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Wiadomości - Dragon of Improbability

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Forum in English / SOLARIS and SPHERE
« dnia: Kwiecień 26, 2011, 07:36:05 pm »
As some of you probably know, Michael Crichton (who has been compared to Lem by the author of the Vitrifax Lem site on the topic of "the pleasures of made-up science") wrote SPHERE, a novel with a few similarities with SOLARIS. Richard Ellis, author of THE SEARCH FOR THE GIANT SQUID and MONSTERS OF THE SEA, descibed SPHERE as "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea meets 2001 meets Alien," while Roger Ebert, who watched the film version of SPHERE, called it a watered down version of SOLARIS (it's something when an American critic can tell when mainstream science-fiction borrows from high-brow science-fiction, especially Lem's fiction). How Crichton created a work with SOLARIS-like aspects, I don't know, but I do see that there are similarities, even though one book is a cerebral study of humanity's relationship to the unknowable, and the other book is a thriller with a similar theme in mind, but relies more on thrills and suspense nonetheless.

                                Both books take place a specially designed stations
 Characters from both books have repressed problems which are manifested by an alien thing.
                                   Both stories take place in watery environments.
However, in SPHERE  (which takes place in the middle of the Pacific ocean in a spaceship from the future, and not on a water planet), the scientists are incredibly petty, and the Sphere unfortunately manifests everything a person can imagine, including their fears, but only if that person manages to open the Sphere and enter it. With SOLARIS, the planet only manifest one particular person from a visitor's repressed memory. The abilities of Solaris are evidently more emotionally straining than the Sphere's, yet I admit that my favorite part of SPHERE is when a giant squid is manifested from one of the fears of Harry the mathematician. (I'm attracted to sea monster stories with plenty of imagination, but most sea monster books, mainly by Peter Benchley and Steve Alten, are pulp science fiction. I want to someday take the Lemian approach to sea monster stories, by writing the giant squid equivalent of THE STAR DIARIES).  Even though some of the characters from SOLARIS are rather egotistical and patronizing, SPHERE's characters behave like they shouldn't belong in the scientific field. Their pettiness, as I've mentioned before, consists of pseudo-scientific ambitions, efficient weapon discoveries, suspicions of racism and sexism, and severe levels of persecusion complex. I still like both books side by side, but I wonder how much Lem might have improved SPHERE with his own writing, even if it is sort of a watered-down horror version of the superior SOLARIS. While Crichton does tend to take himself a bit seriously, Lem is more sharply satirical than Crichton is, and Lem's satire always has a serious intent.

What are your thoughts, Solarists?

Forum in English / THE STAR DIARIES As Adapted into a Series of Short Films
« dnia: Kwiecień 26, 2011, 07:03:21 pm »
While it would be interesting to see THE STAR DIARIES adapted into a full length movie, personally, I would rather prefer THE STAR DIARIES being adapted into an avante-garde Polish  series of short films, or long films, kind of like THE DECOLOGUE (a series of ten film which I need to see at some point). I would also want to prefer to do a straight adaptation, because Lem deserves an adaptation that directly translates his science-fiction to film. On the other particulars would require some more imagination. What do you think, Lem fans?

Sorry, Terminus.  :(
   The language didn't sound like Polish to me for some reason. I've now learned my lesson. I am, however, REALLY happy that Lem story is being adapted into an animated film in the original Polish!   ;D

This is excellent! I love the short story, "Maska"!  When I read this story at the end of the Michael Kandel collection of Lem's robot fiction, MORTAL ENGINES, I found it to be very thought provoking. It's one of his sadder robot stories, yet it's one of his most sophisticated. I'm a bit in love with the robot protagonist. I was disappointed that she didn't make it to save her lover/victim in time, but it was a great ending. It does have some elements of FRANKENSTEIN and SOLARIS, and contains Lem's theme of robots having mortal feelings.

What language is the trailer in, anyway? Will it be available for U.S. distribution, or will it only be for European audiences?

I saw that Audible was selling an audio book of SOLARIS (though it was published by the BBC, but Audible was holding it). Does that mean that this version of SOLARIS is the Bill Johnston translation we've all been waiting for in audio book format before becoming an e-book, or is this an audio book of an earlier translation of SOLARIS?

Forum in English / Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
« dnia: 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.

Forum in English / Why Didn't/Hasn't Michael Kandel Translate(d) SOLARIS?
« dnia: Październik 08, 2010, 09:36:40 pm »
There's a thought that naggs me like a stone inside my shoe,
          Why didn't Michael Kandel translate SOLARIS? I know that there is an effort from Lem fans trying to encourage Kandel to translate the book properly, but why didn't he do it? Was it because he wasn't commissioned to do one? Was it because he found the other Lem books he translated to be more interesting than SOLARIS? Was it because it was already translated, even though it was a double and indirect translation? Why didn't he set the record straight by showing American audiences how SOLARIS is supposed to be translated?

(On a separate note, why did the translators chose the French edition of SOLARIS? Was it because it was more poetic, and they liked French better?)

         Back to Kandel, could it be that he hasn't attempted to translate it because he had no interest in it? Does this website keep a tab on Michael Kandel, and try to communicate with him just to see if he is interested?

        I wish that Kandel could publish a book on how to translate Polish books from his experience translating Lem (since Lem, as I've understood, uses a great deal of words which he borrowed and invented, and integrated into his own language), that way I could translate myself! (For private scholarly purposes, that is. No risk to infringe on copyright.)

Forum in English / Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
« dnia: Sierpień 21, 2010, 10:21:23 pm »
I disagree, Terminus.

DUNE is not nothing more than an ecology book. If it was, it wouldn't go deep into discussions on the combinations and manipulations of religion; the limitations of the superhero; the faults of political leaders; and the science of drug addiction, water preservation, space travel, mind consciousness, and time perception.

I know that Lem hates the idea discussing or approaching the idea's of another writer's work (especially if the work is below his standards for excellence), but, hypothetically, if Lem had handled aspects of DUNE himself, I suspect that he would try to be more scientific about the life cycle of the sandworms, the elemental composition of the spice, the unforeseen dangers of prolonged spice addiction or reliance, and the nature of Paul Atreides' oracular visions. Lem would also have explained the science of robotics in DUNE, how machines were able to think like humans in DUNE, and how scientists were able to dumb down machines so that another Holy War Against Thinking Machines would no longer be necessary.

Frank Herbert was more interested in how leaders manipulate situations to suit their own ends, and how the mistakes of authority figures and heroes are amplified by their followers. He also believed that superheroes would be even worse than regular heroes, because their mistakes are even more catastrophic.

If Stanislaw Lem wouldn't have liked the book, it could be because Frank Herbert doesn't appear to be critical of the hero figure for playing god and choosing the most destructive path for the future. It could also be because he would regard it as more science fantasy than science fact, and the reliance of adventure to progress the story. The exception with Herbert's adventure is that he relies more on complex characterization and psychological sophistication rather than on adventure alone.

Perhaps the deeper complexity of the book would be better perceived through a masterful Polish translation, with a Polish equivalent of Michael Kandel.

I rather see Lem as possibly being like a Guild Navigator, because Lem sees into the faults of human civilization the decisions it makes. Lem also has the ability to steer human thinking in a direction likened to a Navigator: he sees through all the complexities, and folds them to safer course. In the DUNE appendix, they have this to say about the Guild and other higher authorities on the nature of religion and human behavior:

"Any comparison of the religious beliefs dominant in the Imperium up to the time of Mua'Dib must start with the major forces which shaped those beliefs...
3. The agnostic ruling class (including the Guild) for whom religion was a kind of puppet show to amuse the populace and keep it docile, and who believed essentially that all phenomena-- even religious phenomena-- could be reduced to mechanical explanations."

Somehow, I sense the cyberneticists of THE CYBERIAD and a bit of Lem in the Spacing Guild (Except for the religious manipulation part). Lem would have attributed a lot of satirical/scientific commentary on the Guild (if he was alive and interested), but that wouldn't be something Lem would want to do.

Forum in English / Re: Book in original Polish
« dnia: Sierpień 04, 2010, 12:39:36 am »
This isn't Stanislaw Lem, this is Stanislaw ULAM! How could you do this to other Robots, Oh King Krool!

Forum in English / Guidelines For Lem-Inspired Stories?
« dnia: Sierpień 04, 2010, 12:37:10 am »
The Dragon has emerged from Nothingness again,

In the opinion of the most devoted Lem fans on Solaris Station: What are the guidelines to writing fiction (or science fiction) in the vein of Stanislaw Lem? More specifically: what are the steps required to write stories that are like Stanislaw Lem's?

Forum in English / Re: EDEN and HALF-LIFE
« dnia: 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.

Forum in English / Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
« dnia: Czerwiec 18, 2009, 03:30:12 am »
Judging by the lack of reply, there are no records of Lem reviewing Dune, are there? It's a shame, because I would have liked to have known what Lem's criticisms of the story, the characters, the science, and the relevance of the book would have been. Would Lem have observed more catostrophic consequences for the existence of a drug that would dominate the science and economy of a far too enormous universe? Would he have questioned the religious ban and hatred of thinking machines in this world? Would there have vast flaws in the ecology of Arrakis, the desery planet, and in the biology of the sand worms who inhabit the planet's dunes which Lem would have pointed out and discussed in an intense intellectual level? Last but not least, what relevance would Paul Mua'Dib's act of superman behavior and playing God upon the fanatical desery nomads of Dune and an hundreds of planets have had upon Lem's view of the politicians, leaders, and scientists of his time?

Forum in English / Re: A Mixed Bag of Questions
« dnia: Czerwiec 18, 2009, 03:18:14 am »
You've been trying to enlist the services of Kandel?! How successful have been your attempts so far? I would definitely love to see him translate the book, but meanwhile, the only way I can read the book as it is would be to borrow the original Polish edition from my college's neighbor, and try to translate it myself, though I remember when Kandel first tried to translate Lem for a Polish class, he encountered a word that was not in the Polish dictionary, but was a word that Lem either created or borrowed the word from other languages from the textbooks he read. I wish that Kandel would translate EDEN, because even though it is not as sophisticated as his future works, the essential idea of the world's organic mysteries and the alien race's anthropological ambiguities would be better appreciated in a much more masterful translation (unless there are complications in attempting so). We could also use more illustrated Lem books.

Forum in English / Re: A Mixed Bag of Questions
« dnia: Czerwiec 10, 2009, 01:33:20 am »
For some reason, none of the English publishers, nor even Michael Kandel himself, don't want to do another straight translation of Stanislaw Lem's books. It's a real shame, since I would have preferred to have Michael Kandel translate SOLARIS (he knows how to translate a book directly from Polish) then to read the double-translation from the French version (what were were translators thinking?!). I think that Lem's books are a high brow example of what science-fiction in America SHOULD try to follow, but there's no motivation here.

Forum in English / Re: A Mixed Bag of Questions
« dnia: Czerwiec 10, 2009, 01:26:05 am »
The internet could use more inspired and informative web sites on giant squid, in my view. That's another mystery of natural science which hasn't been totally understood, even though it's been seen alive only two times this century.

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