the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius
July 3, 2015 6:31 AM   Subscribe

 
Don't know about greatest novel, but it was always a good read.
posted by pjmoy at 6:39 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I honestly can't remember the first time I read Dune. I definitely remember reading it before I saw the film, which was rare for me, since Dad let me watch practically anything growing up. But I also think he's a major Dune purist, and deeply dislikes the film. So, instead, he gave me the book.

I was definitely a preteen, though, because I remember trying to slog through the sequels at around 14, and giving up about the time I realised that Leto II was going to become a giant sandworm or something like it, and the cycle would go around and around and around. So maybe I was 11? 12? Probably around then. A formative time to delve deep into an epic about religion, authority, and the machinations of a future society.

And while it hasn't changed my life completely, I think this is where I picked up my deep love for any piece of fiction that has in-universe academic articles and references liberally thrown in. Because that is my narrative crack of choice there.

And on a total tangent here, but, to quote:

For Smith, altered states of consciousness were mainly tools for the whiteous and righteous to vaporise whole solar systems of subversives, aliens and others with undesirable traits. (emphasis mine)

This is the first time I have heard of the word 'whiteous' and I deeply regret never hearing it before. Because it is perfect.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:54 AM on July 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


I love Dune, and all things related to Dune, but I also confess that I have not read any of the follow-on books written by Herbert's son.

I imagine there'll be yet another run some day at turning Dune into something televised. Thirteen-year-old me thought the Lynch version was a little goofy but overall still pretty cool. We didn't think the miniseries version was all that bad, but it seems like it could be done well in a long-form version over a couple of seasons.
posted by jquinby at 6:55 AM on July 3, 2015


jquinby, that is not a confession. That's.. a sign you have a good self preservation instincts. (I read one.)

I unabashedly love the Lynch version, and watched it well over a hundred times when I was a teenager (and a few times since). Now *that* is a confession.
posted by nat at 7:01 AM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I saw the film a little while before reading the book, but I had known about the read about the book and the setting and so on and one day I turned on the then-SciFi channel and I saw what looked to be Captain Picard in a big wooden space ship and I'm like "this is Dune I know this is Dune" and it was!

I also almost didn't graduate high school because of Dune. Instead of studying for my Economics AP exams, I read Dune instead because I knew I was going to fail regardless of how much studying I got in the night before. Then I skipped the test and found out that in order to pass the class I had to take the test and in order to graduate I had to pass the class. Everything worked out, fortunately.

Also I've read most of the Dune Encyclopedia which is basically world-building fanfic full of deliberate misinformation and sources in open conflict and I love it. I don't think I'll ever get to reading the Brian Herbert books, though.
posted by griphus at 7:21 AM on July 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


And I would love, love, love a GoT-style treatment of Dune.
posted by griphus at 7:22 AM on July 3, 2015 [18 favorites]


And I would love, love, love a GoT-style treatment of Dune.

From your lips to Netflix's ears.
posted by briank at 7:24 AM on July 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


I like Lynch's Dune. The Lynchian oddness really works with the hard sci-fi aspect for me.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:30 AM on July 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


And I would love, love, love a GoT-style treatment of Dune.

So, unrelenting slaughter and rape, but on a desert planet? Sandworms instead of dragons?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:33 AM on July 3, 2015


I like the Lynch version and have watched it too many times. I remember going to see it when it first opened in a theater mostly full of people who hadn't read the book and hearing the collective "What???" that erupted after the last line.
posted by lagomorphius at 7:37 AM on July 3, 2015


"this is Dune I know this is Dune"

That's weird. I remember this too. I saw Dune, I knew it was Dune. I had not seen it before and had not read the book, but I knew it was Dune.
I later decided I liked Dune (from the film) and went to read the book. I think it was God Emperor of Dune. I was confused by it.

I later read and reread all the Dune books. Every single one, all six of them.
(Ok, I read one of the terrible non Frank Herbert ones and then decided they didn't exist, ugh Baron Harkonen is fat because he poisoned by a Bene Gesserit as punishment for raping her? Or something? Urgh)

I've been boring everyone I know on how an HBO GoT style Dune would be the best thing ever. You woul dneed to hire a lot of martial artists.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:39 AM on July 3, 2015


Yes, the collective critical reaction to the film was that the story was too complicated, but my reaction was that (compared to the book) it wasn't complicated enough.

I went on to read a lot of Herbert, enough to establish a love-hate relationship and eventually to feel relieved when I was able to turn my back on his work.
posted by oheso at 7:41 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, unrelenting slaughter and rape, but on a desert planet? Sandworms instead of dragons?

This would be one of the times where the source material's pretty clear uncomfortablness or maybe unfamiliarity with human sexuality would be a boon. Lots more sandworms, much, much less rape (if any at all.)
posted by griphus at 7:44 AM on July 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


My introduction to Dune was a walkthrough of the first half of the Mega CD game (Cryo, not Westwood) on the local official SEGA magazine (maybe 20 years ago?). Then some years later I taped the Lynch movie from TV, and finally bought the book a bit later, and watched the series around... 2004 or 2005. And then, there's Jodorowsky's Dune, but that's another story.

The odd thing is that it takes everything to get the scope of the book. The film gets (or even better, sets) the visuals right, but is light on politics and made a bit of a mess of the story. The series have abysmal visuals (Children less so) but do manage to find the balance on the plans within plans bits. The game... well, is a game, but it presents the challenge of rallying the Fremen to unite them against the Harkonnen quite well. Jodo's Dune would probably get the whole scope of the novel, while also being bonkers and not being Dune at the same time.

I think in time there will be another attempt to put Dune on either small or big screen (preferably small, I reckon the first book would need something like 8/10 hours, so a full, 12 episode 40 mins season). But considering it has been done twice, I'm not sure anyone is eager to get their hands on it.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:48 AM on July 3, 2015


I'm still wonder who thought that wearing a suit that catches all of your sweat in a desert was a good idea. This isn't what we call water recycling. This is what we call braising.

"Yes, fine, you catch all the water. Excellent. Wonderful scientific mind there, Paul, asking about how they pump the water around. Perhaps you should have ask about how they get rid of the excess heat?"
posted by eriko at 7:52 AM on July 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


The problem with doing Dune on the big screen is it is SO easy to do to badly. There's a lot of fairly subtle things happening in the books, and it is so easy to overwhelm with "hey, Royalty! Starships! Desert tribes with mystic powers! BIG ASS WORMS!"

Otherwise, you wonder why group X didn't just go kick everyone's ages ago. A big part of the setup is "Well, everyone is kept in check because there's a both a balance of power and nobody can travel between the stars without the Spacing Guild agreeing, and any threat to the existing order they see, why, they just jack up the rates until you can't go."
posted by eriko at 7:56 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Yes, fine, you catch all the water. Excellent. Wonderful scientific mind there, Paul, asking about how they pump the water around. Perhaps you should have ask about how they get rid of the excess heat?"

The excess heat of the liquid sweat itself?
posted by griphus at 7:59 AM on July 3, 2015


In 1965 oil was 13 $ / barrel, gasoline was 31 cents / gallon. In 1973 it all blew up to hell.

Sub crude oil for spice and Herbert was a damned genius prophet. Or it was a complete accident. I don't think any of us will ever know which unless there is like a notarized transcript of him spilling the beans. Googling the question brought up this discussion.
posted by bukvich at 8:13 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, is it confession time? I came to Dune at the age of fourteen because I was an obsessive fan of Sting, and wanted to consume any media that he had any connection with. (Now that's a confession.) Our family didn't have a VCR so there was no chance of watching the movie, but the library had the book. My love for Dune has endured three decades beyond my Sting fandom. Every time I'm in Las Vegas and I see the immense fountains and swimming pools, I think of the scene where the native Arrakeens glare up at the royal palm trees and think "There are one hundred of us."
posted by Daily Alice at 8:13 AM on July 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


I had an audio cassette interview with Frank Herbert put out by Waldenbooks in conjunction with the cinematic release of Lynch's film. Herbert was a big fan of Lynch's treatment in the interview.

I was never able to finish God Emperor of Dune back in the day and so never finished the original Dune books. I should really make that my priority for my summer reading list. I did read the first prequel trilogy by his son about young Leto I, which was entertaining enough and didn't upset my personal fanboy applecart but man, the next series about the lead up to the Butlerian Jihad? Boy, howdy, was that BAD. Like nuke it from orbit bad.

(I have a PDF version of The Dune Encyclopedia. Man, I loved that book when I was a kid).
posted by KingEdRa at 8:14 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


And while it hasn't changed my life completely, I think this is where I picked up my deep love for any piece of fiction that has in-universe academic articles and references liberally thrown in. Because that is my narrative crack of choice there.

Also this, times a million. My very favorite thing about it.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:15 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I read the first Dune trilogy, Stranger in a Strange Land, and C. S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet trilogy all around the age of 14 or 15. I had this amazing insight, and since I conveniently had a book report due I decided my theme would be "Messiahs in Science Fiction". I thought I had figured out something heretofore undiscovered! Ah, the naiveté of youth...

Anyway, yeah, only made it maybe halfway through the fourth Dune book - even the third one had started to bog down a bit with Herbert's rants, as I recall. Saw the movie years later when it came out; my impression was that Lynch had decided "hey, we've got all these cool visuals; why muck it up trying to explain the actual plot?"
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:31 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't read this since I was a teenager. It's one of those classics I think is mostly overrated, but after the article I think a lot of my problems are with the sequels and that they tainted the original book in my mind. Certainly I never found the heavily mystical / magical elements appealing, and later ones doubled down on them (like the past-life memories in people's DNA.)

[I think the Great White Savior plot the article mentions, plus the plundering of Arab culture for the Fremen, may bother me but that wouldn't have been an issue for teenage self.]
posted by mark k at 8:32 AM on July 3, 2015


The excess heat of the liquid sweat itself?

Nope. Not nearly enough. If you vaporize it, it's not enough, if you replace it with a few gallons of water, then sweat that out and vaporize that? THAT's enough heat rejection to live in a desert.

One of the many hard parts about spacesuits is that you're putting a human being -- a warm blooded, heat generating creature -- into a very effective thermos bottle. You either get that heat away, or the human inside that thermos bottle dies. The two big limiting factors on the Apollo moonwalks were the oxygen for breathing and the water they sublimated for cooling.
posted by eriko at 8:38 AM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I thought the whole thing about stilsuits was one-way heat transfer. The heat leaves the body with the sweat, the sweat is then collected, but the body inside the suit itself stays cool because you are also constantly replenishing your liquids and sweating when you're in the suit.
posted by griphus at 8:42 AM on July 3, 2015


It's basically a micro-sandwich — a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system. The skin-contact layer's porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body ... near-normal evaporation process. The next two layers . . . include heat exchange filaments and salt precipitators. Salt's reclaimed. Motions of the body, especially breathing and some osmotic action provide the pumping force. Reclaimed water circulates to catchpockets.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


I thought the whole thing about stilsuits was one-way heat transfer. The heat leaves the body with the sweat, the sweat is then collected, but the body inside the suit itself stays cool because you are also constantly replenishing your liquids and sweating when you're in the suit.

That's how it's described, see bold:

"It's basically a micro-sandwich — a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system. The skin-contact layer's porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body ... near-normal evaporation process. The next two layers . . . include heat exchange filaments and salt precipitators. Salt's reclaimed. Motions of the body, especially breathing and some osmotic action provide the pumping force. Reclaimed water circulates to catchpockets from which you draw it through this tube in the clip at your neck... Urine and feces are processed in the thigh pads. In the open desert, you wear this filter across your face, this tube in the nostrils with these plugs to ensure a tight fit. Breathe in through the mouth filter, out through the nose tube. With a Fremen suit in good working order, you won't lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day..."

That said, I'm not sure how evaporation happens if there's no lower humidity place for the sweat to evaporate to.
posted by percor at 8:45 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


...and I'm really interested in how they process feces with a 'thigh pad'

no actually I'm really not.
posted by percor at 8:47 AM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


My dad introduced me to dune when I was about 13-14. I devoured it and now have it in digital and physical copies. I don't particularly love the audiobook that's available right now, and I wanted to gift it to my dad, so I recorded my own version for my dad for Christmas last year. I think I enjoyed the process and the way it forced me to slow down and really savor the book even more than the way my dad reacted :) I would love, love, love to see it as a longer series on Netflix as long as they stayed true to the characters (especially their ages- I'm looking at you 2000 Scifi miniseries).
posted by Mouse Army at 8:48 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I never really cared for the Lynch movie, and certainly less so after having seen the excellent documentary about Jodorowsky’s Dune – oh, what might have been.

Still, the books, especially the first and second volumes (they go well together in first establishing Paul Atreides Muad'Dib and then destroying him) are classics. I read them as a teenager, and recently reread them, and they still (heh) work. The characters, the societies, the religions, the galactic backdrop, and beyond all, Arrakis itself are magnificently conceived. (For the book fetishists, I should point out this new and very nice Folio Society edition).

Of the son's books, the less said, the better.
posted by bouvin at 8:49 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


That said, I'm not sure how evaporation happens if there's no lower humidity place for the sweat to evaporate to.

We are entering the part of the Dune thread where every canonical answer is about to become "Holtzman effect."
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think eriko's right -- perspiration works as a cooling mechanism only if you let the gaseous water escape with all its (heat) energy. If you capture and condense the water vapour, then you have just reclaimed all the heat as well.

Moving water around a closed unit (person+suit) won't cool that unit relative to the outside. Unless there's some kind of radiative heat dumping panels which aren't described in the book, the wearer is going to cook.
posted by richb at 8:50 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, we don't know how hot Arrakis actually is.
It's a desert, certainly, but that doesn't mean it's hot.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:51 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Presumably the stillsuits are black to aid in radiative cooling?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:52 AM on July 3, 2015


"Plucky young lad runs off to join religious fundamentalists in the desert and fights against imprerialism and resource theft using guerilla tactics."

I could really see that being really popular right now.
posted by longbaugh at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2015 [12 favorites]


no actually I'm really not.

If you want to miss out on the transcendent psychedelic visions of fecal osmosis in Brian Herbert's Thigh Pad Technicians of Dune, it's certainly your right.
posted by mubba at 9:07 AM on July 3, 2015 [23 favorites]


I assume the flank and thigh of any one fremen is going to be pretty large and hard as a rock. That gives a lot of surface area to squish the liquid out of the poop whenever the thigh muscles are flexed.

So you take a dump on the go, do a couple of squats and deadlifts and bam, a side pocket of nice refreshing poop-free poopwater.
posted by griphus at 9:11 AM on July 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


I read the first four Dune books when I was an early teenager (and loved them, and remain somewhat puzzled by the people who dislike Children of Dune, although I agree God-Emperor is a weird mess in many ways) but I didn't read the last couple until a few years ago. And was thoroughly startled to discover that they're quite good - not the same as the original, but doing similar things with some different angles. I'm very sad the final book was never written.

(Brian Herbert's efforts don't count. I read the first few of his, and... it's fanfic. Not even very good fanfic. It's playing in what is recognizably the same universe, but not interested in the same things nor capable of any real depth.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:12 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always got bored and wandered off trying to read the second one. I feel like I should try again, but a sense of obligation isn't really a very good way to approach reading a book.
posted by thelonius at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Actually, the great Dune film did get made. Its name is Star Wars.

Well the article was really great until they had to write that.

Guardian had another article by a different writer on 30 January.
posted by bukvich at 9:23 AM on July 3, 2015


Presumably the stillsuits are black to aid in radiative cooling?

The Physics that Explain Why You Should Wear Black This Summer
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:27 AM on July 3, 2015


Here are the cheat sheets handed out to audiences watching Lynch's Dune. The studios must have been terrified of this thing, even after they hacked it and he took his name off the credits.

But yeah, it is Lawrence of Arabia in space with drugs and cat-milking and a Toto soundtrack. Not that that's a terrible thing.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:33 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hey guys, please hurry up and figure out these basic thermodynamic concerns so we can move on to the telepathy, FTL travel, and antigravity devices.
posted by 7segment at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2015 [14 favorites]


The sequels, especially the later ones, are so bad that I always assumed that either he got a lot of help with the first one or that he let someone ghost write the later ones.
posted by salvia at 9:45 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved Dune. I tried reading all the sequels and they just kept getting weirder and weirder. I had high hopes for the stuff about the Butllerian Jihad and the Orange Revolution (how do I even remember this stuff!). And the tlexiau and axlotals and what not. (obvs can't remember how to spell...)


But he never really got exploring that stuff in a way I wanted. There's just a giant worm in love with this chick and that was all so bizarre.

I may have to try to reread those again. The first trilogy are around here somewhere...
posted by sio42 at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2015


I love Dune, and all things related to Dune, but I also confess that I have not read any of the follow-on books written by Herbert's son.

I tried. I gave up about halfway through the first one. It's just not the same in any way except they describe the same world(s). Franks's writing is dense, evocative & filled with a rich tapestry of perspectives. He created a multi-dimensional World behind the stories, much like Tolkien before him.

Brian, not so much. I liken his writing style to that of those SFF writers who churn out a production line of work that's both derivative & unmemorable, either because they can't write any better or don't care to. Suffice to say, my eagerness to fill in all those dangling references to the Butlerian Jihad & the origins of the Fremen waned as I plodded through page after page of uninspiring writing. It just wasn't worth it.
posted by scalefree at 10:22 AM on July 3, 2015


The film gets (or even better, sets) the visuals right, but is light on politics and made a bit of a mess of the story. The series have abysmal visuals (Children less so) but do manage to find the balance on the plans within plans bits. The game... well, is a game, but it presents the challenge of rallying the Fremen to unite them against the Harkonnen quite well. Jodo's Dune would probably get the whole scope of the novel, while also being bonkers and not being Dune at the same time.

Excellent rundown of the various media permutations of Dune, but you missed one. The boardgame (long, long out of print) is fantastic. I see copies on eBay for several hundred bucks now and again, and am glad I had the luck and presence of mind to buy one used in abut 1983 for something like five dollars.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:22 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm somewhat surprised nobody's mentioned the SciFi Channel's own adaptation of the Dune saga. In two three-part miniseries they cover the original trilogy, much more faithfully than Lynch did. It wasn't perfect but as a Dune purist I enjoyed it a lot more.

(edit: I stand corrected, it has been mentioned by other here.)
posted by scalefree at 10:27 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


Excellent rundown of the various media permutations of Dune, but you missed one. The boardgame (long, long out of print) is fantastic.

I kind of skipped it because, other than knowing it is excellent, I don't know how it fits with the source material (like the early 2001 action adventure game, that apparently is pretty close to the books, but is awful as a game and I was cursed with only finding horrible dubbed versions).
posted by lmfsilva at 10:58 AM on July 3, 2015


A tangential thing: the way Baron Harkonnen ended his scenes in the first miniseries with rhyming couplets made my inner Shakespeare nerd inordinately happy.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 11:13 AM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read the book only because there was much hue and cry about the impending movie right before it was released. Tried the sequel books and they bored me.

I dug the movie when it came out, but that was due to a Sting fetish, mostly. Now all I can think of is Sting's flying underpants (as the man himself calls them) and the Pug Bjorn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on July 3, 2015


This thread is relevant to my interests because I am almost finished reading "Chapterhouse: Dune" for the first time after starting the Dune series last year (my god Emperor of Dune was such a slog, but I really wanted to see how the series ended up because I love the Dune universe so much). I am tempted to read Brian Herbert's dune books despite the supposed shallowness just because DUNE. Almost tempted.

I first saw the David Lynch version of Dune at a friends house when I was ~15 and I was OBSESSED. I had no idea what the hell was going on (never read/heard of the books at the time) and it was such a weird movie so of course I just instantly loved it (and *ahem* Kyle Maclachlan). I would watch it so much, my sister used to wake me up by saying "the sleeper must awaken".

I don't know why it took me so long to start reading the books until now, but I can still say that I'm just as obsessed as ever.

Anyways, here is my favorite comic related to Dune
posted by littlesq at 11:43 AM on July 3, 2015 [9 favorites]


If you want more Dune, for Shai-Hulud's sake don't read the dreck that is the KJA books. You'd be much better off reading some of Frank Herberts other works. I'd say the two books series Whipping Star/The Dosadi Experiment have a lot of the Dune flavour, particularly the latter.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 12:01 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love all of it, I love every last bit from the first book to the most recent of the son's atrocities, EVERY LAST BIT AND I REGRET NOTHING

if i ever have the chance to ask patrick stewart a single question it will be "what happened to the battle pug"
posted by poffin boffin at 12:04 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I BELIEVE HIS NAME IS PUG ATREIDES.
posted by littlesq at 12:12 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Presumably the stillsuits are black to aid in radiative cooling?

You stand in sunlight in a black suit and tell me how that radiative cooling is going. :-) The problem is that the radiative transfer between you and the sky during daytime is the wrong direction -- heat is going into you! Thankfully, in an atmosphere, the convection and conduction usually overwhelms that, but yeah, radiative cooling in daytime doesn't work, period, end of statement. There's a reason we call this the Greenhouse Effect, after all.

At night, on a clear, cloudless, windless night, that changes. Then you have the ground at, oh, 260-320K radiating to deep space at 3K. That's why those nights are the ones that get really cold, and on airless worlds, where you don't have the atomsphere acting as an insulator, it happens really quite fast. This is also why deserts can get surprisingly cold at night -- plus humid air holds heat far better than dry air, and deserts are long on dry air.

Stillsuits, in fact, may not actually be instant death suits at night, though it's still likely they very much are -- warm blooded animals as a class are built on "generate far too much heat at all times and dump the excess" which is a much easier way to deal with life than "generate the exact amount you need and die if you screw that up." Of course, we do run into "and die if you can't dump the excess" but in general, most animals are pretty smart about not getting into a situation where they can't. Humans seem to be the ones that override the "don't stand out in the sun" reflex the most. Well, that and mad dogs.

Stillsuits, though -- they are death traps of the highest order without active cooling, and I don't recall the Fremen describing the power system to run the Freon loops nor the large heat exchangers to run the A/C systems. Though, if you towed a small heat exchanger with a large enough surface, it could work, just use a refrigeration loop to make that heat exchanger surface hotter than ambient air, convection and conduction would then cool it, and that's moving heat out of the still suit. How big a loop/heat exchanger? How fast are you moving is the key question. Gemini Astronauts only needed airflow until they started doing space walks. The Apollo moonwalkers wore a garment with tubing that had liquid flowing to provide direct liquid cooling of the skin, and it worked great -- indeed, whenever they started to get very warm from overexertion, they would just briefly turn it onto max cooling, and then they were suddenly cold. They'd only use max cooling for a period of seconds. They used water flowing out into a metal mesh that froze into ice, that ice sublimated and that took the heat away. It only works in a hard vacuum -- indeed, until the vented the cabin and opened the hatch, they'd get an alert that the sublimator wasn't working. They would deliberately turn it on early and wait for the alert, because that told them that the alert that it wasn't working was working -- good to know, given the consequences of being out there without cooling.

But Herbert never described that part, only the "never lost water" part. And, of course, if you build a weapon with IR tracking, a Fremen in a stillsuit (STOP FIXING THAT, COMPUTER, IT IS ONE WORD HERE) is an easy shot. Shoot at the hot thing in the desert!

Seriously -- within a week of that book being published, papers had been written about how the stillsuits killed the wearers by heatstroke. Within a month, papers had been written on how to fix them, but it all boils (heh) down to active cooling and a rather large heat exchanger, or lots of braised wormfood lying about.

So, if you want to draw *living* Fremen on the desert in the daytime? Big backpack with large finned heat exchangers! Herbert pretty much hand waved power sources throughout, so you get to assume that batteries are magic, so you don't have to deal with that. Assume a tiny solar panel will do the job, and it's not like you're lacking for sunlight on Arrakis anyway.

And, yeah, let's just hand wave the heck out of the thigh pads, because really? BUTTOCKS. You put that on the buttocks! JESUS CHRIST HERBERT DID YOU NEVER ACTUALLY GIVE, OR MORE IMPORTANTLY, TAKE A SHIT?

(On the moon? "Fecal containment system." Read "Adult diaper." Today? "Fecal containment system" Read "Same thing." We are a long way from figuring out how to drop a deuce in a suit cleanly. Most try to make sure they just don't. As to peeing, guys got a big advantage here.)
posted by eriko at 12:16 PM on July 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


I loved those books when I was younger, read the first few multiple times. Haven't read them lately.

I liked the way the article mentions the T. E Lawrence connection. To a certain degree the plot of Dune is "Lawrence of Arabia in space". That's where a lot of the political parallels come from. Spice is oil, Fremen are Arabs, Harkonnens are Ottoman Turks, House Atreides are the British,Paul is Lawrence. Since WW1 the powers involved have changed but the politics is much the same.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I read Dune many times as a teenager, but it wasn't until I had a baby of my own, and then reread it, that I was like, "What about the diaper rash????"
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


I lack the insight to fully articulate how much this book affected me, as I did read it at a formative age. I have a suspicion though that it may have had an impact on the number of times I've gotten heatstroke.
posted by LegallyBread at 12:43 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I honestly can't remember the first time I read Dune.

I can with vivid detail. I was 12 and at the airport in Salt Lake City. My family and I had just stepped off of the plane and my older cousin was growing frustrated with me because I had failed to bring a book along for the trip and was constantly bothering her on the plane. Before we picked up our rental car, we stopped in at a book store kiosk. I stumbled upon this cover and I know it sounds ridiculously hokey, but I swear it beckoned to me.

Who are these shadowy figures? Why are they in the desert? Where are they going? Why do they look armed for combat? Are they being chased?"

[Thoughts running through my teenage brain.]

I read the blurb on the back and I was instantly hooked. It was pure magic. My cousin even made a comment a day later that I was being too quiet and had my nose stuck in my book when I should have been enjoying Yellowstone. I was more interested in Paul's adventure than the nature I had travelled half-way across the country to see. That's just how good that book was. It helped shape the kind of reader I am today.
posted by Fizz at 12:48 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


And now I'm uploading Dune to my eReader for a re-read later this evening.
posted by Fizz at 12:57 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


After reading Dune I explored the rest of Herbert's writing and I'm not sure if he's deeply misogynist or trying to highlight problems. His works are definitely rapey though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:58 PM on July 3, 2015


Presumably the stillsuits are black to aid in radiative cooling?

From the Science of Dune:

As the planetologist Liet-Kynes is assisting Duke Leto Atreides with the fitting of his stillsuit, he explains it in this manner:
It's basically a micro-sandwich—a high-efficiency filter and heat-exchange system. The skin-contact layer's porous. Perspiration passes through it, having cooled the body…near-normal evaporation process. The next two layers…include heat exchange filaments and salt precipitators. Salt's reclaimed. Motions of the body, especially breathing and some osmotic action provide the pumping force. Reclaimed water circulates to catchpockets from which you draw it through this tube in the clip at your neck…Urine and feces are processed in the thigh pads. In the open desert, you wear this filter across your face, this tube in the nostrils with these plugs to ensure a tight fit. Breathe in through the mouth filter, out through the nose tube. With a Fremen suit in good working order, you won't lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day…"
In his essay "Stillsuit" in The Science of Dune, John C. Smith suggests that "Stillsuits designed using strict literal interpretations from the Dune books probably would not work and most likely would cook the wearer like a Crock-Pot…However, engineering solutions can be envisioned for all the suit's shortcomings."
posted by Fizz at 1:00 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I first read Dune in junior high some time before the movie came out (which I love for all its goofiness). Then I saw the movie many times before reading the book again. Boy was I confused when it didn't rain at the end of the book.

I tried reading the whole series repeatedly. Each time I made it one book further. Each attempt was far enough apart that I would start again with Dune (which I guess I've read 7 or 8 times now because of this approach). Finally, I finished the series a few years ago. It took me this long to be able to appreciate the psychospiritual aspect that Herbert was going for in the later books.

Jodorowsky's Dune would have been glorious.

Also, since I finished the books just before starting a new job in the tech world, I was worked god emperor into my business card title (though not my official title).
posted by kokaku at 1:14 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"What about the diaper rash????"

yeah, it doesn't really make sense unless there's some kind of colostomy hose hookup inside the suit and every fremen has a whatsit. stoma? don't make me google it.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:20 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


my next askme: did fremen have buttholes, please show all work
posted by poffin boffin at 1:20 PM on July 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


my next askme: did fremen have buttholes, please show all work

Stillpoops?
posted by Fizz at 1:46 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I managed to slog through the whole original hexology, by the end (spoilers) there are renegade Bene Gesserit who control men through being incredibly good at sex and can only be defeated by genetically engineered cat people. It gets pretty silly is what I'm saying.

The very last chapter of book 6 is a dedication to Frank Herbert's wife, who he nursed through a years-long death from cancer. He clearly had higher priorities than sorting out the intricacies of his fictional universe, I think writing the last few books may have been as much of a completionist chore for him as reading them is for his fans.
posted by 3urypteris at 1:47 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just a point of clarification- in the novel, the Fremen did actually wear a garment like a thawb or dishdasha over their stillsuits, as well as a khaki-colored cloak. Additionally, I don't believe the color of the stillsuits themselves was ever mentioned. The "black stillsuit" derail is entirely an artifact of the Lynch film. I have no insight into the nature of the Fremen digestive and excretory system.


With regard to Jodorowsky's Dune, I'm not sure if it would have been something entirely different from Dune, or the most perfect interpretation of Dune possible- he did basically try to turn his son into the Kwisatz Haderach (or was he simply guilty of the same hubris as the Bene Gesserit?). Either way, I think it would have been awesome, although I'd be amazed if Brontis Jodorowsky still speaks to his father.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:47 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


True fans: don't forget to check out the 23rd Anniversary Re-Edition of Lynch's Dune.
posted by herrdoktor at 2:02 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Just to confuse things a bit more...somewhere along the way there's a statement that no real Fremen would let the sunlight touch their stillsuit - these guys were out in the desert wearing robes and traveling only at night.

And there was a Sci-Fi version several years ago that wasn't completely awful - but I didn't see the whole thing.
posted by Farce_First at 2:36 PM on July 3, 2015


And there was a Sci-Fi version several years ago that wasn't completely awful - but I didn't see the whole thing.

I own both of them on DVD and they're wonderful. SciFi did a great job. They're not perfect (some of the CG is dated) but they nail the spirit and the heart of the books. The first mini-series adapts Dune, the second mini-series adapts/combines Dune Messiah & Children of Dune. Children of Dune also stars James McAvoy and Susan Sarandon. It's worth checking out and very well acted. All the actors have clearly read the books and want the series to be enjoyable.
posted by Fizz at 2:51 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was also pretty hard seeing Maclachlan's characters in Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. I mean, c'mon, you use to be Muad'Dib, now you have erectile dysfunction and live in a cul-de-sac.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:05 PM on July 3, 2015


I did appreciate the enormous Chasseur Alpin-style berets they had the Sardaukar wearing in the SciFi miniseries. It made much more sense than the weird hazmat suits with the glowing face-shields they used in the Lynch version.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:06 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd be amazed if Brontis Jodorowsky still speaks to his father.

He's still working with him. Tough overmind in that family.
posted by howfar at 3:16 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved the first book when I read it at about 12 or 13, but I doubt I made it two chapters into the second book and never attempted any of the later books. The Lynch movie was great and I've rewatched it a couple of times. Parts are dated but much of it holds up well.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:26 PM on July 3, 2015


Having come to Dune as an adult, it's like the future without the future. No robots, AI, gleaming shiny devices, teleportation, blasters, etc to be seen. It's like medieval times with a few marginal improvements.
posted by dr_dank at 6:00 PM on July 3, 2015


Whilst I do not in the slightest disagree that the thermodynamics of stillsuits are flawed, I am enjoying this ridiculous derail, so I will continue to play devils advocate (or possibly shaitans advocate.)

You stand in sunlight in a black suit....
As has been stated here already
"The gray slick of a stillsuit could be seen underneath, exposed to sunlight which no real Fremen would ever have let touch his stillsuit that way."

A true Fremen would always wear a Jubba Cloak over his stillsuit. (Supposedly able to reflect or absorb radiant heat depending on how it's worn? I don't have a good reference for that). Anyway this is something the miniseries did better than the Lynch movie. The miniseries Fremen were always in cloaks.

Also Fremen always travel by night, hiding in sietch in the daytime. They are predominantly a nocturnal people.
(although Paul rides the worm in sunlight, explicitly, so I guess they do need to be able to live for more than a few minutes outside.

Also stillsuits are active. They have heal pumps to move the water around, allowing the outer layers to cool and the inner layers to cool the body. Possibly the pumping action runs a little condenser or something?

Yeah, that's probably all I've got.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:09 PM on July 3, 2015


On a non stillsuit subject, I really liked God Emperor.

Herbert had sort of painted himself into a corner in Children of Dune talking about how the Golden Path was necessary, but Paul couldn't bear to do it.
I liked the way he resolved that. 10000 years as a hated sandworm despot god followed by an eternity as tiny pearls of awareness maybe pushing events> Maybe not. Maybe experiencing, maybe forever sleeping.

It's a believable horror and written in a way that no one understands that Leto doesn't want to rule, doesn't want to stay in charge, but he has to until the Golden Path is established.

The sex imprinting in later books got a little icky for my tastes.
The later ones could easily be titled "Sex Nuns of Dune" or something.
(I still like them though. I think I'd like a chairdog, but maybe I'd hate a chairdog and want it to be free)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Having come to Dune as an adult, it's like the future without the future.

That is one of the most fascinating aspects of Dune as a SF novel. From what I recall, there are not too many computers existing in this world or universe. Thinking machines have been outlawed. I think Herbert vaguely addresses this when he references Butlerian Jihad and the Machine Crusades. Both of which are prequel books completed by his son which I refuse to read.

But no world wide net or tiny computers in their hands or on their wrists or in their brains. I only noticed this on my second or third re-read. The world is so immersive that you sometimes miss it the first time around, at least I did.
posted by Fizz at 6:19 PM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


Also no "aliens" save for extraterrestrial fauna. All intelligent life descends from humankind.
posted by griphus at 6:29 PM on July 3, 2015 [5 favorites]


I found Children Of Dune in among the books at the traveling book sale at my elementary school one year. I would have been in second or third grade. First my father read it, he took a stab at explaining it to me, and then I read it. Then we found the other books in the series and read them in order.

It seems obvious to me now, decades later, that some book gypsy, running the nomadic book sale, discarded - read or unread - a personal book into the book sale. For this I am forever grateful, as this book (long lost now) was my first big step up after an early reading of Tolkien. This book (actually Dune which it led me to) is an early touchstone of my reading life, and one I go back to again and again.
posted by newdaddy at 9:06 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Dune, and all things related to Dune, but I also confess that I have not read any of the follow-on books written by Herbert's son.

Like others, I would advise against doing so. They are quite simply terrible. I got through two of them. I don't know how.

Thinking of it though it was a very similar experience to watching the new Doctor Who. It was consistently terrible but it was Doctor Who, and that got me through far more than necessary before the horribleness finally killed that old spark. Perhaps the same with the son of Herbert with that other guy who is seen everywhere for these types of series (KJA insert flat utterly predictable cliched character here of course).

It's like Frank Herbert's Dune is the finest chocolate, sweetened with honey, whereas Brian Herbert's Dune universe is chocolate that tastes like overly sugared wax.
posted by juiceCake at 9:41 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Physics that Explain Why You Should Wear Black This Summer

I'm not buying their explanation - I often get hot in the summer, and never emit much light in the visible part of the spectrum, where the visible color of clothes would matter.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:53 PM on July 3, 2015


Re: Stillsuits - when I first read Dune in the late Eighties I always figured that the science behind it was of the same kind as the science behind a Heisenberg Compensator on ST: TNG. It was a piece of handwavium that we just needed for the sake of the narrative to work. now however we have metamaterials and more specifically photonic metamaterials. If we can design one-way IR materials now in eight or ten thousand years the idea of a wearable metamaterial seems quite reasonable. A stillsuit's dubious relationship with the Laws of Thermodynamics remains, though it seems much less dubious to me now. The Kynes exposition of the suit becomes a clear gloss for the Atreides Duke and Heir. As educated members of the elite of the Imperium they would be aware of the materials available to produce such products as the stillsuit. Also note the novel is very clear that Fremen almost never travel in the light of day. If the desert of Arrakis is like Terrestrial deserts with the steep temperature drop the stillsuits seem less like deathtraps than many might make them.

I have read the whole series (including several of the WTF Brian and KA fanfic novels) but I come back to the first book on a regular basis. I have a lot of books on my to read list, I still make time for Dune once every couple of years. With all the oddities: generational genetic memory, ESP the likes of which still stagger the imagination, humans with the computational abilities of Cray supercomputers, deep mental manipulation of human individuals with a very short induction time, and the transformation of politics into a hard science it is a damn fine read. Especially the dinner scene.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 11:05 PM on July 3, 2015


I read Dune some time between 1973 and 1981. Even though, courtesy of my actual rocket-scientist father, I was an SF fan, I selected Dune because of the many pages of the paperback.

You see, from 1970 to 1981, I spent 8-10 weeks every summer at Girl Scout camp on long backpacking, canoeing and small-boat sailing trips. The trips got longer as we gals got bigger and stronger. There was only room/weight allowance for ONE paperback book per trip, which I selected from either a used book rack near the general store we took day walks to, or the free box near the lost and found at the camp itself. Since I loved to read and couldn't imagine going days or weeks without something, I picked the longest tome available - preferably history, science, classic novels or SF. On the trip, as I read each chapter it then became scrap paper for starting cooking fires, cleaning or packaging various items, writing notes or even toilet paper.

So, my recollections of Dune are mixed with one of my week+ canoe and portaging trips. Sometimes sitting in the canoe as others paddled, or waiting for the next stage of a portage, huddled against rain in a lean-to or under an upturned canoe, eating execrable packaged meals, waiting to make the required 3 minute long distance call home from a general store pay phone or laundromat, on the van to or from the trip.

Other books I can recall selected for sheer wordiness included Anna Karenina, War and Peace, omnibus Jane Austen, omnibus Brontes, Jude the Obscure and Tess of the D'Urbervilles, omnibus George Eliot, histories of Rome and Germany, Proust, James Blish's Cities in Flight, Asimov's Foundation Series and Robot omnibus (odd that I read these on trip as my father had signed first editions), Haldeman's Heliconia books... I only made the mistake of schlepping Dickens once. I disliked it so much I was willing to live without reading for a week and burned it within the first night or two. The large number of female authors was because I went to an all-female camp with almost entirely female staff - many of the books must have been discards from my feminist counselor's college summer reading.

I've tried to read other Dune Herbert books - maybe I need to take another canoe trip with NOTHING ELSE TO READ (and no internet) to appreciate them.
posted by Dreidl at 11:57 PM on July 3, 2015 [7 favorites]


> I came to Dune at the age of fourteen because I was an obsessive fan of Sting,
> and wanted to consume any media that he had any connection with.

Lynch's casting choices for Paul and Chani are jarringly unlike my imagined versions formed as I read the book. Sting as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, OTOH--though they cut his part down to practically nothing he sure made the most of that moment. I can't imagine a better Feyd-Rautha evar. Maybe Sting will have a late life career as a truly great movie villain. I look forward to a succession of thin, angular Saruman-like Evil Overlords with Tim Curry's OMG-I-SO-LOVE-BEING-EVIL attitude.
posted by jfuller at 4:01 AM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the glossary of Dune the Fremen, Atreides, Harkonans and Bene Gesserit are related family, evocative of the War of the Roses
I recalled Dune frequently when I went to the Spice Islands in Indonesia in 1990
posted by Narrative_Historian at 4:14 AM on July 4, 2015


"I start with Dune, but I go farther, no? Farther. I continue and I did it, my work. I think Dune will be fantastic if somebody take this script, even if I am not alive, and do a picture in animation. Now is possible. I can die they can do my picture in animation. I have 84 years but I am still creating...all my life I create...the mind is like a universe. It's constantly expanding. Open the mind. That was this picture. Myself I have ambition to live 300 years. Have the greatest ambition possible. You want to make the most fanstastic art of movie, try. If you fail it's not important we need to try." -Alejandro Jodorowsky (Pay wall.)
posted by ArticTusk at 10:23 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I must say- to my (internal) ear, Herbert is one of the worst prose writers in SF. His reliance on exposition made it impossible for me to finish Dune....and I loved Lynch's movie. The ideas are brilliant though.
posted by ergomatic at 9:35 AM on July 5, 2015


Confession time: I first read Dune all in one sitting, in a cabin near Lake Merwin, trying to distract myself from the fact that I was D. B. Cooper.
posted by cortex at 12:09 PM on July 7, 2015 [2 favorites]




From that article:

Schemenauer sketches out a situation in which you could use fogcatchers to reboot the forest. The first step would be to plant new redwood seedlings in a foggy region, along with manmade fogcatchers to provide for their sustenance during their crucial first few years. Once the seedlings have grown into trees capable of supporting themselves, you could move the artificial fogcatchers to a new region. “If you build enough forest in foggy zones, they will start to provide water to aquifers in large amounts,” says Schemenauer.

I've seen this very thing in action. In the highlands of Lana'i, in Hawai'i, they've been replanting Cook Island Pines for years to capture water from fog and replenish the aquifers that were destroyed by the pineapple plantations. Seems to be working pretty well, too.
posted by jquinby at 8:18 PM on July 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


jfuller: "Lynch's casting choices for Paul and Chani are jarringly unlike my imagined versions formed as I read the book. Sting as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, OTOH--though they cut his part down to practically nothing he sure made the most of that moment. I can't imagine a better Feyd-Rautha evar."

Yeah, I think Sting was great, despite the doofy costume. Paul, on the other hand.... I *like* Kyle Maclachlan, but - aarrgghh! Paul is supposed to be 15 years old at the start of Dune, this specifically informs some of his whininess and immaturity. Maclachlan was 25, and much too old for the part.

Next filmers of Dune - hire someone in 10th grade, please.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:28 AM on July 14, 2015


Unbelievably, I've actually seen what Chrysostom is suggesting, but for a different piece: the best performance of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet I've ever seen was from an actress who played her like the 14-year-old girl Juliet is - all silly and flighty. It really emphasized how young the leads are in that show and took things in a whole new direction for me.

So, uh, yeah, casting someone younger as Paul and having him actually play that age would be a huge impact.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:43 AM on July 14, 2015


Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's Filmers of Dune
posted by griphus at 9:54 AM on July 14, 2015


Paul's not meant to be flighty, though. He's a weirdly serious, focused, zen-like kid; there's a reason that even as a young offworlder wandering into an incredibly dangerous situation, he ends up not just not getting rotely murdered but rising to a position of supreme leadership.

Not to say MacLachlan wasn't conspicuously old for the role, but the problem there was the literal age difference, not the lack of flippant teenage goofiness. A teenager with an knife-eyed stare and off-putting canniness would probably fit the bill best.
posted by cortex at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2015


Well, not *goofiness* per se, but...petulance, perhaps? I'm thinking of this scene:
"You are an apt pupil, none better, but I've warned you that not even in play do you let a man inside your guard with death in his hand."

"I guess I'm not in the mood for it today," Paul said.

"Mood?" Halleck's voice betrayed his outrage even through the shield's filtering. "What has mood to do with it? You fight when the necessity arises - no matter the mood! Mood's a thing for cattle or making love or playing the baliset. It's not for fighting."

"I'm sorry, Gurney."

"You're not sorry enough!"
I definitely agree that Paul has a core of steel in him all along, but I think his whole flight for his life, etc. is transformative for him. At the onset he's a teenager - an intelligent one with a lot of potential, not a lightweight - but not yet fully formed.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:18 AM on July 14, 2015


Yeah, sorry I wasn't clear that the flightiness i was seeing was probably more specific to the character of Juliet; my larger point is that seeing a character played as the age the character is actually written can be pretty galvanizing when you've previously always seen them played as someone that's a generic sort of non-age.

And "flighty" was also a poor word choice on my part - really what the actress I saw was playing was - well, fourteen-ness, for lack of a better word.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on July 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure, but as I recall that's a scene that's establishing more the seriousness of Gurney's own looming concerns about the political and practical danger of the move to Arrakis than about anything particular notably childish in Paul. As much as Gurney's concerns are justified by the thrust of the narrative, he's being kind of a crazy asshole in that scene to someone whose only error is not being as actively, constantly paranoid as the seething post-traumatic slave laborer in charge of his training.

I don't totally disagree, though. An element of petulance, and of arrogance at his own (however justifiable) self-estimation, makes sense and presenting that in the context of a teenager makes sense. But even at that point in the narrative he's already the deeply unusual product of unlikely forces, and a recipient of Bene Gesserrit training in self-control and composure traditionally wholly unavailable to basically any male person in the galaxy.

To the extent that the role would benefit from the casting of a teenager, it'd benefit most from casting one who plays directly away from most of the things that would work best as characteristic Actual Teenager identifiers. The whole Atreides family is weird from the get-go, and the difference between Paul and Alia in terms of preternatural seriousness and intellectual maturity is one of degree, not of kind.
posted by cortex at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


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