Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Persistence of Frank Herbert's "Dune"

THE novel Dune, started out about as unpromisingly as a novel can -- published after many rejections, on a press specializing in auto manuals. But spoke to its own time as well as to ours, and it's still the best-selling sf novel ever.

HERE is my LA Times story on the novel and its legacy in literature, ideas and film.

There are of course all kinds of connections between Dune with Star Wars and Avatar. (See "white man saves the world" subgenre.)

One thing I ran out of room for, in my story, was my conversation with Kevin Misher, one of the two producers of the upcoming film adaptation.

"David Lynch made a good David Lynch movie," he told me. "I didn't feel like it reflected my experience with the book Dune."

"I think The Lord of the Rings opened up the possibility of what you can do with classic themes and a classic work. What Peter Jackson showed is that faithful doesn't mean slavish."

On Frank Herbert: "Was was very prescient, and created a science-fiction parable: His future was our present. It was an extremely entertaining adventure that comments on our world today. The human story at the core of Dune -- the emotional story of a family trying to survive-- is what's helped it stay atop the sf charts for 45 years."

More on Dune's film adaptation on future posts of The Misread City.


lancer333 said...

Great article on the classic, DUNE, however, I wonder why you didn't mention it as the obvious but never acknowledged inspiration for STAR WARS. This is beyond argument, but Lucas is so worshiped by the critics that he's never been tagged as a story thief. His other inspiration was the legendary sci-fi comic play, WARP, produced by the Organic Theater in Chicago in 1969

Anonymous said...


Scott Timberg said...

DUNE certainly was an inspiration for Star Wars -- here is an essay I just found that gets into it:

Tho: So many things went into Star Wars it's hard to single out Dune. I'd say Tolkien, 30s serials and Joseph Campbell were prob bigger sources.

I dont know that Lucas is that worshipped by critics. At least not the ones that I know. A lot of them consider Star Wars a pastiche of other work and lacking originality. And critics panned the Star Wars "prequels" pretty hard.

CFMunster said...

Great article. I wonder if Herbert had lived longer whether any of the later works would have been more weighty. The Butlerian Jihad was a perfect backdrop for a discussion of contemporary issues, but the books failed to deliver on that potential.

Scott Timberg said...

Rob: An interesting question re how those prequels might have fared if Frank Herbert had penned them. The main thing I recall from reading Dune as a kid was the sweeping and expansive backstory that I'd gotten only from the Lord of the RIngs -- it's rich fare.

And the Butlerian jihad in specific -- a revolt against "thinking machines" -- is more timely than ever!

Clark Savage Jr. said...

Scott -
Loved the DUNE article.
Not sure if you knew that the novel did not spring on the sci-fi community overnight - part of it was serialized in ANALOG Magazine well beforehand. I owned and read those issues. The stunning DUNE cover art on some of the ANALOG issues was by John Schoenherr, who just passed away. Here's the link, which includes some images:

Scott Timberg said...

Re the magazine publication, would have loved to get into the role of magazines, and Herbert's back-forth with editor John Campbell, but space did not allow... Envious you have those old issues!