I first picked up a copy of Dune about 10 years ago. The cover, worn and frayed, depicted robed figures walking through a desert: the Fremen. A people who thrive in the harsh and inhospitable landscape of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune.
A new film adaptation of Dune is coming in December (hopefully), and the trailer looks surprisingly good. The film boasts an amazing cast (Oscar Isaac as the Duke Leto!) for starters. More importantly, it just looks right — especially compared to the charmingly disastrous David Lynch adaptation from the '80s. (Please read the book before you watch!) Devotees of Dune, myself included, are excited, to say the least.
Dune is about a war between two rivaling "Great Houses," the Harkonnen (the baddies) and the Atreides, on the desert planet thousands of years in the future. Beneath its seemingly plain surface — just like its titular planet — Dune has much more to offer.
In the climate change era, Dune remains one of the most culturally and politically relevant stories available, contemplating the impact of resource extraction, the symbiosis between creatures and their environment, and conservation (not to mention its deliberations on religious philosophy and mysticism).
However, the legend of Dune actually begins in Oregon, when author Frank Herbert, a lifelong journalist who spent his career up and down the West Coast, was observing the shifting sand dunes off the beaches of the Oregon coast. To prevent this shift from happening, the U.S. Department to Agriculture at the time planned to environmentally engineer a type of beach grass to hold the sand down. The result was Herbert's fascination with desert ecology and culture. (Fun fact: Herbert grew up in the lush forests of my old stomping grounds on the Olympic Peninsula. He later lived on a sustainable homestead in Port Townsend.)
Despite its depth, Dune has never entrenched itself in mainstream culture the way other sci-fi franchises like Star Wars or Strek Trek have. And that's a shame. More people should know about it, not just because its lessons are timeless but because it's a damn good book.
With that, I'll share with you the Bene Gesserit "Litany Against Fear," one of the better known bits of Dune lore:
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." ♦