March 28th, 2006

Stanislaw Lem

Poland's science-fiction legend Stanislaw Lem has died.

Stanislaw Lem, 84, a Polish-born writer of "reality based" science fiction who tweaked Communist authorities and became one of the world's best-selling authors with books such as "Solaris" and "The Futurological Congress," died March 27 at a hospital in Krakow, Poland. He had a heart ailment.

Mr. Lem disliked having the phrase "science fiction" applied to his body of work, which included dozens of books, plays, collections of essays and a memoir. "I've always believed in science, but I write about the real world," he said. "So I write about what is happening, only in my own way, in my own terms." ...

One of many great minds to come out of Poland. (Other gifted Poles included Copernicus, Marie Curie, Joseph Conrad, and Russian-born space visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, who came from a large family of Polish immigrants.)

Random thoughts: My favorite Lem novels growing up were "His Master's Voice" and "The Investigation". I also enjoyed "The Cyberiad". I liked his way of making reality ambiguous - wrote a term paper on "The Investigation" for a high school lit class. No doubt I would understand his writing on a different level today, reading as an adult.

A couple of years ago I read his memoir, "Highcastle", and found it gripping and immensely moving.

Lem was, without a doubt, one of THE BEST science fiction writers ever. (Even if he disliked the label.) Go read his books if you get the chance.