Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Stanislaw Lem is Dead

Stanislaw Lem died Monday in his native Poland, his secretary said. He was 84.

Lem was one of the most visionary of 20th century science fiction authors. He wrote in a language other than English, and his works were translated from Polish into more than 40 other languages.

Lems books have sold 27 million copies.

His best-known work, Solaris, was adapted into films by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and by Steven Soderbergh in 2002. The latter starred George Clooney and Natascha McElhone.

His first important novel, Hospital of the Transfiguration, was censored by communist authorities for eight years before its release in 1956 amid a thaw following the death of Josef Stalin.

Lem also covered topics that would not be unfamiliar to Phillip K. Dick, who reported Lem to the FBI in 1964 as an undercover KGB operative who was using Science Fiction to spread Soviet Propaganda, and that he intended to kidnap Dick himself. The troubled Dick was at the time having one of his "difficult" periods.

If you are to read any Lem, try tracking down either "Solaris" or "the Futurological congress" the latter might be a little hard to find in the shops, as shortsighted stockists tend to only carry Solaris due to the recent movie.

With each obituary I post on this blog, I wonder, as I keep my ear pressed to the ground for the distant rumble of genius, who is replacing these people.

The spirit of the 20th century is nearly dead, and the new millenium begins to crawl, and its newborn visionaries with it. I wait with baited breath for their arrival, tearing through our collective cultural membrane.

Peace and Hope



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