An Introduction to Stanislaw Lem, the Great Polish Sci-Fi Writer, by Jonathan Lethem

1960s: Days of Rage

“Who was Stanislaw Lem? The Polish science fiction writer, novelist, essayist, and polymath may best be known for his 1961 novel Solaris (adapted for the screen by Andrei Tarkosvky in 1972 and again by Steven Soderbergh in 2014). Lem’s science fiction appealed broadly outside of SF fandom, attracting the likes of John Updike, who called his stories ‘marvelous’ and Lem a poet of ‘scientific terminology’ for readers ‘whose hearts beat faster when the Scientific American arrives each month.’ Updike’s characterization is but one version of Lem. There are several more, writes Jonathan Lethem in an essay for the London Review of Books, penned for Lem’s 100th anniversary – at least five different Lems with five different literary personalities. Only the first is a ‘hard science fiction writer,’ the genre originating not with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but ‘in H.G. Wells’ technological prognostications.’ Represented best in the pages…

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