Sep 28, 2010


Planetary ecology

The thing the ecologically illiterate don’t realize about an ecosystem is that it’s a system. A system! A system maintains a certain fluid stability that can be destroyed by a misstep in just one niche. A system has order, a flowing from point to point. If something dams the flow, order collapses. The untrained miss the collapse until too late. That’s why the highest function of ecology is the understanding of consequences. — Pardot Kynes in "Appendix I: The Ecology of Dune" (Dune, Frank Herbert, 1965)

Despite the common "political" similarities that arise from Frank Herbert's Dune,
I conceived of a long novel, the whole trilogy as one book about the messianic convulsions that periodically overtake us. Demagogues, fanatics, con-game artists, the innocent and the not-so-innocent bystanders-all were to have a part in the drama. This grows from my theory that superheroes are disastrous for humankind. Even if we find a real hero (whatever-or whoever-that may be), eventually fallible mortals take over the power structure that always comes into being around such a leader.

Personal observation has convinced me that in the power area of politics/economics and in their logical consequence, war, people tend to give over every decision-making capacity to any leader who can wrap himself in the myth fabric of the society. Hitler did it. Churchill did it. Franklin Roosevelt did it. Stalin did it. Mussolini did it.

This, then, was one of my themes for Dune: Don't give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero's facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem.

It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced-in a word, insane.

That was the beginning. Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.

Yes, there are analogs in Dune of today's events-corruption and bribery in the highest places, whole police forces lost to organized crime, regulatory agencies taken over by the people they are supposed to regulate. The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC. — Frank Herbert, "Dune Genesis" (Omni Magazine, 1980)

the utter message has to do with ecology.
I went to Florence, Oregon, to write a magazine article about a US Department of Agriculture project there. The USDA was seeking ways to control coastal (and other) sand dunes. I had already written several pieces about ecological matters, but my superhero concept filled me with a concern that ecology might be the next banner for demagogues and would-be-heroes, for the power seekers and others ready to find an adrenaline high in the launching of a new crusade. — Frank Herbert, "Dune Genesis" (Omni Magazine, 1980)

The plot takes place mostly on a desert planet called Arrakis (Irak?, from the Arabic name "al-'Iraq", meaning "fertile land", as Mesopotamia had been known), aka Dune. The CHOAM Corporation (OPEC) controls and regulates the flow and trade of spice (oil) commodity, essential for (interstellar) transport (monopoly of the Spacing Guild).

OPEC's 50th Anniversary - The Economist

Amongst, with a feudal empire where the main noble houses (G-7?) are ruled under the Landsraad (Scandinavian word for a "Land Council"), the first-born of the Atreides House ("the son of -mythological- Atreus", directly descendant from Agamemnon, a hero from Greek Homer's The Iliad) would become the Kwisatz Haderach (from the Hebrew term "K'fitzat Haderech", which means "a jump forward along the path") as the final product of Bene Gesserit's (Catholics?) sisterhood (from the legal Latin expression "quamdiu se bene gesserit", meaning "as long as he/she shall have conducted himself/herself well"; who are trained, in what they call "the Voice", to control others merely by selected tones of the voice) eugenics (breeding), and the long awaited messiah of the native Fremen (free-men?, Jewish from Israel?).

Besides these winks (and much others), in the backstage lies the long-term aim to terraform a whole arid desert planet into a new ecosystem, starting with moisture trap, water recycle and poverty grass and flora planting, until rain falls and turns it into a paradise. Though there's a drawback, that would mean the end of the valuable spice currency; and whose social, religious, political and economic (and military) consequences will drive them all to a Jihad (holy war).

Albeit, in John Herbert's own words:
I refuse, however, to provide further answers to this complex mixture. You find your own solutions. Don't look to me as your leader. And when someone asks whether you're starting a new cult, do what I do: Run like hell. — Frank Herbert, "Dune Genesis" (Omni Magazine, 1980)

The film you will never see

The Chilean filmmaker and writer Alejandro Jodorowsky had originally planned on filming Dune in 1975. To accomplish this he contacted Jean Giraud "Moebius" and H.R. Giger for visual design, and surrealist painter Salvador Dalí to play the Emperor, along with Pink Floyd to compose the soundtrack. Even discovered Dan O'Bannon in an amateur sci-fi festival through his film Dark Star. But
The project was sabotaged in Hollywood. It was French and not American. Their message was 'not Hollywood enough'. There were intrigues, plundering. The storyboard circulated among all the big studios. Later, the visual aspect of Star Wars strangely resembled our style. To make Alien, they called Moebius, Foss, Giger, O'Bannon, etc. The project showed Americans the possibility of making science-fiction films for big shows, outside of the scientific rigor of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The project of Dune changed our lives. — "Dune, le film que vous ne verrez jamais" (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Métal Hurlant 170)

Later, Jodorowsky and Moebius created the comic books series The Incal (with their character John Difool, since 1980 onwards; and The Metabarons saga from 1992, illustrated by Argentinian Juan Giménez), where they put in much of their previous artwork and plot broad strokes from Dune. The movie was later achieved by David Lynch in 1984.

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