I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
If you have read Frank Herbert’s book Dune, you will most likely recognize the quote as the Bene Gesserit Litany against fear which seems a good starting point for discussing Herbert and his works and influence. From his wiki:
Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author. Though also a short story author, he is best known for his novels, most notably Dune and its five sequels. The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, deals with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics and power. Dune itself is the “best-selling science fiction novel of all time” and the series is widely considered to be among the classics in the genre.
While I have read all six of Herbert’s Dune Chronicles, my introduction to his work was in the first of his two book ConSentiency Universe, titled Whipping Star. As always, an interesting premise for a book or series of books can rope me right in and keep me entertained. It was after I mentioned this book to someone that I was pointed toward Dune and devoured the first three books in just a few weeks of reading.
Herbert’s wiki has a good discussion on the Ideas and themes Herbert explores in his fiction. The New Yorker magazine just this past July had this article discussing why Dune still resonates with people so many years after it was first published and even now, twenty-seven years after Herbert’s death:
Like the best science-fiction and fantasy novels, “Dune” creates for the reader a complex, fully-realized universe. Set more than twenty thousand years in the future, the book focusses on the battle to control Arrakis, the source of melange, or spice, an addictive substance that prolongs life and, in some cases, gives the user glimpses of the future. Melange is also essential for interstellar travel, allowing starship pilots to look across vast distances to plot their courses. Imagine a substance with the combined worldwide value of cocaine and petroleum and you will have some idea of the power of melange.
While Dune and its sequels are far and away Herbert’s best known work, he has many other books that are interesting. As I mentioned above, the ConSentiency Universe is interesting as are Hellestrom’s Hive (queue up the Japanese sci-fi movies from the ’50s with irradiated insects) and The Heaven Makers:
Immortal aliens have observed Earth for centuries, making full sensory movies of wars, natural disasters, and horrific human activities . . . all to relieve their boredom.
I do know that there are many people who struggled to read Dune and probably as many more who could not enjoy the sequels. I enjoyed all six of the original Dune series but then, I actually enjoyed most of David Lynch’s movie version though as always, I had to separate my knowledge of the book from the viewing of the movie or I would spend too much time dwelling on the inaccuracies such as stillsuits operating without head covering even as massive amounts of moisture would be lost through the head without cover. Yes, I can be a geek sometimes. The Lynch version is a disappointment as it had a stellar cast including folks like Patrick Stewart, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Sting, Virginia Madsen, Max von Sydow and many others in supporting roles. The then Sci-Fi network (now SyFy) did a three part TV mini-series in Y2K with far fewer “names” but truer to the actual story. A run time of 4 hrs and 52 minutes for TV versus 2 hrs and 17 minutes for the theater does allow things to develop a little more fully. I have not seen the subsequent Sci-Fi presentation of Children of Dune, combing the next two books, Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
Herbert’s wiki offers a section on his Status and impact on science-fiction. For me, Dune and its sequels offer a broad ranging “what-if” cautionary tale for the unintended effects of ecological manipulation that seemingly starts folks in one direction but in the end pulls them 180 degrees away.
Photo from Maria Morri licensed under Creative Commons