It takes the death of one of my favourite authors to coax me back, albeit briefly, into cyberspace. I’d never had known, but that a geek over at the BBC had seen Solaris, or possibly was just a big George Clooney fan, and noted Lem’s death.
Lem was science fiction’s Pole star and one of Polish literature’s most thoughtful practitioners. Although, like Borges, Le Guin and Philip K. Dick (who denounced Lem to the FBI), he could turn the present on its side, and look at it through the future, he broke with his peers in having a wicked sense of humour. His tales of Pirx the Pilot, Fiasco, and One Human Minute (in which he calculates the breadth and velocity of the jet of human sperm currently being ejaculated) are some of the most darkly comic meditations on philosophy and the Cold War to have made it out from behind the Iron Curtain. We was also deeply critical of American SF, which motivated Dick to mount an attack against him, and which got Lem expelled from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Among the handful to protest this travesty was Ursula K. Le Guin, people’s hero. Lem’s thoughts on the matter: “it would be a lie to say the whole incident has enlarged my respect for SF writers.” Also, he’s the only SF writer to win the Medal of the White Eagle. More at the seemingly official online Temple of Lem.