Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Passing of Stansilaw Lem

One of my favorite science fiction authors, Stanislaw Lem, died yesterday. His stories were always unique, and original. Most of you will know him as the author of the story “Solaris.” Two different groups have made this story into a movie, including Andrei Tarkovsky, in 1972, and by Steven Soderbergh, in 2002. This last version starred George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. Both versions were visually stunning, and are an interesting exploration of the nature of love and grief.

My first introduction to his work is still probably my favorite, The Cyberiad. Here’s a bit from the Wikipedia entry:

The Cyberiad is a cycle of short, amusing and somewhat cartoonish science fiction stories by Stanisław Lem. It was first published in Polish in 1967, and in English in 1974. It details exploits of two robots, Trurl and Klapaucius, in a fictional universe populated practically entirely by intelligent and highly anthropomorphic robots (hence the name Cyberiad). However, some of the stories involve main characters other than these two, typically some knight trying to win the heart of a princess. The stories focus on problems of individuals and societies (as seen in the somewhat absurd fairy tale cum scifi framework) and on the vain search for human happiness through technological means.

I loved these stories. On first reading they were quirky and fun. They are deceptively simple. The ideas they explored were more about humans than robots.

He will be missed.

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