Stanislaw Lem: Memoirs of a Space Traveler

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Stanislaw Lem Memoirs of a Space Traveler
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    Memoirs of a Space Traveler
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    Harvest / HBJ
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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    New York
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Memoirs of a Space Traveler: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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“The best science fiction writer working today in any language.” — In this widely acclaimed sequel to , Ijon Tichy, space traveler of future centuries, discovers that “out there” isn’t very different from “down here.” Especially when he finds a galactic society over which the Plenum Moronicum presides, which appoints as ruler a ruthless Machine; the inhabitants, docilely cooperating in their own destruction, go by the name of Phools. Tichy seems to attract inventors of splenetic genius, such as the madman who has invented the soul, or another who invents kitchen appliances so good at their jobs they might as well be wives or slaves. Throughout these nine wild adventures, surprise follows witty surprise for the discerning reader of riotously imaginative fiction. STANISLAW LEM, who “knows science well enough to be playful about it” ( ), lives in Poland and is the author of books translated into nearly thirty languages, including and . In this sequel to , Ijon Tichy, space traveler of future centuries, discovers that “out there” isn’t very different from “down here.” Throughout these nine wild adventures, surprise follows witty surprise. Line drawings by the Author. * * *

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What good, what wonderful things I planned during those hectic days! How often did I work late into the night poring over books on physics, ethics, and zoology in order to gather, combine, and concentrate the most valuable information, which the professor, starting at dawn, fashioned into the electron, the cosmic nucleus! We wanted, among other things, to have the Universe develop harmoniously, not as before; to prevent supernovas from jolting it too much; to eliminate the senseless waste of quasar and pulsar energy; to keep stars from sparking and smoking like damp candlewicks; and to shorten interstellar distances, which would facilitate space travel and thus bring together and unify sentient races. It would take volumes to tell of all the corrections I managed to plan in a relatively short time. But these were not the most important thing. I need not explain why I concentrated on the human race; to improve it, I changed the principle of natural evolution.

Evolution, as we know, is either the wholesale devouring of the weaker by the stronger (zoocide), or the conspiracy of the weaker, who attack the stronger from within (parasitism). Only green plants are moral, living as they do at their own expense, on solar energy. I therefore provided for the chlorophyllization of all living things; in particular, I devised the Foliated Man. Since this meant the stomach had to go, I transferred to its location a suitably enlarged nerve center. I did not do all this directly, of course, having at my disposal only one electron. I simply established, in cooperation with the professor, that the fundamental law of evolution in the new, debt-free Universe would be the rule of decent behavior of every life form toward every other. I also designed a much more aesthetic body, a more refined sexuality, and numerous other improvements I will not even mention, for my heart bleeds at the recollection of them. Suffice it to say that by the end of September we had completed the World-creating Cannon and its electron bullet. There were still some highly complicated calculations to make; these were done by the professor and his assistants, because aiming for a target in time (or, in this case, before time) was an operation requiring the utmost precision.

I should have stayed on the premises and watched over everything, in view of my tremendous responsibility. But no, I wanted to unwind… and went to a small resort. Actually — to tell the truth — I was all swollen with mosquito bites, and that was why I longed for a dip in the cool ocean. If it hadn’t been for those damned mosquitoes… But I’m not going to put the blame on anything or anyone: it was all my fault. Just before I left, I had a quarrel with one of the professor’s colleagues, a certain Aloysius Bunch. Actually, he was not even a colleague, only a lab assistant, but a fellow countryman of Razglaz’s. This individual, whose job it was to monitor the equipment, demanded — out of the blue — that he be included in the list of Creators. Because — he said — if it weren’t for him, the cryotron wouldn’t work, and if the cryotron didn’t work, the electron wouldn’t act properly… etc. I laughed at him, naturally, and he appeared to back down, but actually the man began to make his own plans in secret. He could do nothing intelligent himself, but he formed a conspiracy with two acquaintances, types who hung around the Nuclear Research Institute in Bombay in hopes of finding a sinecure. They were the German Ast A. Roth and the American Lou Cipher.

As was shown by the inquiry conducted after the event, Bunch let them into the lab at night, and the rest was owing to the carelessness of Professor Razglaz’s junior assistant, a doctoral candidate named Sarpint. Sarpint had left the keys to the safe on a desk, which made the intruders’ task all the easier. He later pleaded illness and presented medical evidence, but the whole institute knew that the jerk was involved with a certain married woman, one Eve Addams, and was so busy groveling at her feet that he neglected his official duties. Bunch led his accomplices to the cryotron; they removed the Dewar vessel from the cryotron, extracted from the vessel the box containing the priceless bullet, and made their infamous parametric “adjustments,” the results of which anyone can see. All you have to do is look around you. Afterward they pleaded, each upstaging the others, that they had had the “best intentions,” and had also hoped for glory (!!), especially since there were three of them.

A fine Trinity! As they admitted under the weight of evidence and under the fire of cross-examination, they had divided up the work. Herr Roth, a former student at Gottingen (but Heisenberg himself had booted him out for putting pornographic pictures in the Aston Spectograph), handled the physical side of Creation and made a royal mess of it. It is because of him that the so-called weak interactions do not correspond to the strong, and that the symmetry of the laws of conservation is imperfect. Any physicist will immediately know what I mean. This same Roth, who made a mistake in simple addition, is responsible for the fact that the electron charge, when it is calculated now, gains an infinite value. It is also thanks to this blockhead that one cannot find quarks anywhere, although in theory they exist! The ignoramus forgot to make a correction in the dispersion formula! He also deserves “credit” for the fact that interfering electrons blatantly contradict logic. And to think that the dilemma over which Heisenberg racked his brains his whole life long was caused by his worst and dullest student!

But he committed a far more serious crime. My Creation Plan provided for nuclear reactions, for without them there would be no radiant energy of stars, but I eliminated the elements of the uranium group, so that mankind would be unable to produce atom bombs in the mid-twentieth century — that is, prematurely. Mankind was to harness nuclear energy only as the synthesis of the hydrogen nuclei into the helium, and since that is more difficult, the discovery could not be expected before the twenty-first century. Roth, however, brought the uranides back into the project. Unfortunately, I was unable to prove that he had been put up to this by agents of a certain imperialist intelligence agency in connection with plans of military supremacy… The man ought to have been tried for genocide; but for him the Japanese cities would not have been bombed in World War II.

The second “expert” in this select trio, Cipher, had finished medical school, but his license to practice was revoked for numerous violations. Cipher handled the biological side and made suitable “improvements” in it. My own reasoning had gone as follows. The world is the way it is, and mankind behaves the way it does, because everything arose by chance, that is, haphazardly, through the initial violation of fundamental laws. One has but to reflect a moment to see that under such conditions things could be worse! The determining factor, after all, was randomness — the “Creator” being the fluctuational caprice of Nothingness, which contracted a monstrous and nightmarish debt by inflating, without rhyme or reason, the metagalactic bubble!

I recognized, to be sure, that certain features of the Universe could be left as they were, with a little touching up and correction, so I filled in what was needed. But as far as Man went, ah, there I became radical. I crossed out all his vileness with one stroke. The foliation I mentioned above, which replaced body hair, would have helped establish a new ethics, but Mr. Cipher thought hair more important. He “missed” it, you see. One could make such nice fringes, whiskers, and other fancy things with it. On the one hand, my morality of fellowship and humanism; on the other, the value system of a hairdresser! I assure you, you would not know yourselves if it hadn’t been for Lou Cipher, who copied back into the electron from a cassette all the hideous features that you behold in the mirror.

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