The Kessel Run: The Fandom Obsession

hyperspaceIf you were to get into a discussion with a true Star Wars fan, it would only be a matter of time before the subject of the Kessel run came up. Long considered one of the biggest enigmas to come out of the franchise, Han’s boast in A New Hope about his ship’s capabilities – with the Kessel Run as a reference – still has some people scratching their noggins and scrambling for explanations today.

To refresh people’s memory, this is how the boast went down in the course of Han’s introduction to Luke and Obi-Wan at the Mos Eisley Cantina:

Han: “Fast ship? You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon?”
Obi-Wan: “Should I have?”
Han: “It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs!”

See what I mean? A parsec is a unit of distance, not time, so from an astronomical perspective, it made no sense. How could Han have used it to explain how quickly his ship could travel? Well, as it happens, there are some possible and even oddball explanations that have been drafted as the franchise has expanded over the years.

kessle_mapAnother important point to make here is about the Kessel Run itself. As a smuggler, Han was deeply involved in running “glimmerstim spice” during his pre-Rebel days (a clear rip off from Dune, but whatever). This took him to and from Kessel, a remote planet located in the Outer Rim that is surrounded by a black hole cluster known as the Maw. As an unnavigable mess, it provided a measure of protection for smugglers running the Imperial blockade that guarded the space lanes near the planet.

All of this comes up in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, a series of novels written by Kevin J. Anderson that are part of the expanded Star Wars universe, and is the first case of the Run being detailed. From these an other sources, we are told that the Run is an 18-parsec route that led away from Kessel, around the Maw, and into the far more navigable area of space known as The Pit. Here, smugglers had to contend with asteroids, but any smuggler worth his salt could find their way through without too much difficulty, and didn’t have to worry about Imperial patrols from this point onward.

MFalconTo cut down on the distance traveled, pilots could dangerously skirt the edges of the black holes, a maneuver dangerous because it involves getting pulled in by their gravitational forces. If a ship were fast enough, it could risk cutting it closer than most, thus shaving more distance of the route while still being able to break free after it all to complete the run.

Hence we have the first possible explanation to Han’s ambiguous statement. Han’s boast was not about the time taken for him to complete the Run, but the fact that Millennium Falcon was so fast that he was able to cut a full third of the Run off and still make it out. The Falcon would have to be a pretty sweet ship to do that! And it would also fit in with all his other boasts, about how the ship could  “make 0.5 past light speed”, and was the “fastest ship in the fleet”.

However, there are other explanations as well. For starters, this expanded universe explanation does not jive with what Lucas himself said, what was presented in the novelization of the original movie, and of course what astronomers and megafans have to say. In the first instance, Lucas claimed in the commentary of the Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope DVD that the “parsecs” are due to the Millennium Falcon’s advanced navigational computer rather than its engines, so the navicomputer would calculate much faster routes than other ships could.

HanIn the A New Hope novelization, Han says “standard time units” in the course of his conversation with Luke and Ben, rather than “parsecs.” And in the revised fourth draft of A New Hope that was released in 1976, the description for “Kessel Run” is described as a bit of hapless misinformation that Obi-Wan doesn’t believe for a second. In short, Han erred when he said it and didn’t realize it.

And then there is the far more farfetched and mind-bending explanation as made by Kyle Hill in a recent article by Wired magazine. Here, he argues that the true intent of Han’s statement was that he was, in fact, a time traveler. By combining some basic laws of physics – namely that the speed of light (c) is unbreakable and 0.99 ad infinitum is as fast as anything can go – and the details of Han’s boast, a more clear picture of how this works emerges.

First, because the shortened Kessel Run spans 12 parsecs (39.6 light-years), a ship traveling nearly light-speed would take a little more than 39.6 years to get there. Factoring in time dilation, anyone watching the Kessel Run would see Solo speeding along for almost 40 years, but Solo himself would experience only a little more than half a day. So basically, in the time it takes Han to complete just one Kessel Run, the rest of the galaxy continues on its usual path for 40 years, which pushed the date of Han’s birth 40 years into the past.

time-slipConfused yet? Well, the idea is that Han would have been born long before events in A New Hope, and even The Phantom Menace took place. After completing his run, no doubt trying to avoid Republic authorities or some such equivalent, he came upon a universe that had gone through the ringer with a Sith coup d’etat, Imperial oppression, and a looming Civil War. What could he do but stick to smuggling and hope to make a living?

REALLY doesn’t make sense in terms of the storyline, does it? Ah, but what can you do? People like to find quirky explanations for things that don’t make sense. It can be fun! But of course, there’s a final and much, much simpler explanation that I haven’t even mentioned yet, and it’s one that’s far more believable given the so-called evidence.

george_lucas02Put simply, Lucas made a mistake. The parsecs line was a misfire, an oversight, and/or brain fart on his part. Nothing more, and all these attempts at explanation are just an obvious attempt to make something that doesn’t fit fit. It makes perfect sense when you think about it: since A New Hope was the first Star Wars movie, that meant Lucas was directing it all by himself. The assistance he sorely needed in terms of directing, writing, editing, etc. didn’t come until the movie was almost complete and he was looking bankruptcy and a nervous breakdown in the eye.

And remember, this is the same movie where a Storm Trooper walked head first into a door aboard the Death Star, Luke yells “Carrie” to Carrie Fisher while they are shooting, the cast and camera can be seen in numerous widescreen shots, and just about every technical problem that could go wrong did go wrong, some of which even made it into the final cut. As far as bloopers, outtakes and errors are concerned, the first Star Wars movie was a mess!


See? So really, is it hard to imagine a simple oversight like a typo could have made it on screen and no one caught it? Hell no! And frankly, I think fandom would be a lot happier if Lucas had remembered these early days of his career and not decided to make the prequels all by himself. Sure, there were plenty of people to catch these kinds of simple errors the second time around, but his many flaws as a movie maker found other ways to shine through – i.e. Jar Jar, lazy directing, too much special effects, wooden dialogue, confused storyline, continuity errors and plot holes galore!

star-wars-complete-cast-20042Ah, but that’s another topic entirely. Point is, Star Wars had simple beginnings and plenty of mistakes were made along the way. One can’t expect something so grand and significant in terms of popular culture to be consistent or error free. And Lucas was never really good at producing a seamless product. In the end, it was a fun ride until the new ones came out, and even then he was still making money hand over fist.

And with Disney at the helm now, chances are we’re in for a real treat with some high-budgets and high-production values. And I’m sure there will be plenty of things for the meganerds and uberfans to poke fun at and make compilation videos of. And I of course will be writing about all of it 😉

KJA and my conversation… continued

KJA and my conversation… continued

Okay, yesterday, the conversation I mentioned in the previous post, between myself and KJA (and several of his fans) began. And here’s where it ended just now. All in all, the folks there aren’t bad, their opinions notwithstanding, so I intend to stick around on it and see if I convert anyone! In any case, I more or less got the answers I was looking for. I say more or less because I got some admissions, but they seemed more or less couched in denials and ambiguities. Here’s what I mean…

Kevin’s final response, in reference to my saying that the Butlerian Jihad angle didn’t fit with Dune 7’s ending:

“Matt, Erasmus and Omnius were *our* creations–we have always been clear on that. But before his death Frank Herbert was planning on writing the story of the Butlerian Jihad with Brian, which probably influenced his thinking on tying together the grand finale of Dune 7 with earlier events in the Jihad. Again, you have every right to think it sounds contrived if it doesn’t appeal to you…I thought Isaac Asimov’s later work was a little contrived when he began tying everything together, and I never believed George Lucas meant for Luke and Leia to be brother and sister…But the books are written and published — 18 of them now over the course of more than 60 years, and you need to look at the totality of the story. I wish Frank Herbert had lived long enough to write Dune 7 himself.”

I replied with the following:

“All right then. Thank you Kevin for your honesty and forthcoming-ness (if that’s a word). Rest assured, I do look at the stories as a totality, and they remain the very thing that inspired me to write. I remember reading how Frank inspired you when you were younger and I feel that we have that very thing in common. Hell, he’s the guy who literally wrote the book that made people take sci-fi seriously! And that’s what got me off my ass and made me feel that ideas I had were worthy of putting down. I only hope the reading public feels the same way some day and I have some measure of what you’ve accomplished over the years.”

Hmm, that’s some pretty good bullshit, huh? Well, its largely true, I DO hope to have the same kind of following for my own writing someday. If nothing else, KJA is financially successful and does have fans. I want that, dammit! And of course, KJA does claim Frank as a major inspiration. Personal opinions aside, I thought I’d acknowledge that debt.

He then signed off with this statement:

“Matt, thanks for the civil tone, and if you see some anger in the other posts here, bear in mind that many of the others on Jacurutu have been quite vicious to *anyone* who dares to say they enjoy the new books.”

All I could think to say in reply was:

“Seems to be a controversial topic. Frank would be… intrigued I guess!”

Frankly, that seemed kinder than saying that his work has had a polarizing effect on people. Kind of sounds blamey, even if it is true. And from his point of view, I’m sure its true. There’s plenty of viciousness coming from his side of the aisle too, and I got a fare dose just coming on this forum! But I got a no trolling policy in place and I intend to stand by it.

Overall, what stood out for me in all this was the admissions that were made. Erasmus and Omnius were their inventions, Frank was planning on writing about it, and they established connections throughout their works. This partially explained what I was looking for, but he avoided saying the one thing that would have cinched it for me. He never confirmed nor denied that Frank had left notes that firmly connected the Butlerian Jihad to Dune 7, aka. that he intended to end it with killer robots. But he did seem to be implying that the ending he wrote was the one that Frank intended. So once again, the connection remains tenuous, you either believe it or you don’t.

However, his peeps had their contributions to make as well. The following comes from two such people who sought to show how my proof could be interpreted to support Brian and KJA’s writing who once again said the things that fans of the new books are known to say:

Here’s the first, and arguably, most eloquent:

“Matt, as I’m still a “novice” by not having read EVERYTHING so far published in Dune (although I DO own everything except the biography of Frank that Brian did), I recognize that I’m not really one most would look to for comments on things unread. That being said, I’m just looking at the quotes you mention from Chapterhouse and it seems to me that Frank could easily have been setting up a changeroo on the readers. Examples of previous changeroos are when he changed Paul from Dune to Dune Messiah. Also, he apparently does have this way of doing things “suddenly” as I’ve heard how you go from one page to another to find a planet (Dune itself if I recall correctly not having read that book) has exploded or was destroyed somehow), so him doing something drastically different about characters, and suddenly, from one novel to the next isn’t so out of touch with how he did things. So allow me to break it down based on my understanding of things regarding the end of Chapterhouse and the beginning of Hunters, not having read either one. You quote both: “That thought aroused Idaho’s suspicions because now he recognized the familiarity. They looked somewhat like Face Dancers, even to the pug noses … And if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers. Those two people behind the shimmering net belonged to no one but themselves.”

and

“[Tleilaxu Masters] have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them.” “I don’t see why. It’s a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and…” “It’s personas we take, Marty.” “Whatever. The Masters should’ve known we would gather enough of them one day to make our own decisions about our own future.”

As I haven’t read the book, I’ll rely on the verification of others that these are both accurate quotes from Chapterhouse.

Now I will show you how it’s quite possible Frank had intended for them not to be Face Dancers the whole time (regardless of whether he would have ever imagined Omnius and Erasmus up), and I will do it based solely on the quotes you have given.

“Idaho’s suspicions” indicates suspicions from Idaho, not certainty. He is not at all certain that they are Face Dancers although “he recognized the familiarity”.

“if they were Face Dancers” continues to show the uncertainty of this. Idaho is clearly not certain that they are Face Dancers, but “if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers.”

“Those two people….belonged to no one but themselves” indicates that there wasn’t any allegiance for these two, plus could easily be a foreshadowing to them not even being Face Dancers of any kind.

The second full quote sounds almost like a couple of “superior” people discussing how other “lesser” races look at each other.

“They gave us the power” could indicate the power humans gave machines to begin with and Tleilaxu being humans then that sentence following the comment about Tleilaxu could fit and be a sneaky way that Frank worded things.

“It’s personas we take” could indicate more than what I presume is the usual motif of a Face Dancer. Frank could be indicating that for these two, the “personas” they took were the personas of Face Dancers. Again, not exactly something that is immediately evident from how Frank was telling the story I’ll wager having not read that story yet, but he’s proven his sneakiness in other ways, so this could have all just been his way of foreshadowing things.

As far as Frank not coming up with computers taking over and men having to fight computers, I’ll refer to something Brian Conway told me on the phone one time, and I think Greg Arnold may have mentioned the very novel earlier, and that reference is Frank Herbert has shown in his other writings that machines can be a threat, and it’s always possible that some of his other novels about this could have been “tied together” later as being set before the events of Dune. Imagine if he actually had lived long enough to write a prequel about The Butlerian Jihad, he just may have tied the two series together with that prequel. Again, Brian Conway would be better at explaining that than I am and I hope he has time to join the conversation and add his theory about this for even greater clarification.

As far as you quoting passages Frank wrote about The Butlerian Jihad to disprove the trilogy which Brian and Kevin wrote, I’m not sure your reasoning stands.

You talk about a time period of 93 years which Frank called a “crusade” as nothing more than a rebellion. As if all rebellions never have life or death consequences. And this is one that went on for quite some time, so it’s only natural that things during that time would even escalate at various points along the way.

Even if Frank never meant for “Erasmus” and “Omnius” as specific characters from the beginning of Dune (or even at the end of his own life), when I read Dune for the first time a couple of years back (before then going back and reading The Butlerian Jihad) I got the distinct impression from Frank’s comments about that time that it was more than just humans turning off and then destroying a bunch of robotic butlers that had gone awry. The fact that he used a very war-like word such as “Jihad”, which historically has had religious and war associated with it, told me that there was definitely a story to be told, and I was glad that I had a novel handy to read after I read Dune in order to see how it all unfolded. Of course, that turned out to be a three novel ordeal, but I enjoyed every page of it. ; )

Personally, I’m enjoying both Frank’s original novels as well as what Brian and Kevin have done. I’m looking forward to when I’ve read everything to reading it all over again and breaking things down to have even further understanding as I’ve seen a lot of other fans do. It should be a lot of fun to do that. I know I’m looking forward to the new novel in January, and maybe that will help “connect” things a little better too, between the Butlerian Jihad trilogy and the House trilogy.”

And another:

“Ahhh – I see that House of William aka Matt Williams from Jacurutu is here – Welcome! Your 1st quote ” the crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots ” does lend it’s self well to the legends series, as do others from the original books. You have to consider that in KJA and BH’s books the Machines have already wrested power away from the Humans that sought to use them as tools to dominate the rest of Humanity, through their own carelessness.

Keep in mind that on other works by FH he used Artificial Consciousness as a creation of humanity that assumes control of humanity (Ship from the Destination:Void series). There is no telling what FH may have done had he lived long enough to finish it himself.”

Sound familiar? Well, they did to me. Every one smacks of the same “let’s stretch the evidence to fit the theory” kind of thing. What surprises me is that Kevin wasn’t making these claims. This could be out of a desire not to explain himself, or because he’s constrained by what he can and cannot admit. If you’re claiming to be working by Frank’s own notes, but also taking great liberties with the material, you gotta keep tight lipped about it!

And I got to admit, not sure how I feel about talking to these people the way I did. Not sure if it was cowardly, brave, disingenuous or honest. All I can say is I wanted to strike a civil tone while still telling what I thought. Hard to do that when you think someone’s work sucks! Either way, I found his overall answers to be only partially revealing, and it kind of confirmed what I suspected. I’m unplacated, but then again, I never expected this to be revelatory. Oh well, fun while it lasted!

Kevin J Anderson and I have a chat… Seriously!

Kevin J Anderson and I have a chat… Seriously!

It’s a rare treat when you get to confront a person you’ve badmouthed for some time, isn’t it? Just think of James Reston Jr., the American journalist and author who was part of David Frost’s interview team. After years of slamming Nixon with his poison pen, and welcoming the opportunity to do a scathing interview, he got a chance to meet the man face to face. And wouldn’t you know it, he shook the man’s hand and called him “Mr. President”! Yes, somehow it’s hard to be mean to a man in person.

Well, as turns out I had the same opportunity opportunity recently; to speak to a man I’ve been criticizing for quite some time. I am referring, of course, to Kevin J Anderson. After reviewing the Brian Herbert/KJA Dune spinoffs on this site (quite poorly, I might add), I began a thread over at Goodreads dedicated to the Dune finale and what people thought of it. Opinions were mixed, the debate was somewhat heated. But then, one of the contributors, a fan of the new books, advised that I go on over to the Dune Saga site on Facebook to make my opinions known. Naturally, I was a little worried when I noticed KJA himself was the man in charge of this site, and I a little peaved when I noticed that my comments at Goodreads had already garnered some rather harsh criticisms from KJA fans.

Here’s a sample of what some of them said:

“It’s the usual crew that likes to bad mouth Brian and Kevin. I had a suspicion that the guy that started it was with them. One of his posts after they started showing up confirmed that.”

“I don’t even bother adding to these posts and go out of my way to ignore them on sites. These people don’t change and are limited in their ability to separate one writer from another. I wish they would stop reading Dune books or at the very least suffer from a head injury that would make them forget that Dune even existed. That way people that actually enjoy the continued story would not have to stumble upon their adolescent, mindless blabbering. THANK YOU KEVIN AND BRIAN FOR CONTINUING THE STORY FOR US!! I look forward to each new exciting installment of the Dune Saga. I would have been tragic if this story had stopped with Frank.”

“The Talifans return!”

Well, needless to say, I was taken aback and replied in kind. I mean really, Talifans! What nerve!:

“As the person who started that forum, I would like to ask, have you really read the arguments of how these books failed? Because I’ve noticed glaring inconsistencies between the old work and the new, ones that go far beyond “hating” and other things we are accused of. What’s more, I find it ironic for people to say that these are the “same old” complaints. Whenever I hear people defending the new books, its always the same. The “styles” are different, its his son, its bound to be different, but they had notes, etc.

And given the declining sales figures, I’d say its the McDune franchise thats likely to fade away soon.”

Guess who replied? The man himself! Here’s what he said:

“Sorry you don’t like the new books, Matt. The “glaring inconsistencies” the Talifan complain about have all been addressed in the novels, but they don’t–or don’t want to–read very carefully. The fact that they have not attacked the “glaring inconsistencies” in the original Frank Herbert books with the same vehemence seems a bit of a double standard.”

And of course, one of his fans jumped in with a somewhat harsher response:

“Amen Kevin. LOL…They had NOTES….HA…..I cant remember the last time I picked up a published notes at the book store. The notes still need to be fleshed out into stories regardless of what “notes” they may have had. Again since Frank did not write these stories, only provided a guideline, they will be different….you know…because they were not written by Frank…….. But thanks for posting more of the “same ol complaint” That you Trolls always state, notes , timeline, blah blah blah. We who have stuck by the Dune saga and have paid close attention to the story know exactly how each event falls into place. I do strongly encourage you to stop reading Dune books. But that is unlikely to happen because most of you Trolls just like something to constantly complain about. As far as the “McDune” franchise falling away, that is highly unlikely to happen thanks to a strong a loyal fan base. Trolls like you have been spewing that BS for YEARS and look 3 more books are on their way. Yeah the all those Dune New york Times best sellers that Brian and Kevin wrote failed horribly…. Again….I do strongly encourage you to stop reading Dune books, it seams your time would be better spent farming a vill or something.”

Well… needless to say, I felt I was being highly misrepresented. So I took it upon myself to explain what I meant by “inconsistencies” and to set the record straight on being a “troll”.

“First off, let me say thank you Mr. Anderson for responding yourself. I feel honored and in a unique position that I can speak to you directly. Let me first assure you that I didn’t dislike all your books. In fact, I thought that the Preludes series was alright, and I enjoyed Hunters, up until the ending that is. And that is what I mean by glaring inconsistencies. Let me illustrate:

First off, the fact the entire saga ended with the old man and woman being the evil robots from the Jihad. I couldn’t see how this could possibly be the result of Frank’s own notes. I mean really, the whole thing ends with characters from your own prequels? For one, they were clearly Face Dancers, as established by Frank in Chapterhouse. Here’s some evidence to that effect:

First, where Duncan recognizes them in one of his visions:

“That thought aroused Idaho’s suspicions because now he recognized the familiarity. They looked somewhat like Face Dancers, even to the pug noses … And if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers. Those two people behind the shimmering net belonged to no one but themselves.”

And at the end, where Daniel and Marty describe themselves:

“[Tleilaxu Masters] have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them.” “I don’t see why. It’s a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and…” “It’s personas we take, Marty.” “Whatever. The Masters should’ve known we would gather enough of them one day to make our own decisions about our own future.”

Clearly, they were Face Dancers. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here’s William F. Touponce’s take on the ending, taken from his 1988 book entitled Frank Herbert:

“Herbert gives us a segment narrated from their point of view only at the very end of the novel. They are offshoots of the Tleilaxu Face Dancers sent out in the Scattering and have become almost godlike because of their capacity to assume the persona of whoever they kill — and they have been doing this for centuries, capturing Mentats and Tleilaxu Masters and whatever else they could assimilate, until now they play with whole planets and civilizations. They are weirdly benign when they first appear in the visions of Duncan Idaho as a calm elderly couple working in a flower garden, trying to capture him in their net…”

And finally, in an August 2007 review of Sandworms of Dune, John C. Snider of SciFiDimensions.com argued that it “doesn’t fit” or “add up” that Frank Herbert’s Daniel and Marty are the “malevolent” thinking machines Brian Herbert and Anderson created in their Legends of Dune prequel novels.

That was the glaring inconsistency I mentioned. Not plot holes or things not adding up in your own books. So for those who’ve already posted back and slammed by comment, I’d advice you understand what a person is saying first before you respond in kind.”

Now that I look at it, I notice I say “firstly” a lot. Not good. It looks unprofessional when you repeat yourself. And it looks unprofessional when you – okay, bad joke! Moving on! I was also sure to smack Greg back with a little “taking the high road” approach:

“And to Greg, you’re obvious disdain for us “trolls” notwithstanding, we’re fans like you and we’ve got opinions and points to make. You don’t like it fine, but I’m going to make it, and in the process show a lot more class than you’ve demonstrated thus far.”

All of this is a reiteration of what I said on Goodreads and in my review of Hunters of Dune. I of course left out the criticism of the Butlerian Jihad premise, seeing as how I was already not being brief. This, in turn, garnered some rather civilized comments from the man himself.

“And your own comments notwithstanding, you have to admit that the behavior of many of the “trolls” is vitriolic and insulting. I am not in the business of telling people which books they can or can’t read. If you don’t like the new Dune novels, I hope you’ll try my Seven Suns or some of my other books…or just read something else entirely. Don’t read all twelve of the new Dune books and keep railing about how much you hate them. For months now, the Talifan have been trashing SISTERHOOD OF DUNE, a book that none of them has read.”

Hmm, I notice he used the term “Talifan” too. Makes you wonder if he had a hand in creating it, or is just repeating what his own die-hards say. Either way, getting reamed by anyone isn’t easy so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. Our conversation is ongoing at this point, with other salient issues being raised. In fact, one commenter, a highly civilized person who is a fan of the new books but has also been very polite to me, had a point to offer.

Here it is in its entirety:

“And since Kevin J. Anderson is here for the discussion, perhaps he can confirm or deny my theory I posted on the Goodreads site.

The theory broke down:

Item: Frank left next to nothing in notes for The Butlerian Jihad time which that trilogy was set in.

Item: Frank left a detailed outline for Dune 7 which was turned into two books upon fleshing it out.

Speculation: Brian and Kevin figured out from Frank’s notes on Dune 7 that certain characters were from the era of the Butlerian Jihad which they planned on writing a trilogy about.

Item: The Butlerian Jihad trilogy was published before the two Dune 7 novels were published.

Accusation: Brian and Kevin totally invented everything for The Butlerian Jihad, so therefore: They clearly inserted their own characters into the Dune 7 books.

My theory: It’s the opposite. They took what they could from the Dune 7 books in order to do better foreshadowing when they wrote The Butlerian Jihad trilogy. Therefore, not all characters in that trilogy were “made up” by Brian and Kevin even if they had to create the vast majority of the story involved to support the characters they had found in the notes of Dune 7.”

For non-fans of the Brian and KJA remakes, this is not a new theory. We’ve heard this one before, many times in fact! “The Butlerian Jihad was based on Franks notes, so it wasn’t unnatural for the series to end with characters form it.” This prompted me to reply to it by stating that this theory doesn’t add up. That’s when I posted my argument of how the Butlerian Jihad happened in the Legends series in a way that Frank couldn’t have intended, and how Brian and KJA said Frank left few notes on it so they made most of it up themselves, etc etc.

However, Kevin had this to say in response:

“David, your theory is very insightful. We had the Dune 7 outline from the time we started writing House Atreides and *always* had the final destination in mind; there are details in HOUSE CORRINO and throughout the Legends of Dune trilogy that we planted specifically to take the story and characters where we knew it was supposed to go in HUNTERS & SANDWORMS.”

His theory is insightful… I notice he’s not saying he’s right or wrong. If David had hit it on the head, I would think KJA would be the first to say so. He’s also saying how they “planted” things, but based on what – Frank’s notes, or their own inventions? In short, were they planting stuff for the sake of establishing ties between their own work and the ending ahead of time or was it something Frank left behind? You be the judge!

He also said the following to me about my proof:

“Again, thanks for giving the novels a chance, whether or not you liked all of them. Regarding your issues with Face Dancers and the remnants of the Butlerian Jihad, that was tied together in the books and detailed in Erasmus’s experiments to create the Face Dancers. It’s not my call whether or not you found the explanation or the resolution satisfying, but it’s not inconsistent with the series as a whole.”

Ties together huh?

Interesting, but again, can’t see how that’s what Frank had in mind. And I said as such. Saying Erasmus was experimenting with Face Dancers establishes a connection between Frank’s work and their ending, but does it not seem forced? Again, how could Frank have been planning on introducing robot characters in a final novel that made no appearance beforehand, were ever mentioned or even hinted at? Well, I said as much, and feel a little shmuckish at this point. I tell ya, its hard to say to someone’s face exactly what you think of their work. But as they say, “Nut up or shut up!” And remember, honesty and civility are not mutually exclusive.

I will no doubt have more to post on this as it unfolds. Needless to say, I’m just happy I get a chance to address this man directly, pose all my question directly to him. I mean, how often does someone get to do that? I want to see how he responds to these challenges, as I’m sure do many others!

Legends of Dune Prequels

Last time around, I made a big deal about prequels and why they aren’t so good. And of course, the Dune prequels were featured pretty prominently in that post. However, what I came to realize shortly after writing it was that I’ve never dedicated a post to the prequel work of Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson and explained what it was that was so disappointing about them. Nowhere was this more apparent for me than with their Legends of Dune series, the hackish trilogy that was supposed to detail the seminal background event known as the Butlerian Jihad.

Sure, they’ve come up here and there in my rants, always in the context of how they effectively raped Frank Herbert’s legacy. But today I feel like zeroing in, applying the rules I devised for why these prequels fall short, and mentioning a few other things that bothered me to no end about them. So, without further ado, here’s the The Butlerian Jihad, the first book in the Legends of Dune series and one of several unoriginal Dune-raping series they created and why it sucked!

Dune, The Bulterian Jihad:
In my previous post, I outlined four basic reasons for why prequels can and often do suck. As I said, they are by no means scientific or the result of expertise, just my own observations. However, when it comes to the Dune books of Brian Herbert and KJA, they certainly do apply. Hell, it was the act of wading through their books that I was able to come up with these rules in the first place. They were: 1. No Surprises, 2. Sense of Duty, 3. Less is More and 4. Denying the Audience the use of their Imagination.

These things ran like a vein throughout the works of Brian and KJA, but were by no means the only problem with their books. In addition, there were also the problems of cardboard cut-out characters, heavily contrived plot twists, cliches, and an undeniable feeling of exploitation. Add to that some truly bad writing and the fact that the story felt like a complete misrepresentation of Herbert’s ideas and you can begin to see why Dune fans found these books so offensive. As one of them, I’m happy to ran about this whenever and wherever possible. So here goes!

1. Bad Characters
In the Preludes to Dune series, this problem was not so pronounced, nor was it a huge problem in the Dune sequels (Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune). But in the Legends of Dune series, it was palatable! The characters were so one-dimensional, so predictable and so exaggerated that they became downright annoying to read. And of course, their dialogue was so wooden I thought I was sitting through that horrible “love scene” from Attack of the Clones. This was a clear indication that where the elder Herbert’s own characters and notes were not available, the two authors had to rely on their own instincts and took the cheap route.

Examples! Legends of Dune revolves around the characters of Serena Butler, Vorian Atreides, and Xavier Harkonnen on the side of good, Erasmus, Omnius and Agamemnon on the side of evil, and Iblis Ginjo, Tio Holtzmann and a host of others somewhere in the middle. And in each case, they are horribly over-the-top, too good, or too evil to stand. In addition, bad dialogue and writing counts for a lot. Even the characters who are not robots speak as if they are, their traits and attributes are openly announced, and nothing beyond their topical persona’s are ever revealed.

On the one hand, Serena Butler is a crusader for the abolitionist cause and a tireless leader for free humanity. After dedicating herself to ridding the free worlds of slavery, she then selflessly volunteers to lead a mission to liberate Geidi Prime (later home of House Harkonnen) when its clear her people think its a suicide mission. Afterwards, she becomes a willing figurehead in the holy war against the machines and puts aside the love of two men in order to be an effective leader. You might think this is just her public persona, but that’s all she’s got going on. Seriously, she has no other character traits beyond being the perfect heroine!

As if she wasn’t bad enough, you also get Xavier Harkonnen, a warrior who believes in endless self-sacrifice just like her, the perfect hero to her heroine. The entire series is filled with his rallying of troops, leading them into the fray, and coming to the rescue. All the while, he naturally struggles with his love for Serena, which is repeatedly frustrated due to the needs of the war. Vorian, on the other hand, is meant to be the Han Solo type, the bad boy who stands in contrast to Xavier’s good boy. But in this too, he is horribly predictable. Whereas Xavier is the honor and nobility hero, he is the daring and risky dude who also becomes a real ladies man. And of course, he loves Serena too, creating a predictable love triangle that somehow doesn’t manage to create a shred of conflict or complication.

Okay, now for the bad guys! Well… let’s start with the absurdly named Omnius, the machine hive-mind that runs things. He has little character to speak of, being a machine, but nevertheless fits the ideal of the evil, calculating AI perfectly. Naturally, he doesn’t understand humans, but hates them enough to want to kill them in droves. And of course he would like nothing better than to bring the whole universe under his “Synchronized” control (aka. he wants to conquer the universe). Clearly, KJA and Brian thought they were doing something clever here, using an unfeeling machine to explore the human condition. But really, the character and material felt like it was ripped right from reruns of Star Trek!

Erasmus, his only free-thinking AI companion, is similarly one-dimensional and stereotypical. He conducts “experiments” to better understand humanity, because of course he doesn’t understand them either. But the really weak character trait comes through with just how evil he is! In just about all cases, his experiments amount to senseless murder, flaying people, using their organs to make art, and studying their reactions with interest when he arbitrarily decides to kill someone. Oh, and did I mention he also murders Serena’ baby (and gives her a hysterectomy) once he becomes jealous of how much time she was spending with him? Seriously, Evil the Cat is not a good archetype to model your characters on!

Agamemnon and his Titans are also very evil, but in their case, a machine-like mentality can hardly be blamed. In addition to murdering billions of people in their drive for power, they hate free humanity, consider them vermin, and will stop at nothing to obliterate them. Naturally, they hate their machine masters too, but not nearly as much as their non-Cymeck brethren. Why, you might ask. Well, beyond saying that they were appalled by humanity’s decadence and reliance on machines, no reason is given. And it seems like a pretty weak reason to reprogram said machines to take over the universe and enslave everybody.

Really, if they were appalled by dependency on machinery, why not simply shut the machines down? Furthermore, if they were so bothered by how dependent people had come to be, what’s with all the machine enhancements they got going on? Each and every “Cymeck” in this story has cheated death by putting their brains inside of massive cybernetic housings. That sound like the actions of someone who doesn’t like machine dependency? Really, the only reason to do what they did (i.e. murder billions and try to take over the universe) would be because they were total sociopaths or megalomaniacs – i.e. really, REALLY evil! But don’t expect any logic from this story, mainly we are to accept that they are evil and move on.

And finally, Holtzman, who is supposed to be the brilliant inventor who created the Holtzman drive (the FTL drive that powers Guild Highliners), is a petty, greedy man who stole his inventions from his assistant, Norma Cenva. She, naturally, was a brilliant but naive girl who was always smarter than him, but continually got the short end of the stick. Iblis Ginjo is a slave leader who masterminds the rebellion on Earth, and becomes the sleazy defacto leader of the Jihad through wheeling and dealing that makes the reader feel enmity towards him.

Whoo! That was long, but I believe my point is clear. Basically, the characters were so simple and their purpose so obvious that it genuinely felt like the authors were trying to force an emotional reaction. The only thing worse was when they were trying to make us think, which were similarly so obvious that it just felt insulting! More on that later…

2. Contrived Plot:
The examples are too numerous to count, but I shall try to stick to the big ones and ignore the rest. First, in the preamble to the story, we are told that the Titans (the evil Cymeck people) took over the known universe by reprogramming all the thinking machines so they’d be able to control them. Okay, that seems a bit unlikely, but whatever. A dozen hackers managed to take over trillions of peoples lives by reprogramming the machines they were dependent on, whatever. But the real weakness was in the motivation. Why did they do this? Because they were upset with how dependent humanity had come to be on them. Meh, I’ve already said how this was stupid so I shant go into it any further.

But another weakness which comes to mind is this: if these “Titans” were so good with programming machines, how is that they let the big brainy AI (aka. Omnius) turn the tables on them? Didn’t they think it would be wise to program it with some safeguards, kind of like Azimov’s Three Laws? Not rocket science, you just make sure you tell the machines they can’t turn on their handlers. Simple! God, two crappy points and its still just the preamble! Moving on…

Next, the main character of Vorian Atreides breaks from his father and the Cymecks in the course of the book, which was a big turning point in the plot. But the reasons are just so… flaccid! After being a loyal and doting son for many decades, he decides to betray his father and his heritage in order to aid free humanity. Why? Because of one conversation with Serena Butler in which she suggests that he check out what his father’s done in his lifetime. Vorian explains that he’s read Agamemnon’s memoirs several times, but Serena recommends he check out Omnius’ own records, the ones which are not subject to distortion and personal bias. So he does, sees the undistorted truth, experiences a crisis for about five seconds, and then makes the decision to defect. Yes, this life-shattering experience, finding out his father is a mass murderer, is not followed by any denial, anger, or shooting of the messenger. He just accepts what he sees and turns his back on everything he’s believed in up until this point because of one conversation. Weak…

Also, the slave rebellion on Earth, the thing that touches off the whole Jihad, had some rather dubious inspiration. For starters, the humans knew of no organized resistance until Erasmus decided to make a bet with Omnius. He believed that humans could be inspired to revolt against their miserable lives if they were just given a glimmer of hope. So he began circulating letters claiming to be from “the resistance” to key people. When Iblis Ginjo got one, he decides to join and starts stockpiling weapons. Oh, and he manages to do this without the machines noticing. So, when the revolt begins, they have his weapons to fight with.

Where to start? For starters, are we really to believe that a coldly rational, superior AI would risk an open rebellion simply because of a BET? How stupid are they? Also, how was Ginjo able to acquire all these weapons without them ever noticing? Erasmus knew who he sent the letters to, did he not think it would be wise to monitor what they did afterwards? Sure, they claim that Ginjo explained his curious imports by saying that he had to requisition added materials to meet his construction quotas and managed to hide the weapons amongst them. Again I’d have to ask, how stupid are these machine masters of theirs?

Ah, but there’s more. Iblis gets further inspiration when he consults a Cogitor (see below) and asks it if a human resistance really exists. It replies that “anything is possible.” Of course, that’s how it answered all his questions, in keeping with the idea that Cogitors are somehow vague, ethereal beings. And yet, Ginjo gets the feeling that this answer was somehow loaded with subtext and implication. Yes, that’s how this part of the story was written. He gets a totally vague answer and assumes it means something truly meaningful, and thats all the inspiration he needs to start running guns and risking his life!

The rebellion is then fully incited when Erasmus – as mentioned earlier – kills Serena’s baby out of jealousy. This is especially hard to believe, and KJA and Brian even tacitly admitted as much in book two. Throughout the book, we are told that Earth is a slave planet where unspeakable horrors take place and the people are too miserable and beaten down to do anything about it. And yet, the death of one child causes billions of people to rise up and risk total obliteration. And they are able to do it because one slave master, motivated by a phony message – which was itself the result of a wager – was able to smuggle tons of weapons past the robot masters. Somehow, this just doesn’t seem like a likely explanation for a game-changing, cataclysmic event!

Finally, the climax of the story comes when the good guys decide that the best way to strike at Omnius is to nuke Earth. Yes, they’ve been debating for generations how to beat the machines… and apparently this is what they’ve come up with. “Really?” I wanted to say. This is how humanity triumphed over the evil machine menace, go nuclear? No startling new technology, no brilliant new strategy? If that’s all it would take, why didn’t they do it before? Well, according to the book, its because the idea seemed immoral to them. One dissenting character even asks, “Are you suggesting we become as bad as Omnius?” “No,” replies Xavier. “I’m suggesting we become WORSE than Omnius!” Wow. That… was… AWFUL!

Oh, it also at this point that they explain the origins of the name Butlerian “jihad”. On the Senate floor, once they have decided to nuke Earth, they openly say that in order to be effective, this must be more than a war. It must be a HOLY WAR. And that’s how the Butlerian Jihad got started! It was NOT the result of long term developments, changes, and forced adaptations. It was a decision made suddenly and deliberately. They just said in the thick of the moment, “Hey, lets call this a jihad! That sounds cool! Okay, jihad it is!” Not to nitpick, but as a historian I can tell you, this shit don’t happen! People don’t suddenly look around and say, “Hey, its the Enlightenment! Hey, its the Renaissance! Hey, its World War One!” These names are applied posthumously, usually by historians who are looking for labels to describe general phenomena.

I know, who the hell cares right? Point is, this more than anything is a clear demonstration of how contrived these stories are. Its as if the authors set out not to tell a story but to explain how everything happened and felt horribly compelled to do so. Remember point #2 of why prequels suck, aka. Sense of Duty? This is what inspired it, people!

3. Cliches:
What I especially loved about this book (dripping sarcasm implied) was the evil cyborg robots, named Cymecks. There’s an especially Herbertian plot device, a pulp sci-fi concept with a name that combines Cyborg and Mechanized (in case it wasn’t obvious enough already!) Even more fun was the Cogitors (play on the word Cognition), the disembodied brains of acetic thinkers who decided to achieve some measure of immortality by placing their brains in talks so they could live out their days just thinking. Hmmm, evil cyborgs and disembodied brains, where have I heard about these before? Every crappy bit of pulp sci-fi there is, that’s where!

Ah yes, and Serena Butler, the Virgin Mary meet Joan of Arc. As I said, she’s a war leader on the one hand and a holy icon on the other. This might have been a good angle, how she must maintain the illusion of purity (hence, no lovers), but it was squandered by the fact that in the story, she really IS a pure character! Selfless, dedicated and infinitely compassionate, she leads humanity and dies for them without a though for herself. Gag! As for the men who love her – Xavier and Vorian – they are perfect cliches as well. The one is the stalwart, perfect hero who never shies away from self-sacrifice, the other a Han Solo rip-off who’s bad boy charm barely conceals the fact that he too is excessively noble.

Then there’s the slavish robots! We are told well in advance that the whole Jihad was between free humans and thinking machines. And yet, aside from Erasmus, not a single robot thinks for themselves. They are all slaved to Omnius, the big, evil hive mind with a name that seems stolen out of the pages of a sci-fi comic or an episode of Buck Rogers. And if his name is not enough, the concept of a hive-mind who hates mankind and wants to conquer the universe is a similarly bland, overdone cliche that no respectable sci-fi author would touch with a hundred foot pole!

Which brings me to one group of characters I haven’t even mentioned yet – the Sorceresses of Rossak! These women, who boast the ability to conduct electricity, levitate, and have various other “magic” powers, are supposed to be the precursors of the Bene Gesserit. Wow… Okay, first of all, this is a perfect example of shit sci-fi; the kind of stuff you’d expect from Star Wars or an X-Men movie, but not DUNE! Second, last I checked, the Bene Gesserit were never able to shoot electricity from their fingertips or magically levitate! All their powers had to do with mental abilities like prescience and truthsense, which came from the spice. So really, where did these women get all these freakish abilities? In the course of reading this, I seriously expected someone to say “Feel the Force!” Of course, none of this is explained and no attempts are made to ground these characters in any sense of realism. It’s just another bad cliche in a book chock full of them!

Brian and KJA admitted that to create the Legends series, they had to rely on their own imaginations because Frank had not left detailed notes. However, it did not seem like they were relying on their own imaginations nearly as much as a conglomeration of bad ideas taken from B movies, TV shows and comics. Seriously, all these ideas have been done to death! This is not in keeping with Herbert at all, who not only created something original but highly plausible.

4. Exploitation:
All throughout this book and the others in the series, one can’t help but feel that the authors are deliberately and shamelessly exploiting Herbert’s legacy. Its no secret that Frank was a hugely influential author who left behind an enduring legacy and millions of fans. Each and every one of them was eager to see how the Dune saga wrapped up, and couldn’t help but wonder what the events in the story’s deep background were all about. It’s little wonder then why these two paired up and decided to pick up the mantle.

On the surface, that might have seemed like a noble and brave thing to do. However, the calculated way in which they went about it clearly demonstrated there were ulterior motives at work. To begin, they didn’t tackle the Dune 7 project first, the one that they claimed Herbert had left “copious notes” for. Instead, they returned us to the universe and the characters we were already familiar with with some teaser prequels. They then moved on to the earlier prequels, books that did not wrap up the series but covered the deep background instead. Here again, it seemed like we were being toyed with! Only then, after all those prequels, did they finally decided to tackle the conclusion, and they even managed to draw THAT one out by putting it into two volumes instead of one. As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s those terrible interquels that have “cash-in again” written all over them. I tell ya, it never ends!

In short, it was obvious what they were doing. Getting audiences hooked with some quick and easy books that took place right before events in the main novel, then pulling them in deeper with some stories that went further back, and only then doing what they promised which was finishing the damn saga off! And when that finally came, it was a horribly transparent ending that had nothing in common with Herbert’s work but tied shamelessly back to their own so-called contributions. As much as I disliked these books, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for these men, especially Brian. He above all set out to take on his father’s legacy, but somewhere along the line he took a wrong turn and ended up in cash-in junction where legions of his fathers loyal fans were waiting and demanding their money back!

5. Prequel Complex:
To finish, I’d like to refer back to rule one in why prequels suck. In short, these books really didn’t contain anything new. Just about every reference to places was meant to refer back to something in the original story, every characters was meant to tie to someone in the original text, and every development was meant to forecast how the universe we were familiar with came to be. It all felt forced, contrived, and quite unnatural. For one, things don’t get created all in one lifetime, as all the inventions and schools which exist in the original Dune universe were in this series.

Literally everything, from the Mentats, Guild, Foldspace technology, spice harvesting, the Fremen, the Ginaz swordmasters, the Tleilaxu, the Bene Gesserit, etc, were created within the pages of this series and then went on to exist (virtually unchanged) for ten thousand years! All I wanted to say in the course of reading this was, “that’s not how things happen!” Things are not created in one instant and then endure for ten thousand years, they develop gradually and change over time. Forecasting how things came to be is one thing, but completely explaining them just deepens the sense of duty and contrivance from which prequels suffer. Again, rule two man! RULE TWO!

6. Wrongness of the Whole Thing!:
Added to this was the undeniable feeling that they got it all wrong. In Herbert’s original stories, references to the Butlerian Jihad were few and far between. But when it did come up, Herbert clearly indicated that the rebellion was driven by people who’s lives were becoming dominated by machines and a machine mentality. By that, one gets the impression that the jihad was not a war in the literal sense but a moral crusade to rid the universe of something that was increasingly seen as immoral. In accordance, the “enslavement” of humanity seemed metaphorical, that it was really just a sense of dependency that the jihadis were fighting.

At no point was it even hinted at that the jihad was a war between evil machines and free humans, or that humans won it by nuking every thinking machine out of existence. But that was clearly Brian and KJA’s interpretation – that the “enslavement” of humans by machines was meant literally and the war was some super-righteous titanic struggle. Clearly, subtlety means nothing to these two, either that or they just didn’t see the cash value in telling a story that boasted a little irony and nuance. Instead, they opted for a cliched story of good vs. evil with a rah rah ending that would make even Michael Bay’s eyes roll.

Such an ending did not seem at all in keeping with Herbert’s legacy, that of realistic and hard sci-fi. It was much more in keeping with the work of KJA, a man who is famous for writing fan-fiction and pulp sci-fi, a man whose won only one award for his writing and it was for kid lit (A Golden Duck!). So really, putting the name Dune on this book was more of a legality or formality than anything else. In the end, its not a Herbert tale, its a KJA tale with the name Herbert attached. And as I’ve said many times before in reference to Dune, raping the legacy of a great and venerated man for the sake of your own fame or financial gain isn’t cool!

Okay, think I definitely said enough about that book. I mean, how many ways can you possibly say a story is crap? I found six but I can still think of material that’s just looking for a proper category to plug it into. Suffice it to say, the story was bad and I strongly recommend that fans of Herbert stay away from it at all costs. Those who haven’t need to be warned, and those who have already, let me just say that I feel your pain! And speaking of pain, I shall be back with volume two in this terrible saga, The Machine Crusade. Wish me luck…

Of Dune and its Alternate Ending

Not long ago, I joined a few Dune fansites and became part of the growing trend of Herbertians who are disillusioned with the path his franchise has taken (see the link below for the specific web sites). All of us were in agreement about how poor a job his son Brian and KJA have done since they stepped into his shoes. Amongst us, there wasn’t a single person who didn’t think they had exploited, abused, misled, and even raped the franchise for all it was worth. Foremost amongst our complaints was the rather cliched and shallow way they would present characters, construct plots, and just generally fail to meet our expectations. To be fair, Frank set them pretty high, but nevertheless…

Another MAJOR gripe we all had in common was how the Dune franchise ended. None among us could accept that Herbert EVER left notes indicating that his story was to conclude with robots returning to the known universe to wreak havoc and get their revenge. Nor could we believe that it was all meant to climax with a meeting between Duncan Idaho (the ghola-turned Kwitatz Haderach) and Erasmus (Evil the robot), and working out an agreement whereby humans and robots would learn to live together. Not only was it a terrible cliche, a ripoff of the Matrix, totally shallow and bereft of any of the original depth and commentary that Herbert wrote into his originals, it made no sense! The evil robots returning did not fit with Herbert’s original books at all, at no point was the Butlerian Jihad anything more than deep background, and no mention made of them at all when talking of humanity’s future of Leto’s “Golden Path”. Nor was there ever any hint that the robots were evil, that was merely the product of Brian and (much more likely) KJA’s juvenile mind! So really, that ending could only have been the result of them wanting to tie the ending to their own terrible contributions.

But the question remained, what WOULD have been a good ending by actual, Herbertian standards? How would he have ended the whole thing, if in fact Dune 7 were really meant to be an ending and not just another installment? For example, who were the old man and woman in the garden that Duncan kept having visions of? What was the true nature of the threat that the Honored Matres were running from? Why was it they needed the Bene Gesserit’s famed defences against poisons and toxins? How would the Bene Gesserit, Tleilaxu alliance deal with it? In book six of Dune (Chapterhouse), they had already found a way to neutralize the HM’s sexual imprinting by programming it into Duncan. Odrate and Lucilla managed to bring down the HM and orchestrate a merger by taking over the leadership of their sisterhood. And the remaining Tleilaxu master was in possession of the ghola genes of many of the Old Empire’s most famous people, something which the old man and woman seemed marginally concerned about. And Duncan had plotted their no-ship to fly to another galaxy, in the hopes of getting away from the old man and woman and exploring new space with his crew. So the question remained, where was Frank going with all that?

Naturally, it couldn’t have been that the old man and woman WERE Omnius and Erasmus, the evil hive mind and his sidekick! And the purpose of the gholas couldn’t have been to just bring them back for no reason except so that all the original characters could have another run at life and live happily ever after! But strong hints were given that the threat to the HM’s, personified by the old man and woman, were in fact, evolved face dancers who had broken free of their masters and were now a threat to the Old Empire itself. As for their interest in Duncan, they seemed to think he was a threat to them, otherwise they wouldn’t have bothered trying to catch him in their tachyon net, which itself seemed to have something to do with fold space technology. All the while, there was the fact that the BG were once again producing natural spice, turning Chapterhouse into a new Dune now that the original had been destroyed. In so doing, they were once again breaking the hold of any one group on the production and distribution of the product, and were once again breeding Leto’s sandworm. By this point in the story, Leto’s hold on humanity was broken with the death of the sandworms and destruction of Arrakis, but it had also been revealed (in the storehouse he left for them to find) that he had foreseen this crisis and was still urging them towards a special purpose.

All of that was established. So what was about to happen? Well, whereas many of my counterparts felt that by this point in the books, Leto’s vision (the “Golden Path” as it was called) was at an end, I felt that it was still going. I believed, based on my own reading of the text, that Leto had been preparing humanity without its knowledge for the threats that would be facing it come book 5 and 6 in the original series. The Famine Times and the Scattering were part of his initial plan, the consequences of his 3500 years of rule and deliberate control over spice production. These, in turn, served the purpose of breaking humanity’s addiction to spice and forcing them to develop alternatives, and ensuring that they were scattered in many directions so that no fate could claim them all. The development of the HM’s and their return to the Old Empire was also a result, therefore one could argue that it was something Leto had intended. By this logic, I felt that this threat had to be the thing that threatened humanity’s extinction.

In the original works, nothing was ever said about an external threat to the Old Empire. However, ample page time was dedicated to saying that humanity had become complacent, too static, too dependent, and was not prepared to deal with threats to survival. Teaching about survival was the main theme of Leto’s “Golden Path”, preventing humanity’s extinction the overall purpose. While other fans suggested that those threats came and went, I believed they were just on their way. And my own feelings were that they had something to do with two things: one, a possible alien race, once hinted at when it was said that one of the main reasons humanity kept its nukes was because of the possibility of encountering another “intelligence”. Two, the ongoing hints that the worm and the spice were not indigenous to Arrakis, but had come from somewhere else. Leto’s Scattering placed humanity in different galaxies and universes, perhaps one of these was the original source of both? And, now that humanity had reached out, perhaps they had found them and were drawing their attention, bringing them back into the Old Empire. An alliance between the HM’s, the BG’s with the various houses, Ixians, Guild and remaining Tleilaxu, was what was needed to defeat them.

Or not… Chances are, I’m wrong on several or all fronts. But that’s because I’m not Frank Herbert and chances are, only he ever knew what Dune 7 and/or the conclusion to the saga would really look like. His death had deprived us of that vision, and his son and KJA are either unaware or it too, or are unwilling to share it as originally presented. I HAVE to believe that, because there’s no way I’ll ever believe they based their Hunters and Sandworms of Dune on his original notes! Could be wrong on that too, but I doubt it!

For more on these and other Dune related topics, check out these sites:
Hairy Ticks of Dune
Jacurutu – The Cast Out

Of Dune and its Conclusion

Of Dune and its Conclusion

Since posting my thoughts on Dune and its descendants, I’ve found that there are no shortage of people out there who agree with me. In fact, there are even sites dedicated to expressing the dissatisfaction Herbert fans have with the garbage his son and Kevin J Anderson have been putting out. Not surprising really, but I learned some interesting facts in the course of reading through them. For one, KJA does not run his writing by anyone who was involved in the production of the original Dune novels. His test panel, if that’s what you want to call it, consists mainly of family and friends. Second, I learned that, contrary to my expectations, the latest installments they have made have been doing quite poorly. In fact, let this serve as a correction to my post: the “interquel” novels, known as the “Heroes of Dune” set, are not a trilogy. Sisterhood of Dune is in fact a departure from the interquels, apparently due to sagging sales. Score one for the good guys!

Now some thoughts on these revelations: First of, what kind of serious author tests his work by getting friends and family to read it? And what the hell do his family know about Dune? Seems to me any fool looking to work the Dune franchise would care solely what the people who knew Herbert best would think, not to mention the fans. Screw family! And seriously, what are they going to tell him? That they loved it because they love him? Or are they going to be honest: “Honey, this is shit! This is an absolute insult to the legacy of Herbert, chock full of cliches and sci-fi stereotypes, and every contrivance known to pulp literature! Franks Herbert’s novels were thoughtful works that dealt with timeless themes and deep philosophical issues. Any child could have turned out this fan fiction bullshit with all its wooden dialogue, cardboard characters and ridiculous plot holes. The only thing missing is a whole lot of spelling mistakes! What the hell were you thinking?!!!”

Well, it’s one thing to criticize. Quite another to put your money where your mouth is. This is one thing I wanted to say in my original post but didn’t because it kind of made me feel like a prick. But if I got one piece of advice, it was that I was being too nice. So here’s some unbridled honesty. Do I think I could do better? That’s the question everyone must ask themselves whenever they decide to get critical. If not, they should probably shut up. But I can honestly say that I think I could do better! And I challenge my fellow Dune fans to do the same. While it may never see the light of day, I think that between us we could come up with a far better end to Dune and I invite people to make suggestions, either here or on various fan sites. You know how a groundswell works, and in the information age, its being done all the time. People produce their own works, put out their own news, and basically vote with their feet (more like fingers, hits and comments make the difference here!). But the result is the same, the popular product supersedes the mainstream crap and soon the mainstream crap is sitting up and taking notice. So let me humbly suggest that we make our own Dune 7, at least a mock-up for it. The ending that we, the fans, think that Herbert would have wanted!

Below is a link to a fansite dedicated to honoring the legacy of Herbert and bashing the prequel/sequel/interquel crap that has followed in his wake:

Jacurutu