Monday, April 03, 2006


Stanislaw Lem (1921-2006)

Ukrainian Science Fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has passed on to the great Solaris. That world of hallucinatory existence which we create with our imaginations.

Now most bios will refer to him as Polish,
Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem, author of 'Solaris ...which is untrue since he was born in 1921 in Lviv — then part of Poland but now in Ukraine which was, is and always has been part of the Ukraine. It was a much disputed territory between the Polish Imperialists, German Imperialists and Moscow Imperialists over the past 400 years, but Ukraine it is.

Lem was Jewish, as Lviv was the largest Jewish city in the Ukraine or Poland. It was the historic city of Herzel and Bakunin, in their debates over Pan Slavism, liberalism and anarchism.

It was the most European of all East European cities.

Which reminds me of other Great Ukrainian writers who get absorbed by the Imperialists such as Hohol, opps I mean Gogol another Ukrainian writer who was claimed by the Russians through the Russification of his name. He too was an early Sci-Fi writer.

In fact let us remember that Sci-Fi beings in Eastern Europe with the advent of RUR from whence Isaac Asimov gets his theory of robotics.

Lem himself was the originator of the paranoid universe theory, which later became a popular motif for James Blish, Brian Aldiss and of course the ultimate paranoid American Phillip K. Dick.

Lem was an anarchic science fiction writer, opposed to the oppressiveness of Stalinism but equally critical of capitalism.
In The Futurological Congress, Mr. Lem created a rollicking satire of a cosmonaut taking part in a congress in Costa Rica

The congress itself is a clash of civilizations between the capitalist and communist authorities, which is overcome when terrorists, anarchists, unleash hallucinogenic drugs into the conference room.

Lem always speculated in the realm of realities being subjective as well as objective, as hallucinogenic realities, virtual realities before their time. His concept of cyberspace as we would call it today, or VR was based on the use of drugs.

His writing is dense , which is typical of Slavic writers, but worth the readers effort. Phillip K Dick in a final moment of hallucinatory madness, the very essence of American Individualist self alienation declared Lem was a collective endeavour by the communists, not a real human being.

Lem inronically praised Dick
as the only real science fiction writer in America and he viewed Dick as a religious writer in that earliest of Sci-Fi traditions,Gnosticism.
Stanislaw Lem- Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans

It is a razor edged criticism of the genre ghetto in America that was defter than Harlan Ellisons usual bad boy commentary about the same ghetto. The result was that unlike Ellisons stand up comic routines that were all bluff and bluster, Lems critique of the American Sci-Fi ghetto as 'bad writers only in it for the money, cut them to the core and they turned Stalinist on Lem.

His honorary membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association was withdrawn in the mid-1970s after he criticized his U.S. colleagues' writing and charged that they were more interested in making money than expanding the genre. He reserved his praise only for iconic sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick.

Lem wrote about madness and alienation, Dick descended into it. Perhaps for all its flaws there is something to be said for the collective social values of the old Soviet Union. And interesting that Lem who faced censorship by the State in Poland then faced censorship by the State of Writers in the USSA.

Lem would have been amused to see his hero Dick turned into the very incarnation of himself as an electric sheep (as in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep the short story that was to become Bladerunner).

(Philip K. Dick Robotic Memorial Portrait
At NextFest 2005)
The eerie robotic Philip K. Dick unveiled today at the NextFest 2005 event in Chicago is almost an objectification of Dick's fascination with what really makes people human. The robot was designed to provide a convincing imitation of life, with subtle head movements and facial expressions. The software that gives life to the device is well-stocked with all of Dick's printed works and memoirs. It also has face recognition software and a library of faces; it was capable of recognizing several of Dick's relatives who came to take a look at the project. It includes voice recognition and natural language processing features

Stanislaw Lem - Frequently Asked Questions

Scriptorium - Stanislaw Lem

"If [Stanislaw Lem] isn't considered for a Nobel Prize by the end of the century, it will be because someone told the judges that he writes science fiction," predicted a Philadelphia Inquirer critic in 1983. Lem is arguably the greatest living science fiction writer, and even one of the most important European authors of his generation; yet he commands little critical attention, and has failed to reach discerning American science fiction readers who ought, one would think, to be most interested in him. The reasons for this may be sought, paradoxically, in the high demands he makes of his own work: Lem is a true original, but at the price of being marginal.

We are still waiting for that Nobel Prize.

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Roman Werpachowski said...

Ukrainian Science Fiction writer Stanislaw Lem

Lem never described himself as an Ukrainian, only a Pole of Jewish origin. And Lviv before WW II was a city inhabited by Poles and Jews mostly, not by Ukrainians. Demographics have changed since then.

And interesting that Lem who faced censorship by the State in Poland then faced censorship by the State of Writers in the USSA.

Well, the difference being that Polish censors could prevent his books from being printed and US writers could not.

eugene plawiuk said...

Lviv has been a Ukrainian city since the 14th Century. It was seceded to Poland after the end of the Lithuanian Empire rule in the region and with the rise of the power of Moscow under Catherine when she moved large populations of Germans and German Jews into the city. As Ukrainians suffered as second class citizens in Lviv under Polish Imperialism they were in the same class position as Irish in England, a servant class to the aristorcracy and bourgoise in the city.

Roman Werpachowski said...

Lviv has been a Ukrainian city since the 14th Century.

There was no Ukraine in the 14th century.

eugene plawiuk said...

Yes there was, it was an independent country even then.