Dune as a measure of our discontent
November 22, 2020 6:32 AM Subscribe
Daniel Immerwahr at the Los Angeles Review of Books writes about the renewed popularity of Dune, the influence of Native American cultures on Frank Herbert’s novels, his libertarianism and how his politics fit in the 21st century.
For [George] Lucas, the lords-and-ladies theme gave his space saga a romantic air — Camelot with spaceships. Dune’s medievalism was darker, with loveless political marriages, blood feuds, oppressive tax farming, and a “rigidly guarded” class system. Rather than polishing off the rough edges as Lucas did, Herbert appeared to delight in the abrasive qualities of this stratified society. “Planetary feudalism,” one of the Dune series’s heroes explains, is the “best social form” for an interstellar civilization. Its success stems, another continues, from the “ancient human demand” for hierarchy, for a world “where every person knows his place.”Also from the LARB: Race Consciousness: Fascism and Frank Herbert’s “Dune”
Herbert read widely about desert cultures and worked deep-cut references to Islamic history into his portrait of the Fremen. Yet, beneath the Arabic facade, you can also glimpse the Indians of Washington, whom Herbert knew much better. The Fremen, living in the dangerous desert and harpooning enormous sandworms there, are not so far off from the Quileute and Hoh people who thrived in the forests of Western Washington and harpooned whales off the Pacific Coast.