From Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs of a Space Traveler: Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy in that collection’s final story, Let Us Save the Universe (An Open Letter from Ijon Tichy). I am not a science fiction fan but Stanislaw Lem is the one author I’ve found in that genre whom I deeply enjoy. But that in itself is due to much of his work falling more towards speculative philosophy (His Master’s Voice, Imaginary Magnitudes) and philosophy of technology (Summa Technologiae). The pure hard sci-fi (The Invincible) does less for me and his Lucianic strain of marvel-filled satire – like Memoirs Found in a Bathtub and the below – is best kept to controlled doses.
The famous mirages of Stredogentsia owe their existence solely to man’s vicious inclinations. At one time chillips grew on the planet in great numbers, and warmstrels were hardly ever found. Now the latter have multiplied incredibly. Above thickets of them, the air, heated artificially and diffracted, gives rise to mirages of taverns, which have caused the death of many a traveler from Earth. It is said that the warmstrels are entirely to blame. Why, then, don’t their mirages mimic schools, libraries, or health clubs? Why do they always show places where intoxicating beverages are sold? The answer is simple. Because mutations are random, warmstrels at first created all sorts of mirages, but those that showed people libraries and adult-education classes starved to death, and only the tavern variety (Thermomendax spirituosus halucinogenes of the family Anthropophagi) survived. This special adaptation of the warmstrels, brought about by man himself, is a powerful indictment of our vices.