Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Dune the movie: Lynch vs Villeneuve vs Frank Herbert... and us.

All right, off-the-cuff let me say that, of course, the latest adaptation of Dune by Denis Villeneuve is magnificent.  It is spectacularly good and supremely enjoyable, on a par with the best of Spielberg, or Zemeckis, or Cameron. The admirable qualities are apparent to all.

Still, even while enjoying great movies, there remains a part of me who keeps taking notes. Furthermore, general approval doesn't forbid my making a few specific comments, including comparisons to earlier versions. 


And so, for those of you who enjoy nitpickery – and promise you won’t let it spoil for you a great flick - buckle up and let’s get to it:


SPOILERS



SPOILERS



- Okay, for starters, I must get this out there. Unlike almost everyone I know, I actually liked the David Lynch 1982 version, a lot. 


My own theory to explain all the hate it got is that it faithfully portrayed Frank Herbert's original intent, which was to make feudalism look bad! To be clear, Herbert said that Lynch's vision of the Dune Universe very closely matched the mental images that Frank himself had of Dune. He spoke of how closely he worked with Lynch. Though yes, some things that Lynch added were just bizarre. The Harkonnen skin disease for example and grotesque heart plugs  I do know Lynch’s clever-clumsy innovation of weapons based upon sound was not in the original novel, but was adopted by Frank Herbert at least somewhat, in later works.


I believe a lot of viewers were made uncomfortable by how Lynch succeeded at Frank’s intent to portray the Atreides as awful. Okay, they’re visually pretty and loved by their top officers and maybe they’re above-average for feudal lords – but they’re still feudal lords and that makes them kinda almost nazis... though still much less horrendous than Harkonnen vampires. A standard storytelling trick to get you to root for the unlikeable.


I came away from the Lynch film hoping - as Frank intended(!) - that all of the fighters and lords and emperors and guilds and Bene Gesserits would just go and die, please? Except maybe a couple of Atreides corporals with secret democratic ambitions. It's also what I wanted George to do in Game of Thrones. Alas.

But sure, defeat the evil Harkonnen and Emperor, first.


Nor were the tribal Fremen any improvement. Oh, sure, gritty and oppressed underdogs - again, a very effective trope. Though Herbert later has them proceeding – across the Dune books - to wreak hell and death across the galaxy. Alas, try as he might, Frank Herbert kept failing to get his point across, as readers and viewers continued kvelling how they’d like to go to his wonderfully vivid, but also horrendously Halloween-level universe of failure, evil and pain. 


And yeah, that means I liked the story for some added reasons not shared by most. As a warning.


Key point about endings:


As I know very well from Kevin Costner's film version of my novel The Postman, when a film's ending sucks, that's all people will remember, no matter how beautiful the first 90% was. 


And yeah, the last 10 minutes of David Lynch's Dune was so awful. Making it rain? Feh. And promising to bring peace to a galaxy that Paul would soon send careening into jihad and hell? Just please defeat the villains and have done with it, will you? Don't make it so abundantly clear we've only replaced ugly monsters with pretty ones? Worse, Paul suddenly transforms from underdog to creepy-bossy-arrogant mega-overdog. No, that Dune flick did not end well.


And yes, that constitutes the top lesson that I hope Denis Villeneuve studies carefully. And good luck to him!


Nit-picks!


- All right, taking all that into account, sure the Villeneuve Dune is vastly better than the 1984 Lynch version! Even if you take into account the incredible differences in rendering technology (e.g great ornithopters!), the 2021 film is just a better-told story.


For example, by showing Chani in 5 whole minutes worth of precognitive dreams, Villeneuve made the love story central to this telling of the first half, even long before their first kiss. Lynch had given Chani short-shrift and that irked. So the new one is a great improvement.


- In contrast, to save time, Villeneuve dumped any glimpse of the emperor or the Spacer Guild. And sure, that's okay. He did just fine without them. But Lynch's portrayals of both were memorable and I'd defend them. 

- Likewise, replacing the red-headed Harkonnen uniformity-trait (1984) with making them all baldies (2021) was fine too… achieving the same goal of conveying regimented sameness... though the Marlon Brando rubbing a wet-bald pate homage to Apocalypse Now might have been a bit indulgent.  Anyway, making the Baron slightly less cartoony was certainly called for. Lynch, can be very self-indulgent.

- Let's be clear about the Lynch version's voice-overs – both in character thoughts and data dumps. 


Sure, many of them were cringeworthy, though Frank Herbert used both methods extensively in the book. Only to be fair... well... they were necessary back in Lynch's flick! Same as voice-over narrations had been needed 2 years earlier, in the first version of Bladerunner.  


Yes, I am glad Ridley Scott later did a Bladerunner director's cut that omitted those voice-overs! The resulting version is far better art! By then, we all knew why Roy Blatty wanted Deckert to be with him, when he died and did not need Harrison Ford telling us. But in 1982, most of the audience really needed Ford's narration. As they needed Lynch's in Dune 1984.  (And are there voice-over cues in the contemporary Wonder Woman 1984? Never saw it.) 


The Villeneuve Dune didn't require voice-overs and data dumps because millions who already knew the story could explain it to those who need explanations.


All right then, there’s all the sword fighting. 


Well, okay, I guess. Gives the flick a nice heroic medieval feel and that’s appropriate with all the feudalism, I guess. And the slow bombs were cool! (Though having separate shielded compartments within the ships would thwart the slow bombs, and compartmenting ships goes way back.)


And I guess we didn't really need to know why lasers don't work vs. transparent shields. I suppose. (Though that part of Frank's setup never made much sense. What? Explosions don’t transfer momentum even to a shielded guy?) 


And so (I guess) we should ignore just about any other fighting advantage that might derive from technology. I guess. 


But sure, okay, as a former fencer and street-fighter, I could dig it, telling the nitpicking modernist corner of me to shut tf up and enjoy all the blade flouncing n' stuff. I suppose.


Still, the whole notion that Doctor Yueh would be able to sabotage everything, including lookout outposts or maybe one on the feaking moon? Doesn't that say something about Atreides martial stupidity? All right, that one is on Frank.


 Minor points.


- In Lynch, Paul eats some food-prepared spice because the aristocracy consumed it for life extension – one more way the rich get to be godlike. That aspect is dropped in the Villeneuve Dune and one's impression is that Paul's first encounter with the stuff is upon arriving on Arrakis. In fact, the reasons for spice greed are dropped after just one vague mention of the spacer guild. 


- Likewise, all the ecosystem stuff. In the Lynch version, Kynes the ecologist gets to weigh in on the mystery of the origins of spice, but Villeneuve’s Kynes doesn't even try to hint. It's only a central theme in six Herbert books.

- Again though, it is vital that someone remind you all that the Dune universe - just like Game of Thrones - is a morality tale against feudalism, which dominated and oppressed 99% of our ancestors for 6000 years! A beastly, horrid form of governance that rewarded the very worst males, that trashed freedom and justice and progress and that made most of those centuries a living hell. A system that will do all the same things to our heirs, if we let it return.

Indeed, in subsequent books (I wrote the modern introduction to God-Emperor of Dune), Frank kept trying to teach readers this one lesson. 

We can do better.


There's more but... but if I went on, you'd get an impression I did not like the Villeneuve Dune. 


In fact, I loved it! 


He had to make choices.  Fine


The result is spectacular. And I kept the note-taker muffled during the viewing.


Still, there is a part of me that fetishistically takes notes, even on flicks that I love…


…so watch me pick apart and appraise several dozen more, along with their implications for our civilization, in Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood!


87 comments:

Robert said...

Frank Herbert kept failing to get his point across, as readers and viewers continued kvelling how they’d like to go to his wonderfully vivid, but also horrendously Halloween-level universe of failure, evil and pain

Probably because the readers and viewers see themselves as being on top, one of the Atreides nobility. Just as readers of fantasy generally see themselves as lords and knights, not peasants.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

My own theory to explain all the hate it [the 1980s Dune movie] got is that it faithfully portrayed Frank Herbert's original intent, which was to make feudalism look bad!


It can be both faithful to a theme and uncomfortable to watch. The latter is what caused me to dislike the Lynch version, despite desperately wanting to like it. And the fact that "That's the point" doesn't mitigate the reader's experience.

As a counterexample, the Robert Harris novel Fatherland doesn't make me want to actually live in a world in which the Nazis continued to hold Europe into the 1960s. But I can enjoy the story taking place in such a setting without needing a drink and a shower afterwards. If "making feudalism look bad" requires "making the viewer feel the way he would if he were stuck in a feudal society," then someone's not doing their job.


Though yes, some things that Lynch added were just bizarre. The Harkonnen skin disease for example and grotesque heart plugs


What you dismiss with a "though, yes" was the whole point of my discomfort. There may be a place for gay porn, but Dune didn't seem like the place.


Nor were the tribal Fremen any improvement. Oh, sure, gritty and oppressed underdogs - againa very effective trope. Though Herbert later has them proceeding – across the Dune books - to wreak hell and death across the galaxy.


I'm glad you point this out, because I agree with it. The Fremen might have been the good guys in the original book, but in much the way that the Soviets were the good guys during WWII. Neither stayed that way. Paul's admonition that people would "look back on the good old days of the Sardaukar" (or whatever the actual line was) seems right to me.


Alas, try as he might, Frank Herbert kept failing to get his point across, as readers and viewers continued kvelling how they’d like to go to his wonderfully vivid, but also horrendously Halloween-level universe of failure, evil and pain.


I think part of the problem is that when you continue a series of six (long) books with those guys as the protagonists, it will seem as if the author is promoting their POV, not saying how sucky it is.


And I guess we didn't really need to know why lasers don't work vs. transparent shields. I suppose. (Though that part of Frank's setup never made much sense.)


I haven't seen the new movie yet, so I'm going from the book. I'm not sure how they "don't work" in the film. Does the shield keep the wearer invulnerable to lasers, or does the laser intersecting the shield cause an explosion which destroys both the wearer and the shooter? The latter is the scenario from the book, which I took to simply be a writerly way of making shields useless against lasers and vice versa.

It was also a plot point when the Sardaukar were hunting Fremen in the desert by spraying laser fire, and the Fremen had planted a shield to sabotage that strategy. "They won't try that again," or something to that effect.


In Lynch, Paul eats some food-prepared spice because the aristocracy consumed it for life extension – one more way the rich get to be godlike. That aspect is dropped in the Villeneuve Dune and one's impression is that Paul's first encounter with the stuff is upon arriving on Arrakis. In fact, the reasons for spice greed are dropped after just one vague mention of the spacer guild


I don't remember Paul eating spice prior to Arrakis in the book. But the Bene Gesserit and the spacer guild relied on the stuff--maybe other groups as well, which is why it was valuable, and why the guild would at least clandestinely support whoever could keep the spice flowing.

Glad you recommend it, though, because eventually I will have to give in and see it.

David Brin said...

Good remarks, Larry Hart. And in this case, I doubt any 'spoilers" will matter an iota to you so great.

"It was also a plot point when the Sardaukar were hunting Fremen in the desert by spraying laser fire, and the Fremen had planted a shield to sabotage that strategy. "They won't try that again," or something to that effect."

The whole situation is absurd. Light has a finite velocity and you can send a brief laser bolt that no longer leads to the shooter by the time it hits a shield. Anyway there'd be a back and forth arms race to make cheaper disposable lase-guns and cheap, disposable shields, both of them mobile drones. That's actually a heckuva plot device! But sure. we can shrug and go along with Frank.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I doubt any 'spoilers" will matter an iota to you.


Yeah, I've read the book more times than I can count.

Mind you, I mean the original book, not the series as a whole, which I gave up on after "God Emperor". My sense of the relationship between the original book and the series is very similar to my sense of the relationship between the 1977 Star Wars and the saga which it became part of.

I've heard it said that comedy relies on "knowing when to end the story" before it becomes tragedy, which it always will become after a certain point. Both the original Dune novel and the original Star Wars film ended soon enough to be comedy, whereas the extended sagas just had to become tragedy.

BTW, at the time when the 1980s movie was in the works, I saw something on a bulletin board on the nascent internet of the day which sarcastically suggested casting Marlon Brando as Duke Leto, riffing on the notion that he "appears only in the first fifteen minutes and dies," much as Jor El did in the original Superman movie. The thing had casting suggestions for all of the characters, but that's the only one I remember.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The whole situation is absurd. Light has a finite velocity and you can send a brief laser bolt that no longer leads to the shooter by the time it hits a shield.


Yeah, I forgot you know so much about actual lasers. You probably can't turn off the part of your brain that knows how they would really work in a given situation. That's why I prefer the Star Trek route of making something up like "phasers" which can have whatever properties the plot and setting require. Can you accept that a "lasgun" is not actually called a laser, and might be something different?

When The Six Million Dollar Man was a thing, I was just young enough or real prosthetic limbs were just new enough that I could imagine Steve Austin's attachments as being something entirely different from real prosthetics, and not worry about whether real ones would work the way his did. (Didn't stop me from noticing that a bionic arm wouldn't allow him to lift a truck without something going on with his spinal column.) Anyhoo, I guess I am able to imagine "lasguns" as something that only resembles a laser rather than an actual laser, and therefore having different properties from the real-life thing, in the same way that phasers or Steve Austin's attachments are different from reality.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle: The antidote to that drive-by troll on the previous post...

https://www.stonekettle.com/2021/11/recap-october-3-2021.html

...
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

That quote is often misattributed to 16th Century Irish statesman Edmund Burke. He never said that, or at least if he did there's no record of it among his prolific writings, but he did say something similar in his 1770 Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents: "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."

They will fall one by one in the contemptible struggle, indeed and the more things change, eh?

Burke is right. And so is that first quote.

The only thing necessary for America to become Germany of the 1930 is for us to do nothing.

To do nothing because we are not inspired.

To do nothing because we disappointed.

To do nothing because Joe Biden, Democrats, made some big promises and they haven't delivered.

Of course you're disappointed. Of course you are. And of course the opposition is emboldened by your disappoint and the supposed failure of Joe Biden to deliver on his promises. Of course.

But this is normal. It's only been a year...

What's that?

Heh.
...


Me again. This is exactly why all anti-deplorables have to be allies in the fight against permanent Deplorable rule. Despite our differences with each other. The Allies have to fight against the Axis powers, despite our separate, individual agendas and goals. And even sworn enemies band together to hunt down Holnists in their midst.

Postagoras said...

It may be that Frank Herbert was making a point about feudalism, I am not in his head.
Inside the story, there's a clear warning about the trap of prescience. Paul discovered it when he could not avoid the Fremen jihad. All of Frank's subsequent books have that as a central theme- breaking out of the jail of prescience that was crafted by the Bene Gesserit.
Within the story line, the reason that everything is run by inherited bloodlines rather than corporations is that Herbert had special genetic inheritance of ancestral memory and other powers as the underpinning of his story. Without that, the Bene Gesserit would not be able to breed a Kwisatz Haderach, and spice would not be important.

Jake Ganor said...

> "The whole situation is absurd. Light has a finite velocity and you can send a brief laser bolt that no longer leads to the shooter by the time it hits a shield."

On the last page of Dune's Chapter 16: "A lasgun-shield explosion was a dangerous variable, could be more powerful than atomics, could kill only the gunner and his shielded target."

So the interaction could lead to an explosion more powerful than a thermonuclear bomb -- which would surely vaporize anybody using a handheld laser-gun, for they can only shoot in straight lines and can't be used as long-range artillery, unless you get very creative. At the same time, the interaction is completely unpredictable, so would be very difficult to weaponize. (Unless, again, you get very creative. It would help if the lasgun-shield interaction weren't some sort of perfectly random quantum effect.)

Sure, it's a stretch, but I don't think that it's completely ridiculous.

boomer49 said...

I loved the flick and was BLOWN AWAY by Zimmer's score...improved the film gobs and gobs...My only aggravation is that by the time the last one comes out all the principles will have aged out of the roles and I'll be dead or in hospice. And someone is coming out with the 'Wheel of Time"? Great!, just like the author, I'll reach my end before it does!

Robert said...

When The Six Million Dollar Man was a thing, I was just young enough or real prosthetic limbs were just new enough that I could imagine Steve Austin's attachments as being something entirely different from real prosthetics, and not worry about whether real ones would work the way his did. (Didn't stop me from noticing that a bionic arm wouldn't allow him to lift a truck without something going on with his spinal column.)

That bugged me when I saw it. If you read Cyborg, the original novel that the series was based on, it is an explicit limitation that the limbs are much stronger than his body, and he has to be careful not to damage himself. Young me didn't understand why the TV series left that bit out…

Daniel Duffy said...

"Villeneuve dumped any glimpse of the emperor or the Spacer Guild."

I'm pretty sure the spacing guild was with the Emperor's herald when he arrived on Caladan to finalize the planet swap - they re the ones on the orange fishbowl helmets filled with spice gas.

P.S. Was the Emperor's herald Count Fenring?

Robert said...

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I've always liked Peter Watts' corollary to that: "If you do nothing, what makes you any fucking good?"


Peter does swear a bit, but he's one of the kindest chaps I know. And a damn fine writer. On the off-chance that some folks here haven't read him yet, here's his backlist. I'm personally fond of "Malak", but they are all very good (if not always comfortable — he has a tendency to explore an idea to its full extent even if that's disturbing).

https://rifters.com/real/shorts.htm

Daniel Duffy said...

I miss Omni Magazine:

https://www.gwern.net/docs/fiction/1980-omni-july.pdf

Got to page 40 for FH's great essay "Dune Genesis" followed by some excellent Dune artwork.

Daniel Duffy said...

"He had to make choices"

The 5 hour director's cut (as described by Jason Mamoa - Duncan Idaho) will include the following cut scenes:

Yueh explaining to Jessica what happened to his wife (provides much better motivation for his betrayal)'

The banquet scene

Gurney playing the balliset

Duncan meeting the fremen and a few others

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGfsJT6ZwVU



Daniel Duffy said...

Every actor was cast perfectly - except for Jason Mamoa.

He plays the original Duncan Idaho very well, but how wil he do in future movies as a mentat ghola?

JM just doesn't do cerebral characters.

Daniel Duffy said...

The perfect antidote to romantic portrayals of feudalism:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7qT-C-0ajI

"Strange women lying in ponds dispensing swords is not a basis for a system of government!"

"Come see the violence inherent in the system!"

Daniel Duffy said...

The thopters btw were perfect

Daniel Duffy said...

Someone should have a kind word for the Sci-Fi channel miniseries - especially the part showing "Children of Dune". The Actress who played the possessed Alia did great job.

Don Gisselbeck said...

From Macbeth
Son
And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?

Lady Macduff
Every one.

Son
Who must hang them?

Lady Macduff
Why, the honest men.

Son
Then the liars and swearers are fools,
for there are liars and swearers enough to beat
the honest men and hang up them.

Stefan Jones said...

Good essay and good comments.

I missed some of the details that Lynch shoved in there, but I think this new adaptation does a great job of visualizing the characters, setting, and story.

I'm tempted to go back and ready DUNE again -- it has been almost 40 years! -- but honest, I know that story SO WELL, I really feel like I should read new books by new up-and-coming authors. I'm so far behind on that.

It seems certain that V will be getting a second movie!

Stefan

Iklawa said...

After reading about how Harvey Weinstein had an issue with skin boils, I started wondering how far back that went and if it might have been an inspiration for Lynch's embellishments on the Baron and the Harkonnen clan.

Digcinema said...

David Brin​​ “there is a part of me that fetishistically takes notes, even on flicks that I love” Constructive schizophrenia. I had a significant role in setting the quality requirements for the entire modern movie system - mastering and exhibition. And almost every movie is made multiply using a technique I co-created. And I vote on VFX Awards. So the right side of my brain is analytically busy during every frame of every movie view, while i keep the left side free to enjoy the creator’s art (and catch some of the commercial movie making issues that I need for other deals/work).

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

If you read Cyborg, the original novel that the [Six Million Dollar Man] series was based on, it is an explicit limitation that the limbs are much stronger than his body, and he has to be careful not to damage himself. Young me didn't understand why the TV series left that bit out…


I did read the novel way back in the day. The book seemed to be more about a man who had to adjust to living with mechanical parts, who was despondent over his loss until facing a life-threatening situation in which it became clear that his new body really was more resilient than his purely-human body would have been. In the tv series, of course, "bionic" was a less cartoony way of doing Superman.

IIRC, the book left Colonel Austin with his natural right arm, which seemed a kindness on the author's part. In the tv show, of course, his right arm was the bionic one because the actor would be using that one to do superheroics with.

* * *

Daniel Duffy:

The 5 hour director's cut (as described by Jason Mamoa - Duncan Idaho) will include the following cut scenes:

Yueh explaining to Jessica what happened to his wife (provides much better motivation for his betrayal)


I hope it explains more than the book did how the Baron was able to break the supposedly-unbreakable Suk School conditioning. If threats against a captive loved one alone were enough to do so, it seems to me that the conditioning isn't all that meaningful to begin with.

I also hope the movie keeps the part where Yueh, despite having to betray the duke, also sets up the potential retaliation against the Baron.


The banquet scene


I can't imagine Dune without the banquet scene.

David Brin said...

Wow this one stirred em up! And got us a drop -in from Stefan Jones!

Digcinema okay, you have strong (cinematic) kung fu! ;-) Welcome.

I long ago had an idea that I think could transform the balance of power in your industry, using the skills you just described.

But you might also enjoy my new book VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood - http://www.davidbrin.com/vividtomorrows.html

DG there's a witch scene after that one, right?

David Brin said...

Well the tooth, of course is there.

Rob said...

Greetings from a long time ago!

I loved "Dune Part I" as well. Many of my literati type friends nitpicked about Yueh or the lasguns firing at Duncan as he escaped the attack. Didn't like it, wasn't as good as the movie they played in their heads while they were reading.

Whatever. "It's fiction! It's art!" I try to say. "Enjoy what's there!"

So. For whatever it's worth, the Herbert estate hasn't entirely repudiated The Dune Encyclopedia, which contains a florid and imaginative "science of" type description of the lasgun-shield interactions. Fun!

Beyond that, I thought DV was telling us things about the failure of Atreides to be the "least bad tyrant" with all that jackbooted imagery.

Jon S. said...

I think it might be more accurate to say that Jason Momoa has yet to be cast in a cerebral role. He might do just fine as a genius, but thus far he's only ever gotten to play beefcake.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Larry Hart said ...

I think part of the problem is that when you continue a series of six (long) books with those guys as the protagonists, it will seem as if the author is promoting their POV, not saying how sucky it is.


The protagonist POV goes a long way to engendering that, because it has the effect of drawing the audience to view their existence in the world on the level of the protagonist, or as the protagonist.

If the DUNE universe were to be portrayed from the perspective of someone NOT of the nobility, I suspect that a lot of the rosy-colored romantic view of the universe would be stripped away.



David Brin said ...

... there is a part of me that fetishistically takes notes, even on flicks that I love ...


The more one becomes knowledgeable of a subject, the more one will tend to notice the flaws and errors in works of fiction involving that subject. You're highly knowledgeable in a broad category of scientific fields, and also in the field of storytelling. I'd honestly be surprised if you DIDN'T do this.


I, myself, have in recent years begun struggling to enjoy naval fictions like I used to. Naval fiction stories, especially of the sci-fi variety, are in my top 3 favorite categories of stories and always have been. But now that I have intimate knowledge and experience in how a real-world navy works, and how the people in said navy think and behave and do, and all of the work, effort, stuff, and things that are necessary to maintain and operate a warship ... Poorly-researched or poorly-thought-out stories that I used to enjoy now severely irk me, because what I once dismissed as background stretching of reality that didn't matter (if I even noticed it at all), now stands out to me as fundamentally wrong in ways that would drastically alter how the story should progress.

And when people get basic military concepts and principles and mindsets wrong stand out to me a LOT, and on some level just make me angry (mostly in an eye-roll kinda way).


That said, the stories that DO get it right are that much more enjoyable because of my knowledge and experience.


P.S. Still alive! Finally transferring to shore duty in January/February timeframe, which should give me a LOT more free time to participate in discussions here once I get moved and settled in.

Tony Fisk said...

I came away from the Lynch film hoping - as Frank intended(!) - that all of the fighters and lords and emperors and guilds and Bene Gesserits would just go and die, please? Except maybe a couple of Atreides corporals with secret democratic ambitions.

Lynch's Gurney Halleck, of course, went on to greater things...

As Robert has already suggested, the problem with Dune (and GoT) is that the viewer gets to empathize with the pretty and the chosen ones. The point about how wonderful oppressive oligarchies aren't for the vast majority would have been better served if everything was pitched from the underdog's viewpoint.

It isn't something I feel I have the chops for, but a scenario involving the development of a projectile halting force shield would be an interesting topic to explore.* How would the upholders of the Second Amendment react? A bit like that Senator in Existence, I suspect...

*My impression is that Herbert treated it as an overlord enabler. Really? Poul Anderson also wrote 'Shield'; a pulp piece which didn't really cover the ramifications. Any others?

Rhaemond Targaryen said...

Dr Brin, Larry Hart,

You are both missing the point when discussing the lasers-vs-shields in Frank Herbert's universe.

Intersecting a laser beam with a shield does indeed produce an explosion that destroys both the lasgun and the shield emitter. But not only them. It produces a "sub-atomic fusion" explosion which is essentially indistinguishable from a nuclear explosion. It's this sheer destructiveness and the ban on using nuclear weapons on humans (and the threat of universal retaliation) which prevents using lasers in an environment that contains shields.

Tony Fisk said...

To date, I've heard no mention of mentats.

Larry Hart said...

I said:

In the [Six Million Dollar Man] tv series, of course, "bionic" was a less cartoony way of doing Superman.


I suddenly remember that way back in high school, I scribbled a Mad Magazine-style take on the show which ended with Superman suing Colonel Austin for trademark infringement. The earlier part of the story had him doing things like outrunning a speeding bullet, stopping a locomotive, and leaping a tall building in a single bound.

David Brin said...

Small inaccuracy RT. All the Landsrad families have atomic weapons.

TF Mentats are in DV’s film. But they just stand in for ‘clerk nerd’.

Ilithi Dragon, always welcome here. How’s your military + aliens novel coming along? I thought it had unique elements.

We thank you for your sacrifices… and Bless the Navy for being the service not only with constitutionalist officers but noncoms down the line, as well.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin,

I just posted my latest episode for early access on patreon this past weekend, and I'll be posting it for free access on Saturday. https://www.patreon.com/posts/retreat-hell-17-58087036

Work has kept me busy enough to not have a good, regular posting schedule, but I'm hoping to have more time for regular writing and posting after I move.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

but a scenario involving the development of a projectile halting force shield would be an interesting topic to explore.* How would the upholders of the Second Amendment react?


In Chicago, carjackings and innocent bystander shootings have been so prevalent this year that I've been saying we need bulletproof cars. Personal shields would be an awesome game-changer. Better and faster than my cynical idea that humans have to evolve dinosaur-like skin to survive the age of firearms in America.

Chill said...

Funny, I was thought the one of the main problems with Lynch's Dune was that it took the "Paul Muad'dib as messiah" angle at face value, without undermining it much.

Larry Hart said...

Hey, what'd I tell you? Flagrant political cheating by Republicans is fine until it might be turned around against Republicans. Then suddenly they sit up and take notice.


...
A brief filed against Texas by a gun-rights group, the Firearms Policy Coalition, raised the prospect that if the state’s vigilante mechanism prevails, states favoring limitations on gun ownership contrary to Supreme Court precedent could enact their own copycat laws authorizing individuals to sue gun owners. In the federal government’s suit against Texas — one of the two cases the court heard on Monday — the Justice Department’s brief underscored the “startling” implication of the state’s position. “A state could use the same mechanism to effectively nullify any constitutional decision of this court with which it disagreed,” the brief said, adding:

A state might, for example, ban the sale of firearms for home protection, contra District of Columbia v. Heller, or prohibit independent corporate campaign advertising, contra Citizens United v. FEC, and deputize its citizens to seek large bounties for each sale or advertisement. Those statutes, too, would plainly violate the Constitution as interpreted by this court. But under Texas’ theory, they could be enforced without prior judicial review — and, by creating an enforcement scheme sufficiently lopsided and punitive, the state could deter the exercise of the target right altogether.

Clearly, this warning got the justices’ attention. During the argument in the case brought by Texas abortion providers, Justice Brett Kavanaugh posed to Judd Stone, the Texas solicitor general, the prospect that “Second Amendment rights, religion rights, free-speech rights could be targeted by other states” along the same model. “Say everyone who sells an AR-15 is liable for $1 million to any citizen,” Justice Kavanaugh continued. “Would that kind of law be exempt from pre-enforcement review in federal court?”
...



Larry Hart said...

I think I forgot the link to the quoted article above.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/04/opinion/abortion-guns-supreme-court.html

Rob said...

DV's choices to condense the narrative around Paul explain the sparse backgrounding of many fun parts of Herbert's universe. Only very brief, vivid asides to the Harkonnens or the Sardaukar to make 'em evil enough, etc. Only enough of the Bene Gesserit to make them a centuries-old power brokering institution.

Only what we'd imagine a 15 year old with a very good education might know. (Apparently Paul speaks fluent 21st Century Mandarin Chinese! That's some real staying power for a Terran language. :-) )

Robert said...

when you continue a series of six (long) books with those guys as the protagonists, it will seem as if the author is promoting their POV, not saying how sucky it is

Like SM Stirling and the Draka?

He claims they are an exploration of evil. And he may be telling the truth, but given his threat to punch me in the face if we ever meet I'm honestly unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Quite Likely said...

What Dune always felt like it was missing to more effectively drive home the anti-feudal point was any level of positive non-feudal alternative. As is it's all lords and secret societies. Would a free city here or there be so implausible, or any questioning of hereditary rule?

Daniel said...

David I hope you are correct that DV's part II conveys the "feudalism/fascism" bad point. Sure didn't come across that way from where I was sitting. Looked like romantic take on "great houses". However not convinced he will. I thought it interesting that one of the previews when I saw the movie yesterday myself was for Michael Bay's "Ambulance" which at least as edited seems to be a naked propaganda piece for Military and Police are the same thing (they're not) and democracy bad. Who is funding this stuff?

David Brin said...


Chill, exactly! I think Lynch was too faithful to Herbert and made people feel queasy when they realized what’s actually happening.

QL: The same in Game of Thrones, which made passing nod to the “Brothers Without Banners” who should have risen up all across that tortured land.

Ilithi dragon you have my email, so send me chapters when you feel like it. Also have a look at my Out of time series! The "Out of Time" (or "Yanked!") series:

Only teens can teleport through time and space! Dollops of fun, adventure & optimism for young adults. http://www.davidbrin.com/outoftime.html

scidata said...

Here's that Dr. Michelle Thaller talk from Oct 29 I mentioned:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak3GnLum8K0

Timestamps of my 3 items:
Magnetar: 30:43 (3x iron, not lead)
quakes: 35:00
"stupid" amounts of energy: 35:40
Dec 27, 2004: 35:46

So I think I was pretty much accurate, but better to get it from the source.

M.P. Andonee said...

I so thoroughly agree with you viewpoint, this post is superfluous. But since I have gotten hate for also liking the Lynch version, I feel that I should. Then again, I didn't read DUNE until AFTER I watched the Lynch version which somehow colored my experience of the BOOK itself.

Apparently, I have also become one of those who goes around asking subsequent readers of the book, including my niece and nephew what the point of the book was... Something I've done since I bought them "The Hunger Games" trilogy of books my Susanne Collins.

"Did you learn anything from these books?"

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin,

I'll email you a few things when I get a chance, and future episodes.

I've also read the first book in your Out of Time series. It rubs me a little wrong in the same vein that Idiocracy, Demolition Man, and a few other such stories, because I fundamentally disagree with the core premise of societal decay, but that aside I greatly enjoyed it (also noticed that the future kid did start stepping up and showing some of that supposedly missing grit).

I have the second book, haven't read it yet (my To Read list is growing a lot faster than my current ability to clear it).

David Brin said...

MPA thanks. Generally the simplistic lessons of Hollywood flicks boil down to suspicion of authority and individualistic eccentricity. Fine. They help keep us free... till enemies used SoA to incite suspicion even of expertise... leading to today's War on All Fact Professionals.

Daniel Duffy said...

For those of you with questions on warfare in the Dune universe, may I suggest this brilliant essay:

https://dune2k.com/Community/Articles/Warfare

It actually emphasizes logistics, transport, etc. over strategy and tactics.

Because "Amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics".

Joe Smith said...

I thoroughly enjoy all the films, miniseries, and books. A couple of quick thoughts on the latest film:
- I feel like Mentats were nearly neutered from the story. No explanation of their purpose, everything is implied with them. Also, part of Paul's abilities is the fact he was also trained as a mentat (to a degree). Part of his ability to interpret the Golden Path came from this, right?
- for part 1, the story is cut at the moment I would choose. Makes sense, builds interest... A proper cliffhanger.
- while I don't entirely miss the voice overs as a reflection of thought dialog, I do think Denis could have successfully worked in the opening quotes from each chapter as foreshadowing. It adds so much to the story that feels missing in most adaptations.
-how great would it be to open Part 2 with the interview with Bronso of Ix from Dune Messiah?

duncan cairncross said...

Ilithi Dragon
The society is decaying is a fossil of the Leaded petrol problem

When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's crime and murder were steadily increasing
Almost all science fiction written from the 60's to the 90's took that as being "normal"

After that some science fiction stopped doing that - but its a slow progression

Looking at the political situation we are in the hands of the brain damaged!

Back in 1994 19% of US registered voters were in that population
Today 52% of US registered voters are in that population

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/26/what-the-2020-electorate-looks-like-by-party-race-and-ethnicity-age-education-and-religion/

Pappenheimer said...

Lasguns v shields: I can't really care much, because it's really obvious that Herbert wanted personal combat to be important in his universe, so he rube goldberged a reason. At least Star Wars simplified the whole thing - space wizards.

One good change is that the new movie didn't cater to Herbert's sexual mores. Book Duke Vladimir had a thing for young boys, and his mentat De Vries looked "effeminate", while all the good guys are straight. (to be fair, De Vries was more 'equal opportunity sadist')

About feudalism and morality - the book makes it plain that Duke Leto IS a good and honorable man - and a man who sends out suicide teams to destroy the Harkonnen spice reserves, refuses to marry the love of his life for political reasons, and is plainly repulsed by the activities of his own propaganda teams. He HATES the system in which he is a player. Jessica, who knows this, has one chance, in the first book, to derail the entire plot - coerce her not-husband to flee the Empire with her, his house atomics and retainers - and decides not to take it, knowing she is sealing his tomb by doing so (the Reverend Mother makes that plain in chapter 1, but Jessica has rebelled against Bene Gesserit wishes before).

I will also recommend everyone who hasn't done so check out Bet Devereaux's "the Fremen Mystique" on line, which deconstructs the entire "desolate lands make unstoppable soldiers" concept that Herbert relied on both for the Fremen and their Sardaukar twins.

Pappenheimer said...

Bret*, not Bet. I make this correction in honor of Prof. Deveraux's own grammar enforcement squad, who are ferociously dedicated in his comments section

TCB said...

@ Ilithi Dragon, I recall reading about a British sub that sank with great loss of life. A torpedo tube wouldn't seal on diving, because of a little paint that should have been removed.

Yes, it was even worse than I'd heard! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Thetis_(N25) HMS Thetis, in 1939. 99 lives lost. Salvaged and sunk AGAIN by an Italian corvette in 1943 with all hands.

@ Tony Fisk, I seem to recall that Paul in the books had mentat training as well as Bene Gesserit training, which is a major part of why he he has unusual powers.

I just saw the new Dune in a THEATER! With POPCORN! Yes, it's very good. Left out a lot of backstory/explanations in favor of more atmosphere. The only really colorful thing in it is fire. Very 'desert' color palette. Sand is coarse and it gets everywhere.

I liked the Lynch version too, and I remember reading about it in Omni. Ornate sets and costumes filmed in Mexico. The lighting is bad, however.

Slim Moldie said...

David Lynch's Dune is beautiful and disgusting. And the humor! Look forward to checking out the new one though.

Was reading a popwire story "https://popwire.com.sg/foundation-of-dune-how-frank-herbert-was-inspired-by-isaac-asimov/" that appears to be borrowing heavily from Tim O' Reilly's 1977 book on Frank Hebert.

In his book O'Reilly argues that "Dune is clearly a commentary on the Foundation trilogy. Herbert has taken a look at the same imaginative situation that provoked Asimov's classic—the decay of a galactic empire—and restated it in a way that draws on different assumptions and suggests radically different conclusions. The twist he has introduced into Dune is that the Mule, not the Foundation, is his hero."

He goes on, "(Herbert's) universe cannot be managed; the vitality of the human race lies in its random generation of new possibilities. The only real surety is that surprises will occur."

Of course the latter was written in 1977 and Asimov hadn't written F Edge, or F & Earth, or Prelude, or Forward which reshapes the universe a bit.



Jake Gator said...

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

I've always liked Peter Watts' corollary to that: "If you do nothing, what makes you any fucking good?"

Then... you are the one, as you placating thwarting freedom of speach here.
Oups, but you even do not know about it, because Noble Host do not allow that information to come through.
That's how feudalism works!

GMT -8 said...

My wife and I saw DUNE last weekend. We both thought it was magnificent. I am re-reading the book again (among other things I am reading this week). I know the movie left out a lot...including the banquet scene! I was there in 1984 when Herbert spoke to the WORLDCON crowd and told them that David Lynch did not shoot the banquet scene...the crowd groaned.

I was a costumer back then. I did my best effort to make the tan jumpsuit from the film based on stills released in the media. This was before the internet and we only had stills from magazines. A friend of mine was one of Herbert's guards when he was signing autographs after his presentation. My friend let me come up and stand in front of the table. Herbert looked up, saw me, and happily said, "Oh! An Atriedes warrior!" I then wandered off and had dinner with some friends. Later at the con, my friend, the bodyguard, asked where I had gone...apparently Herbert wanted me to join him for dinner. Sigh...what a lost opportunity. I thought I would have a chance again. But he was gone 2 years later.

We will probably see the movie again, and get it on Blu-ray. My wife never read the books, so she does not know the story. She wants to see the other adaptations now. Since I enjoyed the movie, even though I knew the plot, I think I will let her watch them.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

When I was growing up in the 60's and 70's crime and murder were steadily increasing
Almost all science fiction written from the 60's to the 90's took that as being "normal"


All future-looking sci-fi also assumed that a devastating nuclear exchange was part of Earth's history. Asimov's 1950s The Stars Like Dust, a novel set in the time the Galactic Empire was forming, had an Earth which had uninhabitable radioactive zones, and no explanation was necessary. That's what Earth was going to look like in the near future.

Contrast that with Foundation and Earth, written in the 1980s when detente was a thing. Suddenly, the uninhabitability of Earth in the future had to be explained as robotic intervention, because it didn't seem like the default future any more.

* * *

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

Tom said...

Larry Hart: re: "when the 1980s movie was in the works, I saw something on a bulletin board on the nascent internet"

In early 1984 I was working for Symbolics Inc. (on the net via MIT at the time). There was a post on SFLovers about who might be in the cast. The only two I can remember- (1) Marty Feldman as the Ersatz Hadderach ("My foresight is a bit cockeyed.). (2) Crystal Gayle singing the theme song, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue". There were 15 or 20 such proposals.

I expected to find the post via search, but alas.

scidata said...

Re: Ersatz Hadderach

net.jokes persists in a few wayback machines
https://groups.google.com/g/net.jokes/c/h-qGdXsNbiY/m/OJF0SzDIxEIJ?pli=1

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

net.jokes persists in a few wayback machines


Heh. That's the parody that I was remembering. And it also seems to be the same one that Tom remembered. (Like blind men feeling different parts of the elephant)

* * *

Robert:

"Frank Herbert kept failing to get his point across, as readers and viewers continued kvelling how they’d like to go to his wonderfully vivid, but also horrendously Halloween-level universe of failure, evil and pain"

Probably because the readers and viewers see themselves as being on top, one of the Atreides nobility. Just as readers of fantasy generally see themselves as lords and knights, not peasants.


With all due respect, I'm not certain that the reader fantasizes about being Duke Leto considering the end he comes to. During the first book, I suppose the young male reader identifies with Paul, but even then, there's much not to like about actually living that role. He has to go through a lot of s%%% to get to the end of the original book, and even then, his "victory" is almost pyrrhic, and he's stuck in a role he tried most of the book to avoid. If you go on to the subsequent books, Paul's end isn't much better. Same for young Leto.

To me, it's the setting and the intrigue that draws me into the world as a reader, not so much a desire to be there. Like New York, the universe of Dune is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

To the original point about Frank Herbert wanting to denounce the society he was creating, I'd say it's very hard to make that clear to a reader who is being drawn into the narrative that the writer's theme and the narrative's POV are at odds with each other. I've mentioned before how I can read Atlas Shrugged as a boy's adventure story, but I have to remember to cheer and boo for the things that I know Rand wants me to, not the things I'd actually cheer and boo for. If I'm reading Dr Brin's comments correctly, Herbert wants me to cheer and boo for the opposite things from what the narrative would suggest, but with confidence that that's what the writer intends for me to do. While I've no doubt that such writing is possible, it doesn't sound easy.

Tom said...

That's it! Thank you!

Treebeard said...

I used to like movies like Dune, Star Trek and Star Wars, but now they just look like absurd fantasies to me. There is nothing plausible about any of it; the amount of sheer magic in these movies exceeds anything you find in Lord of the Rings. Which is why it’s amusing to see scientifically educated people taking them seriously. The SF space opera future is a place to project fantasies, ideologies and mythologies; instead of a mythical past, it’s a mythical future—but it’s no less mythical. The people who create these movies are illusionists; their galactic simulacra have nothing to do with any world anyone will ever live in. Their value is as escapism—or for ideologues like our host, as propaganda for people who buy into the illusions. I used to buy them when I didn’t know any better, but now I save my money. We have more than enough illusions already; when I want to escape, I go into nature, not deeper into man-made fake worlds. The shocking realization I had that made me the way I am, rather than the way I was raised to be, was that the man-made world of culture is vastly overrated and mostly made of bullshit. We are never going to become gods or galactic imperialists, whether we are democratic or feudal about it—though maybe the simulacra will get so good that we will settle for a convincing illusion. Which is why The Matrix is so much more plausible than fantasies like Dune or Star Trek.

GMT -8 said...

Let's not forget the Kumquat Haagen Daz from The Harvard Lampoon's masterpiece, DOON.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Lampoon%27s_Doon

"Arruckus...Doon...dessert planet."

David Brin said...

Oops! I forgot that DOON actually had sugar 'desserts' long ago. I have them in THE ANCIENT ONES!

Rob Perkins said...

Treebeard: Your words inspire me to take a walk outside and breathe some fresh air, so the other thing I feel today reading this is gratitude. Thank you for the reminder to relax and look around at the real. :-)

But I still like the movies and talking about the interesting ones. I like the man made world of culture and don't intend to stop doing that.

scidata said...

DUNE is a fantasy-laden echo of FOUNDATION. So was STAR WARS and other goofy space romps like it. However, FOUNDATION itself was an interpretation of the Visigoths coming over the seventh hill, with the twist that psychohistory had had time to germinate, and Chaos finally had a worthy dance partner. Hominins fashion new creations that threaten yet also redeem - shades of FRANKENSTEIN. Rise of the Toolmakers.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

I used to buy them when I didn’t know any better, but now I save my money. We have more than enough illusions already; when I want to escape, I go into nature, not deeper into man-made fake worlds. The shocking realization I had that made me the way I am, rather than the way I was raised to be, was that the man-made world of culture is vastly overrated and mostly made of bullshit.


???

Aren't you the one who insists that Western culture is lacking in respect for Teutonic mythological archetypes?

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/04/opinion/american-politics-optimism.html

Any or all of that is possible. But whatever the case, we don’t see ourselves striding toward a better tomorrow. We see ourselves tiptoeing around catastrophe. That was true even before Covid. That was true even before Trump.

Was it one of the dynamics on display on Tuesday in Virginia and New Jersey, where voters abruptly cooled on Democrats and warmed to Republicans? We seem to be unhappy with and unsure about whoever’s holding the reins, which we then pass to their opponents, so that we can become unhappy with and unsure about them. Our cynicism begets our seesaw.


There's some truth there, but I perceive an asymmetry which never gets mentioned in analyses like the one above.

The country becomes disenchanted with Republicans when they are in charge because of what they do with their power. The country then becomes disenchanted with Democrats when they are in charge because Republicans manage to keep them from using power.

The so-called see-saw back and forth between throwing one or the other party out of office is driven by disenchantment with Republicans do either way. When Republicans are in charge, we are horrified with what they do and "throw the bums out." Then when Democrats are in charge, we are horrified by the incivility and obstructionism of Republicans until we "throw the bums back in" to keep them from being too angry.

This doesn't sound possible--why don't Democrats just do what Republicans do when out of power?--but the difference is that Democrats want to govern and Republicans don't. In order to pass legislation, you need both houses of Congress, buy-off from the opposition to avoid a filibuster, and a willing president. In order to obstruct, as we saw in 2009, all you need is 41 Senators. That's how Republicans have their way when Democrats appear to control government.

David Brin said...

Hrm. Of course Treebeard is dyspeptic, growling that, since his own side is unsupportably crazy, everyone must be.

In fact though, I also think MATRIX is more likely than Star Wars! A platonic 'cave of delusions" is more likely than whatever drug trip Lucas turned his originally fun fantasy into, featuring far more deliberate death (largely at Yoda's pudgy hands) than any other cosmos ever imagined.

Star Trek... well, given that we are already halfway to that world, though lacking transporters and warp drive, the ent's growl is typically ingrate for all the comforts and freedoms and pleasures and opportunities this halfway there civilization has provided him... rather than making him kibble.

duncan cairncross said...

Apologies
I had a brain fart about the numbers of the lead effected - there are about the same in percentage now as they were - but they are now in "more likely to vote" category

Rob said...

"The shocking realization I had that made me the way I am, rather than the way I was raised to be, was that the man-made world of culture is vastly overrated and mostly made of bullshit."

If I stipulate that as anyone on the other side of a midlife crisis might have to.(I've had four of those in the last six years!)...

Then I can't help but wonder, what with the cattle and much draftier clapboard house, whether my great- and great-great grandfather's subsistence farm in in Utah Territory 12-14 decades ago, along with the separatist millennialism so common to Western American settlements throughout Utah and Washington Territories back then...

Wasn't that condition made up of far more of the aforementioned ingredient?

And if g-g-g-Pappy was wrong... couldn't I be wrong about by own... um... stuff?

Lawrence said...

The lasguns in Dune aren't really lasers. I think he just picked that name so readers would get an idea of what the thing was. Or perhaps he just said 'F the physics, it's a laser. Because I think it is in one of the last three books where you learn that the Holzman Field Effect is the core technology behind the lasgun, shield, and their FTL drives. And also that the Holzman dude took credit for something his wife discovered.

Der Oger said...

Dune is like as if Asimov and Leni Riefenstahl had a love child, raised in a hippie community led by Phillip K. Dick and Opus Dei Warrior Nuns on LSD.

Though I enjoyed the first book, I nowadays think had there been no sequels, I'd see it much more critical.

A.F. Rey said...

Larry Hart: re: "when the 1980s movie was in the works, I saw something on a bulletin board on the nascent internet"

I remember my college "newspaper" at the time published some quotes before the movie was released.

I believe one of them was Baron Harkonnen saying, "The Fremen have an expression: revenge is a dish best served cold.

It is very cold in spice."

A.F. Rey said...

Ack. I gotta learn to read the links first before making posts. :(

Tony Fisk said...

No discussion of 'Loony Doons' humour would be complete without a reference to 'Calvin and Muad'dib'

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Dune is like as if Asimov and Leni Riefenstahl had a love child, raised in a hippie community led by Phillip K. Dick and Opus Dei Warrior Nuns on LSD.


Wow!

The only thing missing there is a reference to Ayn Rand. :)

(Though, if Dr Brin is correct, it's also like if Leni Riefenstahl said, "But I was trying to show how bad Naziism is!")


Though I enjoyed the first book, I nowadays think had there been no sequels, I'd see it much more critical.


Y'know, I also enjoyed the first book in the same way that I enjoyed the first Star Wars movie, but I'm coming to understand that both authors would probably be disappointed with me. In both cases, the writer seems to have eased us to his larger universe by beginning with a crowd-pleasing adolescent boy's action-adventure story taking place within that world. Both writers seemed to want to then get to the real story he wanted to tell, which has little to do with the fun aspect of the first episode.

One might notice the same pattern in Dr Brin's Sundiver relative to the extended "Uplift" saga. I can't rightly explain why I "got" the rest of Dr Brin's series (and want more!) instead of complaining that turning Sundiver into the Uplift Saga is a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead.

Robert said...

I can't rightly explain why I "got" the rest of Dr Brin's series (and want more!) instead of complaining that turning Sundiver into the Uplift Saga is a kind of reverse alchemy, turning gold into lead.

Probably because it wasn't a bait-and-switch affair. Sundiver isn't particularly different in theme/ethics/philosophy than later works. The universe gets deeper and more complex later as more is revealed, but last in the series doesn't feel like a different setting with the same names.

Also, there's a noticeable absence of plot-spackle covering gaping holes in the setting…

Paradoctor said...

I tend to agree with the ent's critique of the mythical skiffy FTL future. 186000 miles per second; not just a good idea, it's the Law! I want to see SF that takes the known science _seriously_. FTL is a cheat, and I'm bored with it. There's plenty real that provokes the sense of wonder.

As for "the man-made world of culture is vastly overrated and mostly made of bullshit": in Cordwainer Smith's "Game of Rat and Dragon", a pin-lighter's feline partner telepathically signaled to him precisely that view of human culture.

Jon S. said...

Y'know, I also enjoyed the first book in the same way that I enjoyed the first Star Wars movie, but I'm coming to understand that both authors would probably be disappointed with me.

Only the new revisionist Lucas would pretend disappointment. He stated at the time that when he made Star Wars (with the unacknowledged but definite help of Marcia), he was trying to make something fun to watch, like the old Saturday serials at the movie house. The grandiose overarching plot came much later, and was largely invented by fans.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yeah, at the time SW was produced, a LOT of core story elements defined in layer movies hadn't been figured out yet, such as Luke and Leia being siblings.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

he [George Lucas] was trying to make something fun to watch, like the old Saturday serials at the movie house. The grandiose overarching plot came much later, and was largely invented by fans.


The first part, sure. But wasn't it Lucas's own obsession to treat Campbell's "Hero's journey" as a step-by-step "must follow" manual as to how every story should be written, and to therefore shove his existing plot and characters into that paradigm?

David Brin said...

Lucas's "Hero's Journey" blather was retro-fitting. But sure, there were lots of overlaps in the 1st firlm. So? I despise Campbell's campaign to corrall storytelling into rigid chutes and boxes.

David Brin said...

onward
onward

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Mikestone said...

It's the old Chinese curse again "May you live in interesting times".

It's difficult to make an exciting film (or book) about nice normal people. Villains or mixed-up hero-villains make a much more exciting read. Even as a kid, I soon figured that the best place for adventures was on the pages of a book, and that they would be far less enjoyable to live through than to read about.

Incidentally, I quite like the ending to the Costner film. It tied in neatly with the earlier scene where the Holnist soldiers indignantly reject "Universal Soldier" in favour of the far gentler "Sound of Music". Clearly many of them (even ones who were there voluntarily), saw it as only the least-worst of a bad set of options, and would have opted for another way of life had one been offered. Hence their behaviour at the end.

I do wonder though about the aftermath - whether some bright spark might try to put the Holnists on trial for War crimes", forcing them to take up arms again in self-defence. But Costner was smart enough to stop before that problem could arise.