A note to Legendary Entertainment. How Dune and YOU can help save the world.
We now know that the epic intellectual property that is Dune, and the subsequent novels that chart the Known Universe of Frank Herbert’s seminal science fiction masterwork, have been acquired by Legendary Entertainment.
The time has come to unleash the power of this sweeping epic.
Frank Herbert warned us of ecological disaster, the dangers of consolidated power, and the dependence upon single natural resources held by monolithic institutions that act only for short term gain and not the continued symbiosis of living ecological systems of which humanity is currently trapped. Those in power did not heed the warning of this prophetic masterwork and the United States has reverted to a far more tribal construction blended with an aristocracy like the Imperium, the Great Houses of the Landsraad and the Fremen. Some argue it has always been this way but was cloaked by the great American myths that promoted false-meritocracy, false hope, and hyper-individualism as a way to leverage the unsuspecting against one another.
We have a messaging problem here in the US, and other western democracies, where blaming of the “Other” is the gravity that moves the tide of public opinion. But “Fear is the mind killer.” Facts are fucked and fantasy reigns. So why not use fantasy to defeat fantasy. Or in this case, science fiction (speculative fiction).
Though science and utilizing peer reviewed evidence can save us, it does not matter if identity politics and ancient, as well as modern, tribal narratives dominate the stories that people tell themselves about who and what they are. The message of evidence and consensus reality will not get through these castles of mind. Direct attacks with reason and evidence rarely work, and for the most part make people more defensive in a manner that reinforces their prior paradigms. They just build the ramparts higher and redouble their efforts at rationalizing their original position. Cognitive biases are reinforced by emotion, indoctrination, as well as the successes that their community provides and the tragedies it faced. Persistence of belief is hard to defeat.
“Fear is the mind killer.”
Most people want to fit the world’s new generated/discovered information into their preexisting beliefs. It causes no threat to perceived status and perpetuates the persistence of belief. It bolsters a steady emotional state, which in many ways allows them to proceed through the world with less anxiety about future uncertainty. However, the only certainty is that things change but we have a knowledge base to try and prevent disasters. Humanity has proven to be able to adapt in the past and will need to progress beyond a self-generated cataclysm by replacing the old myths that have misappropriated evolved behaviors, which were once survival strategies but have lead down a path to ruin through false pattern recognition. Energy conservation is one of those strategies that has helped humans survive in the past by restricting activity and calorie preservation. Never knew from where your next meal was coming. Changing your mind takes energy and time, but make it fun and plenty of snacks, and it won’t seem like work at all.
We know persuasion enters through the side path of curiosity. This bends around the back of the moat of these castles of mind where supplies are snuck in during a war of attrition. What can be done is to manifest inspiration and curiosity by posing questions in a non-threaten form be it comedy or drama. That’s where Dune and Legendary Pictures come into the fray. If Dune is made into a television series with the budget and creative talent like that of Game of Thrones, it could be the most important show to come along since Star Trek if it addresses certain topics, which are already built into the narrative and only need be executed properly. Star Trek addressed social issue and inspired a new generation of scientists who created the technology we see today. Dune can be its progeny and legacy.
· We need a replacement epic for Game of Thrones in our lives. Even if American Gods is great, its construction of theme only addresses one or two subjects whereas Dune addresses multitudes of modern issues. (I love Neil Gaiman, so no letters please.)
· The show can inspire research into technology and space travel just as Star Trek did. It can stoke the fires of exploration that have always smoldered deep in the human consciousness. This would require a hoard of consultants of scientists and writers (of which I would gladly offer my services) to develop the technology’s look, potentials, utility and awe inspiring effect.
· A discussion on conservation and ecology can be inculcated by showing the ravages of a planet ruined by human lack of foresight. The planet Dune/Arrakis where it all takes place was originally a lush world but humans introduced an invasive species the sandtrout. They encapsulated all the water and transformed the world into a desert. Then, they grew into giant sandworms. The only reason the planet is habitable is because the sandworms became a sort of singular metabolic engine that produced breathable air (Spice Mélange too). But if they all die, everyone chokes. Any environment dependent on a single source to renew the cycle of life is vulnerable.
· The other great dependence issue. In the Dune universe, the means for interstellar travel and commerce was dependent on the Spice Mélange. Without it, all movement stopped because the navigators who flew the ships would crash into stars if they did not use the spice to plot proper courses with prescience. Diversification leads to many strategies of survival and this goes for energy resources as well. Frank Herbert was an ecologist and modeled the spice dependent economy on our oil dependent economy way back in the early 1960’s as Dune was published, after numerous rejections, in 1965. He accurately projected how single commodity economic dependency would have political and social ramifications for the local region and greater distribution of power along the entire economic system.
· The single commodity dependency also consolidated power into oligopolies that were really a single, connected monolithic institution. A diversion of many faces. One grand stagnant system. The factions in Dune, even though they had individual motives and goals, all served the same cycle from the Benne Gesserit to CHOAM and the Imperium. All were dependent on the spice and thus trapped by it. In this world, a few factions grew to be powerful aristocrats and these Great Houses acquired fiefdoms. Humans stopped advancing and turned to salvation myths instead of saving themselves. This is antithetical to a more democratic ideal of self-governing that has allowed humans to find better explanations for natural phenomena and discover better, more efficient, and even more profitable ways of acting for long term benefits. When a few have power, they can advance that power by information control and squash competition of thought and production. The control of information is the first step in controlling a population and the means of sustaining dominance.
· Another subject Frank Herbert tackled was how belief systems could be manipulated in nefarious ways even if the goal was seemingly altruistic. The sisterhood of the Bene Geserit in Dune had a complex array of talents but one potent tactic was the Mission Protectiva where salvation stories and prophecies were planted among certain populations so that they, one day, could fulfil the prophecies and leverage a greater control over humanity through a breeding program. It worked quite well in the poor worlds and especially on Dune where the Fremen were the largest group. By manipulating belief, they placed a prophet/right-hand-of-god in a leadership role, even if unintentional, and this bit them on the ass. A violent insurrection took place on Dune/Arrakis and a holy war swept across the Known Universe. Holy war has another name. I think we all know what that is. It is never good when the self-righteous, who lack uncertainty or restraint, get unrestricted power. This does not limit itself to just a religious belief. Any belief system including economic systems can be exalted and sold to an underclass as a virtuous cycle without evidence if it appeals to ego, elevated group status and a priori paradigms. The real salvation story in Dune universe does not come from the Kwisatz Haderach (a special human with divine like powers), it comes from when Paul Atreides, who is the Kwisatz Haderach, realizes that humanity has become stagnant, needs to change and save themselves; thus, he preaches against an empire he helped to create and set a new path for humanity to follow. Of course, his son Leto II helped even after becoming a giant, tyrant sandworm who lived thousands of years. The essence is going from dependence and reliance to self-reliance and symbiosis.
· A properly fulfilled and developed Dune series could also address human fears of technology. Though the Dune universe inciting incident is the Bulterian Jihad where humans revolted against the Thinking Machines who enslaved them, it is an opportunity to explore that fear. Frank Herbert, to the best of my knowledge, was not ruminating on Artificial Intelligence taking power like in the Terminator movies. It was more that humans became dependent on machines and relegated control of their lives through ignorance and indifference and negligence. Once humans realized what happened, it was too late, they were enslaved, and had to revolt. The only chance they had for unified effort was to utilize religious ideas to formulate a singular crusade, which in the end banned all devices made in the shape/form or function of a human mind. It was one extreme becoming the other. This is the lesson to be taught. Do not give up your self-control or agency. Be mindful of your world and self. Do not let technology’s conveniences erode your capability and capacity for navigating the world. It’s once again a call for becoming self-reliant, balance, and not fearing the changing world. Harmony among the dissonances.
Technology is a symbol of ever growing complexity and change. So many resist the rapid development as they would resist any new idea that takes time and effort to understand instead of depending on old, comfortable systems of thinking. Especially ones that make you feel secure, special and in control. It is a deep imbalance they feel that must be alleviated. But then again, all stories are simply follow that an imbalance is created and then the balance is restored. How one gets to the other is up to the writer.
If Dune is done properly, it would not only act as a powerful social-political-economic allegory but as a tool to inspire wonder and questions that lead people to introspection. Many people cannot see the fault in widely held views (popularity fallacy) unless they can come to recognize flaws themselves. Though Dune cannot force people to think about these important matters that affect humanity’s present and future, it can nudge some into a meaningful analysis of the world around them. Conversations that begin with details of the story, and the possible underlying themes, allow for a greater comparison to real events going on around them. Epiphanies will come. These individuals will then influence others, which cascades out radially to their local group and exponentially out to the greater whole of society.
Epic tales have influenced the cultures where they originated from the Sagas of the Norse to the Hindu epics to the Jewish Torah to the Christian Bible etc... The edges of the old boundaries are gone now and a new adventure must be reflected. We can no longer afford to have the limits of personal sight set the limits of the world. Plus, think of all the other issues that can be addressed in a new Dune series that relate to individual freedom, persecution and perception. Though salvation narratives can lead to giving up agency, showing that these narratives fail and that only we, real life humans, can save ourselves is the course that navigates to the stars.
It is up to you Legendary Entertainment. Frank Herbert gave you a tool. Humanity gave you a stone hard problem. Hold the chisel properly. Chip away slowly from the rock. Build new castles of mind. You can do it. There are many who can help you. BTW, the potential positive PR, acclaim and actual real life social benefits are potent. Become real Legends.
Joshua Lee Andrew Jones
Wayward Raven Media