On the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series

Wikipedia: A Genuine H2G2-Minus the Editors

By Cory Doctorow

‘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 punch line 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 compiling 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 microprocessors,” 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.”

“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.1

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  …

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