Frank Herbert’s Dune is often #1 on various “best” scifi novel lists. If you aren’t familiar with the text, you’re certainly going to be hearing a lot more about it soon: Dennis Villeneuve is adapting it into a two-part film, and he’s the guy who made the most recent Blade Runner, as well as Arrival, Sicario, and Prisoners. On a side note, if you haven’t seen Prisoners, do yourself a favor and watch it. I have NO IDEA why this film doesn’t have a greater following, and no other film has ever had me so on the edge of my seat.
But this isn’t a post about Villeneuve, or Dune itself, but rather The Road to Dune. It’s a book credited as being written by Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson, so as you might be able to tell, the background here is a bit complicated. Frank Herbert died in 1986 while working on his seventh Dune book, which is where things stopped until his son Brian teamed up with Kevin J. Anderson in the late 90’s. Since then, the pair has publishing short stories and novels in the Dune universe (in some circles of the internet, it’s called the “Duniverse”). And in 2005 they put together The Road to Dune, which is a collection of fragments, notes, short stories, and background related to Frank Herbert’s seminal novel and later series.
To cut the chase, I enjoyed The Road to Dune. If you haven’t read Dune, or you don’t care about Frank Herbert, the materials are probably not your cup of tea. But as a fan, and an aspiring writer, I liked the book a great deal. The high point in the collection is where the younger Herbert and Anderson have “re-created” an early draft of Dune, called Spice Planet. It’s a weird deal, actually—Herbert left extensive notes on the novel, and wrote out scenes. Ultimately, however, he scrapped Spice World, waited ten years, and then made Dune. But here is the “original,” fully fleshed out by his son and Kevin Anderson, and what the two have done is actually worth reading. Or at least, the story is engaging on its own.
And could you read Spice World without reading Dune? Yes, though knowing about Dune makes it better. Other highlights of Road to Dune include the included letters between Frank Herbert and his editors, and numerous chapters excised from Dune and Dune Messiah. But what is frustrating is that the famous article which inspired the older Herbert to write Dune, titled “They Stopped the Moving Sands,” written about the use of poverty grasses on the Oregon coast to stop erosion—it is NOT here. I’ve heard of this article. If you know anything about Herbert, you know about this article. It is referenced heavily in The Road to Dune. But ultimately, it is not included, and it isn’t clear at all whether or not it ever existed in a final form.
So that’s what you get with The Road to Dune, and I really think it depends on who you are if you’d like this “book.” Now, moving on to something different—but related. In 2007 Martin Scorsese made a short film titled “The Key to Reserva.” It was, supposedly, an attempt to “preserve” an Alfred Hitchcock film that had never been made, from a script only recently “re-discovered.” The video is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and you can watch it here. The idea behind it is not unlike what has happened with Spice World, and I wonder if we are going to see more of this in the coming decades—the creation of artistic works based on notes left by the initial creators of those works, made by other people, yet presented through the lens of authenticity.
So what a weird time we live in, but also an exciting one—I love this kind of thing. And on that note, happy New Year, everyone! It’s been a while since we made a blog post, but this is the first of 2019 and there should be a lot more to come. Hope everyone is staying warm and that the new year is treating you well! Also, this blog’s been up for a year though, so happy one year anniversary to Batch & Narrative, and thank you everyone for reading what we put up—whoo whoo!
–Jeff and Leah