Hairy Ticks of Dune

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

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Preliminaries: Acknowledgements and Authors' Note

I don't have much to say about the Acknowledgements, except to note that this section may answer, for the careful reader, that oft-asked question "Who exactly are the members of the Herbert Limited Parnership?" And to simply point out in passing my concern over why a third party (Dr. Attila Torkos) had to be relied on to work "very hard on fact-checking and consistency." (Not to mention preparing the Duniverse timeline.) I would have thought the world's "two biggest fans of Dune" should have been able to handle this themselves. Especially since they have Brian's concordance.

The order in this is interesting as well:

And as always, these books would not exist without the unending help and support from our wives, Janet Herbert and Rebecca Moesta Anderson, or the original genius of Frank Herbert.

As for the "Authors' Note", the very first line probably sums up the feelings of everyone who knows anything at all about Dune: "We wish Frank Herbert could have been here to write this book." So do we all, so do we all.

The remainder is basically a rehashing of the standard story about how the new Dune books and Hunters came into being. Nothing really new here (but if I have to hear about the "excruciating cliffhander ending" one more time...), but let's recap the main details.

Brian and Frank had talked about writing something on the Butlerian Jihad together. Brian left things be out of respect for his parents memory until more than a decade after their deaths, at which time he started talking about "completing the project" with Kevin in 1997. [They fail to mention that it was Kevin that contacted Brian about this in the first place.] This next is worth quoting verbatim (emphasis added):

But apparently Frank Herbert had left no notes, and we thought we would have to do the project based solely on our own imaginations. After further discussions, we realized that a great deal of preliminary work needed to be completed before we could tackle Dune 7-not just laying groundwork for the story itself, but also reintroducing the book-buying audience and a whole new generation of readers to the incredible, highly imaginative Dune universe.

So, basically, they first planned out the story as they imagined it. And they had so little faith in the reading public (that in preparation for "Dune 7" people wouldn't bother to go back and reread the originals or read the books they hadn't gotten around to reading the first time) that they "decided to write a trilogy of prequels first—the Prelude series of House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Corrino."

When we began to dig through all of Frank Herbert's stored papers in preparation for writing House Atreides, Brian was surprised to learn of two safe-deposit boxes that his father had taken out before his death. Inside the boxes, Brian and an estate attorney discovered a dot-matrix printout and two old-style computer disks labeled "Dune 7 Outline" and "Dune 7 Notes"-pages describing exactly where the creator of Dune had intended to take his story.

Reading this material, we saw instantly that Dune 7 would be a magnificent culmination of the series, tying together the history and the characters we all knew in an exciting plot with many twists, turns, and surprises. In storage we also discovered additional notes and papers describing characters and their histories, pages of unused epigraphs, and outlines for other works.

I should note here that one thing that always bothers me about texts like this "Authors' Note" is the way they switch from a second-person plural to third-person perspective when describing things that either did. I halfway suspect that they are written by one author—namely Kevin—and that the other just signs off on them.

Anyway, Faulkner is said to have advised writers to "kill their darlings"; I can't help but wonder if Brian and Kevin had the wisdom to do this once they found the outline and notes and papers. To dispense with what they had come up with on their own when it ran counter with Frank Herbert's original intentions. (If, like me, you believe there are inconsistencies in the new books, then no doubt you will, like me, believe this was not the case.)

In the remainder, they point out how foolish it would have been for them to try to imitate Frank's writing style, a point which I agree with them on: that would no doubt have been much more painful that what they have given us. I do not agree, however, that avoiding imitation necessarily entails action-centric, dumbed down pablum. Or "pacing" that dictates hundreds of chapters of only three or four pages. And they again crow about how sales of the originals have gone up since they have been writing the new books. Well, no real Dune fan could complain about that, right?

Or not? I still believe that the new books give readers who come to the Duniverse through them a skewed impression of what Dune is really all about. It's not about vroom-vroom space travel and terminator-like robots bent on exterminating the human race. It seems obvious to me that a lot of the "new fans" don't get this. And I think the cause is the new books. But don't try to sell that to B&K, because they aren't buying it. In their minds they're doing a great thing, keeping the legacy alive.

At least they are nice enough to warn us, though:

Much more of the epic remains to be written, and we intend to create additional exciting novels, telling other parts of the grand, brilliant tale that Frank Herbert laid out. The saga of Dune is far from over!

Well, I for one can definitely wait.

(reposted from 12/11/06 1:07 PM)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points. Not much to say but "I agree". I am certain that the majority of this was written by KJA, as you mentioned.

11:33 AM, December 18, 2006 
Blogger SandChigger said...

I really need to read some other things by both, to see if I can get a feel for which of them has written which parts. (I know they've talked about this some, like Kevin usually writes the first drafts of the Erasmus scenes IIRC, but still....)

You have to wonder how equal their partnership is, ya know?

2:04 PM, December 18, 2006 

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