This Is Not A
(I know, I should be hung, drawn and quoted for that, but you try
to think of a headline...)
(By the way, I'm thinking of merging this page with Obits'R'Us...)
News reached me this afternoon of the death of Stanisław Lem, one
of the masters of thinking science fiction. He was 84.
I only recently re-read all the Lem books I have in my collection
(about eight or nine - a mere fraction of his output), and once again
marvelled at the author's invention, his comedic touches and his moral
The invention occurred not only in his 'straight' SF, but in other
forms, too; although he didn't invent the genre by any means, his
volumes of reviews of books which didn't exist, or existed only in
potentia, allowed him to wax philosophical about humanity and its
His comedy was often compellingly funny; like the Twentieth Voyage
of his hapless cosmonaut Ijon Tichy (featured in The Star Diaries),
in which an attempt to tidy up history leads to time ending up not so
much out of joint as up the spout. This piece also contains some of the
most wonderfully groanful puns I've ever come across in fiction. That's
in the English translation - goodness only knows how it was in the
His moral sense - never hectoring, but always firm - allowed Lem to
use the Universe of his imagination to hold up a mirror to ourselves.
This was particularly useful when dealing with the apparatchiks of
Stalinist and post-Stalinist Poland, whose neutered imaginations could
be cleverly by-passed, but he never shirked from a critique of what we
delude ourselves is 'freedom'.
In short, Stanisław Lem was a very fine writer indeed, and I mourn
the passing of his talent from a world which needs it about as much as
it ever did.