Stanislaw Lem is one of my favorite SF writers. I recently re-read “The Cyberiad” – his collection of stories about two competing constructors: Trurl and Klapacius. The stories in the Cyberiad tend to run from satirical to silly, very much in Swiftian vein. For example, in one story Trurl builds a machine that can anything starting with letter “N”, and to test it Klapacius asks it to do “nothing” – so the machine starts to systematically destroy the universe. This explains why there is so much empty space in the Cosmos.
In another story we encounter a machine that can write poetry. It is asked to write a dramatic sonnet, with love and betrayal, about a haircut. Oh, and each word of the sonnet must begin with the letter “s”. The sonnet starts with “Silently Sampson slept…..”.
Now since the book was originally written in polish, you have marvel at the inventiveness of the translator. In the polish version the constraint for the poem is little different.
Famously one of the stories in “The Cyberiad” (“How Trurl’s Perfection Led to No Good”) was the inspiration for the game SimCity. If you read the story you will see why.
I have read “The Cyberiad” many times before, and this time around I found some of the silliness of the language and names little tiring after a while. Still, if you have never read any Lem this is not a bad place to start.