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Stanislaw Lem: 1921-2006
March 27, 2006 8:54 AM   Subscribe

Stanislaw Lem: 1921-2006. Polish science-fiction giant Stanislaw Lem died this morning. He was 84. Though Lem was not as well known as Asimov or Heinlein or the other "Masters", he was just as important to the genre. Lem was not a fan of traditonal science-fiction, and in his work tried to approach futuristic themes from a more humanistic, almost psychological, perspective. (And his books are funny!) His best-known work, Solaris, was twice made into a film, most recently in 2002. [Woefully out-of-date official site.]
posted by jdroth (87 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jesus, it feels like the bad news just keeps coming recently.
posted by OmieWise at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2006


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one of my all time favorites
posted by puddles at 8:55 AM on March 27, 2006


Truly one of the greats. Little can compare to Cyberiad.

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posted by NucleophilicAttack at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Squid Voltaire at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2006


I'm not a huge SF fan, but I really like Lem. His books and short stories have an originality and uniqueness unlike any other author.
posted by justkevin at 8:57 AM on March 27, 2006


Awww, man. He was one of my all-time favorites, too. Rest in peace old friend.
posted by elendil71 at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Faint of Butt at 9:00 AM on March 27, 2006


"Some time ago crime was modest - take Al Capone and his mere two dozens of victims. Now we have the Independence Day movie, where alien spaceships murder almost the entire mankind. Some American producer claims now that his next picture will be even stronger. But what can be stronger? To murder an entire biosphere? This is so disgusting for me, that I decided to leave the street-car of science fiction on a stop of essay writing."
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posted by matteo at 9:01 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by dobbs at 9:02 AM on March 27, 2006


Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans by Stanislaw Lem
posted by matteo at 9:03 AM on March 27, 2006


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I didn't realize he was still alive.
posted by bshort at 9:05 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by seanyboy at 9:06 AM on March 27, 2006


I loved Solaris (the book).

I've always enjoyed saying Lem and Dick were the two giants of cerebral sci-fi. Mostly because saying "Lem and Dick" is fun.
posted by srboisvert at 9:06 AM on March 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


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posted by Eothele at 9:06 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by shoepal at 9:08 AM on March 27, 2006


Man, between this and Robert Jordan's illness, it hasn't been a good few days to be a nerd.

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posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by ubersturm at 9:11 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Artw at 9:14 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by sonofsamiam at 9:16 AM on March 27, 2006


Dick eventually tried to turn Lem into the FBI for being a commie. Nevermind that Lem didn't live in the US.

A Minneapolis theater company did an unbelievable stage adaptation of Terminus a few years back (sort of a self-link.)
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:17 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by bru at 9:17 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Espy Gillespie at 9:18 AM on March 27, 2006


a truly original voice in science fiction.
i wish i believed in heaven so i could imagine he's now chatting with asimov and bester and clarke, hunter s. thompson and, hell, benjamin franklin and socrates too.
we have his books. he'll live forever.
posted by Miles Long at 9:18 AM on March 27, 2006


Terrible news.
posted by boo_radley at 9:29 AM on March 27, 2006


Man. What an great writer. I've never read a book by him that wasn't amazing. Solaris. Chain of Chance. Memoirs found in a Bathtub freaked me out for weeks after I read it.
posted by octothorpe at 9:30 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:36 AM on March 27, 2006



posted by Eideteker at 9:37 AM on March 27, 2006


Oh crap! Dammit.

What a great author. Challenging. Visionary.
posted by lyam at 9:38 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:38 AM on March 27, 2006


No author has been so consistent at being able to jolt me and switch on a certain dark and weird part of my imagination like Lem.
posted by picea at 9:40 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Termite at 9:40 AM on March 27, 2006


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One of the greats. Abstract, brillant unrelenting imaginative flights.
posted by Skygazer at 9:48 AM on March 27, 2006


I am very sad.
posted by interrobang at 9:51 AM on March 27, 2006


Cyberiad, Solaris, and Manuscript Found in a Bathtub are three of my favourite sci-fi books. And Dick denounced Lem as not only being a commie, but a collective of communist spies all engaged in an intricate conspiracy to defraud him personally for unknown reasons.

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posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:54 AM on March 27, 2006


Memoirs Found in a Bathtub. I always get that one's name wrong.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:55 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by kalimac at 9:56 AM on March 27, 2006




I just quoted him in a proect I was working on last night. He was awesome.
posted by drezdn at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2006


Dammit. I have most of his books on my shelf and they suddenly look very forlorn.
posted by Vaska at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2006


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Rest in peace, Klapaucius and Trurl.
posted by wanderingmind at 10:02 AM on March 27, 2006


Damn.
Saturday I unpacked 300+ books I had in storage looking for one of his stories.
posted by Mitheral at 10:05 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by the Real Dan at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by kyrademon at 10:11 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by loquacious at 10:38 AM on March 27, 2006


Lem was a genius. He lived a long life. Rest in peace.
posted by troutfishing at 10:49 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by gurple at 10:56 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by n9 at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2006


I always thought I might be Pirx the Pilot. Lem was truly a genius.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:59 AM on March 27, 2006


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Just read his Cyberiad for the first time last year.

Reminds me of Sheckley's passing a few months ago, too.

This is what it's like to grow older...all the people you admire die. *sigh*
posted by darkstar at 11:00 AM on March 27, 2006


Stop whining, he just got really tired of us and went back to future where he belonged.
posted by Laotic at 11:04 AM on March 27, 2006


That is really sad. The Cyberiad was wonderful:

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

"And why not throw in a full exposition of the general theory of nonlinear automata while you're at it?" growled Trurl. "You can't give it such idiotic--"

But he didn't finish. A melodious voice filled the hall with the following:

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

(Credit to translator Kandel as well)
posted by blahblahblah at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


RIP
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posted by entropy at 11:07 AM on March 27, 2006


Damn. One of my favorite authors is dead. When I first read The Cyberiad, I was astounded. I've read nothing like that before or since. All of his books really exercised my brain, my imagination.

All of his extraterrestrial encounter stories and books did a great job of capturing the truly alien - how incomprehensible we might find them.

Now maybe his Summa Technologiae will get translated? Just looking at the table of contents gives me a pleasant headache.

Thank you Mr. Lem. For everything.
posted by vacapinta at 11:11 AM on March 27, 2006


I can believe in all sorts of things due to the work of Lem and his counterparts, so I can believe he's chatting with his peers in heaven ... or bouncing with them through the galaxy in wave form ... or whatever makes a good tale.
posted by farlane at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by adamt at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by dhartung at 11:15 AM on March 27, 2006


Lem was amazing.

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posted by Aster at 11:18 AM on March 27, 2006


I always really liked Lem - I think I've read all of his widely available work... though up to this point, I've never met anyone else who'd ever heard of him, except for the one bookstore employee who gave me a knowing nod and a "Yeah. Lem." He was totally unique.
posted by GuyZero at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2006


Memoirs Found in a Bathtub was one of those books that became dated after the Soviet Union collapsed, and then became relevant again in the 21st century. Just as a quick synopsis, Memoirs is superficially an account by an inhabitant of a self-sufficient underground military installation that has developed a culture of extreme paranoia.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:32 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by kolophon at 11:40 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Smart Dalek at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by carmina at 11:45 AM on March 27, 2006


And The Futurological Congress!

Poor old Ijon Tichy....

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posted by girandole at 11:47 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:48 AM on March 27, 2006


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posted by ooga_booga at 12:00 PM on March 27, 2006


This is a tragedy. From where I sit, writing this, I can see The Investigation, Return from the Stars, and The Star Diaries. Another dozen of his books sit in another room. Like several previous posters mentioned, his work Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is truly a masterpiece (Sorry, self link, I wrote the wikipedia entry.) Pirx the Pilot was my hero growing up, along with John Carter of Mars. Lem will be missed. :(
posted by nlindstrom at 12:31 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by eyeballkid at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Substrata at 1:08 PM on March 27, 2006


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Also one of my favs:-( RIP
posted by n0man at 1:12 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by muckster at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2006


I just mentioned him in an AskMe thread about ten minutes ago. Damn.
posted by jessamyn at 6:31 PM on March 27, 2006


Stanislaw Lem is Dead, Alas.

(And if you don't know, now you know.)
posted by 31d1 at 6:33 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by Grangousier at 6:37 PM on March 27, 2006


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It was a good innings, though. May we all achieve as much.
posted by Sparx at 7:07 PM on March 27, 2006


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This essay by Bruce Sterling remains one of my favourite things written about Stanislaw Lem.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:53 PM on March 27, 2006


Another great passes away... though I'll admit I never read more than Solaris, but still, it did make a mark or me back in college when I took the interdisciplary Russian Fantasy and Science Fiction class (which, incidentally, had a remarkably high number of CS majors in it trying to fill their humanities requirement ;)
posted by Chirael at 8:29 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by cellphone at 8:54 PM on March 27, 2006


So Stanisław's silenced. Salut, sweet scribe!
posted by rob511 at 9:22 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by dbiedny at 10:00 PM on March 27, 2006


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I'm very surprised to hear that Dick had problems with Lem, after Lem said such nice things about Clans of the Alphane Moon (while tearing apart a bunch of other hack writers).
Lem had the courage and drive to make aliens alien. I'm not sure it always worked, but I'm glad somebody tried!
posted by Aknaton at 10:15 PM on March 27, 2006


Go in peace, fair constructor. Your name will be known farther than those of the great Klapacious and Trurl.

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posted by teferi at 10:58 PM on March 27, 2006


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posted by asok at 3:37 AM on March 28, 2006


The Cyberiad was wonderful rollicking fun to read aloud -- especially the Steelypips -- and has become the source of many family in-jokes. We never did read another Lem aloud, but I've enjoyed every book of his I read for myself.

I'll keep my rather heretical views on the two Solaris movies to myself.

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posted by atholbrose at 7:14 AM on March 28, 2006


I'm coming in a little late for this, but I very much want to add my

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posted by Goblindegook at 9:12 AM on March 28, 2006


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posted by ChrisR at 10:39 AM on March 28, 2006


Well, it'll never be too late now.

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posted by fleacircus at 12:51 PM on March 28, 2006


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posted by edgeways at 3:35 PM on March 28, 2006





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posted by pointilist at 8:55 AM on March 29, 2006


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