Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label science fiction. Show all posts

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Nigel Kneale: "I never really saw myself as writing science fiction anyway"


Thomas Nigel Kneale was born in Barrow-in-Furness on 28 April 1922. The same year saw the formation of the BBC, with which he would be closely linked throughout his early career.

In 1928 Kneale moved with his parents back to their native Isle of Man, where he spent the rest of his formative years.

After briefly considering a legal career, in 1946 he moved to London to study acting at RADA. But after winning the prestigious Somerset Maugham prize for 'Tomato Cain', his 1949 collection of macabre stories, he turned to writing full-time. Kneale's first original script was 'The Long Stairs' (1/3/1950), a radio play based on a true-life mining disaster on the Isle of Man. The following year he joined the emerging BBC Television service, initially working as an all-purpose staff writer
.

Soon dissatisfied with the overly theatrical style demanded for most of his assignments, Kneale found an ideal collaborator in the ambitious wunderkind producer Rudolph Cartier, beginning a partnership that would continue throughout the 1950s. Their breakthrough success, produced quickly to fill an unexpected gap in the schedules, was The Quatermass Experiment (BBC 1953), the first of four densely layered, vividly imagined tales about the eponymous rocket scientist that remain among Kneale's best-known work. A groundbreaking serial combining intellectual science fiction and visceral horror in a (more or less) contemporary setting, it proved enormously influential. It also gave the first real indication of Kneale's great acuity in depicting alienated and lonely people, displaced in place or time. Such characters recur in works as different as The Creature (BBC 30/1/1955), in which the Yeti turns out to be a telepathic, separately evolved form of humanity awaiting its time to inherit the earth; The Stone Tape (BBC 25/12/1972), in which the abandoned heroine dies after being psychically drawn to an ancient past; and even in Kneale's final script, 'Ancient History' (ITV, Kavanagh QC, 17/1/1997), in which the apparently smiling face of a concentration survivor proves to be the frozen rictus of a lonely and terrified woman who was murdered and brought back to life over and over again in the name of Nazi science.

The peaks of Cartier and Kneale's partnership include a brooding Wuthering Heights (BBC 6/12/1953) and their extraordinarily ambitious Nineteen Eighty-Four (BBC 12/12/1954), from George Orwell's celebrated dystopian, anti-totalitarian novel. The controversial broadcast, with its powerful rendition of Winston Smith's torture in Room 101, was an even greater success than Quatermass, which was by then being turned into the low-budget feature The Quatermass Xperiment (d. Val Guest, 1955) by Hammer Studios. It was a box office hit, though Kneale disliked the changes writer-director Guest made to the serial. As a result, when Hammer optioned the rights to the sequel, Quatermass II (BBC 22/10-26/11/1955), Kneale himself provided the screenplay, which neatly streamlined the original's topical mixture of anxiety over 'New Town' developments and nuclear testing into a story about a secret alien invasion of Earth.


Quatermass and the Pit (BBC 1958-59), the most ambitious and probably the finest of Kneale's science fiction serials, was a fitting end to his work with Cartier. This time the alien invasion has occurred some five million years in the past, allowing Kneale to explore, with dazzling imaginative force, his favourite territory - the intersection of science, superstition and human frailty.

Increasingly dissatisfied with his BBC contract, Kneale left to pursue a career writing screenplays for the cinema, starting with Tony Richardson's Look Back in Anger (1959) and The Entertainer (1960), both intelligently 'opened out' adaptations of John Osborne's plays. He then worked on the more conventional if well upholstered costume epic H.M.S. Defiant (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1962), starring Alec Guinness and Dirk Bogarde and First Men in the Moon (d. Nathan Juran, 1964), a lightweight but enjoyable adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel that served mainly as a showcase for Ray Harryhausen's marvellous optical effects. Kneale returned to Hammer for The Witches (d. Cyril Frankel, 1966), a straightforward horror story about a contemporary coven of devil worshippers, and the belated Quatermass and the Pit (d. Roy Ward Baker, 1967), easily the best film adaptation of his television work thanks to his own script and a decent budget. During this time the BBC produced Kneale's 'The Road' (First Night, BBC 29/9/1963), an ingenious story about 18th century villagers haunted by a future nuclear holocaust; sadly no recording of it is known to survive.

Kneale returned to the BBC with 'The Year of the Sex Olympics' (Theatre 625, BBC, 29/7/1968), a prophetic and trenchant satire on the increasing power of mass media that anticipated such television phenomena as Big Brother (Channel 4, 2000- ) and Celebrity Love Island (ITV, 2005- ). Although this was Kneale's first television work in colour, only a black and white copy survives. The Stone Tape, a brilliantly executed scientific ghost story, ranks amongst his very finest achievements, but was almost his final work for the BBC. After the last-minute cancellation of a new Quatermass serial and The Big, Big Giggle, about a teenage suicide cult, Kneale left the Corporation for good. Under the auspices of production executive Ted Childs, he would pen all his remaining television scripts for ITV.

Kneale's work for ITV shows an increasing shift towards a more character-based and less conceptual approach, as evidenced by the somewhat variable six-part anthology Beasts (ITV, 1976), best known for the chilling 'During Barty's Party' (23/10/1976), and 'Ladies Night', (Unnatural Causes, ITV 6/12/1986), a satire on misogyny. Its director, Herbert Wise, later worked with Kneale on the excellent period ghost story The Woman in Black (ITV 24/12/1989), taken from Susan Hill's novel. Childs finally produced the long-delayed Quatermass serial at Euston Films, not only as a four-part serial but also in a movie version (retitled The Quatermass Conclusion); Kneale also used the story as the basis for 'Quatermass', his only novel. Although lavishly produced, Quatermass (ITV, 1979) met with a somewhat muted response, perhaps because its gloomy tale of a future society in disarray was perceived as being unduly misanthropic, an accusation also levelled at Kinvig (ITV, 1981), Kneale's only sitcom, and seemingly his greatest departure.


After a disappointing Hollywood sojourn that only generated Halloween III: Season of the Witch (US, 1983), from which he had his name removed, Kneale returned to work with Ted Childs on a variety of assignments including a feature-length episode of the Napoleonic Wars swashbuckler Sharpe (ITV, 1993-97; 2006) and a four-part adaptation of Kingsley Amis's difficult late novel Stanley and the Women (ITV, 1991) that was largely successful in toning down the original's pronounced anti-feminism.

In 2005 the broadcast of a new adaptation of The Quatermass Experiment (BBC 6/4/2005) performed as a rare experiment in live TV drama served as an effective reminder of Kneale's fertility of invention and his seminal role in the development of British television.

Sergio Angelini.

Television credits: ARROW TO THE HEART-BBC 20/7/1952-additional dialogue-MYSTERY STORY-BBC 17/8/1952-adaptation-THE CATHEDRAL-BBC 26/10/1952-adaptation-THE LAKE-BBC 29/3/1953-adaptation (uncredited)-THE AFFAIR AT ASSINO-BBC 1/1/1953-adaptation-THE COMMONPLACE HEART-BBC 13/1/1953-adaptation-WEDNESDAY THEATRE: Curtain Down-BBC 21/1/1953-script-NUMBER THREE-BBC 1/2/1953-adaptation-THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT-BBC 18/7-22/8/1953 (6 pts)-script-GOLDEN RAIN-BBC 2/8/1953-adaptation-WUTHERING HEIGHTS-BBC 6/12/1953-adaptation-NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR-BBC 12/12/1954-adapted for television by-THE CREATURE-BBC 30/1/1955-script-THE MOMENT OF TRUTH-BBC 10/3/1955-adaptation-QUATERMASS II-BBC 22/4-26/6/1955 (6 pts)-script-SUNDAY-NIGHT THEATRE: ARROW TO THE HEART-BBC 1956-additional dialogue-MRS WICKENS IN THE FALL-BBC 8/8/1957-script-QUATERMASS AND THE PIT-BBC 22/12-26/1/1959 (6 pts)-screenplay-PANORAMA-BBC 26/1/1959-on-screen participant-WUTHERING HEIGHTS-BBC 11/5/1962-screenplay-FIRST NIGHT: The Road-BBC 29/9/1963-script-STUDIO 64: The Crunch-ITV 19/1/1964-script-LATE NIGHT LINE-UP-BBC2 27/11/1965-on-screen participant-THEATRE 625: The World of George Orwell: 1984-BBC2 28/11/1965-script-THEATRE 625: The Year of the Sex Olympics-BBC2 29/7/1968-script-THE WEDNESDAY PLAY: Bam! Pow! Zap!-BBC1 5/3/1969-script-THE WEDNESDAY PLAY: The Wine of India-BBC 15/4/1970-script-OUT OF THE UNKNOWN: The Chopper-BBC2 16/6/1971-script-THE STONE TAPE-BBC2 25/12/1972-script-BEDTIME STORIES: Jack and the Beanstalk-BBC2 24/3/1974-script-AGAINST THE CROWD: Murrain-ITV 27/7/1975-script-BEASTS-ITV 16/10-20/11/1976 (6 edns)-script-THE BOOK PROGRAMME: Tales of Horror-BBC2 16/12/1976-interviewee-LATE NIGHT STORY: The Photograph-BBC2 24/12/1978-script-QUATERMASS-ITV 24/10-14/11/1979 (4 pts)-screenplay-KINVIG-ITV 4/9-16/10/1981 (7 eps)-script-UNNATURAL CAUSES: Ladies' Night-ITV 6/12/1986-script-THE ITV PLAY: Gentry-BBC 31/7/1988-script-THE WOMAN IN BLACK-BBC 24/12/1989-screenplay-STANLEY AND THE WOMEN-BBC 28/11-19/12/1991 (4 pts)-script-THE LATE SHOW: Rudolph Cartier: Television Pioneer-BBC2 1/7/1994-interviewee-SHARPE: Sharpe's Gold-ITV 12/4/1995-adaptation-KAVANAGH Q.C.: Ancient History-ITV 17/3/1997-script-SF:UK: When Aliens Attack-Channel 4 1/4/2001-on-screen participant-SF:UK: Big Brother Goes Hardcore-Channel 4 1/4/2001-on-screen participant-TIMESHIFT: Watching You-BBC Four 22/5/2003-on-screen participant-THE KNEALE TAPES-BBC Four 15/10/2003-interviewee-TIMESHIFT: Fantasy 60s-BBC Four 26/6/2004-interviewee-THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT-BBC Four 2/4/2005-original script-TIMESHIFT: Live on the Night-BBC Four 2/4/2005-interviewee.

Film credits: THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT/THE CREEPING UNKNOWN/SHOCK!!-1955-original television play-QUATERMASS 2/ENEMY FROM SPACE-1957-screenplay/original story-THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN/THE SNOW CREATURE/THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN OF THE HIMALAYAS-1957-screenplay/story-LOOK BACK IN ANGER-1959-screenplay-THE ENTERTAINER-1960-screenplay-H.M.S. DEFIANT/DAMN THE DEFIANT/THE MUTINEERS-1962-screenplay-FIRST MEN IN THE MOON UK/US, 1964-screenplay-THE WITCHES/THE DEVIL'S OWN-1966-screenplay-QUATERMASS AND THE PIT/FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH-1967-screenplay/original story-THE QUATERMASS CONCLUSION-1978-script-HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH-1982-script.

Radio credits: STORIES BY NORTHERN AUTHORS: Tomato Cain-1946-writer/reader-THE LONG STAIRS-1/3/1950-script-THE QUATERMASS MEMOIRS-1996-script.

Bibliography: TOMATO CAIN AND OTHER STORIES-1949-writer-QUATERMASS-1979-writer.

Further information here, here & here. Video content here, here & here.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Logan's Run — A film by Michael Anderson

P.A. System: Capricorn 15's. Born 2244. Enter the Carousel. This is the time of renewal [Crowd applauds] - P.A. System: Be strong and you will be renewed. Identify [Capricorn 15's show flashing crystals]


In a hermetically sealed post-apocalyptic urban environment several centuries hence, Logan 5 (Michael York) and his friend Francis 7 (Richard Jordan) lead unquestioning lives of hedonism.

Entertainment comes in the form of casual sexual liaisons and gladiatorial games in which those who do not wish to undergo euthanasia at the age of 30 vie for the illusory chance of continued life.

As "sandmen," Logan and Francis are charged with tracking down and killing "runners" -- those citizens who will submit to neither "renewal" (a peaceful death) nor "carousel" (a gladiatorial battle) when their time comes.

When Logan grows intrigued by a beautiful young woman, Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter), who plans to become a runner, he is forced to question the fundamental principles of his society.

And when his superiors force him to pose as a runner himself to weed out Jessica's guerilla underground, Logan finds himself fleeing the city in search of a mythical place called Sanctuary, where people are allowed to live out their natural spans.


Directed by Michael Anderson. Produced by Saul David. Screenplay by David Zelag Goodman Based on 'Logan's Run' by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Starring: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, Peter Ustinov. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Cinematography by Ernest Laszlo. Editing by Bob Wyman. Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Distributed by United Artists. Release date(s): June 23, 1976. Running time: 119 minutes. Country: United States. Language: English.


Michael Anderson: After serving in the Second World War, Anderson first developed his career in British films, becoming a director in 1949 and enjoying his first success with the war movie The Dam Busters (1954). The Dam Busters made good use of limited special effects and is often cited as an inspiration for the climax of the first Star Wars film. He directed the first cinema adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 (1956) and Around the World in Eighty Days (1956), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his direction. He also directed the 1968 film The Shoes of the Fisherman starring Anthony Quinn, Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud.

He settled in Hollywood, California, making such science fiction offerings as Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) and Logan’s Run (1976). Logan’s Run was an expensive box-office success, contributing a box office of $50 million worldwide and boosting sales for its distributor, Metro Goldwyn Mayer. It has gone on to enjoy a cult status. He also directed Orca (1977). Anderson’s later work was mostly made-for-television miniseries, including The Martian Chronicles (1980) and Sword of Gideon (1986). In 1988, he directed Bottega dell’orefice (The Jeweler’s Shop), based on the 1960 play written by Karol Wojtyła (later Pope John Paul II). Other films he has directed include All The Fine Young Cannibals (1960), Flight from Ashiya (1964), The Quiller Memorandum (1966), The Yangtse Incident (1956) and a film adaptation of Conduct Unbecoming (1975).

"The Assignment/Lost Years" OST; Jerry Goldsmith:


"She'll Do It/Let Me Help" OST; Jerry Goldsmith:


"They're Watching/Doc is Dead" OST; Jerry Goldsmith:


Further information here, here & here.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

J. G. Ballard


“Civilised life, you know, is based on a huge number of illusions in which we all collaborate willingly. The trouble is we forget after a while that they are illusions and we are deeply shocked when reality is torn down around us”



Novelist, essayist and short-story writer James Graham Ballard was born in Shanghai, China on 15 November 1930. His family was interned by the Japanese during the Second World War, returning to Britain in 1946. Ballard read Medicine at King's College, Cambridge, and later studied English at London University.

He worked as a copywriter and was stationed in Canada with the Royal Air Force. His first short story was published in 1956. This and many other short stories were published in science fiction magazines and were heavily influenced by the surrealist movement. The short story is seen by many critics as central to Ballard's work, originating and developing themes and obsessions that progress through into his novels. The dislocated sense of time and space in these stories is located in his childhood experience of war and provides many of the images that have become associated with Ballard's fiction: wrecked machinery, deserted beaches, crashed cars, abandoned buildings and empty, desolate landscapes - 'still-life arranged by a demolition squad' as Ballard himself described his settings in an interview with BBC Radio 3 ('Nightwaves' 30 October 2001). Complete Short Stories was published in 2001, and a second volume of stories in 2006.



His early novels include The Drowned World (1962), The Wind from Nowhere (1962), The Drought (1965) and The Crystal World (1966). These were followed by more experimental novels, such as The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975), establishing Ballard's reputation with both readers and critics as a cult avant-garde writer. His 1973 novel Crash, in which a car-crash provokes a disturbing series of obsessions in the narrator, was made into a film by David Cronenberg.

Ballard's acclaimed and best-selling novel Empire of the Sun (1984) brought him to wider public attention. The novel drew directly on his childhood wartime experiences and won the Guardian Fiction Prize, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for fiction) and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. It was made into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1988.

Cocaine Nights (1996), a thriller set in a community of expatriates living on the Spanish Costa del Sol, was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award. His novel, Super-Cannes (2000), a vision of corporate dystopia set in the south of France, won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book). His novel Millennium People (2003), is a tale of violent political protest and social change. J. G. Ballard's last novel was Kingdom Come (2006). In 2008, his autobiography, Miracles of Life, was published.

James Graham Ballard, novelist, born November 15 1930, died, after a long battle with cancer, on 19 April 2009.



Selected bibliography, in reverse order... 2008 Miracles of Life, Fourth Estate. 2006 Kingdom Come, Fourth Estate. 2006 Complete Short Stories: Volume 2, Harper Perennial. 2005 Conversations, with V. Vale, RE/Search Publications. 2003 Millennium People, Flamingo. 2001 Complete Short Stories, Flamingo. 2000 Super-Cannes, Flamingo. 1996 Cocaine Nights, Flamingo. 1995 A User's Guide to the Millennium: Essays and Reviews, Harper Collins. 1994 Rushing to Paradise, Flamingo. 1992 The Voices of Time, Orion. 1991 The Kindness of Women, Harper Collins. 1990 War Fever, Collins. 1988 Running Wild, Hutchinson. 1987 The Day of Creation, Gollancz. 1984 Empire of the Sun, Gollancz. 1982 Myths of the Near Future, Cape. 1981 Hello America, Cape. 1980 The Venus Hunters, Granada. 1979 The Unlimited Dream Company, Cape. 1976 Low-flying Aircraft: and Other Stories, Cape. 1975 High-Rise, Cape. 1974 Concrete Island, Cape. 1973 Vermilion Sands, Cape. 1973 Crash, Cape. 1970 The Atrocity Exhibition, Cape. 1967 The Overloaded Man, Cape. 1967 The Disaster Area, Cape. 1967 The Day of Forever, Panther. 1966 The Crystal World, Cape. 1965 The Drought, Cape. 1964 The Terminal Beach, Gollancz. 1963 The Four-Dimensional Nightmare, Gollancz. 1962 The Drowned World, Gollancz. 1961 The Wind from Nowhere, Gollancz.



“I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that's my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again ... the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul”


Further information here, here & here.

Video content here, here & here.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Philip K. Dick

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away"

Philip Kindred Dick was born in Chicago, December 1928, along with a twin sister, Jane Charlotte Dick. Jane died less than eight weeks later, allegedly from an allergy to mother's milk. Dick's parents split up during his childhood, and he moved with his mother to Berkeley, California, where he lived for most of the rest of his life.

Dick became a published author in 1952. His first sale was the short story "Roog." His first novel, "Solar Lottery," appeared in 1955. Dick produced an astonishing amount of material during the 1950s and 1960s, writing and selling nearly a hundred short stories and some two dozen or so novels during this period, including "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", "Time Out Of Joint", and the Hugo-award winning "The Man In The High Castle".


A supremely chaotic personal life (Dick was married five times) along with drug experimentation, sidetracked Dick's career in the early 1970s. Dick would later maintain that reports of his drug use had been greatly exaggerated by sensationalistic colleagues. In any event, after a layoff of several years, Dick returned to action in 1974 with the Campbell award-winning novel "Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said". Perhaps more importantly, though, this same year Dick would have a profound religious experience that would forever alter his life.

Dick's final years were haunted by what he alleged to be a 1974 visitation from God, or at least a God-like being. Dick spent the rest of his life writing copious journals regarding the visitation and his interpretations of the event.

At times, Dick seemed to regard it as a divine revelation and, at other times, he believed it to be a sign of extreme schizophrenic behaviour. His final novels all deal in some way with the entity he saw in 1974, especially "Valis," in which the title-character is an extraterrestrial God-like machine that chooses to make contact with a hopelessly schizophrenic, possibly drug-addled and decidedly mixed-up science fiction writer named Philip K. Dick.


"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words"

Despite his award-winning novels and almost universal acclaim from within the science-fiction community, Dick was never especially financially successful as a writer.

He worked mainly for low-paying science-fiction publishers and never seemed to see any royalties from his novels after the advance had been paid, no matter how many copies they sold. In fact, one of the reasons for his extreme productivity was that he always seemed to need the advance money from his next story or novel in order to make ends meet.

But towards the very end of his life, he achieved a measure of financial stability, partly due to the money he received from the producers of Blade Runner (1982) for the rights to his novel "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" upon which the film was based. Shortly before the film premiered, however, he died of a heart attack at the age of 53. Since his death, several other films have been adapted from his works and several unpublished novels have been published posthumously.

Mini Biography By: Rudyard Kennedy.



A Talk With Philip K. Dick, Mike Hodel, 1976:




Novels by year of composition:

1950 Gather Yourselves Together

1952 Voices from the Street
1953 Vulcan's Hammer
1953 Dr. Futurity
1953 The Cosmic Puppets
1954 Solar Lottery
1954 Mary and the Giant
1954 The World Jones Made
1955 Eye in the Sky
1955 The Man Who Japed
1956 A Time for George Stavros
1956 Pilgrim on the Hill
1956 The Broken Bubble
1957 Puttering About in a Small Land
1958 Nicholas and the Higs
1958 Time Out of Joint
1958 In Milton Lumky Territory
1959 Confessions of a Crap Artist
1960 The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike
1960 Humpty Dumpty in Oakland
1961 The Man in the High Castle
1962 We Can Build You
1962 Martian Time-Slip
1963 Dr. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb
1963 The Game-Players of Titan
1963 The Simulacra
1963 The Crack in Space
1963 Now Wait for Last Year
1964 Clans of the Alphane Moon
1964 The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
1964 The Zap Gun
1964 The Penultimate Truth
1964 Deus Irae
1964 The Unteleported Man
1965 The Ganymede Takeover
1965 Counter-Clock World
1966 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
1966 Nick and the Glimmung
1966 Ubik
1968 Galactic Pot-Healer
1968 A Maze of Death
1969 Our Friends from Frolix 8
1970 Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said
1973 A Scanner Darkly
1976 Radio Free Albemuth
1978 VALIS
1980 The Divine Invasion
1981 The Transmigration of Timothy Archer


Further information here, here and here.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Stanisław Lem

"The ancients used to say: mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur — the world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived."


Stanisław Lem was born in Lwów (now Lviv, Ukraine) as the son of Samuel Lem, a prosperous physician (a laryngologist). The family lived on the second floor of Number Four of Brajerska Street. In his childhood Lew was a voracious reader - he read poetry, novels, popular science books, and his father's anatomy books. During the war and Nazi occupation Lem worked as a car mechanic and welder, and was a member of the resistance fighting against the Germans. With false papers that concealed his Jewish origins, he avoided concentrations camps. Toward the end of the war Poland was occupied by the Red Army and the country was closely controlled by the Soviet Union for the next 50 years. In 1946 Lem moved from Lwów to Kraców. His family had lost all of their possessions in the course of the war.

After finishing his studies Lem received his MD. He worked a research assistant in a scientific institution and started to write stories on his spare time. He also wrote articles in the professional press. In 1953, he married Barbara Lesniak, a young student of medicine.

In the beginning of his career Lem published lyrical verse, essays on scientific method and realistic novels. His first work was a story CZLOWIEK Z MARSA (1946), which appeared in a magazine. In the 1950s Lem turned seriously into science fiction, publishing ASTRONAUCI (1951), OBLOK MAGELANA (1955), and EDEN (1959), a prophecy in which five ship-wrecked space traveling scientist explore a world where chemical manipulation is a part of the social lassez-faire. He had written in 1948-49 a three-volume autobiographical novel CZAS NIEUTRACONY, but it did not appear until 1957 - due to its first volume which was a problem for the censor. Hospital of the Transfiguration, a novel set in a mental institution, was not published until 1956, three years after Stalin's death.


In the 1960s Lem was very productive: he wrote among others CYBERIADA (1965, The Cyberiad), a satire in in which two robots have too creative talents, OPOWIESCI O PILOCIE PIRXIE (1968), stories about Pilot Pirx, and SUMMA TECHNOLOGIAE (1964), philosophical essays on cybernetics and biology. BAJKI ROBOTÓW (1964) was a mixture of fairy tales, social satire, and science fiction, in which highly developed artificial beings have all the negative personal and societal traits of human beings. "The theme he stresses in most of his work," wrote Phil José Farmer in The New York Times, "is that machines will someday be as human as Homo sapiens and perhaps superior to him. Mr. Lem has an almost Dickensian genius for vividly realizing the tragedy and comedy of future machines; the death of one of his androids or computers actually wrings sorrow from the reader" (September 2, 1984).

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (trans. 1973) is a story about an aspiring agent, who seeks his mission and the meaning of his existence. In Return from the Stars (trans. 1980) a space pilot returns to Earth after a 10 year journey. He has to adjust himself to a new world - meanwhile 120 years had passed in Earth time. Imaginary Magnitude (trans. 1984), moves into the literary world of Jorge Luis Borges, and consists only of introductions of 16 (imaginary) books. However, Lem has criticized Borgets's hermetic approach to literature: "We are building newer, richer, and more terrible paradises and hells; but in his books Borges knows nothing about them." A Perfect Vacuum (1971) was a collection of essays masqueraded as reviews of books that have not yet been written. The second ''review'' is about ''the military evolution of civilization'', seen from the viewpoint of the 21st century. It describes how arms builders managed to overcome all obstacles and create really effective "synsects'' to fight a modern war. "The war of good and evil present in all religions does not always end, in every faith, with the victory of good, but in every one it establishes a clear order of existence. The sacred as well as the profane rests on that universal order..." (from One Human Minute) FIASKO (1986, trans. 1987) was a meditation on the nature of culture and technology, in which aliens avoid contact with humans. A spaceship, the Hermes, is sent to Quinta, which reveals evidence of life but remains silent. When the spaceship approches the planet, they find out that the Quintas have developed a Cosmic War Zone.


Lem's most famous work, Solaris, is among the classic science fiction novels of the 1960s. In it the author explored one of his favorite subjects - the limitations of human understanding. The story is set in a space station hovering above the planet Solaris. Scientists probe the mysteries the planet where the only living thing is an intelligent ocean, that covers the whole surface. Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation of the novel from 1972 has been called the 2001: A Space Odyssey of Russian sci-fi cinema. However, the director was not interested in special effects or superficial science fiction elements, rockets and space stations, and later said that the film "would have stood out more vividly and boldly had we managed to dispense with these things altogether."

Read more here.

More information here, here and here.