Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel comes to the big screen, December 2020
Memories in an aura of sand and heat
I’m a creature of the sun. I feel best in the summer when it’s hot and bright. When other people are wilting and complaining about the temperature, my body is soaking it up and reveling in the yellow heat. (I blame it on the fact that I was sickly, preemie baby who spent 17 days in an incubator when I was born, a fact that altered my body’s thermostat forever.)
I wish I could say that forty years later, I remember the plot of Frank Herbert’s classic Science Fiction novel, Dune. I DON’T.
I DO remember feeling the heat of the desert sands as I fell into the adventure. Biting sands hit me. I was thirsty as I turned the pages, trying to get farther into the action and assimilating into a different culture on a different planet.
Only vague recollections of the plot exist, but the alternative-world setting stuck in my memory, transported as I was into an aura of hazy heat, intrigue, and sand.
Frank Herbert’s brainchild, Dune
Frank Herbert got the idea for Dune from his experience living in Florence, Oregon where the government was experimenting with the use of grasses to stabilize the moving dunes.
A grain of imaginary sand must have gotten into Herbert’s brain, expanded to sandhill, and grew into a great dune of inspiration. He wrote to his agent, Lurton Blassingame about moving dunes that could
“swallow whole cities, lakes, rivers, highways.”
Herbert spent the next five years researching and developing his idea. “Dune World” was a three-part series published in 1963 in the science fiction magazine, Analog, to a large audience of science fiction fans. Herbert followed that series up with another five-part story published as “The Prophet of Dune.”
Frank Herbert kept reworking, supplementing, embellishing, and developing his two series into one novel, his now-classic, Dune.
Writers take heart. Like many other famous works, Dune was rejected by twenty publishers before a publisher who was known for producing automotive manuals, Chilton Books, took it on in 1965.
In 1966, Dune tied for the Hugo Award and won the Nebula Prize. To date, it’s sold more than 20 MILLION copies, has been translated into dozens of languages, and is the best-selling science fiction book in the world.
Perfect plot for a movie
A family is sent to a distant, desert planet to protect a drug that is produced there and nowhere else in the galaxy. The drug, (or spice), improves mental ability. It also extends lifespan and is necessary for space travel. No wonder that EVERYONE wants it, setting up an epic battle for control of the planet.
Did I mention sandworms? The drug is protected by huge, territorial worms that are attracted to vibrations on the planet’s surface.
The desire for the drug, the quest for power and control of a precious resource, the issue of supply and demand, the need for conservation, religion, ecology, and politics are all themes interwoven into the tapestry of the movie, making it relevant for today’s audiences.
A film, Dune, directed by David Lynch, was produced and released in 1984. A television miniseries directed by John Harrison followed in 2000. That miniseries is still one of the most popular offerings on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Time for a Remake
Since it’s been twenty years and a whole generation ago that the last version of Dune was created, it’s time for a remake.
Legendary Entertainment attained the rights in 2016. Denis Villeneuve will direct, and the project will be split into two separate films, with the first installment debuting In December 2020. Timothée Chalamet, a young American actor who has appeared in the television series Homeland as well as films Interstellar, Lady Bird, Hostiles, and Little Women, will play the lead.
I can’t wait to see how the new movie version of Dune, described as one of the best world-building novels ever, compares to my vague memory of heat, adventure, and a world that needed a hero.
It also makes me wonder why as an adult I drifted away — like grains of the ever-shifting sand — from reading Science Fiction.
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Buy DUNE from Bookshop.org.