Numerous are the stories in science fiction in which populations have been brainwashed to believe an ideal, most often the opposite of what we hold dear. A sub-genre in itself, advertisements have been used (The Space Merchants), narcotics (The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch), propaganda (We), technology (Brave New World), emotions (The Giver), totalitarian control (The Telling) and on and on go the tools used to twist society’s collective mind into a new dimension of reality. Lesser known than the majority of these works, Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 The Futurological Congress is fully imaginative story deserving of mention in the same breath.
Ijon Tichy is a recurring character in the tales of Stanislaw Lem, and in The Futurological Congress the cosmonaut finds himself on Earth—Costa Rica to be exact, attending the Eighth Futurological Congress. Though arcane science is his main interest, Tichy notices that things become a little too peculiar when getting a drink from tap in the hotel. The walls going funny and his emotional state taking an unexplainable swing, he pops a pill and brushes it off in order to attend the lectures. The news full of rebellions and riots in the world at large, the Congress’ attendees pay no heed to the violence outside, that is, until the fight is brought to the hotel itself. Bombs going off and strange chemicals suddenly in the air, Tichy heads to the canals beneath the hotel to escape. Eventually finding a manhole to open air, he discovers his troubles are only beginning.