I read Dune cover to cover once every few years. I listen to the full cast audio version and its sequels on constant repeat. I’ve obsessively sought out the entirety of the Dune CCG. Portions of the Dune encyclopedia occupy and supplant more pragmatic memory spaces. I often add cinnamon to my morning coffee in an attempt to manifest the sense of Spice Coffee despite the fact it fuses with honey to create a snotlike brown cinnamon sweet residue in the bottom of my sand colored mug. I repeatedly consider tattooing the litany agains fear and other select ‘chapter quotes’ from the novels permanently onto myself.
I have lived in the reality of Dune as a novel, written by Frank Herbert in 1965, since I was six years old. What began for Herbert as a reporting piece on the ecology of sand dunes as they invaded highway along the Oregon coastline became 6 years of hard research and the most beloved science fiction novel of the 20th and 21st centuries. What began for me as an empathetic interest communicated by my dad, has become a 30 year love born of osmosis, pragmatic wisdom, and fantastic universe-building.
How to express my love for the entirety of the Dune universe? It is a challenge on par with attempting to compose a letter of thanks to a brilliant pivotal mentor and finding the scope of the gratitude due completely overwhelming.
I live in the reality of David Lynch’s film adapted Dune. Loving it for its scope, its aesthetic, its cast, its unapologetic strangeness. My favorite summation of the film and it’s potential is lifted here from a thread on Stephan Baxter’s facebook feed:
I will forever regret failing to secure enough VHS tape to record the 5 hour cut of Lynch’s Dune that aired on the Sci Fi channel in the mid nineties.
Pinnacle moments of the film as I’ve seen it — in no particular order:
-The gathering of the Fremen host before engaging final battle.
-Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck
-Riding worms through the broken shield wall as dry lighting strikes light the sky and sand
-Sting as Feyd Rautha
-The ornate set design throughout
-Virginia Madsen‘s Irulan voiceover
-Soundtrack by Toto
The adventurous aspect of myself wishes to live in the reality where Jodorowsky’s Dune survived and reached full production. Where it occupies the genre defining role that Star Wars claimed in 1977 after Jodo’s Dune died on the vine when the final few million could not be found. Where Mick Jagger is Feyd Rautha, Orson Welles is the Baron, Jodo’s own son is the child Paul, Salvador Dali is the Emperor, and our science fiction aesthetic is defined directly by Chris Foss and Möbius. Where Paul dies at the end but becomes a mobile planet sized orb of universal enlightenment. What’s that you say? You haven’t watched Jodorowsky’s Dune? I’d emphatically recommend getting to it:
I now live in anticipation of the reality where Dune 2020 has landed. My first thought as the trailer surfaced? I have hope, not just for the film but in the greater meaning offered in all of Dune’s iterations and what they may say in relation to our moment in the real.
What follows is a spoiler. If you have not read the book, I recommend stopping here.
Full Disclosure: the following scene in the novel features Thufir Hawat and it sailed entirely over my head during my teenaged reading. This analysis drops in just after Lady Jessica has been accused of betrayal and before the full scope of the Harkonnen plot unfolds.
Setting aside Harkonnen influence in preparing the stage, Spymaster and Mentat Thufir Hawat’s initial downfall and the domino effect within the house he has served through three generations is the direct result of paranoid sexism. As the Lady Jessica takes control, revealing the training and influence kept carefully secret in consciousness of the precise reaction Hawat has to the revelation. I am gripped by the tragedy of the moment. Despite his brilliance Hawat cannot escape his own paranoia. He is captive and blinded by the belief that women — more specifically Bene Gesserit women — are dangerous betraying ‘witches’. Within this narrow perspective his powers of computation and command lie prone to a systemic, privileged, crippling fear of the unknown. This moment sets up the fall of House Atreides as two of its most powerful figures grapple with one another and lose sight of the greater game afoot.
When applied now in the real world the scene between Thufir and Jessica points to the insidiousness of unchecked bias. Sexism, like racism, is potently subversive. It coils around individual understanding and basic systems of belief, infecting them. Even when the person in question professes to be well intentioned and more powerfully dangerous when they profess to be righteous.
Every time I read or listen to this scene I find myself imagining a plot line with a different outcome. Where Jessica succeeds in dismantling Hawat’s bias to the greater good of House Atreides. Fan fiction forthcoming…
To be blunt, this week began bleak. The sky was the most murderous red I’ve ever experienced. It felt as if the world, appropriately, was expressing its utter contempt and discontent with the accumulation of human decisions and practices that have made the current reality what it is. Worse now than the ashy rains and towering smoke plumes of past years. The first day of my work stretch felt like an objective E N D. It is testament to my oddity that the preview of a film involving the concept of folded space was enough to bring me to the surface of the pervasive funk, to offer a fresh breath of hope, and bring an anticipatory smile to my lips.
Though it is incongruous, those of you who know me are already aware that I am essentially a walking non-sequitur, to lift a phrase from the meme-i-verse:
Onward to next week. Onward to H O P E
I will face my fear…I will let it pass over and through me…