LONDON (AFP) — An Irish author has been commissioned to write a new instalment of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", the cult science fiction comedy which became a worldwide hit, publishers said Wednesday.
Children's author Eoin Colfer will pen a sixth book in the series with the blessing of Jane Belson, widow of original author Douglas Adams who died in 2001, nine years after his last instalment, "Mostly Harmless".
The new volume, to be called "And Another Thing...", will relate the continuing adventures of Arthur Dent, a hapless human touring the cosmos with a guide labelled "Don't Panic!" in big letters.
Colfer, 43, said he was "terrified" when publisher Penguin suggested the project, calling the original books a "slice of satirical genius."
"My first reaction was semi-outrage that anyone should be allowed to tamper with this incredible series," he said.
"But on reflection I realised that this is a wonderful opportunity to work with characters I have loved since childhood and give them something of my own voice while holding on to the spirit of Douglas Adams."
Adams wrote the original series for BBC radio in the late 1970s, with a cast of characters including Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin the Paranoid Android, a depressed robot.
But it gradually snowballed into a multi-media phenomenon including the books — "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", "Life, the Universe and Everything", "So Long And Thanks for all the Fish", and "Mostly Harmless" — a stage show and 2004 movie.
Around 16 million copies of the books have been sold around the world, translated into 35 languages.
Adams's widow said she was "delighted" Colfer had agreed to continue the series.
"I love his books and could not think of a better person to transport Arthur, Zaphod and Marvin to pastures new," she said.
"The project has my full support."
Colfer added: "I feel more pressure to perform now than I ever have with my own books, and that is why I am bloody determined that this will be the best thing I have ever written.
"Being given the chance to write this book is like suddenly being offered the superpower of your choice. For years I have been finishing this incredible story in my head and now I have the opportunity to do it in the real world.
"It is a gift from the gods."
"And Another Thing..." is scheduled for publication in October 2009.