Stanisław Lem - Forum

English => Forum in English => Wątek zaczęty przez: Dragon of Improbability w Czerwiec 07, 2009, 10:50:25 pm

Tytuł: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w Czerwiec 07, 2009, 10:50:25 pm
Greetings. I am the new member currently under the title of Dragon of Improbability. Since I am new here, there are probably many questions that I have about Lem. I know that Lem wrote literary criticism about Heinlein and Philip K. Dick's science-fiction, but did he ever write any criticism about Frank Herbert's DUNE? I enjoy Lem's literary criticism, of both regular fiction and science fiction, but I am surprised that I haven't seen any criticisms by him of Herbert or the DUNE books. Has he ever written a criticism of DUNE, or ever read DUNE?
Tytuł: Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w 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?
Tytuł: Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Terminus w Październik 18, 2009, 01:45:19 am
Staying competent, one could only answer you with silence, since Lem died and we cannon guess his opinions. I am not familiar with any Lem's opinions about Dune.

Answering your questions from my personal POV would rather reveal more about myself than Lem; I can only judge basing on my (fundamentally incomplette) knowledge and imagination of his views. I don't want to go deeply into that. Briefly then, I guess Lem wouldn't enjoy Dune too much, probably because it (Dune) doesn't go to deep into exploration of Lem's "favourite" themes, such as the limits of human's perception, evolution of technology, futurology.
I don't expect Lem would appreciate the Messiah-alike ehtos of Muad'dib, since after all what Paul Atreides achieved was a revolution on a scale of a planet, transforming it, but staying well within the rationale of human mind, and tradition. Dune is a well crafted, complex vision but is not more discovering than a well crafted ecology handbook.
That, like I said, are just guesses.
Lem was highly critical of western Sci-Fi in general, so there aren't many his opinions out there. I gather he prefered to remain silent than laugh at it openly:)
Tytuł: Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Dragon of Improbability w 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.
Tytuł: Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Q w Sierpień 23, 2010, 01:26:16 pm
Dragon of Improbability, this is your viewing of Lem?
(Lem in a tank. Terminus first from the right. Q third from the left, hooded.)
Tytuł: Re: LEMIAN criticism of DUNE?
Wiadomość wysłana przez: Terminus w Sierpień 26, 2010, 03:15:30 pm
@Q: This is me
I don't see much resemblance :)

"Alive and iterested" would be a great song title:)
I generally agree, although you surely have noticed that we're only guessing Lem's opinion. Maybe Lem's son, Tomasz, could know something about it e.g. from talks they might have had, but I personally wouldn't go further into guesses.
My critical opinion about Dune was base on the fact that Lem rarely wrote books aimed at disclosure of humanity's shortcomings at present, rather tried to extrapolate into far future. In Dune, we start in fictional universe... That's not even humanity :) Like I said, it's a hard guess - would Lem be set aside by the gargantual ammount of fantasy surrounding the underlying themes of Dune - or would he appreciate the sociological-ecological-political depth of it.
Look at Lem's opinion about Tarkovsky's adaptation of Solaris. He crushed it, because Tarkovsky chose to color the story with few grains of his fantasy and emotionalism. The general correctness of the adaptation did not salvage the movie in Lem's eyes.
For that, and other reasons, I see Lem as ruthless critic, and that's why I said what I said...