SciFridays: Dune

“And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!”

To most people, that line will probably mean absolutely nothing. But, for this science fiction nerd, it was the best end-of-climactic-scene line uttered since “Luke, I am your father.”

I’m talking, of course, about David Lynch’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune.*

Back in the eighties, when HBO still played movies, I was riveted by the long voice over introduction that set up the story of Dune.**

A religious revolt against thinking machines? Space-folding Navigators? Bald, mind-controlling women? Genetic breeding programs? Spice??

The way this movie unfolded defined epic for me, and even to my seven-year-old mind I knew that EPIC=LARGE SCALE.

Multiple planets, set twenty thousand years into the future. Sweeping panoramic vistas. Centuries-old political conflicts. A spoiled boy prince maturing into a nation-saving messiah…riding gigantic sandworms.

Gigantic. Sandworms. Come on, if that’s not EPIC, I don’t know what is.

Ok, I know, theoretically, that the movie was far from being the best movie in the world. In fact, it’s often proclaimed as the worst movie of 1984. However, I hadn’t read the book yet, so I didn’t have a “story prejudice” when I watched it. And, quite frankly, I was barely able to follow the storyline anyway.

What fascinated me about the movie, and what has stayed with me, was the feeling I had while watching it: a ridiculous sense of AWE. What the film lacked in narrative art, it made up for in action movie eye candy (keep in mind, this was the eighties: the effects look silly now, and the soundtrack is a bit warped).

Anyway, the movie may have been a cinematic flop, but its most redeeming quality, at least to me, is that it made me want to read the book.

By the time I decided to read the book, I was eleven. I didn’t have any memory of the movie’s storyline at that point (thank goodness!); only the memory of the movie’s settings remained. My mind used those images as backdrops to bring to life the story Frank Herbert imagined, and through subsequent re-readings, they are still the images I see.

Dune will always be THE science fiction story to me. That EPIC SCOPE, that AWE fueled my imagination, and made me hungry for more. It awakened my young imagination, and permeated it with archetypes that will always be a part of my consciousness.

How about you? Do you have any stories that set the standard for your imagination?

*Most consider this movie a gigantic flop, and I’m not going to argue. I just want to point out that Frank Herbert was quoted as saying, “They’ve got it. It begins as Dune does. And I hear my dialogue all the way through. There are some interpretations and liberties, but you’re gonna come out knowing you’ve seen Dune.”

**I rewatched the beginning prologue that intrigued me so long ago, and nearly died of boredom from the long droning exposition.

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Being A Published Author Wasn’t Always My Dream Job

I Have a Confession

I haven’t always dreamed of being a published author.  Nor have I spent my childhood/teens/college years diligently writing stories with the hopes that others would read my work.  In fact, I spent most of my life keeping anything I wrote private.

I know I’m not alone in my experience.  But, what bothers me is that I was embarrassed about it.  Yes, I was actually embarrassed that I haven’t always wanted to be an author.  So much so, that at one point, I desperately scoured my memory banks to find a scrap of evidence that yes, indeed, I wanted to be an author.  I wanted to stand with those authors who always knew that they wanted to write, and couldn’t imagine being anything else.  The authors who claim that writing for them was like breathing.  I wanted to be able to say that, and if I’m honest with myself, I still want to be able to say that.  To claim that.  Of course, if I do, it would be a lie.

What bugged me more than being embarrassed by something so silly, is realizing why I was so embarrassed.  I’d built up authors beyond being merely role models, that their life stories and beliefs became truth to me.  Became The Way.  And, if I diverged from The Way, then, by my actions, I have excommunicated myself from the society of authors, and I didn’t have the right to pursue being a full-time novelist.

A Side Story

Last week, I was able to spend time with my side of the family.  Because, my immediate family is split between east and west coasts, I only see them for one week, twice a year, and we spend those weeks that we’re together sharing stories about our lives thus far, updating each other on any news.  (This is nothing new.  Growing up, we all often shared stories while eating breakfast on Saturday mornings.)  We’re a talkative bunch, and can be quite dramatic in our renditions, so it takes a good week for us to regale the other branches of the family on our happenings.

Anyway, whenever we’re together, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already heard about each other’s stories through some other means. (For example, my older brother might have called my sister who could have Facebooked me about something my younger brother allegedly did in college that my parents may not know about.  Or, an elderly aunt may have accidentally emailed my sister instead of the Internet scammer who was the intended recipient of said email, and who may have duped her out of money. Again.)  But, until we all get together, we pretend not to know what we all really know anyway, and talk in obtuse pronouns and pronounced facial expressions until the Big Reveal.

What’s important in our ritual story telling over breakfast is sharing the information RIGHT THERE and hearing it from either the source, or from a witness’s first-hand perspective.  The conflict is always more heated, the emotions, more intense, in these real life re-enactments.  (In case you’re wondering, my favorite perspective is from my momdad, seen as one unit because they can’t seem to take turns telling a story, nor can they stop editorializing, so they’re like a two-headed, story-telling juggernaut.)

My Point?

Though I may not have written epic fantasies when I was six years old, I grew up surrounded by stories.  My family breakfasts were proving grounds for telling the best stories, especially since we lived the stories that we told.  It really wasn’t a matter of us telling the truth or not, more like the truth abounded in the conviction that what we told actually happened.  That we believed what we said.  In the telling, our “characters” refused to be flat and lifeless.  My parents can make buying groceries a more interesting story than hearing about a multiple car pileup on the news.  They can’t help but be enigmatically complex and full of conflict.  When my family orders dinner or pays the bill, drama surely follows.

I realize now that I was silly to feel like I had to legitimize my claim for wanting to be a published author.  I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience stories.  That I was born to a family of storytellers.  Though I didn’t necessarily scribble stories about princes and knights or ghost tale massacres, I told the stories that have surrounded me my whole life (some journals may have been filled with angsty-teen, anti-parent rants.)  Besides, we all have to follow our own writerly path.

So, I’ll let other writers talk about how they’ve been writing stories before they can walk, and how writing to them is like breathing.  For me, I can embrace my heritage of story telling.  If it weren’t for my family, and our stories, then I wouldn’t have become such a devourer of tales.  Creating more stories, albeit in written form, is just an extension of that.

Stories are my life, and that is not only a truth that I can claim; it’s one that I’ve lived.

SO TELL ME: What did YOU want to be when you grew up?