12 October 1979

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is published.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the first of five books in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy comedy science fiction “trilogy” by Douglas Adams. The novel is an adaptation of the first four parts of Adams’ radio series of the same name. The novel was first published in London on 12 October 1979. It sold 250,000 copies in the first three months.

The namesake of the novel is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a fictional guide book for hitchhikers written in the form of an encyclopedia.The book begins with council workmen arriving at Arthur Dent’s house. They wish to demolish his house in order to build a bypass.

Arthur’s best friend, Ford Prefect, arrives, warning him of the end of the world. Ford is revealed to be an alien who had come to Earth to research it for the titular Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, an enormous work providing information about every planet and place in the universe. The two head to a pub, where the locals question Ford’s knowledge of the Apocalypse.

An alien race, known as Vogons, show up to demolish Earth in order to build a bypass for an intergalactic highway. Arthur and Ford manage to get onto the Vogon ship just before Earth is demolished, where they are forced to listen to horrible Vogon poetry as a form of torture. Arthur and Ford are ordered to say how much they like the poetry in order to avoid being thrown out of the airlock, and while Ford finds listening to be painful, Arthur believes it to be genuinely good, since human poetry is apparently even worse.

17 February 1979

The Sino-Vietnamese War starts.

China’s relations with Vietnam began to deteriorate seriously in the mid-1970s. After Vietnam joined the Soviet-dominated Council for Mutual Economic Cooperation and signed the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1978, China branded Vietnam the “Cuba of the East” and called the treaty a military alliance. Incidents along the Sino-Vietnamese border increased in frequency and violence. In December 1978 Vietnam invaded Cambodia, quickly ousted the pro-Beijing Pol Pot regime, and overran the country.

China’s twenty-nine-day incursion into Vietnam in February 1979 was a response to what China considered to be a collection of provocative actions and policies on Hanoi’s part. These included Vietnamese intimacy with the Soviet Union, mistreatment of ethnic Chinese living in Vietnam, hegemonistic “imperial dreams” in Southeast Asia, and spurning of Beijing’s attempt to repatriate Chinese residents of Vietnam to China.

In February 1979 China attacked along virtually the entire Sino-Vietnamese border in a brief, limited campaign that involved ground forces only. The Chinese attack came at dawn on the morning of 17 February 1979, and employed infantry, armor, and artillery. Air power was not employed then or at any time during the war. Within a day, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had advanced some eight kilometers into Vietnam along a broad front. It then slowed and nearly stalled because of heavy Vietnamese resistance and difficulties within the Chinese supply system. On February 21, the advance resumed against Cao Bang in the far north and against the all-important regional hub of Lang Son. Chinese troops entered Cao Bang on February 27, but the city was not secured completely until March 2. Lang Son fell two days later. On March 5, the Chinese, saying Vietnam had been sufficiently chastised, announced that the campaign was over. Beijing declared its “lesson” finished and the PLA withdrawal was completed on March 16.In 1986 China deployed twenty-five to twenty-eight divisions and Vietnam thirty-two divisions along their common border.

21 August 1979

The Soviet ballet dancer Alexander Godunov defects to the United States.

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Alexander Godunov was a Russian-American ballet dancer and film actor, whose defection caused a diplomatic incident between the United States and the Soviet Union. On August 21, 1979, while he was on a tour with the Bolshoi Ballet in New York City, Godunov contacted authorities and asked for political asylum. After discovering his absence, the KGB responded by putting his wife, Lyudmila Vlasova, on a plane to Moscow, but the flight was stopped before take-off. After three days, with involvement by U.S. President Jimmy Carter and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev, the U.S. State Department was satisfied that Vlasova had chosen to leave of her own free will, and allowed the plane to depart. Vlasova later said that while Godunov loved American culture and had a long desired to live in the United States.