Posted tagged ‘Stanislaw Lem’

Review: Solaris

July 22, 2008

It’s a few days late, but here’s the last part of my Readercon reading list.  Solaris is Stanislaw Lem’s most well known work, although not necessarily his best, and definitely not in the English translation.  From what I understand the English edition is a second generation translation (Polish to French to English) and a few large passages were cut out because it was thought they would be boring.  So the book starts off with one strike against it.

But there is a reason Lem is considered to be one of the greats.  It’s just ironic that a book which is so heavily focused on communication barriers has been so badly served by the same.  What manages to survive the translation process is still a great piece of science fiction.  The story is one of,the best first contact stories.  And it’s probably the best in terms of presenting an alien that truly earns the name.

The creature in question is the living ocean of the planet Solaris.  Throughout the course of the book, the sparse cast of three encounters a series of ghosts and visions that are their only form of communication with the alien…however the purpose of these visitations is never defined.  Instead the alien remains unknowable and human science reaches the limits of its capabilities.

Certainly not a story with a terribly wide appeal, but a masterpiece if you (like me) enjoy that sort of thing.

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Conreport: Readercon 19

July 21, 2008

I’m back from this year’s Readercon, and fighting off the effects of sleep deprivation so we’ll see how this goes.  The con was was always the most interesting and rewarding of the year, and yes that includes the library conferences I attend.  In fact nothing else even comes close.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Jonathan Lethem (my favorite author this week) was one of the guests of honor.  Although a disapointingly large portion of the conference seemed to be dedicated to making him defend the path of his career (from a genre author to a literary one according to quite a few critics).  There was even an entire hour dedicated to an interview on the subject (apart from the typical guest of honor interview).  However, the session was very revealing, both of Lethems views and of the regard that fandom holds him in.

Another interesting trend this year was a focus on modern horror, largely due to the inclusion at the convention of the first Shirley Jackson awards.  Hosting the awards ceremony at Readercon was great in that it attracted a number of newer writers to the con, and allowed for one of the highlights for me, namely getting to see Caitlin R. Kiernan recall the words to Come Sail Away (one of the odder panels).

As for other highlights for me.  The large focus on Stanislaw Lem, another of my favorite writers, particularly in regards to both his reoccuring theme of language barriers and the effects translators have on literature, with a lot of input from the great Michael Kandel.  There was a particularly good reading by Michael Swanwick and his wife Sunday morning.  And of course the Saturday night entertainment (two one act plays by guest of honor James Patrick Kelly followed by the annual Kirk Poland Memorial Bad Prose Competition) were a great cap to the entire thing.  I think I’m going to have nightmare of enduring Yves Meynard’s alphabetic onslaught on Robert E. Howard for quite some time (I think it took a good 10 minutes to fully recover my breathe from laughter after that).