The Strange and Surprising History of Dune

‘Dune’ was released over 50 years ago, but remains popular today. Let’s discuss the history of all the original novel’s sequels and strange adaptations.

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It’s been 57 years since Dune by Frank Herbert was first published, but the series still sustains a strong fan base to this day. The widely popular movie adaptation, released last year, brought the epic story to a whole new generation, but Dune has been beloved by readers and moviegoers for decades now. So how did the series get this popular, and how has its six-book saga and adaptations influenced pop culture?

About the Author: Frank Herbert

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Dune‘s author, Frank Herbert, was born in 1920 and loved reading from a young age. He worked as a reporter for years and didn’t start writing fiction until he was 35, 10 years before publishing Dune. The first novel in the series took him six years to research and write, and he stated that he was influenced by earlier sci-fi authors like H.G. Wells and and Robert Heinlein. Dune was published in Analog magazine from 1963 to 1965, in eight parts, and was then rejected by over 20 publishers before finally being released by Chilton Book Company on August 1, 1965.

The book was immediately successful, and Herbert spent the next 20 years writing the rest of the series. He had planned seven books, but died in 1986 at 65, while still working on the final novel. His son Brian, along with popular sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson, have continued the book series to this day – with more than a dozen follow-up and prequel stories.

How Dune Changed Science Fiction

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Dune was critically acclaimed from the beginning, winning the Nebula and Hugo Awards the year it was released. And its popularity, despite how unique it was for the time, changed things. Herbert’s world was an example of epic science fiction world-building, frequently compared to The Lord of the Rings‘ place in fantasy. Dune also moved away from just focusing on technology, like earlier sci-fi, and paved the way for more stories about people to be told in science fiction. It’s also been cited as a major influence on lots of popular sci-fi for years afterward, like Star Wars and Star Trek.

It also had an influence in the wider world, because of the themes present in the story. Dune is about religion and how “savior” narratives can actually lead to terrible things; the main character, Paul, seems like a traditional hero but ends up a ruthless dictator. This turned the popular idea of the “hero’s journey” on its head, criticizing it for one of the first times. Also, the focus on the environment and climate change in Dune was new for the time, and the series even helped popularize the use of the word ‘ecology’.

Adaptation Issues

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Throughout the years, people started to say that it was impossible to adapt Dune onscreen. That isn’t to say that nobody tried, though; David Lynch’s movie, the first attempt, came out in 1984 and was followed by a miniseries on the Sci Fi Channel in 2000. While both adaptations have their fanbases, and the miniseries and its 2003 sequel won two Emmy awards, the general impression among most critics is that neither are all that good. The 1984 movie, in particular, is fun to watch, though, due to some pretty hilarious special effects.

The 2021 Dune movie, though, seems to have changed that. Directed by Denis Villenueve and starring Timothee Chalamet, it was a big hit, and introduced the series to a whole new group of fans after the story has faded from pop culture recently. The movie was very well-received by critics, too, and won six Oscars. Fans are still anxiously awaiting Dune: Part Two, set to come out in November 2023.

The Future of Dune

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So what’s next for this series? Dune: Part Two seems like the most anticipated new addition to the world of Dune, although it doesn’t come out for more than a year. Meanwhile, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson are still writing, with a collection of novellas called Sands of Dune released last month and more on the way. And Book 2 of the Dune graphic novel is coming out next week, on August 9. With so much to read and watch for fans of this series, it’s not surprising that Dune is still going strong after more than 50 years.

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