Sunday, November 26, 2023

FOR DUNEheads: Two 2023 titles about Dune & its impact

THE WORLDS OF DUNE: The Places and Cultures that Inspired Frank Herbert
Frances Lincoln Ltd
$35.00 hardcover, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: Some writers build worlds. Others birth entire universes.

In the decades since its publication, Frank Herbert’s Dune has become arguably the best-selling and certainly the best-known science fiction novel ever written. So how did an ex-Navy newspaperman from Washington State come to write such a world-conquering novel? And how was he able to pack it with so many layers of myth and meaning?

Herbert’s boundless imagination was sparked by a dizzying array of ideas, from classical history to cutting-edge science, from environmentalism to Zen philosophy, and from Arabic texts to Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Beginning on Arrakis and going planet by planet, The Worlds of Dune offers a supremely deep dive into Herbert's universe—detailing along the way the many diverse strands that he wove into his epic creation to offer a visually rich accompaniment to this sci-fi legend.


My Review
: Glorious illustrated companion to the Duneiverse was published in October 2023 to coincide with the pre-WGA/SAG strikes release of Dune Part Two. Now scheduled for release on 1 March 2024 in the US (per IMDb), the companion film to 2021's gorgeous Dune means we can finally show the marketing case for a beautiful, informative arty book about how Frank Herbert came up with the ideas, and examined the cultures, that he based his utterly engrossing work on.

Take a gander at this table of contents...the design's beautiful to my eye, the clarity of information presentation is usable, and the synopsis is amply supported by the part and chapter titles:

  • Chapter One Desert Planet
  • Chapter Two The Fremen
  • Chapter Three The Spice
  • Part Two: CALADAN
  • Chapter Four House Atreides
  • Chapter Five Paul Muad'dib
  • Chapter Six Lady Jessica and the Bene Gesserit
  • Part Three: GIEDI PRIME
  • Chapter Seven House Harkonnen
  • Chapter Eight Piter De Vries and the Mentats
  • Chapter Nine The CHOAM Corporation
  • Part Four: KAITAN
  • Chapter Ten House Corrino and the Padishah Emperor
  • Chapter Eleven The Landsraad
  • Chapter Twelve The Spacing Guild
  • An introduction to Herbert's life whizzes along in just over ten pages, and there are the usual things in the back matter: An Epilogue, notes, credits, sources, etc.

    This is not a long book, nor is it a scholarly evaluation of Dune in all its genre glory. This is a book for the aficionado of the world of to have for their display and their aesthetic pleasure. It will not elucidate matters of great debate within the Duneiverse, nor will it enlighten most long-time fans about most matters around the creation of the Duneiverse in print or on screens. The point of it is to make the reality of the great work beautiful and ready to seduce the eyes:

    A gift to give that shows you listened, a gift to yourself if you're a genre fan, a beautiful object to have and enjoy.


    THE SPICE MUST FLOW: The Story of Dune, from Cult Novels to Visionary Sci-Fi Movies

    Plume Books
    $18.00 trade paper, available now

    Rating: 4* of five

    The Publisher Says: Geek-culture expert Ryan Britt takes us behind the pages and scenes of the science-fiction phenomenon Dune, charting the series' life from cult sci-fi novels to some of the most visionary movies of all time.

    Using original, deep-access reporting, extensive research, and insightful commentary, The Spice Must Flow brings the true popularity of Dune out into the light for the very first time. With original interviews with the beloved actors and directors behind the films—including Timothée Chalamet, Kyle Maclachlan, Denis Villeneuve, Patrick Stewart, Rebecca Ferguson, Alec Newman, and many more—The Spice Must Flow also examines the far-reaching influence of Dune on art, music, politics, and, most notably, its status as the first ecological science-fiction story specifically concerned with climate change.

    Britt skillfully and entertainingly guides readers through the history of how the Dune universe has unfolded, including the novel’s unlikely evolution from a failed piece of journalism about Oregon sand dunes into an epic science-fiction story, the way Herbert’s work inspired George Lucas, untold stories from the 1984 David Lynch film, the knife-edge balance between blockbuster hit and indie film Timothée Chalamet brings to the 2021 movie, and the exciting future of the franchise. Through a blend of narrative, oral history elements, and fascinating trivia, The Spice Must Flow is the new essential guide to the behind-the-scenes story of Dune. The fiction of Dune is deadly serious, but the real-life story of how it came into existence is full of wonder, surprises, and spice.


    My Review
    : What I said the book above wasn't this book is. It's by archgeek Ryan Britt of LUKE SKYWALKER CAN'T READ fame, so he's got the chops and knows both the beat and the drill. Plume's published three of his books now, so clearly he commands the geek-culture street cred to make it profitable. Plus he's got a witty way with words that makes his deep familiarity with the subject less...creepy, more fun and funny.

    This fictional universe has a lot of hot-button topics in it: Religion, climate change, religion, anti-technological bias, religion, and sheer unsurpassed-in-SF canon-guarding/gatekeeping/incel-friendly detail. Britt doesn't exactly dwell on the toxic parts of the fandom but neither does he ignore them. There are lots of worldbuilding details that he discusses and there are lots of ideas pinned under them, set in stories that are brimful of unapologetically partisan points of view. This is guaranteed to make some people go into full-on rages when their preferred interpretation of some detail is argued against.

    This makes me sad, and reminds me of Kit Connor (of Heartstopper fame) feeling forced to reveal his private sexuality to stop muttered accusations of queerbaiting. As he said at the time this was occurring:
    "I'm bi. Congrats for forcing an 18-year-old to out himself. I think some of you missed the point of the show. Bye."
    (emphasis added to point up the disconnect between messages in the original and fannish gatekeeping)
    That's the downside of passionate fandom. Anyone who has been in the Geek Culture world for more than A Minute has seen/been caught up in a pile-on when someone dares to be/say/assert an opinion or a take or even present a closely-reasoned analysis of that fandom's shared object that somehow rubs (some of) the fans the wrong way.

    Quite a lot of people, myself included, stay away from fandoms for this reason. This book is a gentle, explanatory rebuke of our skittishness in the form of a reasonable geek-culture maven's informed, excited (almost besotted) exlainer of just why this fandom came to be. Also a gentle chiding of the obsessive gatekeeping by some groups of fans. The book makes the point that Frank Herbert, and his son Brian after him, have created and are curating an immense, expansive Duneiverse of fiction, films, comics, and cosplay that contains literal multitudes. There is such astonishingly varied information in this fiction! Letting new players into the sandbox is Author Britt's aim in much of what he's doing...yet he never loses sight of the established fan's desire to see the whole Duneiverse from a wide-angled least as far as the 2021 film...the 2024 one was filming as he wrote, so details and gossip were all embargoed.

    I need to be reminded from time to time that fandom can be fun, and fascinating, and an all-around good experience. I hope this book will do the same for you, as a gift to yourself, and your other giftees.

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