dc: Me, in a pub.  (Default)
The English translation of Stanisław Lem's Solaris that's on sale everywhere is widely known to be not very good. (Lem himself was not happy with it.) Hardly surprising when it's a a translation of a French translation from the Polish that's apparently not brilliant. A guy called Bill Johnston has produced a new translation, more faithful to the original... but the catch is that the rights to the book are not owned by Lem's heirs but by the publisher, so it can't be published as a book. An audio book, though, is a different matter, and it's available.

The really good news is ebooks are also a different matter, so the new translation is available for Kindle and other readers. Nice! I have only had time to glance at it, but it seems fine with one or two small formatting errors (adjacent words run together; it's occasional, not constant from what I've looked at). It is pretty inexpensive, too. Other reader formats can be found via Premier Digital Publishing.
dc: (Doctor)
1. Hmm. In some ways, I’m not feeling too bad at the moment, although my sinuses (well, one of them) are still throbbing a bit after that recent URTI. What is much more troublesome is the energy problem just now: I seem to be running on about half my normal available energy most of the time, and, most days recently, it just plummets mid-afternoon. It’s getting so I practically pass out for a couple of hours. Not good, and a bit troubling given that we are just over two weeks away from Eastercon. I’m thinking that it might be a bit stupid to volunteer for anything, which I had been thinking I would like to do. Bugger.

2. My ribs are aching at the moment, but that’s because we have spent the past week catching up with Green Wing, which we unaccountably missed the first time it was shown. Good that C4 are reshowing it before series two starts on Friday; I don’t think it would make a lot of sense if you just dropped into it in the middle (although making sense is not really the first thing that comes to mind in connection with it). It probably should be slightly troubling that it reminds me of hospitals I have worked in, as well as some people I have come across.

3. One thing I have been wondering about is future technology, and how the way SF writers today see it will look in 30 or 40 years’ time. I suspect that it probably won’t look quite so dated as some of the stuff in SF from the 1960s — but who knows, perhaps it will. What prompted this is that two of the books I’ve read recently were written in the 60s: Solaris, by Lem (who died on Monday), and The Long Result by John Brunner.

Both these books are set some time in the future, the Brunner at least two or three hundred years, Solaris possibly further (it’s pretty indeterminate, but the planet itself was discovered something like a century and a half before the book starts, and it is clear there was already an established spacefaring culture then). Despite that, the most sophisticated forms of information storage envisioned by the authors are tapes and microfiche. It doesn’t impede enjoyment of the books, it just seems so… quaint. There is less of the jarring technology in The Long Result, probably because Brunner was actually thinking about the technology; Lem doesn’t seem to have been interested in that, what he was interested in was the encounter with the incomprehensible. For that reason, the occurrence of archaic technology isn’t so distracting as it might have been in another setting. Still, whenever I go back to Solaris, I find I have forgotten that this was published in 1960.

Things like the microfilm libraries, tape recorders, having to wait for the valves to warm up on a transmitter: these are all understandable given 1960s technology. I do sometimes wonder, though, what was in Lem’s mind when he envisioned a future where mankind has starships travelling far from Earth (Solaris being a planet of a binary star system hidden from Earth’s view by an interstellar dust cloud), and has the technology to float a scientific station over Solaris on gravitors, yet the protagonist gets from the starship to the station in a capsule which seems no more advanced than a Mercury or Voshkhod, even descending to the station on parachutes (which is incredible, really). But, as I say, he wasn’t focussed on the technology.

Looking around the stuff being published today, I wonder what will look quaint in 2046?

4. I know this is hardly a unique sentiment, but if I hear one more fuckwit film producer or academic type say of some piece of SF (literary or cinematic) that it isn’t really SF because it isn’t about spaceships and laser pistols or doesn’t involve expensive special effects, I’m inclined to start finding out names and addresses and set about purchasing things like baseball bats.

5. I am very amused that the idiot City Manager (what is that, anyway?) [livejournal.com profile] wibbble spoke of the other day has grasped that he has now been the subject of an article in The Register (I know, he was directly told, by [livejournal.com profile] wibbble if no one else, which I doubt, but even so I would not put money on him understanding that), and that as a result, many, many geeks are emailing him. He doesn’t like it and wants El Reg to make it stop. No, he didn’t say please.

6. Probably just as well I am low on energy at the moment, as it seems those bastard Tories and the Lords have caved on the ID card bill. Now, it would be good if the LibDem leader were to go around making a great ruckus about this and the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, to try to get across to the public what exactly this government is up to. Fat chance, I think. I wonder what the SNP will have to say on it.

7. And so to bed.
dc: (Doctor)
I’ve been thinking about writing something here about Solaris — the book and the two film adaptations — as I have finally steeled myself to watch (despite all my reservations) the recent Steven Soderbergh version with George Clooney. I still might. In any case, I have been refreshing my memory about not only Solaris but Lem in general. Last night I was running a system patch, and while that was going on I did a little surfing in that regard using Lynx. Today, I wanted to go back and do a little more, and so I went to one of the sites I looked at last night, the official Lem site.

The first thing I noticed was a photograph of Lem, which I (obviously) hadn’t seen last night. What I thought I would have noticed, though, was the caption: his name, and the years of his birth and death. When did he die? I thought. I hadn’t heard anything of his death. Then I really looked at the legend:

Stanislaw Lem
1921 -2006


The English language section of the site was not very helpful, having been last updated in 2004. A quick look around on the Net, though, revealed that Lem died yesterday.

BBC report
Leading The Charge (NSW) report
New York Times report (requires login)

It’s slightly depressing that the Australian site’s report begins with a paragraph which suggests that the fact that one of Lem’s novels was made into a movie starring George Clooney is the most notable thing about him, but all the reports, that one included, agree that Lem was one of the giants. I can still remember vividly the first time I saw Tarkovsky’s Solaris and the covers of the Penguin editions of some of his books (such as The Invincible — I wonder where that’s got to; I can remember hardly anything about the story now).

It would be good if his death stimulated publishers to arrange a new translation of Solaris — the English version we have is a translation of a French translation from the Polish, which is hardly satisfactory — but if the response from Faber & Faber quoted at lem.pl is still accurate, I think that may be a vain hope. Pity; a decent direct translation would be a good way to commemorate him.

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