Check out this month’s Words Without Borders, which has a focus on international science fiction. It includes works from Stanislaw Lem, Tomasz Kołodziejczak, Olga Slavnikova, Zoran Živković, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Machado de Assis, Liu Cixin, Tomasz Kołodziejczak, Pablo A. Castro, Muhammad Husain Jah, José Eugenio Sánchez, and Carmen Firan.
I’d also like to thank all the translators who worked on the magazine.
You can read them here.
Stanislaw Lem‘s classic essay, translated from the Polish by Robert Abernathy, is online at the Science Fiction Studies archives.
If anyone is dissatisfied with SF in its role as an examiner of the future and of civilization, there is no way to make an analogous move from literary oversimplifications to full-fledged art, because there is no court of appeal from this genre. There would be no harm in this, save that American SF, exploiting its exceptional status, lays claim to occupy the pinnacles of art and thought. One is annoyed by the pretentiousness of a genre which fends off accusations of primitivism by pleading its entertainment character and then, once such accusations have been silenced, renews its overweening claims. By being one thing and purporting to be another, SF promotes a mystification which, moreover, goes on with the tacit consent of readers and public. – read the rest of the essay.
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.