R.I.P. Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem, much beloved by the other bipedal member of the Maud household, and best known as the author of Solaris, died earlier today at 84 after a battle with heart disease. (Via Bookninja, where George Murray calls him “one of the greatest spec writers of all time.”)

Excerpts from Lem’s autobiography appear at his official site. In one passage he explains how his first book, The Astronauts, came to be published.

In 1950 in the house of the Writers Union in Zakopane I met a certain fat gentleman and one day we went for a walk to the Czarny Staw. My companion was Jerzy Panski from the “Czytelnik” publishing house but I did not know it at that time. During our trip we talked about the absence of polish science fiction… Panski asked whether I was capable of writing such a book. I answered “yes” — not knowing who my companion was, thinking it was just an ordinary fat fellow who happened to be staying at the “Astoria”, just as I was. After some time, to my great surprise, I received an author’s agreement from “Czytelnik”. Having no idea what the book will be about I filled in the blank space with the word “Astronauts”… and in a quite short time I wrote my first book that was soon published.

Maybe the sad news will finally shame someone into publishing a proper English-language translation of Solaris. The image at the top of this post was taken from Mosnews.com, which published an interview with Lem in 2004.


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