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Doctorow_Reading - w iKiPedia a GeNuiNe hg2g m iNus the...

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Wikipedia: A Genuine H2G2 Minus the Editors (Originally published in The Anthology at the End of the Universe: Leading Science Fiction Authors on Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, edited by Glenn Yeffeth and Shauna Caughey.) “Mostly Harmless” a phrase so funny that Adams actually titled a book after it. Not that there’s a lot of comedy inherent in those two words: rather, they’re the punchline to a joke that anyone who’s ever written for publication can really get behind. Ford Prefect, a researcher for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, has been stationed on Earth for years, painstakingly com- piling an authoritative, insightful entry on Terran geography, science and culture, excerpts from which appear throughout the H2G2 books. His entry improved upon the old one, which noted that Earth was, simply, “Harmless.” However, the Guide has limited space, and when Ford submits his entry to his editors, it is trimmed to fit: “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 micro- processors,” he said, “and no one knew much about the Earth of course.” “Well for God’s sake I hope you managed to rectify that a bit.” 159 Content 2nd gal final.indd 159 7/4/08 9:57:23 AM
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160 cory doctorow “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. [fn: My lifestyle is as gypsy and fancy-free as the characters in H2G2, and as a result my copies of the Adams books are thousands of miles away in storages in other countries, and this essay was penned on public transit and in cheap hotel rooms in Chile, Boston, London, Geneva, Brussels, Bergen, Geneva (again), Toronto, Edinburgh, and Helsinki. Luckily, I was able to download a dodgy, re-keyed version of the Adams books from a peer-to- peer network, which I accessed via an open wireless network on a random street-corner in an anonymous city, a fact that I note here as testimony to the power of the Internet to do what the Guide does for Ford and Arthur: put all the information I need at my fingertips, wherever I am. However, these texts are a little on the dodgy side, as noted, so you might want to confirm these quotes before, say, uttering them before an Adams truefan.] And there’s the humor: every writer knows the pain of laboring over a piece for days, infusing it with diverse interesting factoids and insights, only to have it cut to ribbons by some distant editor. (I once wrote thirty drafts of a 5,000-word article for an editor who ended up running it in three paragraphs as accompaniment for what he decided should be a photo essay with minimal verbiage.) Since the dawn of the Internet, H2G2 geeks have taken it upon themselves to attempt to make a Guide on the Internet. Volun-
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