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Stanislaw Lem Dies in Krakow

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago

296

1Eye wrote to mention that well-known SF author Stanislaw Lem passed away today. The Polish author was 84, and was probably best known for the novel 'Solaris'. From the AP article: "Solaris, published in 1961 and set on an isolated space stations, was made into a film epic 10 years later by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky and into a 2002 Hollywood remake shot by Steven Sodebergh and starring George Clooney."

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296 comments

More than Solaris (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007704)

I'll remember him for his stories of Ijon Tichy [wikipedia.org] and the satire he would write about regarding anything from governments to advertisements.

One of the first science fiction authors to truly show us that science fiction is more than just a genre of space novels, it's a way to place one's self outside of reality so that it can be safely analyzed and commented on from a distance.

Rest in peace. I eagerly await the day you raise to the ranks of Asimov & Tolkien when the world will remember you as more than "that guy who wrote a story for a George Clooney movie."

I know it will happen.

Re:More than Solaris (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007759)

Why did it have to be him? Why couldn't it have been Stephenson, Gibson, or any of those other hacks. SF is DEAD.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008082)

Even worse: having an obit that says george clooney performed in a movie based upon an idea from one of SJL's works. THAT'S baaad!

Re:More than Solaris (1)

Krach42 (227798) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007777)

One of the first science fiction authors to truly show us that science fiction is more than just a genre of space novels, it's a way to place one's self outside of reality so that it can be safely analyzed and commented on from a distance.

Yeah, I really enjoyed a lot of the Sci-Fi series that did this, too. Too bad Hollywood hasn't caught onto this.

Take a wonderful book with an underlying subtext about politics and military mentality and turn it into a teen flick full of guts and gore.

Who ever wrote that screen play needs to apologize. Not like I'm saying anything new about the Starship Troopers movie.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

John_Booty (149925) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007934)

Who ever wrote that screen play needs to apologize. Not like I'm saying anything new about the Starship Troopers movie.

This is highly subjective, but a lot of people think that movie is a brilliantly campy satire of the book... which was itself quite possibly meant as something of a satire of a fascist military mentality. I'd agree with this, myself.

I saw the movie first and thought it was unnecessarily cheesy and wasn't a big fan. A couple of years later I read the book. I was pretty blown away by a) how good the book was on its own merits and b) how the movie was fairly brilliant when viewed as an intentionally campy satire.

I can see how people would be disappointed if they were expecting the movie to be anything like the book. It sure isn't.

Re:More than Solaris (2, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008022)

which was itself quite possibly meant as something of a satire of a fascist military mentality.
Um, not really. There's not a scrap of irony in the whole book. If you want some irony and satire, try The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (which is also his best book), or Job, A Comedy of Justice. Starship Troopers was written as a polemic in response the ending of nuclear testing by the U.S., and it's meant 100% seriously; it also has nothing at all to do with fascism. Check out the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] if you want to learn more about the book.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

Maserati (8679) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008424)

I'm partial to this page [kentaurus.com] on SST: Heinlein vs Verhoeven. Good discussion of the book, and a nice debunking of some of the BS and misunderstandings about the book.

Re:More than Solaris (5, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007798)

I can't understand why he is "best known for Solaris" when it is far from his best work. "The Cyberiad", for example, was a collection of much better stories. Lem had an understanding of people, politics, and satire that made almost everything he wrote delightful to read. Plus, I could never beleive The Cyberiad was originally written in Polish then translated, so props go out to his translators also.

Re:More than Solaris (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008125)

Because of the movie.

No, not the dung-heap from Hollywood but the original movie which is can't label in any other way than a masterpiece. Tarkovskij was the real genius.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

domanova (729385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008387)

Well, some of that is due to Tarkovsky. The header made me think of Stalker; then I got me head on again.
I bet more people saw Solaris the movie than read Solaris the novel

Re:More than Solaris (1)

tumbaumba (547886) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007885)

I'll remember him for his stories of Ijon Tichy and the satire he would write about regarding anything from governments to advertisements.

It is truly a sad day for all SF readers. Lem was a greates SF writer of all and it is a shame so few of his works are translated to English. Ijon Tichy is a example I read it in Russian and wanted my coworkers to read it as well but did not find it in English. Rest in peace.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

brwski (622056) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007951)

And don't forget Fiasco --- a superb first-contact crash-and-burn. Pretty much everything by him is worth a read. Lem, however, is not the only highly-regarded yet little-read Sci Fi / conceptual writer worth picking up. Give Italo Calvino a chance --- fun and literate.

Stainslaw Was The Best (1)

tornsaq (961735) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008093)

I think I've read every book by "the stain". This is indeed a sad day.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

smithmc (451373) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008250)


  Rest in peace. I eagerly await the day you raise to the ranks of Asimov & Tolkien when the world will remember you as more than "that guy who wrote a story for a George Clooney movie."

You mean, like how most of the world probably thinks Asimov is that guy who wrote a story for that Will Smith movie?

Re:More than Solaris (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008334)

You mean, like how most of the world probably thinks Asimov is that guy who wrote a story for that Will Smith movie?

Though you may think that's bad, had that movie not been made, it would have been, "the guy who wrote the story for Bincentennial man".

Robots that want to feel and screw girls. Human emotions = special is the worst kind of science fiction.

Re:More than Solaris (1)

xigxag (167441) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008306)

I've always felt that The Futurological Congress would make an excellent feature film, although its vision of a doped-up society, enthralled by the external appearance of a shiny future while things turn to rot within, is no longer a prophecy, but simply the way things are.

My favourite Lem novel was "The Cyberiad" (4, Interesting)

khasim (1285) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007707)

In memory, the best poem he ever wrote:

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert, or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not -- for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converge, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
Cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a2 cos 2 phi

Re:My favourite Lem novel was "The Cyberiad" (4, Interesting)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008058)

What really blows my mind is that Lem presumably wrote that poem in Polish, and Michael Kandel translated it (and other poems and stories) to English.

It's astounding how well Kandel translated the poetry, so it still rhymes, scans well, and makes perfect sense (unlike most other poetry). Kandel also translated a lot of Lem's other stuff ABOUT words and language, in Cyberiad and other books.

Re:My favourite Lem novel was "The Cyberiad" (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008269)

I first read the story in German, and there as well, the poems he wrote were translated perfectly. I don't know what it was about Lem that brought out the best translators to do their greatest work, but I'm glad that it was so.

Rest in Peace. Trurl and Klapauzius, Ijon and the machine that could build everything starting with n, you'll be his voice for ages for to come. May you continue to enlighten us.

Re:My favourite Lem novel was "The Cyberiad" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008282)

I don't know what it was about Lem that brought out the best translators to do their greatest work, but I'm glad that it was so.

Yeah, you see the same attribute in the translators of Nabokov and Eco. I guess it's a prestige thing -- if you're a translator, what better chance will you ever have to show off your chops?

Re:My favourite Lem novel was "The Cyberiad" (2, Funny)

aztec rain god (827341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008138)

If ever a mathematician had a chance to get laid, this might do the trick.

My submission (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007716)

Stanislaw Lem [www.lem.pl] , aged 85, one of the world's greatest scifi writters has passed away [theglobeandmail.com] . Most membered works include 'Solaris [imdb.com] ', 'The Cyberiad [wikipedia.org] ' and Pilot Pirx stories.

Re:My submission (1)

isecore (132059) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007889)

Most membered works

Sounds like something that might be handed out at the AVN Awards [wikipedia.org] or the Hot d'Or Awards [wikipedia.org] .

Not to be ignorant but... (1)

jollyroger1210 (933226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007721)

"set on an isolated space stations" sorry for being a grammar nazi....

get off the internets (1)

hildi (868839) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007769)

you dont know.. having knowing... knowlbadgle, of, you know, , you cant type.

Re:Not to be ignorant but... (1)

iocat (572367) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007813)

Don't blame Slashdot. For once, the error is in TFA (nice job, Reuters).

Futurlogical Congress (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007726)

My fav. Actually it was the only book I read by him. It was fascinating.

Solaris is a masterpiece of fiction (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007735)

I would highly recommend Solaris [amazon.com] to lovers of science fiction, who surely abound on a "News for Nerds" site like Slashdot. Don't expect hard SF with the focus on technology like Vernor Vinge, but rather a more psychological and mysterious style of storytelling somewhat like Gene Wolfe. The movie by

Solaris THE BOOK is a masterpiece of fiction (1)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007785)

The book is one of the great works of scifi. The movies really miss the point. About a week ago, in a discussion about PlaneScape:Torment I wrote:
"I mean, what better quest can there be, than a Quest to learn who you are? A chance to discover yourself and, just maybe, make amends for past sins and save your own soul and prevent the suffering of others.
Beautifully written, IMO it is the high-water mark of videogames.

P.S. For those who enjoyed PST, I highly recommend Stanislaw Lem's novel, Solaris. The central character (Kelvin) asks many of the same questions. If you've seen the Russian film version or the pathetic watered-down Hollywood adaptation but not read the novel, then you're cheating yourself. Go read the book -- it is rich, emotionally moving, haunting and you will never forget it."

Seriously, go read this book. You will find yourself thinking about the characters years from now.

Re:Solaris THE BOOK is a masterpiece of fiction (1)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007903)

The movies really miss the point

I've never read the book, but the George Clooney Solaris movie is one of the best films ever made. I'm quite sure of this since everyone seems to hate it.

Re:Solaris THE BOOK is a masterpiece of fiction (1)

lav-chan (815252) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007978)

I haven't seen the George Clooney one, or read the book, but the Russian film version is one of the longest and most boring movies of all time.

Re:Solaris THE BOOK is a masterpiece of fiction (1)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008117)

The Tarkovsky film version was fantastic. Sure it focussed on different aspects than the book, but in many ways it picked some of the more interesting points that were only peripherally explored in the book. Besides, film is a different medium, so the detailed wordy technical discussions must necessarily become limited. Instead we are treated to visual subtlety and mystery and the absolutely glorious cinematography that is par for the course with Tarkovsky. I rate Tarkovsky's two ventures into science fiction, Solaris and Stalker, as two of the greatest science fiction films ever made - science fiction films that are honestly interested about exploring ideas and giving the audience the space to fully appreciate the depth and subtelty of those ideas. They are films where you are fully expected to spend your time thinkin carefully about everything that is going on.

The Soderbergh film was comparatively truncated and necessarily lost a lot of the material. It was also, in practice, working more from tarkovsky's vision than from Lem's. Still, it managed to create much of the atmosphere and explore many of the ideas of the Tarkovsky film in the reduced time frame. Certainly a great film - though I agree, beginning to be quite divergent from the book.

Jedidiah.

Shitheads! (0, Troll)

evil_spork (444038) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007736)

You are all a bunch of shitheads! Go fall over and die!

goatse.cx [hick.org]

HELLO (-1, Troll)

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Re:HELLO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008240)

iawtc

The old guard passes away... (5, Interesting)

Illbay (700081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007746)

Although he spent most of his productive years behind the Iron Curtain, Lem was quite influential and was known (and read) by many of the Golden Age and Next Wave/Dangerous Visions authors--particularly the latter.

He had very little respect for the Golden Age writers, calling their works "kitsch." Most of his attitude toward the gigantic American SF oeuvre was no doubt attributable to the fact that, writing in the Soviet bloc, he had to use great care in expressing his ideas lest he be subject to government censorship, and thus thought the "frivolous" nature of American writers was wasteful of time and print.

He was greatly admired by writers such as Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin and Harlan Ellison, however, and his works are widely available in good English translations today.

Re:The old guard passes away... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007919)

Uhm, you might want to get a clue. Philip K. Dick thought Lem was an evil communist.

Re:The old guard passes away... (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007958)

Uhm, you might want to get a clue. Philip K. Dick thought Lem was an evil communist.

So, I guess he was just a Philip K. Dickhead.

Re:The old guard passes away... (1)

genka (148122) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008041)

Philip K. Dick actually reported to FBI that S.Lem is a fromt for a group of writers controlled by KGB. Mr. Dick, a brilliant author himself, had mental problems later in his life.

Re:The old guard passes away... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008399)

The FBI gave up on the investigation once they discovered that there was no such thing as a "fromt".

Re:The old guard passes away... (2, Interesting)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007936)

If by "greatly admired" you mean "reported to the FBI"...

"Speed: It will turn you into your parents." -Frank Zappa

And the admiration was mutual: read "Science Fiction: A Hopeless Case - with Exceptions" and "Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans [depauw.edu] ", from Microworlds [art.net] .

From Stanislaw Lem's [www.lem.pl] web site:

On September 2, 1974 Philip K. Dick sent the following letter to the FBI (Please keep in mind Mr. Dick was most probably suffering from schizophrenia):

Philip K. Dick to the FBI, September 2, 1974

I am enclosing the letterhead of Professor Darko Suvin, to go with information and enclosures which I have sent you previously. This is the first contact I have had with Professor Suvin. Listed with him are three Marxists whom I sent you information about before, based on personal dealings with them: Peter Fitting, Fredric Jameson, and Franz Rottensteiner who is Stanislaw Lem's official Western agent. The text of the letter indicates the extensive influence of this publication, SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES.

What is involved here is not that these persons are Marxists per se or even that Fitting, Rottensteiner and Suvin are foreign-based but that all of them without exception represent dedicated outlets in a chain of command from Stanislaw Lem in Krakow, Poland, himself a total Party functionary (I know this from his published writing and personal letters to me and to other people). For an Iron Curtain Party group - Lem is probably a composite committee rather than an individual, since he writes in several styles and sometimes reads foreign, to him, languages and sometimes does not - to gain monopoly positions of power from which they can control opinion through criticism and pedagogic essays is a threat to our whole field of science fiction and its free exchange of views and ideas. Peter Fitting has in addition begun to review books for the magazines Locus and Galaxy. The Party operates (a U..S.] publishing house which does a great deal of Party-controlled science fiction. And in earlier material which I sent to you I indicated their evident penetration of the crucial publications of our professional organization SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS OF AMERICA.

Their main successes would appear to be in the fields of academic articles, book reviews and possibly through our organization the control in the future of the awarding of honors and titles. I think, though, at this time, that their campaign to establish Lem himself as a major novelist and critic is losing ground; it has begun to encounter serious opposition: Lem's creative abilities now appear to have been overrated and Lem's crude, insulting and downright ignorant attacks on American science fiction and American science fiction writers went too far too fast and alienated everyone but the Party faithful (I am one of those highly alienated).

It is a grim development for our field and its hopes to find much of our criticism and academic theses and publications completely controlled by a faceless group in Krakow, Poland. What can be done, though, I do not know.

Re:The old guard passes away... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008074)

This man gave me an idea when I was 9 years old, and here I am much later, fundamentally sworn to thoughtfulness in the development of humanity into natures beyond imagination and currently studying Heim theory. I lost a godfather. "Was greatly admired" does not do him justice in my eyes. I greatly admired him myself, and I don't need anyone else's admiration to comment on my grief.

Re:The old guard passes away... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008331)

LOL, pwned!

Re:The old guard passes away... (1)

dancallaghan (890674) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008386)

... except _Solaris_ itself (!), which is only available translated via French. RIP Lem

A Very Impactful Author (1)

DumbSwede (521261) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007758)

A sad day -- I would have to say Solaris has always stuck with me from when I first read it over 30 years ago in my teens -- it was the first time I really thought about questions like what it means to be alive and human, what is thought, and what is free will. Neither film really did it justice, though at least the Soviet version didn't "Hollywoodize" it. I just didn't get the reason for the minutes and minutes of nothing but travel on Japanese tunnel roadway systems as the protagonist travels to the launch site in the Soviet version. A Russian friend told me it just looked very High Tech to Russians at the time.

Re:A Very Impactful Author (4, Informative)

JonTurner (178845) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007860)

>>I just didn't get the reason for the minutes and minutes of nothing but travel on Japanese tunnel roadway systems as the protagonist travels to the launch site in the Soviet version. A Russian friend told me it just looked very High Tech to Russians at the time.

There's a story behind this. Tarkovsky was allowed to leave Russian to attend the World's Fair in Japan (a *remarkable* achievement for that period of Iron Curtain history!). He had hoped to film futuristic scenes from the fair, but due to delays with passports and importing their film equipment, they arrived too late, missing the event! Rather than go home from this hugely expensive (both in terms of money and political capitol spent) trip empty-handed, they filmed highway scenes with a hand-held and added sound effects. Your friend is correct. To the average Russian, the "modern" Japanese highway system (not to mention it's automobiles) would have seemed very futuristic. In the same way that the Modified Ford Taurus police cruisers from 1984's Terminator now seem dated, so does this scene.

He will be missed! (3, Informative)

Ansible42 (961707) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007762)

He was one of my favorite authors, up there with Gene Wolfe and Borges. Solaris, although popular, was not his best work in my opinion. Check out Tales of Pirx the Pilot for lighter weight stuff, and Fiasco for some great hard science fiction. He will be missed!

Sore Loser Post (0, Redundant)

ewhac (5844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007781)

2006-03-27 19:40:30 Stanislaw Lem: 1921 - 2006 (Index,Sci-Fi) (rejected)

BTW, here's Stanislaw Lem's Web Site [www.lem.pl] .

Schwab

Great author (4, Insightful)

Bytal (594494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007791)

Lem was the bastion of old-school eastern european sci-fi. His sci-fi wasn't about huge robots carrying large breasted women, or random-monster-of-the-week attacking the hapless but plucky space pioneers or even George Clooney's naked ass. Sci-fi for Lem was a way to take a clear look at everything that people took for granted in technology and progress. In both Solaris and His Master's Voice he he tackled space exploration not as an soap opera but as an examination of what it means to be human and what humans see in technological progress. He took our limitations seriously and showed how incredibly alien it will be for humans to seriously venture out into space and even make first contact. And even in talking about all the limitations on scientific and technological progress he never stopped believing in the possibility of human progress through these tools. He was not only a great author but also a great man. RIP Stan.

Re:Great author (2, Insightful)

Illbay (700081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007828)

...His sci-fi wasn't about huge robots carrying large breasted women,...

Well, actually neither is most American SF. True, this was a staple of a great deal of American film SciFi (read "sciffy") of the 50s and early 60s, but then most B-movies were corny and cliche' no matter WHAT the genre.

For all the Euro-elitism, American SF has always been of uniform high quality, if only because there was so much of it.

FWIW, can you name ANOTHER well-regarded Polish SF writer?

Re:Great author (1)

frakir (760204) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007896)

Sapkowski is a great Polish fantasy (okay not a sci-fi) author to name one. In my opinion equals to Zelazny.

From the search on Amazon it seems like english speaking world don't have a chance to read anything of his yet. ('The Hexer' based on his stories may have english subs but it is one really bad movie)

Re:Great author (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007990)

Zelazny is polish for steely.

Re:Great author (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008059)

The Last Wish [amazon.ca] , one of his short story collections, is due out next year.

Re:Great author (1)

Bytal (594494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007925)

Who said there was no good quality American SF? Asimov, Dick, Gibson...the list can go on and on. The point is not Europe vs. America but good sci-fi vs. the crap that goes by the name of sci-fi. There are great sci-fi writers all over the world but it's important to recognize the subject and style differences. You also have to realize that most great sci-fi from Europe is prolly from the 50s-70s when it as much about communism criticism as it was about technology. Nowadays, it's the same type of stuff as any American sci-fluff novel about princesses in space. Good American sci-fi had a different mode of inquiry, it was about technology changing our lives on a more personal level with a lot less of "grand soul searching"m and moralizing. Each one is as important as other, if, at least, to contrast the societies and times it was written in.

Princesses in Space? (1)

Illbay (700081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007956)

We just don't read much of that stuff any more. Even "Star Wars" was purposefully evocative of the old "Space Opera" era of the 1930s. Just fun, not to be taken seriously (ignore all those Star Wars character costumes at the myriad SW conventions...)

Re:Great author (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008258)

Well, actually neither is most American SF.

I disagree. The science fiction and fantasy section even of large bookstores such as Borders overwhelmingly consists of cheap pulp-rate material, with literary science fiction in the clear minority. Writers such as Gene Wolfe, Samuel R. Delaney, and Philip K. Dick--whose books are actually worth something and are often published in fine hardbound and trade paperback--must be sought out among a plethora of crappy titles (which the publishers put in paperback because they are to be read once and thrown away). While the robots-carrying-big-breasted-women trope has faded away, it's been replaced by Generic Sword-Swinging Vaguely-Tolkienish Fantasy #447.

who? (1)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008267)

For all the Euro-elitism, American SF has always been of uniform high quality, if only because there was so much of it.

You're contradicting yourself. "Of uniform[ly] high quality" means "there hasn't been any bad American SF". But you just said that there has been (and there obviously has been).

What you probably meant is that there is a lot of good American SciFi, which is true. Nevertheless, I can't think of a US author that I would rate more highly than Lem: Lem combined technical insight with humor and good storytelling.

Which US SciFi author would you put up there with Lem?

Re:who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008314)

Which US SciFi author would you put up there with Lem?

Philip K. Dick [philipkdick.com] .

Re:Great author (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008120)

NOBODY knows or cares who this old fucker is, except people like you WHO HAVE NO LIFE.

Return from the Stars (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007824)

Return from the Strars was the first book of his I discovered (very interesting), later the Cyberiad (fun). I finally saw Solaris - the 2000ish remake, I hope the book is better than the movie adaptation.

He certainly could tell a good tale, I'm sure he'll be missed.

Re:Return from the Stars (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007897)

For a Hollywoodization, I thought it was pretty good. Watered-down, perhaps, but I liked the general mood a lot.

Re:Return from the Stars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008284)

Try watching the original movie instead. Perhaps not in any way better than the book, but certainly better than the hollywood production.

Which SF writers changed the way you view things? (4, Interesting)

Audent (35893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007829)

For me it would be:

John Brunner (the internet, in the mid 70s, with privacy concerns for all. OMG)

Philip K Dick (mad as a bag of hammers)

Ray Bradbury (mostly for his non-SF short stories, funnily enough, but for Farenheit 451)

Robert Heinlein (just for the idea that when you don't know what to do, keep the readers on their toes by saying "the door dilates". Got to love that)

Fredric Brown (short stories about time travel that work)

Neal Stephenson (real geeks, real simple (lousy endings though... ))

there are many more, these are the few I can think of off the top of my head.

Re:Which SF writers changed the way you view thing (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007927)

Iain M. Banks.

I can't watch any news about the western world's increasingly paranoid and delusional wars any more without being reminded that, in warfare, the biggest danger is of becoming indistinguishable from your enemy.

Oh, and Eric Blair. Not a science fiction author, but wrote a certain book which is still a brilliant work of science fiction in my eyes. Of the Ballard-style observation of a civilisation readjusted in some horrifically plausible manner... ;-)

Greg Egan and Vernor Vinge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007942)

The greatest SF authors, ever.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007981)

Transmutation of water( into wine )?

Antigravity or hyperbuoyancy( to walk on water )?

Reanimation of human tissue( after 3 days )?

These guys were the pioneers and fathers of modern science fiction. I think we all should give these authors their due.

Re:Which SF writers changed the way you view thing (1)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008068)

Iain Banks for a remarkably positive view of the future with the culture novels, and a remarkably bleak view of the future with his non-culture novels.

Jedidiah.

RIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007844)

Wow... took slashdot only like 12 hours. Anyways, one of the greatest authors of the twentieth century passed away. RIP.

Lem was a truly amazing writer (4, Interesting)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007862)

Lem was my favorite writer [art.net] , and I'm sad to hear he's gone.

SimCity was inspired by one of the stories in Cyberiad (about the despot for whom the constructors made a si mulated kingdom for him to rule over, that broke out of the box and took over). Nobody can figure out how he writes in Polish, yet the English translations of his books are full of brilliant poetic puns and neological phonetic jokes. He's got a great translator, Michael Kandel, to say the least. In memory of Stanislaw Lem, here are some of my favorite poems composed by the Electronic Bard from Cyberiad:

Klapaucius [art.net] witnessed the first trial run of Trurl's [art.net] poetry machine, the Elecronic Bard. Here are the some of the wonderful poems it instantly composed to Klapaucius's specifications:

This wonderfully apropos epigram was delivered with perfect poise:

The Petty and the Small
Are overcome with gall

When Genius, having faltered, fails to fall.

Klapaucius too, I ween,
Will turn the deepest green

To hear such flawless verse from Trurl's machine.

This is a poem about a haircut! But lofty, nobel, tragic, timeless, full of love, treachery, retribution, quiet heroism in the face of certain doom! Six lines, cleverly rhymed, and every word beginning with the letter "s"!

Seduced, shaggy Samson snored.
She scissored short. Sorely shorn,
Soon shackled slave, Samson sighed,
Silently scheming,
Sightlessly seeking
Some savage, spectacular suicide.

A poem all in g! A sonnet, trochaic hexameter, about an old cyclotron who kept sixteen artificial mistresses, blue and radioactive, had four wings, three purple pavilions, two lacquered chests, each containing exactly one thousand medallions bearing the likeness of Czar Murdicog the Headless ... (the description and the poem are unfinished, thanks to the quick intervention of Trurl.)

Grinding gleeful gears, Gerontogyron grabbed / Giggling
gynecobalt-60 golems, ...

A love poem, lyrical, pastoral, and expressed in the language of pure mathematics. Tensor algebra mainly, with a little topology and higher calculus, if need be. But with feeling, you understand, and in the cybernetic spirit.

Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!

Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not -- for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a squared cosine 2 phi!

Femfatalatron 1.0 Product Description: The Femfatalatron, from Trurl Labs, is an erotifying device stochastic, elastic and orgiastic, and with plenty of feedback. Whoever is placed inside the apparatus instantaneously experiences all the charms, lures, wiles, winks and witchery of all the fairer sex in the Universe at once. The femfatalatron operates on a power of forty megamors, with a maximum attainable efficiency -- given a constant concupiscence coefficient -- of ninety-six percent, while the system's libidinous lubricity, measured of course in kilocupids, produces up to six units for every remote-control caress. This marvelous mechanism, moreover, is equipped with reversible ardor dampers, omnidirectional consummation amplifiers, absorption philters, paphian peripherals, and "first-sight" flip-flop circuits, since Trurl held here to the position of Dr. Yentzicus, creator of the famous oculo-oscular feel theory. There are also all sorts of auxiliary components, like a high-frequency titillizer, an alternating tantalator, plus an entire set of lecherons and debaucheraries; on the outside, in a special glass case, are enormous dials, on which one can carefully follow the course of the whole decaptivation process. Statistical analysis reveals that the femfatalatron gives positive, permanent results in ninety-eight cases of unrequited amatorial superfixation out of a hundred. Includes autolips, aphrodisial philanderoids, and satyriacal panderynes as standard accessories.

Re:Lem was a truly amazing writer (1)

Compuser (14899) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008045)

This is the first time I see English translation, having read this in
Russian. The Russian version of poem in 'g' made more sense:
Gruzniy Gen'ka generator
grozno gryz goroh gortsyami

In general, the feel is different. My guess is that the beauty of Lem was the fact
that his writing was universal yet allowed for fine tuning to any culture
via translations. I think he was the greatest SF writer ever, but all
the same my hat is off to his translators.

Re:Lem was a truly amazing writer (2, Interesting)

grogo (861262) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008098)

I first read Lem as a boy growing up in Communist Poland in the 70's, and was blown away by the mastery of language and ideas. Later, when I came to the US, I re-read all of his books in English. While the translations are excellent, esp. Kandel, they still can't touch the cleverness of the original writing, especially in the little verses he wrote, or the stories such as the one about the Machine that could make everything that starts with the letter N in the Cyberiad.

Still, the underlying ideas and vision come through very well even accounting for the language barrier. I hope his books will continue to resonate with young people everywhere.

Re:Lem was a truly amazing writer (3, Informative)

cecom (698048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008365)

While the English translations are trully brilliant, Lem should be read in a Slavic language [wikipedia.org] to be fully appreciated. He constantly plays with words and makes up new ones, which IMHO are not translatable to English.

It is difficult to explain - a language expert would do it much better than me. In English Lem is still interesting and funny, but something subtle is missing. It bugs me that there is no way for English readers to ever fully enjoy it.

In all honesty I don't speak Polish, although I can understand some, but I have read Lem in Bulgarian, Russian and English.

Automatthew's Friend (2, Interesting)

jamie (78724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007884)

This is the beginning of Lem's short story "Automatthew's Friend," 1977, translated from the Polish by Michael Kandel.

A certain robot, planning to go on a long and dangerous voyage, heard of a most useful device which its inventor called an electric friend. He would feel better, he thought, if he had a companion, even a companion that was only a machine, so he went to the inventor and asked to be shown an artificial friend.

"Sure," replied the inventor. (As you know, in fairy tales no one says "sir" or "ma'am" to anyone else, not even to dragons, it's only with the kinds that you have to stand on ceremony.) With this he pulled from his pocket a handful of metal granules, that looked like fine shot.

"What is what?" said the robot in surprise.

"Tell me your name, for I forgot to ask it in the proper place of this fairy tale," said the inventor.

"My name is Automatthew."

"That's too long for me, I'll call you Autom."

"Autom's from Automaton, but have it your way," replied the other.

"Well then, Autommy my lad, you have here before you a batch of electrofriends. You ought to know that by vocation and specialization I am a miniaturizer. Which means I make large and heavy mechanisms small and portable. Each one of these granules is a concenntrate of electrical thought, highly versatile and intelligent. I won't say a genius, for that would be an exaggeration if not false advertising. True, my intention is precisely to create electrical geniuses and I shall not rest until I have made them so very tiny that it will be possible to carry thousands of them around in your vest pocket; the day I can pour them into sacks and sell them by weight, like said, I will have achieved my most cherished goal. But enough now of my plans for the future..."

Was that passage suppossed to be good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008378)

Because far from being entertaining that passage is the epitome of what is wrong with sci-fi.

Farewell to a great thinker and writer (1)

elwinc (663074) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007909)

Two other Lem books that I'm fond of: The Futurological Congress [transparencynow.com] and A Perfect Vacuum. [cs.sfu.ca]

Memoirs is essentially a satire about a society with too many self-deceptions, and how reality has a way of unraveling even though society refuses to notice or acknowledge any problem. Vacuum is a collection of book reviews -- reviews of books that never existed; in fact some could not possibly exist. These brief descriptions don't do Lem's books credit. Read them yourself; they're devilishly clever.

Re:Farewell to a great thinker and writer (1)

jonom (109588) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008042)

I haven't read A Perfect Vacuum, but my favourites are The Futurological Congress and Memoirs Found in a Bathtub.

About time! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15007940)

Because of that idiot, I had to see George Clooney's ass on a giant IMAX screen! Like the pain of a thousand Goatses!

Re:About time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008019)

I suggest that you watch the 1972 Tarkovsky version, or -- better yet -- actually read the book. There is no comparison.

The Matrix owes a lot to Lem (2, Interesting)

Nicky G (859089) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007948)

The Futurological Congress is not only terribly entertaining, but also quite twisted, and I recommend it very much. One has to think that The Matrix and even P.K. Dick owe a lot to Lem, his way of thinking, and some of the dark scenarios it leads to.

Other Lem books (1)

kocsonya (141716) | more than 8 years ago | (#15007972)

It is sad that only a fraction of his works have been translated
to English. His phylosophical look at evolution, society, technology
and the human kind in general, titled Summa Technologiae, is an astionishing
book. He dumps ideas on you so fast that sometimes it takes half a day just
to digest 2-3 pages of the book.

He was one of those whose books had actual content and were more than mere
entertainment.

Zoltan

His Master's Voice (2, Interesting)

PaulBunion (872807) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008030)

I'm surprised no one has mentioned a very unusual book by Lem (unusual by anyone for that matter) - His Master's Voice. It is on Amazon for the curious. My son, an English major pointed this out to me because of how interesting it is, even though it is not science fiction in the traditional sense. Some have described it as a scathing commentary on science and others have applauded the connection between the title, subject matter, and a dog listening to a gramaphone. Good read. RIP, Stan...

Bork, bork, bork... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008040)

Itski Soderbergh, notski Sodebergh... I knowski thatski youski havski problemski with Svedski soundski namski, butski, it shouldski notski be hardski to kopski and pastski itski... bork bork bork...

Solaris in English (2, Insightful)

Tal Cohen (4834) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008053)

FYI, Solaris was never properly translated into English. The English version is a translation from the French, and misses a lot compared to the Polish original. (Not sure if the "data loss" occurred in the move from Polish to French or from French to English.)

Re:Solaris in English (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008253)

FYI, Solaris was never properly translated into English. The English version is a translation from the French, and misses a lot compared to the Polish original. (Not sure if the "data loss" occurred in the move from Polish to French or from French to English.)

I'm guessig both: Polish Solaris > French Solaris > English Solaris;

Fan sub, anyone?

About the English translation of Solaris... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008061)

The English translation of Solaris was made from a French translation of Solaris. Lem described the French translation as being a poor one, but then again Lem was typically harsh about this sort of thing.

Sad that there is no better translation of Solaris available for us English readers... I wonder what we are missing!

It is hard to believe something like that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008451)

That a book that has been so popular for so long has not gotten a truer translation from the original Polish into English.

Lem on Isothemes and Wikipedia (3, Informative)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008078)

Lem defined Isothemes:

Chronocurrent exformatics is based on the existence of ISOTHEMES (q.v.). An ISOTHEME is a line in SEMANTIC SPACE (q.v.) passing through all thematically identical publications...

Lem predicted Wikipedia (an encyclopedia so up-to-date, it can predict the future):

In an extreme instance, in which there is a Propervirt of less than 0.9%, the TEXT OF THE PRESENT PROSPECTUS may likewise undergo an ABRUPT change. If, while you are reading these sentences, the words begin to jump about, and the letters quiver and blur, please interrupt your reading for ten or twenty seconds to wipe your glasses, adjust your clothing, or the like, and then start reading AGAIN from the beginning, and NOT JUST from the place where your reading was interrupted, since such a TRANSFORMATION indicates that a correction of DEFICIENCIES is now taking place.

Personetics (0)

SimHacker (180785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008199)

From Stanislaw Lem's "Non-Serviam [ucla.edu] " (1971):

(Personetics): A "world" for personoid "inhabitants" can be prepared in a couple of hours... A specific personoid activity serves as a triggering mechanism, setting in motion a production process that will gradually augment and define itself; in other words, the world surrounding these beings takes on an unequivocalness only in accordance with their own behavior... From four to seven personoids are optimal, at least for the development of speech and typical exploratory activity, and also for 'culturization'... It is possible to 'accommodate' up to one thousand personoids... Many different philosophies (ontologies and epistemologies) have arisen among them... I can enlarge their world or reduce it, speed up its time or slow it down, alter the mode and means of their perception; I can liquidate them, divide them, multiply them, transform the very ontological foundation of their existence...

On the lighter side of personetics... I'm developing an open source "Personetics" system called "SimFaux [huffingtonpost.com] ", which I've applied to parody Fox News, so it currently includes simulations of George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Frank Zappa, Arianna Huffington, Al Franken and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.

I've published the SimFaux source code and content as Free Open Source [donhopkins.com] , so you can make your own characters, experiment with the existing ones, transform the very ontological foundation of their existence, see how the keyword based simulation works, extend it with your own rules and content, learn how to build interactive interfaces and simulations with streaming video in OpenLaszlo [openlaszlo.org] , etc.

-Don

I'll remember him not for 'Solaris' (4, Interesting)

Jurrasic (940901) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008145)

but for 'The Cyberiad' "tales of the cybernetic age" which at age 11 was the first exposure to not only humorous SF, but truely 'intelligent' SF. Rest in peace Stan.

Uh... Octavia Butler died a couple weeks ago (0, Troll)

abenamer (264874) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008174)

and there's not ONE mention of it on Slashdot. She's easily the better writer than he was. I don't understand why SHE of all the SF writers was not given her props on Slashdot.

MOD Parent flamebait/troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008231)

Sorry, but... no. Emphatically and objectively, hell no.

This fact in no diminishes the efforts of Ms. Butler; just as a campfire is nowhere near as hot as the sun, yet will still burn you.

They will both be missed.

Re:Uh... Octavia Butler died a couple weeks ago (1)

domanova (729385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008294)

Well, two parts of the reason are 1. I didn't know that she'd died; that's sad news. 2. You did know it and a. didn't post it or b. got ignored Her work is considerable. 'easily the better writer' is a bit of a stretcher. I'm not sure you can add up the points. Lem was, surely, more influential. If nothing else, he rattled some cages 30 years before

Re:Uh... Octavia Butler died a couple weeks ago (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008304)

Uh.... I'll stay polite and simply say that your opinion seems to be a minority opinion. Not having read Butler, I can't compare the two, but I doubt that I would find her better. Lem's writing wasn't so much about science or even fiction as it was about the human mind. I have not found an author anywhere yet who had his command of language and his insights into human nature. Or his caliber of translators, but that's a different story.

Some great books (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008191)

I read over and over again The Cyberiad which IIRC was a tale of a fierce competition between human inventors in the far future building absolutely monstrous robots to outdo each other. Also Tales of Pix the Pilot was great. The Infocom text adventure (Zork-like z engine) version of Solaris was cool though unsolvable I think. There was another one resembling Kafkaesque movie Berlin I think entitled memoirs in a bathtub. I'd like to find these again in ascii, The Cyberiad filled my head with dreams and had a big effect on me.. great story!

The Alienness of the Alien (3, Insightful)

qning (515935) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008202)

Lem is one of the few SF authors I've read who truly have a sense of the utter alienness of the alien. Other cultures aren't just furry/scaly/tall/short humans with funny names, but things entirely incomprehensible to the humans who interact with them.

I always loved that about his stories. I'm sad he's gone.

Odd (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15008235)

I had no idea he was still alive

Rest in peace (1)

Z0mb1eman (629653) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008323)

Stanislaw Lem was easily of my favourite writers, regardless of genre or language. His short stories are nothing short of brilliant (no pun intended) - it's the caliber of writing that subtly changes the way you think of the world.

A couple of links to bibliographies and excerpts:

http://www.lem.pl/cyberiadinfo/english/dziela/dzie la.htm [www.lem.pl] (his official site)
http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/lem/lem.html [rpi.edu]

Some of my favourite works are The Cyberiad [www.lem.pl] , The Futurological Congress [www.lem.pl] , and of course The Star Diaries [www.lem.pl] . I have a lot of his work left to read...

May he rest in peace. Douglas Adams had nothing on Stanislaw Lem.

sad day (1)

ahmetaa (519568) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008411)

i was lucky that i started reading Lem with "The invincible" from the Turkish translation. i loved the book. then i read many more, each book has a distictive character. He had a unique stlye that i still cannot see in today's aouthors. My brothers are also a huge fan of him, a sad day for us.

Let's interview Michael Kandel (5, Insightful)

sukotto (122876) | more than 8 years ago | (#15008423)

A lot of people are mentioning Lem's translator Michael Kandel as an amazing guy. Someone who translated the essence of Lem's work, not just the words.

Hey Editors, let's interview him!

(To be honest, the translations are so good that I always kind of thought Lem just wrote in English... even though the Kandel's name is right there in the book)
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