While we try to bring attention to current and on-going events in international science fiction, it is also worth looking back, and what better way than with Istvan Csicsery-Ronay‘s Twenty-Two Answers and Two Postscripts: An Interview with Stanislaw Lem from 1986. Originally published in Science Fiction Studies, and translated into English by Marek Lugowski, the interview is a fascinating, in-depth examination of Lem’s philosophy, his thoughts on politics and writing, and much more besides:
As for the “fantastic/technological” or “scientific” ideas, the ones I regard as unrealizable have found their place in my grotesque, satiric, and humorous writings. On the other hand, novels such as Solaris, Eden, The Invincible, Fiasco, Katar [translated into English as Chain of Chance] and the “serious” ones contain none. I have avoided like the plague the problematic of “time travel,” “travel with infinite speed,” ESP, psychokinesis, et cetera, for the very simple reason that I don’t believe that they can come about. Similarly, “flying saucers” show up exclusively in my satire.
Gradually, however, in the 1960s, I started to synthesize the serious with the grotesque in the same works. The Futurological Congress is a depressing tale, but told funnily—i.e., with black humor. An even more thorough mix is found in The Scene of the Crime, and there, striking the correct balance was a big effort for me. And I consider the 21st Journey Ijon Tichy (with the robot-monks) to be one of my most “teleologically” serious works, one that I personally attach great importance to. It is, in a way, a very farsighted “futurology of religious faith” set in a heyday of technologies that allow thinking creatures to accomplish absolutely everything that Nature can accomplish and, furthermore, everything that is potentially possible, but which Nature does not realize directly. (Nature does not directly realize typewriters.) I always wondered why the critics never paid much attention or gave much interpretation to that work. – Read the rest of the interview.