Stanisław Lem - Forum

English => Forum in English => Wątek zaczęty przez: Dragon of Improbability w Czerwiec 06, 2009, 07:47:55 pm

Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w Czerwiec 06, 2009, 07:47:55 pm
Hello, Scribes of Lem, I am Dragon of Improbability, and I am excited by the chance I have now to talk to other Lem fans.

First, I want to begin by discussing the book EDEN, and even though Lem and others believe it's not very good (the idea was great, but the writing in my English translation is basic), for some reason the book had an indirect influence on the game HALF-LIFE.
For those of you who have never heard of HALF-LIFE, or who value books over games, let me explain. HALF-LIFE was a computer game from 1998 which was about an accident which took place in a scientific American facility in the state of New Mexico. The main character, a college physicist, Gordon Freeman, an intelligent geek who was responsible for the accident, but not responsible for the consequences of the experiment, tries to survive a facility overun by the most bizarre creatures imaginable: Head-crabs, Hound-eyes, Bull-squids, Maw-men, Vortigaunts, Tentacles, and Air Barnacles (creatures attached to the ceiling whose tongues wait to grab unsuspecting scientists).

The scientists of HALF-LIFE seem Lemian in their tremendous egos, childish imaturity, cowardice, and probably even social stupidity (This is all you fault, Trurl!) Later on, it's discovered these creatures came from another dimension which composes of planets known as The Border Worlds. The world you end up being teleported is Xen, and, like the planet of Eden, it is a strange world, with organic light posts that recoil and turn off if you approach them, large vegetation which could harm you if you are too close, the planet appears to operate with biotechnology, and just like the politics and anthropology of Eden, which puzzle the protagonists excessively, so does the customs and processes of Xen. The Border World creatures, especially Gonarch (the Big Momma) and the Nihilanth, do have the appearances that would make you think they were doublers.

Half-Life 2  tries to explain what the Border Worlds are in a more mysterious fashion, but I wish the game was written by a more Lemian inspired science-fiction writer, but not everyone has heard of Lem in the gaming world.

Also, do you remember when the scientists were horrified by the thought of the Doublers manufacturing members of their species? Well, in HALF-LIFE, a Xenian factory is manufacturing barrels of Alien Grunts, who were overseen by the Xen masters, the cerebral and extremely dangerous watchers of Xen.

I was bothered by how simplisitic the scientific group's approach to the planet was, since there were obviously conflicts on the planet that they didin't understand, and kept thinking they were trying to help. My favorite scene in the book is when they walk into the dark cave to try to contact the doublers, and whole crowd of Doubler people gang upon them, beat them up, and then leave.

 HALF-LIFE owes more to Stephen King's horror fiction, maybe some Michael Crichton, and of course, DOOM, a science-fiction horror game phenomena that I can only imagine Lem rewriting, or even satirizing, to convey his own points about PC gaming, religious matters, the science of the Phobos moon, and most especially, the complicated science of Hell (the imps have to oil the rocket launcher of the cyberdemon daily in order to prevent it from jamming and to protect his image as an unforgivable cyborg demon).

In some ways, the images in Lem's book about skeletons in eggs sound like precursor to H.R. Giger's alien drawings, though Giger was more influenced by his own experience and Lovecraft than Lem.  I would like to see either him or the art designers of HALF-LIFE illustrate EDEN, a much more up-to-date English translation of EDEN, even though is simpler than FIASCO (which I've read is a masterful Lemian piece).

In fact, it would be interesting if a independent non-profit gamer were to create a HALF-LIFE like game based off of EDEN, but it won't be a shooting game, it would be a game that would try to render every part of the book into a scripted sequence, and maybe even enhance the story with additional consequences, if the player further interfered with the hierarchy of the planet. It would be something to be able to convey the Doublers in a gaming world, though I would really want to see them drawn.

 A lot of science-fiction games would be smarter with Lemian imagination and consequences, even in this decade.

Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w Czerwiec 07, 2009, 07:54:13 pm
I guess nobody played the game, or they are not to anamored about EDEN, but it's a comparison I've wanted to work on lately. Has any Lemian considered doing illustrations set in the world of EDEN? It would have been great if Lem offered his own illustrations to a give a sense of the appearance of the Doublers, but Lem appeared to only reserve his drawings for THE STAR DIARIES. If there are artists among you, what would be your presentation of a Doubler?
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Terminus w Październik 20, 2009, 10:44:57 am
You have this peculiar habit of using word 'Lemian'. What exactly do you mean by it?  Is it a substitute for 'anything that's like anything Lem wrote about'? So it seems.
Concerning the quality of anglo-american SF, you should play a little with Lem's 'SciFi calculator', and then post here so you don't make a fool of yourself:)
Involving some Xen, ten dimensions, blah blah, in stories, doesn't enchace them in the ideological sense.
However, seeing some more games inspired by Lem would be nice. It is however unlikely. Games are still embarassingly simple when it comes to mechanism of player<->game interaction. What can you do in half life? Shoot & kill.
So, keeping that in mind, it is hard to imagine anything nontrivial, at least sufficiently nontrivial juxtaposed with complexity of Lem's ideas. On the  other hand, if we ignore the matter of poor interaction and strip the requirements down to just demanding a 'game that would allow me to walk around and see <put what you want here: eden, solaris...>, it doesn't make more sense than to make a movie or painting. Paintings are welcome (although scarce), movies... Well, I pity Holywood cinamatography so I won't continue.
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: wetal w Październik 21, 2009, 09:53:42 am
  Half Life is so archaic that almost nobody remembers the plot. I guess that all authors who deal with SF could have probably read at least Solaris. It is naturally that we find something common with Mr. Lem`s works, even feel pride saying where we saw some of the episodes. It would be cool if someone screened normally Futurological Congress... It`s my third favourite Lem`s book after Solaris and Cyberiad. It is sad to learn that todays youth reads less or even reads not at all.Knowing not Ukrainian untalking about Polish writers.
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Terminus w Październik 21, 2009, 03:21:55 pm
Hi Wetal, what do you mean in the last sentence? I'm afraid I didn't understand you. What about the Ukrainians?
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: wetal w Październik 27, 2009, 10:01:07 am
I mean that young people read less books and don`t know our writers unspeaking about foreign ones. I still can`t find Lem`s Ukrainian translation( you come to a book shop and ask for Ivan Bahrianyi and hear something like:"What?") . Demand gives rise to the offer as you know.
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Terminus w Październik 27, 2009, 10:34:39 am
Oh, ok, now I understand you. It was the word "unspeaking" that confused me, 'cause I don't quite know what it means - but OK now.
Yeah well, I see your point but I think it's less a problem and more an indication of what the proportion between real readers and non-readers really is. Nowadays those not interested in books may simply switch to reading crap-tabloid-portals about popculture stars' problems. But people who were keen on books won't turn away from them just like that. The habit of reading remains, and it will be passed to their children... not genetically of course:)
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Aldar w Marzec 24, 2010, 07:04:05 pm
BTW, in a recent animation movie "Planet 51", the little green boy's name is Lem.
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w Czerwiec 24, 2010, 10:51:18 pm
Okay, okay, maybe it wasn't a good idea to suggest a computer game based off of Eden. (I like the conception behind Eden a lot, but I wish it was better written than it was). Maybe it was also a stretch to think that an action shooter could have indirectly channeled aspects from the most obscure books from Lem's career.

I only thought that maybe there were similarities between the alien planets from Half-Life and from Eden. The Border Worlds and Xen are not too disimilar. For example, both worlds are governed by ambiguous and omnipotent beings who are mysterious, dangerous, operate anonimously, and are hardly seen to the point of seeming nonexistant.

The other similarities involve creatures who have additional body sections, similar to the extra torsos of the Doublers, and come in very different varieties (not all Border World creatures are Doubler-like, like Headcrabs or Houndeyes).

Also, the plant life of the Border Worlds are living, and react to strang beings similar to the grey trunk in Eden.

This is an even bigger stretch I am suggesting thus far, but the scientists in both Half-Life and Eden have no idea as to what creatures they are dealing with, and are prone to misinterpretation and miscalculation on how to approach these alien life forms.

Since I am a computer gamer as well as an inspired amateur intellectual, I thought it would be interesting to see the world of Eden expanded and explored through a game that resembles the original Half-Life, but relies more on inspired art design, exploration, and Lem story elements rather than tight corridors and gun blasts. No doubt about it, the violence would occur in Eden, but I think the player should have the freedom to not make the same mistakes as the scientists in the book do, and the game should reward nonviolent actions over violent confrontation.

It is possible to create games such as these. Ion Storms' Deus Ex rewarded the player for nonlethal actions, and Shiny Entertainment's Sacrifice demonstrated countless consequences for aligning with, disobeying, or upsetting various gods. A game based off of a Lem book, especially the least favorite of Lem books, could either be pulled off as a modification for another game, or as an indie game.

It might be a stretch to create an unconventional Half-Life-like game based of Eden which carries tons of unorthodox concepts, but it's a nice thought.
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: ArchMeteorologist w Listopad 11, 2010, 02:31:11 am
A curious discussion, but I think I HAVE to give my comments on a couple of issues touched upon here:

1) HALF-LIFE is certainly an archaic, but still revolutionary game, and was lagrerly based upon Stephen King's "The Mist".

2) I understand the English translation of Eden leaves something to be desired, but, believe it or not, the Russian translation of this book is just as brilliant as all the rest. Anyway, it is still a mystery for me why the english-speaking world keeps neglecting Lem's works.
Tytuł: Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w Listopad 28, 2010, 11:48:08 pm
HALF-LIFE is indeed based upon Stephen King's "The Mist." The concept of monstrosities unleashed upon the Earth from another dimension is owed to I believe H.P. Lovecraft (whose science-fiction/horror stories are almost as sophisticated as Lem's. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS qualifies as almost Lem-like in complexity). HALF-LIFE also was based off the premise of DOOM: where scientists on the Mars moon, Phobos, opened a portal to Hell, and unleashed demons upon the rest of the Martian moons and Earth. Primarily, it's influenced by "The Mist."

I'm interested that you said, ArchMeteorologist, that the Russian translation of EDEN renders the novel as brilliant as the rest of Lem's works. Maybe the new translator for SOLARIS will retranslate EDEN, so that English speakers could truly determine if Lem's early work is truly excellent, or as bad as he believes it is.

I liked the story Lem told about when he and his wife tried to lodge at a hotel, the host at first said that the inn was full, until he saw Lem's name written down. I believe he said "You're the one who wrote EDEN? I understand! I understand!" It seems that EDEN made more of an impact (on people behind the Iron Curtain, according to Lem) than someone would've realized, or Lem would've liked.

The Xen dimension, however, doesn't come from "The Mist." The dangerous flora and fauna in Xen are definitely influenced by King and Lovecraft, in terms of their uniquely grotesque appearance. The Big Momma, or Gonarch, Headcrabs, and Bullsquids are definitely in the vein of King and Lovecraft's ideas. The inhabitants of Xen are somewhat indescribable monsters, yet Xen itself feels more like something out of EDEN than a truly horrific place. The Xenians operate in a ambiguous anthropological/political behavior that is similar to the Doublers in EDEN. The Nihilinth, the Vortigaunts, Alien Controllers, and Alien Grunts are almost Doubler looking in appearance, due to their extra appendages (they may not have extra torsos, but its close enough). However, the politics and anthropology of Xen is simpler than that of EDEN (which says a lot) since the primary drive for the Xenians is amass alien soldiers, and invade Earth's dimension.

Despite Xen's seemingly simplicity, it does have its complexities. Xen, it is hinted, is likened to a totalitarian third world country in the Border Worlds, controlled by a powerful being that who almost as mysterious as the leader, or leaders, of EDEN. The Vortigaunts, Alien Slaves, are used into the ranks of the Xenian armies. While the leader, the Nihilinth, operates as a hidden omnipotent dictator, it was hinted by game developers that we was meager in comparison to creatures far more dangerous than he. I admit, the history and behavior of HALF-LIFE's aliens are not as complex as those in EDEN, or FIASCO, for that matter. Still, HALF-LIFE does something similar which Lem does is both EDEN and FIASCO: the game applies the politics of the modern world through the guise of an mysterious alien environment. I don't think Stephen King has gone to that degree in his horror fiction.