Dune Lives

The panelists for this program were Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, writers; Stephen Youll, illustrator; Patrick Loberto, an editor at Bantam Books; and Jamie Warner, Art Director of Bantam Books.

Brian began the presentation by emphasizing that here at Dragon*Con we are paying tribute to Frank Herbert, his father. Brian said that on his father’s eighth birthday, he stood on his mother’s dining room table and announced he wanted to be an author. On his ninth birthday he was given a nine foot rowboat. He would row out into the shipping lanes in Puget Sound and hitch a ride to Canada on tugboats. He was curious about everything. It took Frank a long time to do research, but he started at a young age. He read so much he became somewhat of an authority for his schoolmates, who asked him many questions. Frank even read medical books at his doctor’s office. Once he told a little girl some facts about sex. She told his mother, and she irately visited Frank’s father to complain. His father asked the woman, “Did Frank give the girl any inaccurate information.” “Er…no.” Then leave, madam.

Frank was impulsive. He often went off in 50 different ways. He numerous stories and novels that didn’t sell because publishers thought they were the wrong length.

Once Frank was assigned to report on a dune stabilization project in a western state. The team had planted various grasses to stabilize some dunes. On that trip, Frank said he had a “kind of vision” and began to think of Dune. Five years later, the novel was written and had been rejected by publishers 22 times, mostly due to the length. The book was finally published in 1965, but did not really take flight until 1969-1970. Sales have continued over the years.

Frank was very much a family man. His wife became ill in 1974 with what was determined to be incurable cancer. She beat the odds and lived for ten more years, passing away in 1984. Frank took care of her himself, but did not neglect his children, either. Brian learned much at his father’s knee.

Brian felt that the end of Chapterhouse: Dune contained a tribute to his mother. Frank and his wife were always collaborators on his stories. He would read them to her or she would read them, and she would be a “tempering influence.” For many years, Brian believed this was a logical ending place for the Dune series, but he had given thought to writing a prequel about the Butlerian Jihad, which took place 10,000 years earlier.

Frank Herbert died in 1986, shortly after Chapterhouse was published.

Kevin J. Anderson never met Frank Herbert. Writers tend to get to know each other a lot, since they attend a lot of conventions, but Frank and Kevin did not overlap very much in time.

Kevin feels that Chapterhouse ended as a cliff hanger. Kevin was greatly influenced by Frank. He had often thought of writing to Brian to see if anyone had contemplated a sequel. He was hiking and dictating a book in Death Valley, when his thoughts returned to this favorite series.

He finally wrote a note to Brian, stating that he had much experience in writing inside other people’s worlds, and could he finish the story? Who was it that was after the Honored Matres? What happened to the characters?

At the time Kevin wrote to Brian, Brian did not have all his information together. Brian and Kevin physically met in 1996. They immediately hit it off, and they batted ideas back and forth. Plans were laid for a new book in the Dune universe. At later contacts, over the phone, and on the Internet, they continued the work. Shortly thereafter, Brian was notified of two “lost” safe deposit boxes at a Seattle bank. When opened, the boxes revealed a treasure: a printout of Frank’s notes for Dune # 7. With this information available, a decision was made to work on a prequel and weave the event together into the universe. Brian declined to comment on the story of the seventh Dune book, but it will be written when they are ready.

In the meantime, Brian was cleaning out the third stall in his garage for a new writing room and found a box labeled “Dune.” It contained all of Frank’s notes for all of the universe’s history and all the characters. From this information, the writers were able to put together a 140 page outline of the proposed pre-Dune trilogy, with the first book being House Atreides. The outline was read by Patrick at Bantam books, who was skeptical. When he had read it, he thought the outline was better than some fully completed published books. Immediately after, he reread the original Dune. Pat found that the information in House Atreides enhanced his understanding of Dune. When Pat read the final work, he was very impressed with it. After this trilogy is done, Pat hopes the team will go back to the Butlerian Jihad and tell that story.

Jamie read the book and she “absolutely adored it.” She immediately thought of Steve (who, incidently, is her husband) as the illustrator. He agreed, but had only four days to complete the work. He did finish it, and his work appears on the cover of this year’s Dragon*Con guide. He is the Artist Guest of Honor this year. Steve has been a science fiction person for years. He became an illustrator because of Dune and other Frank Herbert books, which he read when he was very young.

The second book in this trilogy will be called House Harkkonen. Kevin took a vote about the third book in the trilogy. What should it be called? They have talked about Spice War, The Great Spice War, and House Corrino. The audience was overwhelmingly in favor of House Corrino.

A fan asked if there would be a “Bene Gesserit” book. While noting that Heretics and Chapterhouse are mainly about the Bene Gesserit, Kevin noted that there is a book planned about the order. The later books in the Dune series are heavily female-oriented.

The writers feel that if they tell the story of the young Leto, Jessica, Baron Harkkonen, and the Padishah Emperor, they will be able to go back to what the readers liked about the original Dune. The book about the Butlerian Jihad has to come later, as it is set in a time that is very different from the familiar Dune universe.

A fan asked Brian when a Dune concordance will be completed. Brian has completed one, and it will be published soon.

Pat pointed out that the book is not any kind of “ripoff” of the Dune universe. The book is written based on Frank Herbert’s original notes for Dune. The authors did not try to imitate Frank Herbert’s style of writing; for example, there are none of the very lengthy dialog sections in the book. Brian and Kevin developed their own style of presentation during the back and forth of writing each chapter. However, some of Frank’s style does continue in this book, as it is his universe.

As a final note, the original Dune will be made into a six part miniseries in the fall. This series is expected to be of high quality; it is being done by the same company that did Stephen King’s The Stand.

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