Posts filed under ‘The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy’

It’s a sort of electronic book. It tells you everything you need to know about anything. That’s its job.

Posted by: John Martz
Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

…he also had a device which looked rather like a largish electronic calculator. This had about a hundred tiny flat press buttons and a screen about four inches square on which any of a million ‘pages’ could be summoned at a moment’s notice. It looked insanely complicated, and this was one of the reasons why the snug plastic cover it fitted into had the words Don’t Panic printed on it in large friendly letters. The other reason was that this device was in fact the most remarkable of all books ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of Ursa Minor – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The reason why it was published in the form of a micro sub meson electronic component is that if it were printed in normal book form, an interstellar hitchhiker would require several inconveniently large buildings to carry it around in.

With this illustration, I travel backwards in the book again to Arthur’s introduction of the book within the book, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s difficult to imagine this once-fantastical device without thinking of iPads, iPhones, Kindles, and Wikipedia. And it’s unfortunate that Douglas Adams, a Mac-user and tech nerd, never got to see his vision realized of a handheld device with instant access to endless sources of information.

In the book, the device is described has having “about a hundred” tiny buttons, though were it written today, the Guide would surely have a touchscreen. Still, I couldn’t resist making it look like a calculator (and very much like a Kindle) if only to decorate the buttons with an alien alphabet.

I used the same palette as my first illustration in the series, so those who wish to buy prints might find the two make a decent diptych.

This will be my last illustration for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In creating the series I realized that I didn’t want to illustrate the characters. It’s a book about ideas — science, reason, philosophy, religion — and the characters exist only as vessels for these ideas. I feel I’ve exhausted this stylistic exploration of the book, and so next month I will begin a new series for a different book. Stay tuned.

And if you’re an iPad user, I’ve created iPad-friendly wallpaper of this illustration that works in both landscape and horizontal orientation.


July 16, 2010 at 9:46 am 11 comments

That is so amazingly amazing I think I’d like to steal it.

Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Posted by: John Martz

Something a little different this month. I wanted to do a simple spot illustration of the Starship Heart of Gold. Now, if you’re familiar with the story you’ll recognize that what I’ve drawn bears little resemblance to the ship described in the book:

…a huge starship, one hundred and fifty meters long, shaped like a sleek running shoe, perfectly white, and mindbogglingly beautiful.

It seems to me that all spaceships look like, in some way, sleek running shoes. I wanted to have a little fun with the design of the Heart of Gold, and as I had been collecting images of vans and RVs, it also seemed to me that the Heart of Gold would look just as mindbogglingly beautiful if it resembled a retro camper van.

After all, with the Infinite Improbability Drive at its heart, it seems all too likely (or rather, unlikely) that the most impressive starship in the galaxy would (or, in this case, would not) look exactly like a retro camper van. So the very improbability that the ship would look quite the opposite of how it is described in the book makes my interpretation all the more plausible. I think.

In a post on my personal blog, I have shared the rough sketch for this illustration and some of the photos I used as reference. Of course, this sort of artistic license comes with a price; after finishing the illustration I had the horrible realization that a spaceship that looks like an RV, had already been done, and that I had just ripped off Spaceballs.

“That is really amazing,” [Zaphod] said. “That really is truly amazing. That is so amazingly amazing I think I’d like to steal it.”

June 11, 2010 at 7:51 am 2 comments

The next thing that happened was a mind-mangling explosion of noise and light.

Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Posted by: John Martz

I have recovered from illness in time to complete and post this before the weekend is offically over.

It’s probably safe to say that this is a favourite part of the book for many people, particularly the inner monologue of the poor whale as it gains self-awareness and the ability to form new thoughts and ideas all within the short time it takes for it to plummet to its death.

Zaphod leapt out of his seat.

“Then what’s happened to the missiles?” he said.

A new and astounding image appeared in the mirrors.

“They would appear,” said Ford doubtfully, “to have turned into a bowl of petunias and a very surprised looking whale…”

It was my intention to introduce the Starship Heart of Gold into this illustration. But I have specific plans for how I want the ship to look, and it would have been all too distracting an image to include it here with the whale and the petunias. And the planet Magrathea, which I took liberties with and made purple instead of red, as it’s described in the book. So a simpler, stronger image it is.

I may need to rewind the book a few chapters for my next illustration in order to properly introduce the improbable Heart of Gold. Until then, here is that poor, poor whale.

And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming towards me very fast? Very very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide sounding name like… ow… ound… round… ground! That’s it! That’s a good name — ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

May 16, 2010 at 6:16 pm 6 comments

The High Schooler’s Guide to the Galaxy

Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Posted by: John Martz

I’ve come down with a post-TCAF cold, so I have to apologize for not having the energy to complete my latest Hitchhiker’s Guide illustration on time. As a reward for your patience, and as punishment for my tardiness, I have a gift to offer.

This isn’t the first time I’ve created illustrations for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In high school I illustrated the book’s characters as part of an actual book report. It is with great embarrassment and humility that I present some of these illustrations to you.

You’ll notice Trillian is holding a torch. At the time I wasn’t aware that torch was British for flashlight. The drawings are from 1992, when I was in grade 9. The green Vogon, dated 1995, was from a later sketchbook.

May 14, 2010 at 11:26 am 4 comments

“You are bound to feel some initial ill effects as you have been rescued from certain death at an improbability level of two to the power of two hundred and seventy-six thousand to one against – possibly much higher.”

Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Posted by: John Martz

Wild yowling noises of pipes and strings seared through the wind, hot doughnuts popped out of the road for ten pence each, horrid fish stormed out of the sky and Arthur and Ford decided to make a run for it.

They plunged through heavy walls of sound, mountains of archaic thought, valleys of mood music, bad shoe sessions and footling bats and suddenly heard a girl’s voice.

It sounded quite a sensible voice, but it just said, “Two to the power of one hundred thousand to one against and falling, and that was all.

Ford skidded down a beam of  light and span round trying to find a source for the voice but could see nothing he could seriously believe in.

“What was that voice?” shouted Arthur.

“I don’t know,” yelled Ford, “I don’t know. It sounded like a measurement of probability.”

And so we finally meet Arthur Dent and his Betelgeusian best friend Ford Prefect.

Ford and Arthur, having found themselves blasted out of an airlock into deep space, are suddenly, and quite improbably, picked up by the Starship Heart of Gold.  The ship is powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive, which allows for vast interstellar travel in “a mere nothingth of a second”.

“Haaaauuurrgghhh…” said Arthur as he felt his body softening and bending in unusual directions. “Southend seems to be melting away… the stars are swirling… a dustbowl… my legs are drifting off into the sunset… my left arm’s come off too.” A frightening thought struck him: “Hell,” he said, “how am I going to operate my digital watch now?” He wound his eyes desperately around in Ford’s direction.

“Ford, you’re turning into a penguin. Stop it.”

This, and all the Hitchhiker’s illustrations I’ve created for this series, are finally available as archival quality prints from my new online shop.

April 16, 2010 at 1:28 pm 3 comments

The Galaxy’s a fun place. You’ll need to have this fish in your ear.

Posted by: John Martz
Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(purchase on Amazon)

Ford, with a lightning movement, clapped his hand to Arthur’s ear, and he had the sudden sickening sensation of the fish slithering deep into his aural tract. Gasping with horror he scrabbled at his ear for a second or so, but then slowly turned goggle-eyed with wonder. He was experiencing the aural equivalent of looking at a picture of two black silhouetted faces and suddenly seeing it as a picture of a white candlestick. Or of looking at a lot of coloured dots on a piece of paper which suddenly resolve themselves into the figure six and mean that your optician is going to charge you a lot of money for a new pair of glasses.

The Babel fish is a living hearing aid that decodes the brainwaves embedded in all speech patterns. Like Star Trek’s universal translator, the Babel fish is a simple plot device used to avoid the obvious obstacle of an interstellar language barrier.

But like all good science fiction, the story and the characters here exist as vehicles for larger ideas. And with the Babel fish Douglas Adams, a self-described radical atheist, dismisses both Intelligent Design and the circular logic of religious extremism in one fell swoop:

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolve purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as the final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: ‘I refuse to prove that I exist,’ says God, ‘for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.’

‘But,’ says Man, ‘the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.’

‘Oh dear,’ says God, ‘I hadn’t thought of that,’ and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

I nearly didn’t illustrate this scene. After my first illustration, I was very aware that I hadn’t actually drawn any of the main characters yet. So I thought my next move should be to introduce Arthur Dent, the story’s protagonist, in some straight-forward, literal interpretation. But as I started to reread parts of my dogeared 1979 paperback, this image of the Babel Fish with a brain for a speech bubble materialized.

And it’s these little moments in the book that make Douglas Adams so much fun to read. The characters really do take a back seat to the ideas and philosophies sprinkled throughout. The main character isn’t Arthur Dent. As Douglas Adams would say, he’s just this guy, you know. It’s the book within the book, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that allows Douglas Adams to bounce from one idea to the next, and inject his world view into a series of events that can give it shape.

For kicks, here are iPhone-sized wallpaper versions of this, and my previous scene featuring Arthur’s home about to be demolished. Click for full size:

March 12, 2010 at 10:00 am 14 comments

It begins with a house.

Posted by: John Martz
Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(purchase on Amazon)

…the Thursday morning sun was bright and clear as it shone on Arthur Dent’s house for what was to be the last time.

Once I had decided to interpret The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I knew that this scene would be my first illustration. Whenever I even think about the story, it’s these first small chapters that enter my thoughts. It’s the opening scene in the text adventure game version, as well, which I never had the patience to conquer, and always found myself, in the role of Arthur Dent, dead before ever leaving the house.

I’ve always loved the parallels between the large, yellow bulldozers intent to demolish Arthur’s house and the large, yellow Vogon ships, which would do the same to the entire planet. The layout for this illustration drew itself.

I can remember being twelve years old, and reading this paragraph for the first time:

The great ships hung motionless in the sky, over every nation on Earth. Motionless they hung, huge, heavy, steady in the sky, a blasphemy against nature. Many people went straight into shock as their minds tried to encompass what they were looking at. The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

I must have re-read that last sentence at least ten times. What an odd, but wonderful analogy, I thought. It was one of those moments that seems exclusive to childhood — that feeling of having discovered something special that could become my very own. I  felt a connection between myself and the words, and something in that sentence ignited in me an appreciation for looking at things with a slightly skewed perspective. I was soon to learn that Douglas Adams was a master at this in the way he blurred the lines between nonsense and clarity.

Click the image for a larger view.

February 12, 2010 at 9:01 am 26 comments

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