, a planetary coastline designer who was responsible for the fjords of Norway. Through archival recordings, he relates the story of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who built a computer named Deep Thought to calculate the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. When the answer was revealed to be 42, Deep Thought explained that the answer was incomprehensible because the beings didn’t know what they were asking. It went on to predict that another computer, more powerful than itself would be made to calculate the question for the answer. (Later on, referencing this, Adams would create the 42 Puzzle, a puzzle which could be approached in multiple ways, all yielding the answer 42.) The computer, was the Earth, and was destroyed by Vogons to make way for a hyperspatial express route, five minutes before the conclusion of its 10-million-year program. Two of a race of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings who commissioned the Earth in the first place, disguised themselves as Trillian’s mice, and want to dissect Arthur’s brain to help reconstruct the question, since he was part of the Earth’s matrix moments before it was destroyed, and so he is likely to have part of the question buried in his brain.

In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe , Zaphod gets separated from the others and finds he is part of a conspiracy to uncover who really runs the Universe. He then meets Zarniwoop, editor for The Guide, who knows where to find the secret ruler and is briefly reunited with the others for a trip to Milliways, the titular restaurant. Zaphod and Ford decide to steal a ship from there, however this turns out to be a stunt ship pre-programmed to plunge into a star as a special effect in a stage show and they are unable to change it’s course. Meanwhile Ford and Arthur, end up on a spacecraft full of the outcasts of the Golgafrinchan civilisation, which crashes on prehistoric Earth; leaving Ford and Arthur stranded, and it becomes clear that the inept Golgafrinchans are the ancestors of modern humans, having displaced the Earth’s indigenous hominids. Adams himself considered Restaurant to be his best novel of the five.

In Life, the Universe and Everything , Slartibartfast, enlists the aid of Ford, Arthur, Marvin, Zaphod and Trillian to prevent the people of the planet Krikkit from escaping their home planet, on which they have been imprisoned for trying to start a Galactic War and prevent them starting another Galactic War which will wipe out all life in the Universe. In So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, Arthur returns home to Earth, where He meets and falls in love with a girl named Fenchurch, and discovers this Earth is a replacement provided by the dolphins in their Save the Humans campaign. Eventually he rejoins Ford, who claims to have saved the Universe in order to hitch-hike one last time and see God’s Final Message to His Creation. Along the way, they are also joined by Marvin, the Paranoid Android, who, although 37 times older than the universe itself (what with time travel and all), has just enough power left in his failing body to read the message and feel better about it all before expiring.

Finally, in Mostly Harmless, Vogons take over The Hitchhiker’s Guide (under the name of InfiniDim Enterprises), to finish the task of obliterating the Earth. Arthur loses Fenchurch and travels around the galaxy despondently, before crashing his spaceship on the planet Lamuella, where he settles in happily as the official sandwich-maker for a small village of simple, peaceful people. Meanwhile, Ford Prefect breaks into The Guide’s offices, gets himself an infinite expense account from the computer system, and then meets The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Mark II, an artificially intelligent, multi-dimensional guide with vast power and a hidden purpose. Trillian leaves her daughter, Random Frequent Flyer Dent with Arthur, but she then steals The Guide Mark II and uses it to get to Earth. Arthur, Ford, Trillian, and Tricia McMillan (Trillian in this alternate universe) give chase & follow her to a crowded club, where an anguished Random becomes startled by a noise and inadvertently fires her gun at Arthur. The shot misses Arthur and kills Agrajag. Soon afterwards, The Guide Mark II removes all possible Earths from probability, which is bad news for all the main characters, apart from Zaphod, who were all on Earth at the time.

Author Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) wrote a sixth instalment entitled And Another Thing, which sees the characters awoken from virtual reality as death rays bear down on Earth before being picked up by Zaphod and joined by Bowerick Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged. Zaphod then travels to Asgard to get Thor’s help, to deal with the Vogons, who are heading to the planet Nano in order to destroy a colony of people who also escaped Earth’s destruction. So Arthur, Wowbagger, Trillian and Random head to Nano during the journey Wowbagger and Trillian fall in love, then Zaphod arrives with Thor, who becomes the planet’s God. Wowbagger then marries Trillian and Thor manages to stop the first Vogon attack. Then Arthur get flung across alternate universes during a hyperspace jump but ends up exactly where he’d want to be, unfortunately the Vogons turn up again….

The popularity of the radio series gave rise to a six-episode television series, which first aired on BBC 2 in 1981. It employed many of the actors from the radio series and was based mainly on the radio versions of Fits the First through Sixth. A second series was also planned, although it was never made. On 21 June 2004, BBC Radio announced that a new series of Hitchhiker’s based on the third novel would be broadcast followed by a further series based on the fourth and fifth novels. A movie adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was also released in 2005 starring Martin Freeman as Arthur, Mos Def as Ford, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Zooey Deschanel as Trillian, with Alan Rickman providing the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android (and Warwick Davis acting in Marvin’s costume), and Stephen Fry as the voice of the Guide/Narrator. The plot of the film adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide differs widely from that of the radio show, book and television series and visits to Vogsphere, the homeworld of the Vogons (which, in the books, was already abandoned), and Viltvodle VI are inserted. The film covers events in the first four radio episodes, and ends with the characters en route to Milliways, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe, leaving the opportunity for a sequel open.

Lilac Day

Fans of Terry Pratchett wear a lilac on 25 May in remembrance of the Glorious Revolution of Treacle Mine Road which took place during the novel Night Watch. Following Pratchett’s diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s in 2007, fans also Wear the Lilac in celebration of Pratchett and to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s research.

The Revolution of Treacle Mine Road ended the increasingly tough reign of Lord Winder. Tension had been rising, and while the nobility arranged a quiet succession by Lord Snapcase in the background, the people on the streets started a revolution and attacked Watch Houses all over the city. A few streets around Treacle Mine Road were barricaded at first. Soon more people started barricading streets, barricades were moved forward and merged together, covering at least a quarter of the city – including the food industry. The resulting area was called The People’s Republic of Treacle Mine Road. The watchmen of the Treacle Mine Road Watch House led the Republic together with some enthusiastic angry young men, among them the then-living Reg Shoe.

A change in history resulted in Sam Vimes under the name of John Keel saving the Republic until Lord Snapcase became Patrician. Unfortunately Many people died, after an attack planned by Carcer prompted by Snapcase’s concerns about what “Keel” could get up to if left alone for a month after serving as such a prominent leader after less than a week in the city. In remembrance of these events Each year, on the 25th of May, a group of survivors of the uprising gathers at Small Gods’ Cemetery to honor the casualties with lilacs and, affectionately, one hard-boiled egg (from Madam Roberta Meserole). The seven killed were mostly Watchmen from Treacle Mine Road : John Keel, Cecil Clapman, Horace Nancyball, Billy Wiglet, Dai Dickins, Ned Coates, and, temporarily, Reg Shoe. The 25th of May is also memorialized, among those who survive, by the wearing of lilac on that date. Persons known to wear it include Sam Vimes, Fred Colon, Nobby Nobbs, Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler, and, improbably, Havelock Vetinari (he, at the time a young assassin, has kept his and his aristocratic aunt Lady Roberta Meserole’s, involvement secret.