Hairy Ticks of Dune

There's only room enough in this stillsuit for one of us! ... Wait, come back!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Something hard in the morning

I woke up this morning with a hankering for something a little harder than the fare I have consumed of late. So I rummaged around in the "already read" pile and pulled out Dan Simmons' Worlds Enough & Time: Five Tales of Speculative Fiction collection. I wanted to reread parts of "Orphans of the Helix", specifically because of its depictions of space travel (FTL but not "vroom-vroom") and artificial intelligences (which I especially enjoyed in this story because the ones described all have names and avatars taken from Japanese literature).

In addition to the general introduction, Simmons also prefaces each story in the collection with comments on how it came to be written. I found the following from the intro to "Orphans" particularly relevant.

... An even smaller subset of readers might know that I've vowed not to write any more novels set in this Hyperion universe for a variety of reasons, chief among them being that I don't want to dilute any existing vitality of the epic in a series of profitable but diminishing-returns-for-the-reader sequels.

Still, I never promised not to return to my Hyperion universe via the occasional short story of even novella-length tale. Readers enjoy such universes and miss them when they're gone (or when the writer who created them is gone forever) and this nostalgia for old reading pleasures is precisely what gives rise to the kind of posthumous franchising–the sharecropping-for-profit of a writer's original vision–that I hate so much in today's publishing. But the occasional short work in an otherwise "completed" universe is my attempt at a compromise between retilling tired fields and completely abandonning the landscape."

I have just today said elsewhere that I do not object to writers creating new works set in "universes" created by others. However, I do think that how much new material is added is important.

Frank Herbert wrote six Dune novels. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have now written seven, with four more officially announced. Statements made by them in interviews and elsewhere indicate that there is currently no end in sight. (Admittedly, the Dune universe was not "completed" by Frank Herbert in his lifetime. Some argue otherwise, but in my opinion "Dune 7", in one book, might have been all that was needed.)

As MacBeth might have asked

"What, will the line stretch out to the crack of Dune?"


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