was casting about for a topic for my writer’s blog when I came across a
fascinating piece about Frank Herbert’s 1965 SF novel Dune
written by the ever-surprising economist/NYTimes columnist Paul Krugman.
The item was inspired by a new movie version coming out soon, and Krugman writes
that “what we’ve seen in trailers looks true to Herbert’s vision. I’m
optimistic about this one.” (He hated the other two film versions, mainly
for underestimating the audience.)
Dune as an extremely cinematic novel and “a sweeping epic
set on a desert planet, with knife fights, mystical powers and, oh yes,
giant worms. It’s an amazing piece of world-building; Herbert was clearly
possessed by a vision and worked obsessively to get it right.”
could say that again, since Herbert wrote five sequels: Dune
Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune.
inspiration for the series (and his interest in ecology) began in 1957, according
to Wikipedia, when he traveled to Florence, Oregon, at
the north end of the Oregon
Dunes, where the federal government was attempting to use poverty grasses to
stabilize the sand dunes.
Herbert claimed in a letter to
his literary agent that the moving dunes could "swallow whole cities,
lakes, rivers, highways.” Dune’s giant sandworms immediately come to
mind, of course. Another
significant source of inspiration for Dune was Herbert's experiences
with psilocybin and
his hobby of cultivating mushrooms.
As someone who
has written both a literary novel (Journeyman, 2020) and a genre novel
(Hotwalker, a murder mystery set at the Kentucky Derby, out Oct. 1),
I wish to make three points for fiction writers to consider:
1) the vital
importance of creating a sense of place in a novel
2) never underestimating
3) not being intimidated by “serious culturati sniffing
at genre fiction.” I think all of this can be said across the board about
creative writing in all forms.
A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man, James Joyce writes, “When
the soul of a man is born in this country there are nets flung at it to
hold it back from flight…. I shall try to fly by those nets.” Joyce was
talking about Ireland, but the point is universal, and more than nations hold
us back from flight.