I noticed this morning that they (whoever that is,) are making another attempt to make a movie of Frank Herbert’s “DUNE.” [Link]
Let me start by saying that I am lukewarm on Herbert’s work. It ranks alongside Captain Future and Doc Savage.
In SY 66/67, I was a Freshman at the Campus of the Black Warrior. The reading assignments passed out in my Freshman Syntax/Literature classes were unengaging and banal. I especially remember having to read John Knowles’ “A Separate Peace” and having nothing of the novel adhere to my mind.
Sadly and happily, that SY was replete with some good literature. Tolkien was making a come back, Frank Herbert had just written “DUNE,” and Robert Heinlein had produced “Stranger in a Strange Land.” I forget which one of Tolkien’s books I read but it was at least 10 dB better than Knowles’ outhouse material. The characters were much more identifiable and the plot was engaging. Herbert’s “DUNE” was better yet, maybe by 3 dB although the mysticism and arrant social stupidity was disgusting. But for a Southron boy struggling with the post-apocalyptic morass of the modern Sowth just after the centennial of the Great Sepuku and the everpresent Inquisition of the Vietnam “War,” the tale of a dis-associated kid cast among fatalistic nomads by a self-consuming society was a mirror.
Sadly for “DUNE,” SISL was 15 dB better because it offered the same core story with hope and promise rather than sad desperation. And the writing was considerably better. Heinlein displayed that mastery that lifted him above average pulp writer.
All of this, of course, was ignored, except for anathematic criticism and rejection, by the university’s literature professors. Which made it all that attractive to dis-social Introvert NERDs who endured syntax/literature courses so they could get to real courses on maths and science.
I have to admit that over the years I have returned to these early discoveries. I had read science fiction prior to college, but it was limited to ACE double book bought at the family drug store on the rare occasions I could wrangle a visit there and the banal socially-acceptable slime mold SF at the Huntsville Carnegie Library. In retrospect, I didn’t know how good it was until I beheld its “successors” and their decrepitude. Apparently most librarians are as SF blind as literature professors. And I have a permanent soft spot for librarians.
Anyway, I have read several of Tolkien’s Ring books over the years, most at the urging of my colleague Total Angular Momentum Magnetic Inductance, and found them a very Oxfordian view of Racism, which led me to discover why Racism was a farce and a cancer. I have read “DUNE” several times and each time found it lacking. I tried some of the derivatives and abandoned them quickly. SISL has been visited almost thirty times over the years, always with satisfaction and discovery. Somehow Heinlein achieves the idea entropy of poetry in prose.
But returning to the movie. The original DUNE movie was better than “The Black Hole,” which is the only movie I have been thrown out of, for uncontrollable laughing – it was that bad in its physical underpinnings. But sitting through the DUNE movie was only possible by paying strict accounting to the deviations from the book. And subsequent attempts to view the movie have failed within ten minutes.
So why is a second try going to be made?
I find it indicative that no one has tried to make a movie of SISL. The conjecture arising is that truly good science fiction cannot be movieized.