Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stanislaw Lem: Robot Fairy Tales

The Robot's Tales are fairy tales written for robots, with only robots as characters. Despite the medieval setting with kings, knights and princesses, they are very much classic science fiction, with people, pardon me: robots travelling in space, visiting strange planets ect.

Science is blended with the logic of fairy tales and the results are enchanting and often very funny, especially if you have a background or at least an interest in physics. They can just as well be read without any deeper knowledge of the subject, though. Apart from the humor, there's another dimension to the fables: they invite you to think further about the questions raised in them and soon you find yourself having a philosophical debate, which is typical for Lem's writing.

You can read one of the stories here. I highly recommend it, especially if you want to know why you have never seen a brashation. Or a targalisk.

Stanislaw Lem is sometimes not an easy author to read, but the Robot's Tales are a good place to start if you have never read any of his stuff. I also find the comparison between hem and Asimov's robot tales fascinating - two very different tales on the same subject.

This is my third book for the Library Challenge and the second for the Science Fiction Challenge.


  1. That was fantastic - thank you for the link! It's a stimulating thought experiment and reminds me of the Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke, superficially at least. Lem was Polish and this is almost certainly a translation, and if so, the translator did an excellent job. 'Nothing' does start with 'n' in both languages, but surely not everything else listed can.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Lem is one of my favourite scifi authors and luckily, the German translations are excellent. The story works in German as well, since Nothing means Nichts :) I think translating Lem is quite a job, with the many puns and names that allude to mathematical and physical terms.