Literature: The Star Diaries
aka: Memoirs Of A Space Traveller
Another beautiful day in space.The Star Diaries
) by Stanislaw Lem
, often published together with their sequel Memoirs of a Space Traveller
, are supposedly the journals and travelogues of Ijon Tichy, a famous space traveller, recording his remarkable adventures exploring the cosmos.
Besides his identity as a pioneer of space exploration and an established travel writer, Ijon Tichy is an amateur scholar who moves in scientific circles both on Earth and around the Galaxy, and, if the need arises, an ambassador of humankind on the parquet of galactic diplomacy (he has even been known to serve his home planet as a secret agent in undercover missions); he is a noble soul wishing to go where no man has gone before, to push the limits of humanity’s horizon and bring the cosmos together in peace, as a brotherhood of all sapient civilizations.
That, or a charlatan and liar, who makes a living off bamboozling gullible Earth-lubbers with astronautical folklore and hair-raising tall tales too absurd to be believed by anyone with so much as a grain of common sense. Take your pick.The Star Diaries
(first edition in 1957, expanded in 1966 and 1971) consists of short stories
, all narrated by its personable Space Munchausen
. In the process, the book satirizes
countless science fiction tropes
, yet it also explores - in a comical guise
, but otherwise quite straightforward - many classical themes of science fiction; such as meeting and interacting with alien civilizations
, Time Travel
, Artificial Intelligence
, and the consequences of technological and scientific progress for humanity.
, Memoirs of a Space Traveller
(1982), also consists of short stories, but differs notably from Star Diaries
in that most of the stories are set on Earth and are also quite serious, even dark
(though not all of them). Mostly they feature Tichy, now a respected celebrity
, meeting eccentric scientists and inventors, and only a few deal with Ijon Tichy’s adventures with alien civilizations.
The Ijon Tichy character went on to star in three more satirical novels: The Futurological Congress
(1971), Observation on the Spot
(1982, no translation), and Peace on Earth
(1987).The Star Diaries
were loosly adapted during the late Noughties into a German live action TV show called Ijon Tichy: Raumpilot
. The show invoked a intentionally trashy look with bizarre costumes and consciously corny special effects, and gave Ijon Tichy a thick fake slavic accent
The Star Diaries provide examples of the following tropes:
Memoirs of a Space Traveller provides examples of the following tropes:
- Artifact Title: In-universe. "The Washing-Machine Tragedy" is a story (in the style of Zach Weiner) about two washing machine vendors trying to outcompete each other. Very soon their products cease to resemble "washing machines" completely.
- Bulungi: The neighboring nations Lamblia and Gurunduwaju in "Professor A. Donda".
- Famed in Story: From Memoirs of a Space Traveller onward, Ijon Tichy's celebrity status on Earth is well-established, and often forms a set-up for new adventures.
- Mood Whiplash: Purely satirical stories are followed by completely serious ones, about hard themes like the creation of a truly independent mechanical intelligence, or the horror of having an immortal soul without a body. Partially caused by the book being a collection of short stories written over a period of about twenty years.
- Robotic Reveal: In one story, the aggressive competition of two producers of washing machines leads to multitudes of intelligent, human-looking washing machines posing as people.
- Time Travel: A much darker example has a hapless inventor test his prototype time machine in Tichy's living room by a casual trip 50 years into the future - realizing too late that the trip actually will take him 50 years. And the machine has no emergency brake.
- Inside a Computer System: An interesting example in the first story: instead of people being trapped in a virtual reality, it's cybernetic brains created by a scientist. These are all hooked up to a large computer, which is creating their reality around them. Every brain is a different person: a beautiful girl, a scientist... and a madman, who thinks that paranormal stuff like prophecies or telepathy are the result of an error in the illusion that is his reality.
- Unwilling Roboticisation: Played with. In Dr. Vliperdius' psychiatric ward for robots, Tichy meets a robot friend of his who has developed a delusion that he was previously a human who one day woke up transformed into a robot, and that "they" have "stolen his body".
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: In one story, Tichy meets Decantor, an inventor who constructed an immortal soul. For that purpose, he had destroyed the body of his wife and kept her consciousness in a box, without any external stimuli. Tichy realizes that this is a fate worse than death and finally convinces Decantor that people don't want immortality; they just want to live.