Moons of Sallys

Click the image to play Moons of Sallys, inspired by Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad. (More of a toy than a game really – you can just fly rockets around).

I’ve nearly finished reading Stanislaw Lems’ The Cyberiad for a second time. I’m an old-school sci-fi aficionado, and it’s possibly one of my favourite books in that genre. The book is a series of short stories of the adventures of two vaguely robotic “Constructors”, Trurl and Klapaucius. There is no trace of humanity in this universe, but millions of planets full of all varieties of robotic life, similar to Bohemian Drive’s Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. A “Constructor” is a special title, describing engineering abilities of a near-omnipotent level. Trurl and Klapaucius get up to various shenanigans where feudal royalty of various planets will commission them to on special projects, like creating advanced hide-and-seek mechanisms.

The universe of The Cyberiad is one of physics with a sense of humour, or irony, much like Lem’s earlier book The Star Diaries. Astronauts frequently duck their heads out the windows of their rocket and notice old garbage orbiting them, inhabitants of planets frequently flag down “passing” rockets, and entire races of beings are designed from scratch on a whim in an afternoon.

It’s a very comfortable, familiar universe (to me at least), one where moments of dire jeopardy can occur, but everything will kind of turn out all right, ya know? And in a funny or beautiful way. There’s legitimately educational moments about physics – at one point Trurl describes a Maxwell’s Demon. I’m using physics in very general terms here – in general I mean the arithmetic of interactions in the universe, not just laws of movement and chemical interaction, but emotional and spiritual.

With Robert A. Heinlein, you’ll turn out okay, but, depending on which phase of his you’re in, you’ll have to punch or love your way to victory.

With Kim Stanley Robinson, you’ll be okay, but maybe not for several centuries, and many of your friends will die. You’ll move forward with raw SCIENCE, but as you age, you’ll need spiritual meaning to fill a void science has left you.

With Greg Egan, you’ll be okay, but you’ll become something new and indescribable, and seemingly better but not relatable to what you were before.

In the lovely Toronto podcast Illusionoid, the future will be strange in a humorous way, but never a reassuring way. This reminded be very much of Douglas Adams’ version of space. They are both very much like Lem’s universes, but somehow more pessimistic. With Adams, this is somehow to be expected with his British humour. Illusionoid is too new and fascinating for me to get it yet. I want more.

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