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Dune

by budr Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:07:56 AM EST

I can plot the course of my life by the books and authors that have influenced me.  Dune by Frank Herbert is one of those books.  I believe it will come to be seen as one of the defining books of my generation. So many tangled strands that were coming together as we came of age are exquisitely woven in this one astounding work of fiction.  It is a book about awareness.  Ecological awareness, awareness of the limits of imperialism, the false yet tantalizing promise of chemically induced forms of higher awareness, above all awareness of consequences.


Beyond a critical point within a finite space, freedom diminishes as numbers increase. This is as true of humans in the finite space of a planetary ecosystem as it is for gas molecules in a sealed flask. The human question is not how many can possibly survive within the system, but what kind of existence is possible for those who do survive.

 -Pardot Kynes
 First Planetologist of Arrakis

from the diaries. A timely - and excellent - review of one of the most fascinating books ever written. -- Jérôme



A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then, take care that you first place his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.

 -from "Manual of Muad'Dib"
 by the Princess Irulan

Dune is described as a work of science fiction.  And so it is, just as Lord of the Rings is a fantasy novel, or 1984 is a political novel, or King Lear is a stage play about a king who had three daughters.

Dune is a work of prophesy, stunningly prescient on so many topics.  Published in 1965, it foresaw the rise of OPEC and the use of a critical natural resource as a political weapon.  The first time I ever encountered the term jihad was in Dune.  When that term began to surface in the corporate media a few years ago, I had a powerful sense of deja vu.  One of the strongest themes in Dune is ecology and ecological awareness, particularly on a planetary scale.  When Al Gore's Earth In the Balance began to garner some attention in the media and ecology on a planetary scale became a serious topic of discussion, again the deja vu.  Herbert dedicated the book to ecologists.


To the people whose labors go beyond ideas into the realm of "real materials"--to the dry-land ecologists, wherever they may be, in whatever time they work, this effort at prediction is dedicated in humility and admiration.

The central character of the book is the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune.  Dune is a desert planet.  No, I mean a desert planet.  Think of an entire planet on which water is as scarce as in the harshest regions of the Sahara.  Every complex system is bounded by a minimum or a maximum.  On Dune the bounding minimum is water.  Every aspect of the ecology of the planet is bound by that one fact.  Every species has evolved and adapted to that one fact.


Appendix I:
 The Ecology of Dune

To Pardot Kynes, the planet was merely an expression of energy, a machine being driven by its sun. What it needed was a reshaping to fit it to man's needs. His mind went directly to the free-moving human population, the Fremen. What a challenge! What a tool they could be! Fremen: an ecological and geological force of almost unlimited potential.

A direct and simple man in many ways, Pardot Kynes. One must evade Harkonnen restrictions? Excellent. Then one marries a Fremen woman. When she gives you a Fremen son, you begin with him, with Liet-Kynes, and the other children, teaching them ecological literacy, creating a new language with symbols that arm the mind to manipulate an entire landscape, its climate, seasonal limits, and finally to break through all ideas of force into the dazzling awareness of order.

"There's an internally recognized beauty of motion and balance on any man-healthy planet," Kynes said. "You see in this beauty a dynamic stabilizing effect essential to all life. Its aim is simple: to maintain and produce coordinated patterns of greater and greater diversity. Life improves the closed system's capacity to sustain life. Life - all life - is in the service of life. Necessary nutrients are made available to life by life in greater and greater richness as the diversity of life increases. The entire landscape comes alive, filled with relationships within relationships."

"The thing the ecologically illiterate don't realize about an ecosystem," Kynes said, "is that it's a system. A system! A system maintains a certain fluid stability that can be destroyed by a misstep in just one niche. A system has order, a flowing from point to point. If something dams that flow, order collapses. The untrained might miss that collapse until it was too late. That's why the highest function of ecology is the understanding of consequences."

From the charts emerged a figure. Kynes reported it. Three per cent. If they could get three per cent of the green plant element on Arrakis involved in forming carbon compounds, they'd have their self-sustaining cycle.

"But how long," the Fremen demanded.

"Oh, that: about three hundred and fifty years."

So it was true as this umma had said in the beginning: the thing would not come in the lifetime of any man now living, nor in the lifetime of their grandchildren eight times removed, but it would come.

The course had been set by this time, the Ecological-Fremen were aimed along their way. Liet-Kynes had only to watch and nudge and spy upon the Harkonnens . . . until the day his planet was afflicted by a Hero.

Among the native humans on the planet, the Fremen, every aspect of culture, religion, and mythology is arranged around a single harsh, inescapable reality.  Their very language is woven around the necessity to preserve, conserve, and defend the single most precious commodity on the planet, water.  If you have water you are wealthy.  If you do not you are dead.


"Do you wish to go with the smugglers?" the Fremen asked.

"Is it possible?"

"The way is long."

"Fremen don't like to say no," Idaho had told him once.

Hawat said: "You haven't yet told me whether your people can help my wounded."

"They are wounded."

The same damned answer every time!

We know they're wounded!" Hawat snapped. "That's not the--"

Peace, friend," the Fremen cautioned.  "What do your wounded say?  Are there those among them who can see the water need of your tribe?"

We haven't talked about water," Hawat said.  "We--"

I can understand your reluctance," the Fremen said.  "They are your friends, your tribesmen.  Do you have water?"

Not enough."

The Fremen gestured to Hawat's tunic, skin exposed beneath it.  "You were caught in-sietch, without your suits.  You must make a water decision, friend."

Can we hire your help?"

"The Fremen shrugged.  "You have no water."  He glanced at the group behind Hawat.  "How many of your wounded would you spend?"


It was over before Hawat's tired men could gather their wits.  The group with the body hanging like a sack in its enfolding robe was gone around a turn in the cliff.

One of Wawat's men shouted: "Where are they going with Arkie?  He was--"

They're taking him to...bury him," Hawat said.

"Fremen don't bury their dead!" the man barked.  "Don't you try any tricks on us, Thufir.  We know what they do.  Arkie was one of--"

"Stop right where you are!" Hawat barked.  He fought down the sick fatigue that gripped his muscles.  "These people respect our dead.  Customs differ, but the meaning's the same."

"They're going to render Arkie down for his water," the man with the lasgun snarled.

"Is it that your men wish to attend the ceremony?" the Fremem asked.

He doesn't even see the problem, Hawat thought.  The naivete of the Fremen was frightening.

"They're concerned for a respected comrade," Hawat said.

"We will treat your comrade with the same reverence we treat our own," the Fremen said.  "This is the bond of water.  We know the rites.  A man's flesh is his own; the water belongs to the tribe."

The naivete of outsiders, from a water-rich world, ignorant and uninterested in the customs and values of a desert people they think to dominate.


"Will you now help our wounded?"

"One does not question the bond," the Fremen said.  "We will do for you what a tribe does for its own.  First, we must get all of you suited and see to the necessities."

Hawat's aide said: "Are we buying help with Arkie's...water?"

"Not buying," Hawat said.  "We've joined these people."

"Customs differ," one of his men muttered.

"And they'll help us get to Arrakeen?"

"We will kill Harkonnens," the Fremen said.  He grinned.  "And Sardaukar."

The villains of the story are the Harkonnens, one of the Great Houses in the feudal political structure of an interstellar empire.  The novel plays out against the backdrop of a squabble between two Great Houses vying for power and influence in the Imperial Court.  The object of the squabble is control of the Planet Arrakis and its mineral wealth.  The only thing of value on Arrakis of interest to outsiders is the spice drug melange.  The story unfolds as the strategic and political implications of controlling the spice, with its critical importance to the interstellar transportation network, begins to dawn on all the players.  Sound familiar?

When I first read the book in about 1971, I assumed the Harkonnens represented the Soviets.  Like any good American, they were the presumed villains in any global political struggle.  With the benefit of thirty odd years of hindsight, I have reconsidered that early facile assumption.  The Harkonnens are brutal and repressive, interested only in extracting as much mineral wealth, in the form of the spice, from the planet Arrakis, as quickly as possible, without regard to the effects their actions might have on the ecology or the native population of the planet.  And the central element of their crest, their logo, is the letter H.  Hmmm, who might that represent?

One of the major forces in the story is the Spacing Guild, a race of spacefarers who call no planet home.  The Guild maintains an effective monopoly on interstellar travel.  The navigators of their FTL starships called heighliners use the spice drug melange to enhance their precognitive abilities, to allow them to foresee possible collisions or other dangers before they happen, to see a safe path to their destination.  A hallucinogenic drug?  Key to higher forms of awareness?  Precognition through chemistry?  To a child of the psychedelic sixties, it was irresistible.  The spice is key to everything that happens in the novel.  It is the one indispensable resource upon which almost everything else depends.  And it is only found on Arrakis.  Let's see, a scarce resource, absolutely critical to the most important transportation system of the Empire, only found in certain desert regions in a particular part of the Empire.  Remind you of anything?

Another is the Bene Gesserit, a mysterious organization, part political, part religious order, part secret society, eerily reminiscent of the Catholic Church, but entirely matriarchal, composed only of women.  It is a strange yet fascinating mirror to look into, where up is down and left is right and it's best to look at things askance, from the corner of one's eye.


Appendix III:
 Report on Bene Gesserit Motives and Purposes

Because the Bene Gesserit operated for centuries behind the blind of a semi-mystic school while carrying on their selective breeding program among humans, we tend to award them with more status than they appear to deserve. Analysis of their "trial of fact" on the Arrakis Affair betrays the school's profound ignorance of its own role.

It may be argued that the Bene Gesserit could examine only such facts as were available to them and had no direct access to the person of the Prophet Muad'Dib. But the school had surmounted greater obstacles and its error here goes deeper.

The Bene Gesserit program had as its target the breeding of a person they labeled "Kwisatz Haderach," a term signifying "one who can be many places at once." In simpler terms, what they sought was a human with mental powers permitting him to understand and use higher order dimensions.

They were breeding for a super-Mentat, a human computer with some of the prescient abilities found in Guild navigators. Now, attend these facts carefully:

Muad'Dib, born Paul Atreides, was the son of the Duke Leto, a man whose bloodline had been watched carefully for more than a thousand years. The Prophet's mother, Lady Jessica, was a natural daughter of the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and carried gene-markers whose supreme importance to the breeding program was known for almost two thousand years. She was a Bene Gesserit bred and trained, and should have been a willing tool of the project.

The Lady Jessica was ordered to produce an Atreides daughter. The plan was to inbreed this daughter with Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, a nephew of the Baron Vladimir, with the high probability of a Kwisatz Haderach from that union. Instead, for reasons she confesses have never been completely clear to her, the concubine Lady Jessica defied her orders and bore a son.

This alone should have alerted the Bene Gesserit to the possibility that a wild variable had entered their scheme. But there were other far more important indications that they virtually ignored:

  1. As a youth, Paul Atreides showed ability to predict the future. He was known to have had prescient visions that were accurate, penetrating, and defied four-dimensional explanation.

  2. The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, Bene Gesserit Proctor who tested Paul's humanity when he was fifteen, deposes that he surmounted more agony in the test than any other human of record. Yet she failed to make special note of this in her report!

  3. When Family Atreides moved to the planet Arrakis, the Fremen population there hailed the young Paul as a prophet, "the voice from the outer world." The Bene Gesserit were well aware that the rigors of such a planet as Arrakis with its totality of desert landscape, its absolute lack of open water, its emphasis on the most primitive necessities for survival, inevitably produces a high proportion of sensitives. Yet this Fremen reaction and the obvious element of the Arrakeen diet high in spice were glossed over by Bene Gesserit observers.

  4. When the Harkonnens and the soldier-fanatics of the Padishah Emperor reoccupied Arrakis, killing Paul's father and most of the Atreides troops, Paul and his mother disappeared. But almost immediately there were reports of a new religious leader among the Fremen, a man called Muad'Dib, who again was hailed as "the voice from the outer world." The reports stated clearly that he was accompanied by a new Reverend Mother of the Sayyadina Rite "who is the woman who bore him." Records available to the Bene Gesserit stated in plain terms that the Fremen legends of the Prophet contained these words: "He shall be born of a Bene Gesserit witch."

(It may be argued here that the Bene Gesserit sent their Missionaria Protectiva onto Arrakis centuries earlier to implant something like this legend as safeguard should any members of the school be trapped there and require sanctuary, and that this legend of "the voice from the outer world" was properly to be ignored because it appeared to be the standard Bene Gesserit ruse. But this would be true only if you granted that the Bene Gesserit were correct in ignoring the other clues about Paul-Muad'Dib.)

When the Arrakis Affair boiled up, the Spacing Guild made overtures to the Bene Gesserit. The Guild hinted that its navigators, who use the spice drug of Arrakis to produce the limited prescience necessary for guiding spaceships through the void, were "bothered about the future" or saw "problems on the horizon." This could only mean they saw a nexus, a meeting place of countless delicate decisions, beyond which the path was hidden from the prescient eye. This was a clear indication some agency was interfering with higher-order dimensions!

(A few of the Bene Gesserit had long been aware that the Guild could not interfere directly with the vital spice source because Guild navigators already were dealing in their own inept way with higher order dimensions, at least to the point where they recognized that the slightest misstep they made on Arrakis would be catastrophic. It was a known fact that Guild navigators could predict no way to take control of the spice without producing just such a nexus. The obvious conclusion was that someone of higher order powers was taking control of the spice source, yet the Bene Gesserit missed this point entirely!)

a nexus, a meeting place of countless delicate decisions, beyond which the path was hidden from the prescient eye

I am convinced that we are rapidly approaching just such a nexus in the Middle East.  Not just Iraq, not just the age-old Sunni/Shia conflict, not just the Iraeli/Palestinian conflict.  These are just the most obvious strands of a great, tangled ball of yarn which no one--no one--outside the region fully understands.  As I watch events unfold in Iraq, I am struck again and again by a sense of deja vu.  It is like watching a poorly made, under budgeted remake of Dune.  Life imitating art, poorly.  I am convinced that anyone who still seriously believes they can accurately predict or control what is now unfolding there is simply delusional.

And I have wondered more than once whether Osama bin Laden has read Dune.  So much of what al Qaeda has done seems strangely familiar.  And I understand the name al Qaeda means The Base, as in the base of a pillar.


A voice from the troop called out:  "Needs a naming, Stil."

Stilgar nodded, tugging at his beard.  "I see strength in you...like the strength beneath a pillar.  You shall be known as Usul, the base of the pillar.  This is your secrete name, your troop name.  We of Sietch Tabr may use it, but none other may so presume...Usul"

Coincidence?  Probably.  But I can't help but wonder.

Display:
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We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 01:04:51 AM EST
I discovered Dune many years ago and make a point of re-reading the whole series every couple of years, as it is indeed so unbelievably rich and prescient.

Religion, resources, trust, self-control, death, long term vs short term, community vs individual, it's one of the best books of political philosophy I have ever read.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:05:45 AM EST
How is your opinion of quality across the series?

I read it more than a decade ago, so memories are foggy, but IIRC I found the first very good, the second a load of crap, and then again two of the last four good and the other two bad (don't remember the sequence). The main distinction seemed whether the political manoeuvring was just handwaving or had a logic to it.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 06:31:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really like the last 3. I tended to dismiss the n°2 and 3 in my memory, but each time i actually read them, I find them worth the read and interesting. But maybe they are less breathtaking in scope as the others.

I really miss the hinted at 7th book after the 6th one. It was promising to be absolutely ecellent. Maybe his son has enough notes to create it (I quite like the work he's done with Anderson to write some of the earlier episodes - not as grand, maybe, but faithful to the style and atmosphere od his father and pretty good books).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:03:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, I didn't knew about the prequels, nor aboutr Dune 7, whose first half is already in the stores according to the official site.

Now I have to take the time to re-read the original six... (if I can get my hands on copies).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:27:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read the first a time or three, read the second (and agreed with your judgement), and then returned to re-reading the first.

I read the whole book aloud, once. Made for interesting discussions.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 02:38:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I only read the first three.  Dune of course is Dune.  It is probably one of the top four or five books in my personal list.  I enjoyed Dune Messiah.  I thought it was a pretty decent sequel, but more of an entertaining scifi novel than a major work.  I read the third, God Emperor of Dune maybe?  It seemed pretty formulaic.  I got the impression that Herbert's heart wasn't really in it.

It is a common occurrence in American publishing that if an author has a big hit, publishers push for a sequel.  If that also does well they push for another book to make a trilogy.  If that flies they push even harder to make a series and then they ride the series until they wear it out.  I suspect that is what happened to Herbert.  The ending of the third book where the main character (son or grandson of Muad'Dib?) basically wins all the chips and issues the stern prophesy about a regime that will last for a thousand years and that's the end of that, seemed to me to be a not so subtle piss-off to his publishers.  I took him at his word and didn't bother reading any of the others.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 10:17:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think your third is actually the fourth. Downthread, someone posted a link to a Herbert article on his concept for the first trilogy, from which it appears that the second and third book were indeed integral to his original idea. So it appears to me the quality of the first two sequels at least are a case of writer burnout (inability to flesh out a concept) rather than publisher's pushing.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 02:04:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right.  I forgot Children of Dune.  How could I forget Saint Alia of the Knife?  As I remember it was pretty good too.  

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:13:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Always found 1 to be Fantastic then remember the quality dipping till I remeber 4 to be virtually unreadble. then the quality picks up for 5 and six was almost back to the standards of the first.

I regularly re-read the original, but havent had the urge to reread the others since I first encounterd them. Perhaps it's time to re-read them all again

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 08:07:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's been 20 years but that's about how I remember it.  Once they turned Paul into a sandworm they lost me...
by HiD on Wed Jan 10th, 2007 at 12:12:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dune is an incredible book - a friend recommended I read it a few years ago and I was completely absorbed by it.  It is extremely profound and to hold such resonance still shows the remarkable awareness and forethought of the author.

It has struck me with a number of other 50's and 60's sci fi writers too, that there has been this incredible insight into human nature and how as a species we might react to more severe constraints on our lifestyles.  It may all be works of fiction but there are lessons in some of those books that we'd be well advised to pay attention to.

There's lessons in history we and our country's leaders should be paying more attention to as well. This goes slightly off topic but when I visited Washington a couple of years ago, we looked through the many memorial parks, and read some very inspiring, meaningful quotes engraved in marble and stone and bronze. All very grand. I wondered if Bush had ever looked at these same monuments and actually absorbed the meaning and importance of the words I saw in front of me.

For example (from memory, so it may be inaccurate, nor can I remember who the quote came from); "the true test of our success is not whether we give more to those who have much, but whether we give enough to those who have little."

Thanks for the diary, it's reminded me that I ought to read Dune again and continue with the rest of the series too when I have a chance.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:48:25 AM EST
It may all be works of fiction but there are lessons in some of those books that we'd be well advised to pay attention to.

Ah yes, "work of fiction", the usual line of dismissal levelled at SF. But normal novels are also work of fiction, and they make use of a much narrower potential to think and write about things and people. What's more, the subjectivism prevalent in literature for much of the last century or so invites ignorance of people's shaping by their cultural and natural surroundings, in effect taking the here and now as universal and static.

Of course, some 'mainstream' writers aren't this narrowminded and can cross the line -- Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, Robert Merle, the magical realists.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 06:42:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I wasn't intending to be dismissive of SF with that comment. I've often found sci fi to be far more thought provoking than most mainstream, self-obsessed novels I've come across.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 06:54:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I didn't intend to imply you are dismissive :-) I read that line as defensive against this accusation, not as agreeing.

(Also, for the record, the bulk of SF novels may be little more than goggle-eyed teenage boy fantasy -- though that is likely due to the publishing system authors faced.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:24:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Phew!
It is true though that expectations of publishers will put pressure on writers to write in a way to target a particular audience since they are the money spinners for the publisher, rather than giving free reign to let a truly excellent and original book develop.  I get fed up with formulaic novels selling in their millions that have no substance to them and offer nothing to think about.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:37:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking of the magazine system (chiefly in the US) to which SF authors were initially bound. I think Isaac Asimov had an enlightening essay about its workings in the foreword to an anthology of forgotten gems picked from the early years he edited.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 08:21:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Literature' now is nothing if not formulaic. The common themes in non-SF are:

  1. Sexual politics - adultery, obsession, and so on.
  2. A bit of horror.
  3. A bit of ethnic seasoning.
  4. A bit of mysticism.

Most books that end up on the lit crit short lists have at least one of those ingredients, and the most popular seem to tick at least three of the boxes.

SF doesn't play by the same rules, and some of it (like Dune) is political fiction, which doesn't get any coverage at all in other genres.

What seems to make novels stand out is psychological insight. A lot of literature fakes insight by having characters that agonise melodramatically over their lives.

Dune scores off the scale on insight, with less of that ersatz psycho-angst and plenty of the real thing.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 08:25:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't forget romance and shopping.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 08:48:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't remember any shopping in Dune.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 04:17:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What about trading Spice?
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 06:28:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it is noticeable that sci-fi publishing has had several severe crimps on the width of substance available in the last 30 years. Firstly there was the Reagan/Thatcher effect, where Sci-fi faded into the background and Fantasy took over the bunch of published titles. (possibly reflecting a desire to look backwards to the golden age, rather than forwards) the next severe crimp, is TV series books, especially star trek which are taking   up valuable shelf space that could be exposing other authours to the buying public. The latest fad is the buffy novel, a variant on the tv tie in, but we're now getting valuable shelf space taken up by churned out vampire/warewolf/undead crossed with mills and boon novels.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 09:56:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"...the Reagan/Thatcher effect, where Sci-fi faded into the background and Fantasy took over...possibly reflecting a desire to look backwards to the golden age, rather than forwards..."

I've always blamed the rise of naïve limits-to-growth thinking (note qualifier) -- it promises that the future will be forced to look like the past. This strikes me as a flight from likely reality, as a failure of imagination and as a failure of intellectual and moral courage.

How convenient, how comforting, if the future were to plunge from our exponential flight into the unknown and settle back into the ancient groove of rural poverty. How sad that contemplating an imaginary technological fizzle is considered foresighted and courageous.
----

Apropos of this, and straying from a response to your comment, I'd like to restate an unanswered general challenge that I posted on Booman regarding a popular idea of how the future might be simplified:

Could you, or anyone, please direct me to a credible scenario in which climate change leads to a real collapse? By "collapse," I mean a situation in which the developed world can't produce Tylenol and batteries [which had been mentioned above], not "merely" one in which most of the world is hell and the rest is disrupted and loses a big chunk of GDP. By "scenario", I mean a sketch of a process that includes both challenges and responses.

A credible scenario should take account of the potential for brutal political and military responses to human threats, escalated as needed to defend land, food, resources, and infrastructure. A credible scenario should should assume that the Earth keeps a climate not greatly worse than the worst IPCC scenario.

If a collapse could happen, then it's worth thinking seriously about the process and the result. If not, then it's worth thinking seriously about horrible outcomes in a more realistic range.



Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 03:01:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think a breakdown of supply chains and eventual anti-science jihads would be a realisatic scenario in reply to your challenge.

The added benefit is that it happened before. When Rome collapsed, most of the antique technology was lost (lost in practical use, even if some parts of the know-how could survive in books hidden somewhere). This loss was not instantaneous but a process. Granted, what came after wasn't what existed before, but it was definitely more resembling prior forms of rural poverty than the collapsed civilisation. I'd say the Maya collapse and some of the Chinese inter-dynastic periods also fit the bill.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:01:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Breakdown of supply chains: I can imagine many supply disruptions over a period of time, many huge price increases, but what would be the mechanism for a general breakdown? Just for calibration, consider German aircraft production during WWII. Huge efforts were made to break down their supply chains, and these caused enormous problems, yet "...the Strategic bombing survey conducted by the United States in 1946 determined that German industrial production in aircraft, steel, armor, and other sectors had risen hugely during the war despite strategic bombing." (Wikipedia: Strategic bombing during World War II)

Anti-science jihads: If science stopped, technological development and adaptation to change would slow, not reverse. To the extent that technology itself were undercut, the nations that allowed the attacks would become militarily irrelevant, and would be dominated by the rest.

The collapse of Rome was an essentially political and cultural process. It didn't lead to the collapse of China or India, and likewise, political collapses in China didn't collapse India or Europe. There are multiple centres of technological civilisation today, making the global system of civilisation resistant to local collapses.

I still don't see a credible scenario for what I would call a real collapse (as distinct from something that would collapse suburbia, and thus be widely seen as the veritable End of the World).

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 03:36:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The failure of WWII strategic bombing had several particular reasons that cannot be generalised, including the focus on bombing civilian quarters (especially under British command and especially for firebombing), not expecting underground production, easy repair-ability of railways, and the low precision of bombs dropped from high altitude. But civil wars, small wars between countries on the supply chain to a third country, and pillaging of transport routes are much more effective in breaking down supply chains.

Your second comment belies a 20th-century mindset about war. But just the US failure in Iraq or the Israeli failure in Lebanon show that technological superiority doesn't convert into military victory. Meanwhile, while military technology might be maintained for some time (though definitely not when a major military power falls apart into multiple statelents), civilian can get lost. This happened in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

I don't think your analogy between the multiple civilisations of the antique and the multiple technological centres today holds. Those ancient civilisations were essentially self-contained both economically and technologically. None of the centres today are, we are in the age of globalisation. ('National economy' is a fiction, I'd argue it always was, but especially now.) The collapse of supply chains I meant were the global supply chains. I think the right analogy for eventually surviving technological centres would be say the post-5th-century Byzantine Empire.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 04:37:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Climate change could lead to sudden and catastrophic crop failure, migration of tropical diseases to the temperate zone, or disruption of the major shipping ports around the world due to raising sea levels.

I have no doubt that it is possible for a region to survive the scenarios you seem to be allowing, especially by geographical isolation and use of brutal policy.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:16:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and given sufficient regional collapse elsewhere, those regions would find themselves at the wrong end of a colonial relationship or other form of exploitive domination.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 03:39:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
unanswered general challenge

in which climate change leads to a real collapse

  1. Methane formerly trapped in Arctic permafrost is released, as global warming causes the permafrost to melt.  It migrates to the upper atmosphere where it completes destruction of the ozone layer.  Increased ultra violet light reaches the ground and suppresses photosynthetic plants, which quit growig and also quit producing oxygen.  Most groups of large animals, especially mammals, die from lack of food before suffocation can finish them off.  Humans fare similarly.  

  2.  The climate, having popped, shifts to a new equilibrium.  Unfortunately, this equilibrium, while comfortable for hot-spring bacteria, is unsuited for most plants, including all large ones.  Most groups of large animals die for lack of food.  Humans fare likewise.  

  3.  The climate, having popped, moves to a new equilibrium where warm, oxygenated water sits on top of cold, oxygen-depleted water throughout the globe.  Ocean circulation ceases.  Conditions become favorable for hydrogen-sulfide bacteria, which proliferate and make the atmosphere unsuitable for mammalian life.  Humans fare likewise.  

There are, of course, more possibilities.  How likely are they?  Maybe not very.  Yet right now, not even THAT is known.  

In any of these scenerios, production of tylenol would stop.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 03:30:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd asked for a scenario in which the Earth keeps a climate not greatly worse than the worst IPCC scenario. I think that these scenarios are outside even the post-Cretaceous range of climate variation.

  1. Global suffocation can't have happened since vertebrates emerged from the sea.

  2. Global (or even continental) extinction of large plants due to warming, similarly.

  3. Likewise.

Make that "these scenarios are outside even post-Permian climate and atmospheric composition variation". I don't find these scenarios remotely credible. Human beings are beginning to have measurable effects on climate, but by the yardstick of geological history, anthropogenic global warming is trivial, and the worst events that it could plausibly trigger are moderate.

Good news, right?


Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 03:57:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but by the yardstick of geological history, anthropogenic global warming is trivial, and the worst events that it could plausibly trigger are moderate.  

There's faith!  

But no, humans are not triggering global warming through main force--quite impossible--but by triggering cascades of events.  

And no, no one knows where the cascades stop.  It is safe to say the Earth will not get as warm as Venus.  It is even safe to say single-celled organisms will survive.  Beyond that, I haven't heard an argument that was anything other than wish-fullfillment.  

By the way, # 3 IS the Permian, under the most recent hypothesis.  

Right now, scenerio # 1 is within reach.  

Meanwhile, for small change in climate, I think Miguel and Dodo have covered the basic idea.  And, as they point out, it is not like it hasn't happened before.  Indeed, a dirty secret of archaeology is that civilizations always collapse, seemingly from causes that are self-engendered.  I think we are seeing that now.  

What do I think is most likely?  

Civilization collapses, spectacularly.  Humans survive in smaller numbers, under more arduous conditions.  

How arduous?  Undecided at this time.  Which is why what we do now is so important.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 05:45:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Saying "plausibly trigger" keeps me safe from charges of faith, I hope.

...It is safe to say the Earth will not get as warm as Venus.  It is even safe to say single-celled organisms will survive.  Beyond that, I haven't heard an argument that was anything other than wish-fullfillment.

An argument that says that, absent some specific argument to the contrary, it is implausible that small perturbations will produce effects far larger than the effects of numerous small perturbations in the past doesn't strike me as wish fulfillment.

When the proposed effects are far larger than those resulting from past perturbations that are themselves far larger, this line of argument looks even less like wish fulfillment. Note that "implausible" doesn't mean "known with certainty to be impossible".

Regarding large plants, #3, and the Permian/Triassic extinction, I perhaps got carried away when I read that amphibians survived. Regarding the plausibility of our bumping the Earth into a repeat performance, the currently popular theories of what happened all involve huge cosmic or geological causes (The Great Dying). None of these involves the climate just getting bumped off track a bit.

Regarding "civilizations always collapse", it's a good thing that the world has several, even if they do clash.

Regarding the question, "How arduous?", if the primary expected problem is higher temperatures, and people know an inexpensive way to cool the Earth, what would you expect to see happen? I think it's more than likely that the problems caused be greenhouse gases in mid-century, however large they may be, won't be those of high temperature per se.

If this is true, then scenarios that assume otherwise will misdirect our efforts.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 12:57:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...the worst events that [Global Warming] could plausibly trigger are moderate.

So you're saying you can predict a Chaotic System?


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 10:10:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chaotic dynamics does not imply unlimited amplitude of dynamical change. In some instances, I'd answer, "Yes, of course, and with certainty (for some systems!), provided that the prediction specifies bounds to change, rather than detailed dynamics". In the present instance, I'd say, "Yes, and with considerable confidence, if the bounds are wide enough."

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 12:24:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry to be brief in my reply but I just got in from work and my brain is fried.

To be useful the prediction has to be able to guide action otherwise it's pointless.  If your control variable(s) become state variable(s), for example, you may be within model parameters, as far as variable value assignment, but the modeled has escape the model.  And that is IF the differential equations are solvable; a big IF as the majority of 'em ain't.

No amplitude is unlimited, of course, as the dynamic system will self-destruct under continuous positive feedback, when one hooks the emitter to the base of a transistor, or becomes non-dynamic under continuous negative feedback.    

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 11:24:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh.  I mispent my youth rifling the book racks at a tiny, hole in the wall bookstore in my town.  I eagerly sought out anything that even remotely resembled science fiction.  Most of it was indeed "goggle-eyed teenage boy fantasy."  I wasn't sophisticated enough to tell the difference until I made the acquaintance of a much better read and more intelligent classmate.  We became best friends and it is probably only through his influence that I escaped the fate of growing up a typical rural hick like so many of our classmates.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 12:17:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree, Dune is one of the greatesat SF books.

Two themes I saw as important which you only mentioned passingly:

(1) Dune plays in an age a long time after a great Jihad, one against technology, which the jihadists felt enslaves people. (Hence the use of Mentats, 'human computers'.) By the time of the story, some pragmatic 'compromises' have been made in terms of allowed technologies.

(2) Most SF about the future is a projection of America into the future in one or another way, and almost all are projections of Western culture. That Frank Herbert implanted strong Arabic, Muslim influences into this distant future (IIRC some 25,000 years away, with either the Jihad or the establishment of the Galactic Empire as halfway point and beginning of the then calendar) makes it stand out.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 06:27:15 AM EST
I obviously don't share the dismissal of SF as "not real litterature" that you mentioned above (not that you share it, but that it is widespread), so I voluntarily did not put the "SF" qualifier in the front page intro.

Dune is one of the best books, full stop, and Dune is one of the best writers, also full stop.

And you are right to flag his "implantation" of other cultures in his books - it's not just in Dune, it comes out in many other of his books, and it is indeed one of his better qualities - that ability to see long term treands, and qualities, in the rest of the world, not just the "West".

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:07:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By accident Dosadi (also from Herberts) was one of the first SF book I read. Also an impressive work.
by Laurent GUERBY on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 12:34:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True.  There are so many themes woven into the book.  I only touched on the two or three that seemed especially timely in the context of the approaching nexus in the Middle East.  There are a couple of reasons for that.

If I had tried to put them all in, the diary would have been nine miles long.  And I am a little short on free time just now.  My father is in the hospital and my life is not entirely my own.  This diary, or something very like it, has been rattling around my skull screaming to be let out for a while now.  I finally reworked an old essay in odd moments of free time to at least let the pressure off a bit.  

I would have liked to at least mention the Butlerian jihad and the mentats.  And I really wanted to go into the wonderful way Herbert wove all the Arabic, Muslim, and what I took to be Bedouin influences into the language and culture of Arrakis.  I just couldn't think of a way to fit it into the diary without making it much much longer, and taking time that I don't have right now.

Another thread I would have liked to include was the whole tapestry of word play and language play.  Herbert's wordcraft is in my mind positively Shakespearean in depth and breadth.  The interior dialogues of the characters as the said one thing aloud and something else entirely in italics made the entire story richer.  And again and again he invented words as English translations of Fremen words and used them to illustrate or suggest concepts.  I've always fancied myself a kind of closet linguist and I found all those little linguistic tricks absolutely delicious.

The Bene Gesserit would make a diary all by themselves, as would the Spacing Guild.  Sorry, just not enough time or space to do all I would have liked to.  Twas ever thus.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 09:49:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I may point to a theme that cuts across the grain of current ideology: Dune describes tight constraints, but not constraints squeezing humanity into an ever-smaller box. Instead, it sees humanity transforming the ecology of a planet to expand the realm of life:
"There's an internally recognized beauty of motion and balance on any man-healthy planet," Kynes said. "You see in this beauty a dynamic stabilizing effect essential to all life. Its aim is simple: to maintain and produce coordinated patterns of greater and greater diversity. Life improves the closed system's capacity to sustain life. Life - all life - is in the service of life...."
....
From the charts emerged a figure. Kynes reported it. Three per cent. If they could get three per cent of the green plant element on Arrakis involved in forming carbon compounds, they'd have their self-sustaining cycle.

Another prescient theme: We now see increasing discussion of planetary-scale environmental engineering.

Cooling the Earth: CO2, SO2, and The Sunscreen Fix

(Yes, the ideas I warned of in October seem to be gaining traction. We'll see.)

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 03:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed.  I think that is the only real hope we have of averting environmental catastrophe.  We are way, way past the point where we as a species on this planet could mend our ways, do less with less, play nice with the polar bears, and revert to some prior state of existence.  There are simply too many humans alive on this planet to make such a thing even remotely possible.  And it should be obvious to anyone with a brain by now that we cannot continue on our current trajectory.  In a very real sense we have engineered ourselves into our present predicament, we just weren't really aware of the ultimate consequences of our actions.  If we do not wish to contemplate the extinction of about half or three quarters of the current human population we must begin to quite consciously engineer our way out of it.  And the very first indispensable step in doing that is to look very carefully and very honestly at the situation as it is, not as we might wish it to be.  Sorry, I seem to be channelling Donald Rumsfeld there.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:09:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
channelling Donald Rumsfeld?

we'd better beat it out of you with a Ouija board then.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 05:16:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rumsfeld didn't say "Let's deal with the real situation", which is a foundation of sanity. He said something closer to (but not quite as crazy as) "What the hell -- we'll do it even if reality says we don't have the means to succeed." I judge you innocent of Rumsfeldian possession.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 04:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and I meant to say, you are absolutely right.  That theme, the conscious application of planetary scale ecological engineering, first to mitigate if possible the damage we have already done by our unconscious planetary meddling for most of human history, and then the conscious planetary management of our ecological impact on our world in the future, is I believe the central theme of the book.  I'm sorry if I did not make that clear.

I think that is why Herbert wrote the book.  All of the rest of it, the awesome work of world-building, the political gamesmanship of the Great Houses, the psychological imaginings of the spice drug and precognition and the Kwisatz Haderach, the mysterious agendas of the Bene Gesserit, the spacefaring Guild, and all the rest, as magnificent as it is, all of that Herbert created to make an interesting story that would draw the reader.  And all of that goes to create believable a universe in which Arrakis, the planet Dune, makes some kind of sense, and in which the very concept of planetary ecological engineering, as presented in the person of Pardot Kynes, makes sense.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 08:49:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, there are analogs in Dune of today's events-corruption and bribery in the highest places, whole police forces lost to organized crime, regulatory agencies taken over by the people they are supposed to regulate. The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.

There's more in this rather good essay explaining some of the history and philosophy published in (much-missed) Omni magazine in 1980.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 06:37:35 AM EST
Wow.  Somehow I overlooked your comment and link until DoDo and geezer brought it up again downthread.  My apologies.

Most interesting essay.  He brings up some elements of the book that I overlooked or downplayed.  I guess I'd be a splendid recruit for the right superhero.  The two names that interest me in the 2008 US presidential horse race are Gore and Edwards.  Both exhibit some of that messianic aura.

The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.

Interesting.  I've always seen spice as the exact analogy of oil.  I thought the water scarcity of Dune was a plot element to build the case for planetary ecology.

Damn.  Now I'm going to have to read the book again.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 11:09:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe if Herbert would be alive today and would write that essay today, he'd claim spice as exact analogy of oil :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 11:13:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
True.  It always seemed obvious enough to me.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 11:16:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity

Water!?  

The interviewer has to have gotten it wrong.  Everything in the book makes it clear that spice is the strategic substance.  Herbert has to have understood his own writing.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 03:40:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, what do you think of film versions?

I saw the David Lynch version beforew reading the books, and was impressed (though then I liked the book even better), only later did I learn of the broadly negative reviews it received.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:30:02 AM EST
I was disappointed in the version starring Kyle McLachlan.  I don't think they captured anything very important about the book and what they did capture wasn't done very well IMO.  I understand there is another version, possibly a European production?  I haven't seen it although some clips I saw looked interesting.  Did they do a better job?

Sorry for the short answers.  I am pressed for time this morning.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 09:53:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Since the film drew me to the book, Lynch did capture something :-) The other version, a TV mini-series, is an international coproduction (f.e. William Hurt is in it as Leto). An IMDB commenter titled his/her review "The Gutting of a Masterpiece". Myself, I only watched part of it, found it too didactic and slow-moving, though probably closer to the book.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 02:16:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The sequel is quite watchable, and a good summary of the next books in the series. I'm not sure if it's better or worse than the books, but it works as a stand-alone production that's mostly true to them without being too garish and Hollywoody.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 07:45:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also discovered Dune through the Lynch movie - then I read the book, and the other books.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 03:17:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I regarded the David Lynch movie as a parody.

The book has what the Fremen describe as the "weirding way" of fighting, a discipline drawing on Bene Gesserit training and high martial arts. The movie has "weirding modules", little techno-gadget weapons that get burned in a storeroom. And so on.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 03:20:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Parody" is kind. I have thought for a decade or two about what might have been his intent in making the movie as he did, and I am still at a loss. For a while I thought he was just fascinated by the wonderfully evil Von Harkonnen character, and let it take over (and rot) his brain. I saw the thing a (bleeg) second time with a friend, and just gave up searching for an explanation for the butchery other than that he really hated the movie, and, sensing a market for the more perverse images in Dune, seized on them, and got paid well to do an asassination job on it.
As you may be able to tell, I did not really like it much.
That said, it would be extremely difficult and costly to do a fair job on the movie- too long for one episode, I think. Unless the theaters were equipped for an overnight stay of the patrons, at least. Actually, to me it is nice to see a vision too vast, an imagination too unruled to be reduced to a three-hour non-involved absorption experience in a theater.
I know what a hobbit looks like, and I also have my cherished "Dune" in my head and heart. I am happy to keep my own images.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 06:14:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember reading at the time that there is a large ammount of more film that didn't get included in the final cut, and the result that we all got to see was a massacre produced by the studio to reduce a much smaller film that could play in the cinema.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 02:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the time, there was an amazing amount of gossip about what the hell was going on with this film -- the rumors were flying fast and furious that the set was a nightmare, the budget was hemorrhaging money, the time schedule was shot to hell, and that Lynch was fighting with the studios.  There were also stories about Lynch becoming obsessive over the most minor of set details, compulsively adding scenes, and that no one really understood what he thought he was doing.  The actors were even being questioned by reporters before the film was done and they were resorting to meaningless phrases like "Lynch has his own way of doing things" or "he's a visionary and I just do my job."

If one is familiar with LA set-leak gossip, this particular fact set screamed one thing -- drug problems.  Not that I'm making any accusations or anything, but if it walks like a massive coke binge, etc....

I went to see this damned film opening night and it was one of the biggest disappointments in movie-going history, imo.  I still do have the souvenir print-out thing they gave out, though.

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 02:47:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
More would have been worse, if it was created by the same mind. Adding less-awful scenes would still increase the aggregate awfulness.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 04:12:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I am happy to keep my own images.

I'm told I would enjoy the Lord of the Rings movies. I refuse to risk the effects of seeing it.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 04:08:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree. They would need cuffs and a forklift to get me into hobbit reeducation. Using my own imagination has gotten to be a hobbit with me. (Sorry).

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Tue Jan 9th, 2007 at 07:56:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never watched a Dune movie, and I don't think I will: I saw a short clip of the Lynch one, with the Baron opening people like coke cans and put it on my "do not see list".

I need a new copy of Dune. Mine is worn out.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 06:22:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or possibly I did see the movie and deleted it almost entirely from my memory. I'm not sure.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 06:29:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record, you saw the worst scene of the movie, not a typical one. But Lynch was definitely self-serving with no good purpose with such horror bits.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 10:15:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Never been a huge fan of the Dune series. The first book I thought was very good, but I disliked it. Then the books got steadily worse, rapidly turning into what IMHO was bloated crap.  Again, Dune I is an excellent SF book. It's just that its worship of a mix of radical green mysticism and fascism rubs me the wrong way, and it's not quite good enough for me to forget about the political/religious aspects.

Late sixties through the early eighties was a sort of golden age of ambitious SF. There was some earlier, and it continues to this day, but by now much of it is getting published in the small presses. This past month  or so I re-read an excellent example of the seventies product, Joanna Russ' Female Man, some very idiosyncratic classic fifties and early sixties SF, namely a collection of Cordwainer Smith's Instrumentality stories, as well as Jeff Vandermeer's City of Saints and Madmen and I'm currently reading his new novel Shriek: An Afterword.  All recommended.

by MarekNYC on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 02:21:38 PM EST
You should read that Herbert interview regarding the political/religious aspects -- if it rubbed you the wrong way, you probably got more of Herbert's idea than most readers.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jan 7th, 2007 at 02:39:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo:
Do you have a link to the interview--or did I already miss it somewhere in the thread? Would like to read it.
"Dune" is in my top ten list of all-time favorites, along with "Gravity's Rainbow" by Pynchon and "The Web of Life" by Fritjof Capra.  Slowly working up a diary on the last one.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 05:57:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy posted it in this thread in a top-level comment, but here it is again.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 8th, 2007 at 10:18:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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