RE: Transcendental Fiction List

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Wed Mar 06 2002 - 20:49:54 MST

At 08:01 PM 3/6/02 -0700, Ben wrote:

>Stanislaw Lem.

He might have done so in his large and untranslated Polish books on sf and
extreme technologies (e.g. *Summa Technologiae*, partially translated into
English by Dr Frank Prengel at ), but I don't recall seeing
anything *exactly* on this in English (aside from spoof non-fiction like
Golem-XIV and imaginary reviews, etc). You got any specific cites?

I once wrote:
Stanislaw Lem, the great Polish polymath and sf writer/critic, published
*Fantastyka i Futurologia* in Cracow in 1970. Lem noted almost in passing
that repeated total regressions in technological progress are implausible.
He suggests that regressions are added to fiction for the literary motive
only, and that taking into account genuinely expectable change would have
made it impossible to write a novel.

Lem wrote:

"Another vision, in which . . . there would be some continuity in the
current of civilizational transformations-would have made it impossible to
write the book. For the ascent that follows exponentially from this premise
would surpass the capacities of any artist's imagination. . . . [T]he
existence of future generations totally transformed from ours would remain
an incomprehensible puzzle for us, even if we could express it." (285-7;
parts of this work were translated [via Hungarian] by Istvan
Csicsery-Ronay, Jr, and published in 1986 in Science-Fiction Studies [Vol
13, 272-91].)

Lem preempts Vinge's metaphor of an event horizon of prediction: "[Olaf
Stapledon] has invalidated the real factors of exponential growth, which
obstruct all long-range predictions; we can't see anything from the present
moment beyond the horizon of the twenty-first century" (287).

No less remarkably, perhaps, Lem made a cognitive leap still seldom seen, I
believe, in most futurism. There are reasons to doubt his conclusion, but
it is an impressive leap of connective imagination:

"Predictions beyond 80 or 100 years inevitably fail. Beyond that range lies
the impenetrable darkness of the future, and above it, a single definite
sign indecipherable, but impinging on us all the more: the Silence of the
Universe. The universe has not yielded to the radiance of civilizations; it
does not scintillate with brilliant astro-technical works-although that is
how it should be, if the law of psychozoic beings were an aspect of the
exponential ortho-evolution of instrumentality in cosmic dimension." (288)


So: Fermi `Paradox' read as evidence of no earlier Spikes in our lightcone.

Most of Lem's books, prized for their wit in Poland, have been abominably
mistranslated into leaden stodge.

Damien Broderick

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