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Bedford, United Kingdom
A Reading group that combines the joy of reading with adaptations of books in various media; film, theatre, radio plays etc. Our reading material: the classics, science fiction, crime, literature, non-fiction - in short from Asimov to Zola and everything between. We meet every 2 weeks (flexible depending on groups availability), discussing the current read while reading it. We talk about the book and bring to the discussion supplementary material relevant to the author and/or story or period. Our aim is to lift the words off the page to enjoy and experience the author’s creation in a multitude of ways.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

A Brief History of Dune the Novel

The history of a novel can be a wondrous thing. And the history of Dune is no exception. Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson tell this complicated and exciting story in The Road To Dune. The book includes their reconstruction of Frank Herbert's outline for an adventure story called "Spice Planet". "Spice Planet" is a strange yet familiar tale to the reader of Dune, a glimpse into the mind of the "Dreamer of Dune". The Road To Dune publishes for the first time scenes and chapters that Herbert deleted from the published novel. Bill Ransom pens a wonderful forward describing his friendship and writing collaboration with Herbert. If this was not enough Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson collect together several of their short stories set in the Dune universe. In short this is an insightful and fun read for any fan of Dune

And now for the (short) history of Dune:

Dune began as an outline for a story called "Spice Planet"...no!, let me stop there...it started with an idea for an article called "They Stopped the Moving Sands" in 1957...wait, I'm getting ahead...no, behind myself...they were the seeds of what would become Dune...Let me start again...

Dune began as a serialised publication called “Dune World”...that's better!...right, now where were we...ah, yes...

Dune began as "Dune World" in the Science Fiction Magazine Analog, chosen by its Editor John W. Campbell, Jr. and began its epic journey through the pages of the December 1963 issue (see Images of Dune post). Campbell paid Herbert US$2,550.00, or three cents per word, for the three "books" that would eventually form the epic Dune. Meanwhile Herbert struggled to get his vast story published in book form (see below). Eventually Sterling Lanier, editor of Chilton Book Co. (publishers of mostly automotive repair manuals) offered Herbert US$7,500.00 plus future Royalties to publish “Dune World” as Dune, in a single volume. Faced with rejections from every publisher the manuscript was offered, Herbert quickly accepted. Lanier, an SF writer and fan was very impressed with “Dune World” and asked Herbert to add to the already burgeoning manuscript. John Schoenherr,  cover artist for the original Analog publication, was contacted and Lanier commissioned him for the artwork that would adorn the cover of Dune. The book graced bookshop shelves on October 01, 1965 – price US$5.95 (a mere pittance for what has become one the most sought after and collectible SF books of all time). By the time of of its book publication “Dune World” had been nominated for the coveted Hugo Award in the summer of ’64 at Pacificon II in Oakland, California. It lost, however, to Clifford D. Simak’s “Here Gather the Stars” (later retitled Way Station). In 1966 Dune would recapture the Hugo, sharing it with “…And Call Me Conrad” (later expanded & retitled This Immortal) by Roger Zelazny. Dune would also win the first Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) Nebula Award for best SF novel of 1965, also awarded in 1966. 

Frank Herbert created an epic story in Dune, as big and as vast as can be done in Science Fiction. He would go on to write a further five sequels. At the time of his death in 1986 Herbert left thousands upon thousands of pages, notes and scraps of paper with character descriptions (new & old), historical background, and outlines for new stories set in the Dune universe. This archive and treasure trove has been mined by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson who have written several new adventures, expanding the wonder and mystery that the desert planet Arrakis holds, enriching an already vast tapestry known as Dune!

A few quotes from history:


"...this is a gee-gorgeous hunk of stuff." John W. Campbell, Jr. (just prior to Christmas 1963). Campbell knew a thing or two about SF unlike other publishers...

"Nobody can seem to get through the first 100 pages (of Book I) without being confused and irritated" Timothy Seldes of Doubleday (January 1964). 

"It is just possible that we may be making the mistake of the decade in declining Dune by Frank Herbert." Julian P. Muller of Harcourt, Brace & World (February 1964). Muller also stated the book had "slow spots," "wearying conversations," & "bursts of melodrama".

"It is the sort of writing that might attract a cult and go on forever, but we have not had much luck with science fiction and there is too much of a chance, in our opinion, that this would be lost of its own weight." Allen Klots, Jr. of Dodd, Mead & Co. (1964).

Reviewers (shortly following publication):

"By any standards whatsoever, Dune is an important book, and within the science fiction field a major work..." Poul Anderson (1965).

"The highest achievement of a science fiction novelist is the creation of an imaginary world so real, so vivid, that the reader can touch, see, taste, hear and smell it. Arrakis is such a world, and Dune is clearly destined to become a science fiction classics" Damon Knight (1965). 

"Dune is certainly one of the landmarks of modern science fiction. It is an amazing feat of creation." Reviewer for Analog.

"I don't think any amount of effort or ability could have made this hodgepodge of concepts stick together. I cannot possibly trace the many strands interwoven in the novel...This is a long book, and its major premises quite unworthy of the work put into it." Reviewer for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

"The spice must flow!",


***All quotations taken from The Road to Dune (2005)***


  1. Awesome biography!! Moon Traveller

  2. It was indeed a struggle to get Dune published. There are millions that would say we are glad he did persist. A classic!