Los Angeles — Douglas Adams, whose cult science fiction comedy "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" drew millions of fans and spawned a mini-industry, has died at age 49.
The British-born Adams died Friday of an apparent heart attack in Santa Barbara, Calif., a family friend, Elizabeth Gibson, said Saturday. She said Adams collapsed while working out at a gym.
"He was not ill," Gibson said. "This was completely unexpected."
The "Hitchhiker's Guide," which began as a British Broadcasting Corp. radio series in 1978, is a satirical adventure about a group of interplanetary travelers; it opens with the Earth being destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway.
It was turned into a book, which sold 14 million copies around the world, and later into a television series.
The book was followed by several sequels, including "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," "Life, the Universe and Everything" and "So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish."
The books blended satire, memorably named characters such as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android, and witty philosophy, at one point supplying the answer to "the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything." The answer was 42.
Adams later recalled how he first thought of the book during a teen-age trip around Europe.
"I was hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, when I was 18, with this copy of 'A Hitchhiker's Guide to Europe,"' he said.
"At one point I found myself lying in the middle of a field, a little bit drunk, when it occurred to me that somebody should write a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It didn't occur to me that it might actually be me years later."
Geoffrey Perkins, the BBC's head of comedy, called Adams "absolutely one of the most creative geniuses to ever work in radio comedy."
"He probably wrote one of the greatest radio comedy series ever, certainly the most imaginative," he added.
Born in Cambridge, England, in 1952 and educated at Cambridge University, Adams began his career as a writer and script editor at the BBC.
Adams married Jane Belson, a lawyer, in 1991.
The couple, who had lived in Santa Barbara since 1999, had a 6-year-old daughter, Polly. Adams is also survived by his mother, Jan Thrift of England.