The Futurological Congress

Dün kitap için “beklediğim kadar iyi çıkmadı” demiştim, haksızlık etmişim. Lem kitabı elinden kaçırdığını düşündüğünüz anlarda bile aslında ipleri gayet sıkı bir şekilde elinde tutuyor… Bol doğaçlamalı bir dizi izlediğinizi düşünüp de, sonrasında bir şekilde dizinin senaryosunu bulup da, aslında sizin doğaçlama olduğunu düşündüğünüz bütün o performansların tamamıyla planl olduğunu görmüş gibi oluyorsunuz. Kitabın sonlarına doğru iyice derleyip, toparlayıp temiz bir şekilde sonlandırıyor. Hatta o kadar sağlam örmüş ki olayları, sonlara doğru istediğiniz sayfada, bir şeylerin boşlukta kaldığını düşünmeden, inebilirsiniz kitaptan… Delivers a packed punch (Roger Ebert’in artık en ibiş (mesela Jim Carrey’nin oynadığı şu Schumacher’in 23 Numarası gibi) filme bile Two thumbs up! demesini protesto amacıyla yazdım 8)

By sheer accident I happened to raise the vial to my nose—I had completely forgotten that I was still holding it. Tears welled up from the acrid smell. I sneezed, and sneezed again, and when I opened my eyes the room had changed. The Professor was still speaking, I could hear his voice but, fascinated by the transformation, no longer listened to the words. The walls were now all covered with grime; the blue sky had taken on a brownish tinge; some of the windowpanes were missing, and the rest had a coat of greasy soot, streaked with gray from previous rains.

I don’t know why, but it was particularly upsetting to see that the Professor’s handsome briefcase, the one in which he’d brought the conference materials, had turned into a moldy old satchel. I grew numb. I was afraid to look at him. I peeked under the desk. Instead of his appliqued trousers and professorial spats there were two casually crossed artificial legs. Between the wire tendons of the feet bits of gravel were lodged, and mud from the street. The steel pin of the heel gleamed, worn smooth with use. I groaned.

“What is it, a headache? Want an aspirin?” came the sympathetic voice. I gritted my teeth and looked up.

Not much was left of the face. Stuck to his sunken cheeks were the rotting shreds of a bandage that hadn’t been changed in ages. And evidently he still wore glasses, though one of the lenses was cracked. In his neck, in the opening of a tracheotomy, a vocoder had been inserted—carelessly enough—and it bobbed up and down as he talked. A jacket hung in mildewed tatters on the rack that was his chest, and beneath the left lapel there was a gaping hole lidded with a cloudy plastic window. Inside, a heart, held together with clamps and staples, beat in blue-black spasms. I didn’t see a left hand; the right, clutching a pencil, was fashioned out of brass and green with verdigris. Sewn to his collar—a crooked label, on which someone had scribbled in red ink: “Barbr 119-859-21 transpl. /5 rejec.” I stared, eyes popping, while the Professor, taking on my horror like a mirror, suddenly froze behind his desk.

“I … I’ve changed, haven’t I?” he croaked.

The next thing I knew, I was struggling with the doorknob.

“Tichy! What are you doing? Come back! Tichy!!” he cried in despair, struggling to stand up. The door swung open, but just then I heard an awful clatter. Professor Trottelreiner, losing his balance from an overly violent movement, had toppled over and fallen apart on the floor, hooks and hinges snapping like bones. I carried away with me the image of his helpless kicking, the flailing iron stumps that sent chips of wood flying, the dark sack of the heart pounding desperately behind the scratched plastic. Down the corridor I ran, as if driven by a hundred Furies.

The building swarmed with people, I had hit on the lunch hour. Out of the offices came clerks and secretaries, chatting as they headed for the elevators. I elbowed my way through the crowd towards one of the open doors, but apparently the elevator car hadn’t yet arrived; looking into the empty shaft, I immediately understood why panting was so common a phenomenon. The end of the cable, long since disconnected, was hanging loose, and the people were clambering, agile as monkeys, up the vertical cage that enclosed the shaft—they must have had a lot of practice. Crawling up to the snack bar on the roof, they conversed cheerfully despite the sweat dripping from their brows. I backed off slowly, then ran down the stairway that spiraled around the shaft with the climbers patiently scaling its sides. A few flights lower I slowed down. They were still pouring out of all the doors. Nothing but offices here, evidently. At the end of the hall shone an open window, looking out on the street. I stopped by it, pretending to straighten my tie, and peered down. At first it seemed to me that there wasn’t a living soul in that crowd on the sidewalk, but I simply hadn’t recognized the pedestrians. The general splendor had disappeared without a trace. They walked separately, in pairs, clothed in rags—patches, holes—many with bandages and plasters, some in only their underwear, which enabled me to verify that they were indeed spotted and had bristles, mainly on their backs. A few had evidently been released from the hospital to attend to some urgent business; amputees and paraplegics rolled along on boards with little wheels, talking and laughing loudly. I saw women with drooping elephant flaps for ears, men with horns on their heads, old newspapers, clumps of straw or burlap bags carried with the utmost elegance and aplomb. Those who were healthier and in better condition raced on the road, cantering, prancing, kicking up their feet as if changing gears. Robots predominated in the crowd, wielding atomizers, dosimeters, spray guns, sprinklers. Their job was to see that everyone got his share of aerosol. Nor did they limit themselves to that: behind one young couple, arms around each other—hers were covered with scales, his with boils—there plodded an old clonker, methodically beating the lovers over the head with a watering can. Their teeth rattled, but they were perfectly oblivious. Was it doing this on purpose? I could no longer think. Gripping the window sill, I stared at the scene in the street, its bustle, its rush, its industry, as if I were the only witness, the only pair of eyes. The only? No, the cruelty of this spectacle demanded at least another observer, its creator, the one who, without intervening in that grim panorama, would give it meaning; a patron, an impresario of decay, therefore a ghoul—but someone. A tiny juggermugger, cavorting around the legs of a spry old lady, repeatedly undercut her knees, and she fell flat on her face, got up, walked on, was tripped again, and so they went, it mechanically persistent, she energetic and determined, until they were out of sight. Many of the robots hovered over the people, peering into their mouths, possibly to check the effect of the sprays, though it didn’t exactly look that way. On the corner stood a bunch of robots, loiterants, dejects; out of some side alley came shifts of drudgers, kludgers, meniacs and manikoids; an enormous trashmaster rumbled along the curb, lifting up on the claws of its shovel whatever lay in the way, tossing—together with junkets and selfaborts—an old woman into its disposal bin. I bit my knuckles, forgetting that that hand held the other vial, the second vial, and my throat was seared with fire. Everything wavered, a bright fog descended across my eyes like a blindfold, which an unseen hand then slowly began to lift. I looked, petrified, at the transformation taking place, realizing in a sudden shudder of premonition that now reality was sloughing off yet another layer—clearly, its falsification had begun so very long ago, that even the most powerful antidote could do no more than tear away successive veils, reaching the veils beneath but not the truth. It grew brighter—white. Snow lay on the pavement, frozen solid, trampled down by hundreds of feet; the street presented a bleak and colorless scene; the shops, the signs had vanished, and instead of glass in the windows—rotting boards, crossed and nailed together. Winter reigned between the dingy, discolored buildings, long icicles hung from the lintels, lamps; in the sharp air there was a sour smell, and a bluish gray haze, like the sky above. Mounds of dirty snow along the walls, garbage heaped in the gutters; here and there a shapeless bundle, a dark clump of rags kicked to the side by the constant stream of pedestrian traffic, or shoved between rusty trashcans, tins, boxes, frozen sawdust. Snow wasn’t falling at the moment, but one could see that it had fallen recently, and would again. Then all at once I knew what was missing: the robots. There wasn’t a single robot on the street—not one! Their snow-covered bodies lay sprawled in doorways, lifeless iron hulks in the company of human refuse, scraps of clothing, with an occasional bone showing underneath, yellow, sheathed with ice. One ragamuffin sat atop a pile of snow, settling down for the night as if in a feather bed; I saw the contentment on his face; he felt right at home, apparently, made himself comfortable, stretched his legs, wriggled his naked toes into the snow. So that was that chill, that strange invigoration which came over one from time to time, even in the middle of the street, at noon, with the sun shining—he was already snoring peacefully—so that was the reason. The throngs of people passing by ignored him, they were occupied with themselves—some were spraying others. It was easy to tell from their manner who thought himself a human, and who a robot. So the robots too were only a fiction? And what was winter doing here in the middle of summer? Unless the whole calendar was a hoax. But why? Sleeping in snow to lower the birth rate? Whichever, someone had carefully planned it all and I wasn’t about to give up the ghost before I tracked him down. I lifted my eyes to the skyscrapers, their pock-marked sides and rows of broken windows. It was quiet behind me: lunch was over. The street—the street was all that was left to me now, my new-found sight would be to no advantage there, I would be swallowed up in that crowd, and I needed someone; alone, I’d hide for a time like a rat—that was the most I could do—no longer safely inside the illusion, but shipwrecked in reality. Horrified, despairing, I backed away from the window, chilled to the bone, unprotected now by the lie of a temperate climate. I didn’t know myself where I was going, trying to make as little noise as possible; yes, I was already concealing my presence—crouching, skulking, furtively glancing over my shoulder, halting, listening—a creature of reflex, making no decisions, though I was certain that the fact that I could see was plainly written on my face and I would have to pay for it. I went down the corridor, it was either the sixth or fifth floor, I couldn’t go back to Trottelreiner—he needed help, but I had none to give him—I was thinking feverishly about several things at once, but mainly about whether or not the drug would wear off and I would find myself back in Paradise. Strange, but the prospect filled me with nothing but fear and loathing, as if I would have rather shivered in some garbage dump—with the knowledge that that was what it was—than owed my deliverance to apparitions. My way down a side passage was blocked by an old man; too feeble to walk, he gave an imitation of it with his trembling legs, and managed a smile of greeting even as he breathed his last, the death rattle already in his throat. So I went another way—till I reached the frosted glass of some office. Complete silence inside. I entered through the swinging door and saw a hall with rows of typewriters—empty. At the other end, another door, half-open. I could see into the large, bright room, and began to retreat, for someone was there, but a familiar voice rang out:

“Come in, Tichy.”

SL, tFC

Lem’in üzerine yazılan yazıları / söylenen sözleri okurken, Philip K. Dick’in Lem’e nasıl da nefret kustuğunu öğrendim. Al Heinlein’ı, vur Asimov’a, onu da Dick’e. Über-süper-düper Amerikan modelleri hepsi de! Heinlein’ı biraz severim, Double Star‘ı ile Jobunu okumuşluğum vardır, Asimov’u sevmem, onun da birkaç kitabını okumuşluğum var, Dick’i severim ama, paranoyası iyidir güzeldir, gerçek hayatındaki gibidir, kafası karışıktır. O yüzden mesela şöyle bir şey söylediğini okuyunca hem şaşırdım, hem de onun adına utandım:

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):

Philip 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.

Lem’in resmi sayfasından aldım

Lem’se Dick’i övmüş Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans – kaynağım Science Fiction Studies 5(2) Mar 1975 ama ben de henüz okumadım..

Dediğim gibi, Dick’in eserlerini severim ama bir yandan da adamın tanınma (en azından posthumously) açısından şanslı olduğunu da düşünürüm. Şimdi size bir çırpıda üç eser sayacağım: Blade Runner, Total Recall ve Minority Report.. Bu üç eserin de önce filmlerini seyrettim, sonrasında da kaynaklandıkları hikayeleri okudum. Fikir aynı tutulsa da yönetmenler/senaristler tarafından hemen her şey değiştirilmiş ve geliştirilmişti. Bu üç eseri beyaz perdeye aktaran yönetmenlere gelince: aynı sırada olmak üzere, Ridley Scott, Paul Verhoeven ve Steven Spielberg (A Scanner Darkly’yi, hem de en favori yönetmenlerimden biri olan Linklater’ın çekmiş olmasına rağmen listeye dahil etmiyorum zira kitap çok çok kötüydü, filmini de seyretmedim, seyretmeyi de düşünmüyorum). Bu üç yönetmenin de eserlere sevgiyle yaklaştıklarına şüphe yok. Dick bu bağlamda Gibson’la Lem arasında bir yerde duruyor. Gibson’da fikir vardır sadece ama anlatmayı beceremez, Lem’se (Solaris ve FC’den yola çıkarak) fikri işlemesini iyi biliyor. Dick ise çok iyi bir fikir ve okunabilir hikayeler sunuyor ve de potansiyel. (Peki bunca ahkam keserken, hiç Gibson okudum mu acaba? Sanmıyorum…)

FC, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’in (ama daha ziyade Total Recall’un) yapmaya çalıştığı şeyi çok daha başarılı bir şekilde yapıyor ve Matrix’in -kanımca- düştüğü tuzağa düşmeden geri gelebiliyor (ki, düzeltiyorum, Matrix tuzağa düşmüyor aslında – bence en önemli sahne olan ikinci filmin sonu bütün karmaşıklığa rağmen net bir çözüm/açıklama sunuyordu).

Yahu, şunun şurasında bir alıntı yapıp kaçacaktım, gene çenem düştü… Şimdi aklımda Eco’nun Foucault’nun Sarkacı’nın Asma Telinin 1. harmoniğini okumak var ama araya Roadside Picnic’i sıkıştırasım da var; hazır bilim kurgum gelmişken…

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