One of the most profound experiences I’ve had with science fiction was reading Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris. There are many books that have left me astounded, and in turn, completely and hopelessly in love with the genre–one of the greatest being that novel, Solaris, by Lem. I won’t post spoilers here, should any of the readers want to check the book out themselves, but I’ll tell you this–our search for alien life may surprise us just like that. Do go read the book if you haven’t already.
No, please do not watch the movies instead (Solaris has been made into a movie three times). The films mostly dwell on the human side of things and don’t explore any of the astrobiology that makes up the stunning core of the book.
In fact, this is what Lem had to say about the movies –
“…to my best knowledge, the book was not dedicated to erotic problems of people in outer space… As Solaris’ author I shall allow myself to repeat that I only wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images. This is why the book was entitled “Solaris” and not “Love in Outer Space”.
Lem was born in Poland, in 1921 to a wealthy family. His father was a laryngolgist and former physician in the Austro-Hungarian Army.
- He was raised a Roman Catholic, but he later became an atheist. In his words, “for moral reasons … the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created … intentionally”. Lem called himself an “agnostic” later in life.
- He was not allowed to study at the Polytechnic as he wished because of his “bourgeois origin.”
- During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Lem’s family, which had Jewish roots, avoided imprisonment in a ghetto, surviving with false papers.
- Lem wrote science fiction, philosophy and satire.
- His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 45 million copies.
- Lem never had a high opinion of American science fiction, describing it as ill thought-out, poorly written, and interested more in making money than in ideas or new literary forms.
- Lem was awarded an honorary membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) in 1973, usually given to those who do not meet the criteria for regular membership. After his eventual American publication, when he became eligible for regular membership, his honorary membership was rescinded. Lem was invited to stay on with the organization with a regular membership, but declined.