#PKD vs LEM

On September 2, 1974 Philip K. Dick sent the following letter to the FBI  (Please keep in mind Mr. Dick was most probably suffering from schizophrenia):

imagePhilip K. Dick to the FBI, September 2, 1974

I am enclosing the letterhead of Professor Darko Suvin, to go with information and enclosures which I have sent you previously. This is the first contact I have had with Professor Suvin. Listed with him are three Marxists whom I sent you information about before, based on personal dealings with them: Peter Fitting, Fredric Jameson, and Franz Rottensteiner who is Stanislaw Lem’s official Western agent. The text of the letter indicates the extensive influence of this publication, SCIENCE-FICTION STUDIES.

What is involved here is not that these persons are Marxists per se or even that Fitting, Rottensteiner and Suvin are foreign-based but that all of them without exception represent dedicated outlets in a chain of command from Stanislaw Lem in Krakow, Poland, himself a total Party functionary (I know this from his published writing and personal letters to me and to other people). For an Iron Curtain Party group – Lem is probably a composite committee rather than an individual, since he writes in several styles and sometimes reads foreign, to him, languages and sometimes does not – to gain monopoly positions of power from which they can control opinion through criticism and pedagogic essays is a threat to our whole field of science fiction and its free exchange of views and ideas. Peter Fitting has in addition begun to review books for the magazines Locus and Galaxy. The Party operates (a U..S.] publishing house which does a great deal of Party-controlled science fiction. And in earlier material which I sent to you I indicated their evident penetration of the crucial publications of our professional organization SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS OF AMERICA.

Their main successes would appear to be in the fields of academic articles, book reviews and possibly through our organization the control in the future of the awarding of honors and titles. I think, though, at this time, that their campaign to establish Lem himself as a major novelist and critic is losing ground; it has begun to encounter serious opposition: Lem’s creative abilities now appear to have been overrated and Lem’s crude, insulting and downright ignorant attacks on American science fiction and American science fiction writers went too far too fast and alienated everyone but the Party faithful (I am one of those highly alienated).

It is a grim development for our field and its hopes to find much of our criticism and academic theses and publications completely controlled by a faceless group in Krakow, Poland. What can be done, though, I do not know.

Why was Stanislaw Lem expelled from the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America)  in 1976?

The following quote from J. Madison Davis’ book on Stanislaw Lem gives an answer to your question:

Lem has always been critical of most science fiction, which he considers ill thought out, poorly written, and interested more in adventure that ideas or new literary forms.  (…) Those opinions provoked an unpleasant debate in the SFWA [the “Lem affair”].  Philip José Farmer and others were incensed by Lem’s comments (…) and eventually brought about the removal of the honorary membership(…).  Other members, such as Ursula K. Le Guin, then protested the removal (…) and the SFWA then offered Lem a regular membership, which he, of course, refused in 1976.  Asked later about the “affair,” he remarked, that his opinions  of the state of science fiction were already known when he was offered an honorary membership (…).  He also added he harboured no ill feelings towards the SFWA or U.S. writers in particular, “…but it would be a lie to say the whole incident has enlarged my respect for SF writers”.

2 thoughts on “#PKD vs LEM”

  1. Tiger: here again, for this strange blog of urs, u post something w. no introduction, no note as to why u posted it, and one wonders what’s significance of the posting?–u don’t say. Oh well….

    Like

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