The Cyberiad: Fables for the Cybernetic Age
in the original Polish) is a series of short stories by Stanislaw Lem
, following the adventures of the "Constructors" Trurl and Klapaucius. As Constructors, they have the skills and ability to build almost anything imaginable. This doesn't stop them from getting into trouble when they try to sell their abilities, however.
In the late '80s, one of the stories was adapted for public television
, with the principals changed from Ridiculously Human Robots
to Human Aliens
(but nonetheless quite well-cast.)
Not to be confused with the Cyberman Hive Mind
, or the Andrei Konchalovsky
Cyberiad contains examples of:
- Fantastic Aesop: The only Aesop Lem ever gives in his fables; the fact that - given that the plot usually revolves around human social, civilizational and interpersonal problems - makes those stories utterly pessimistic.
- Feudal Future: Almost everyone is a robot, the constructors can build pretty much everything, space travel is easy. Most planets/countries are medieval-style kingdoms.
- For Science!: The reasoning behind the "creation" of dragons.
- Framing Device: "Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines of King Genius", which goes metafictional several times.
- Hive Mind: The true nature of the Gargantius Effect.
- Humans Are Ugly: Almost all characters are robots, and they treat humans with disgust.
- Instant A.I., Just Add Water: Almost literally how Trurl creates his lawyer - first of the two - in one of the machines' tales in "Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines of King Genius". When Lem handwaves some scientific or technological issue he does it in a grandiose manner.
- Mechanical Evolution: Leading from slime, through humans to robots, then to conscious robots, god-mode robots, and then again to slime and humans.
- There is some disagreement on the matter amongst robot academicians: "There are legends, as you know, that speak of a race of paleface, who concocted robotkind out of a test tube, though anyone with a grain of sense knows this to be a foul lie..." Clearly, robotic life evolved spontaneously and naturally.
- Nested Story: King Genius again.
- Our Dragons Are Different: They follow the normal dragon template, except that they're highly improbable and can be defeated by weapons that change probability, by locally changing the probability of a nondragon to be higher than that of a dragon.. And they can appear in multiple locations at once.
- Recursive Reality: At one point a prince is trapped in this. And for added confusion, this takes place within a story.
- Recycled In Space: Most of the times the plot is based on traditional fable motives.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Trurl (red) and Klapaucius (blue).
- Ridiculously Human Robot: All of the characters who aren't human.
- Robo Family: Family is the fundamental unit of Mechanical Evolution. In a story not included in The Cyberiad Trurl builds himself a son.
- Robots Enslaving Robots among other things that robots doom robots to.
- Self-Deprecation: The only reason why humans are there at all.
- Shout-Out: A Long List of dragon-related technobabble in the Third Sally includes "high-frequency binomial fafneration" and "simple Grendelian dominance".
- Starfish Aliens: In one story the constructors try to create a perfect universe. They decide to make the "people" of this universe very different from themselves. Then they realise they can't understand them.
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Klapaucius finds a race that reached the HPLD (Highest Possible Level of Development), near-omnipotent beings that do nothing all day because they realized the vanity and the pointlessness of trying to change the universe.
- The Tooth Hurts: "Highest Possible Level of Development" has a drug, Altruzine, that causes tele-empathy. A man with a toothache has the painful tooth ripped out by nearby people who don't want to feel his pain.
- Utopia: In one story (not translated to English), Trurl tries to create a society where everyone is constantly happy. All of his attempts fail miserably.
- Vindicated by History: In-Universe. Klapuacius meets an old philosopher called Chlorian Theoreticus the Proph, who was ignored in his entire life. He expects that future generations will discover his greatness - so he writes the book Testament for Descendants, in which he calls them skeleton-kissers and corpse-lickers, who ignore the great thinkers of their own era.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Trurl and Klapuacius. A lot. At one point, Klapuacius tortures what may or may not be a clone of Trurl just for fun.
- Wave of Babies: In the appropriately named "The Fourth Sally or how Trurl Built a Femfatalatron to Save Prince Pantagoon from the Pangs of Love, and how Later he Resorted to a Cannonade of Babies".
- What the Hell, Hero?: Trurl has a nasty habit of building sentient machines and then taking them apart when they disappoint him. Nobody seems to see anything wrong with it (even though most of the characters are machines) until near the end of the book his mentor pretty much calls him a monster.