Imagine the impossible via art built on the possibility
I can’t wait to see Denis Villeneuve’s new version on “Dune”.
What I really don’t want to see? More promotional stories on “Dune”.
Hype is the buzz-killer. The hype is the little death that brings erasure to anticipation. I faced the hype; I let it pass over me and through me, as much as humanly possible given that I’m a nerd with a job that requires staying on top of pop culture.
And when this storm is over, I will turn my inner eye to see its way. Where he has gone, there will be nothing more to say. Only me and Oscar Isaac’s beard will be left.
Seriously, I read (part of) a fairly lengthy article, printed in a once-respected publication, about Oscar Isaac’s dashing beard.
Not about how his beard means anything in the story, or the “Dune” universe. Just, you know, a shaggy man, a charismatic actor despite the occasional failure to build a character beyond “Best Pilot!”, And his failure to shave.
What child / puppy / intimate photograph of the tycoon is being held captive by Warner Bros. “Can the adaptation hear that, over and over, in the intonations of Kyle MacLachlan) sable?
That’s already a big deal, because the second film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 sci-fi novel, which spawned five Herbert Handmade sequels, followed by more than a dozen sequels written by his son. Brian Herbert with prolific author Kevin J. Anderson, who has, no kidding, published over 120 books.
Those of you who are still struggling with a first post, are inspired by it. Or not. Who do you think you are, Kevin J. Anderson?
By the time I have finished these two mildly mocking paragraphs, Kevin J. Anderson has written another novel, signed contracts for four more, outlined an upcoming 3,000-page trilogy, finished processing a 12 hour film series and probably cooked. a meal for 70, donated to a local children’s charity and made featured guest appearances as Zoom for two against different, simultaneously.
This is Kevin J. Anderson’s sci-fi world. We only recognize his Strength.
“Dune” lands at the top of the lists as the best sci-fi novel of all time, but take it with a grain of Arrakis, dune, desert planet, because any list based on votes is subjective, by human nature, more a popularity contest than an evaluation. This first book in the series has sold over 10 million copies, in various editions.
Can “Dune” really be the best in the world with “Neuromancer” by William Gibson, “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut and “Sirens of Titan”, “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury, “Frankenstein, Or the Modern Prometheus” by Mary Shelley, Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, “The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester, “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess and “Babel-17” by Samuel R. Delaney?
In a world of HG Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. LeGuin, Neal Stephenson, Phillip D. Dick, Octavia Butler, Iain Banks and Philip Jose Farmer, who can choose the best?
Well, the lists. Derp.
Some put sci-fi and fantasy in the same dark chests, on adjacent crooked shelves, in dusty cupboards.
Cue Vonnegut: “I had my head aching in a filing drawer labeled ‘sci-fi’ … and I’d love to get out of it, especially since so many serious critics routinely mistake the drawer for a urinal. “
Both are works of speculative thought, extrapolating what we know, or what we wish to be true, into narratives that take on a flourishing life, at least between the covers.
The rough dividing line is between what might happen, at least according to physics as we understand it, and what can’t happen, as far as we know.
Wands, spells, dragons, ice zombies: Fantasy.
Ships to the stars, jet packs, laser weaponry: science fiction.
SF leans towards ideas, while fantasy drifts more towards atmosphere. SF is more likely to fall on hard and hard dystopia. Its writers sometimes neglect or fail to develop characters with depth, spending more on the broader implications of, for example, what might happen to a civilization that developed travel at near light speed, than on the richer and fuller lives of real living beings living in such developed societies.
Fantasy – again, in general – tends to be more whimsical, at least in the setting, and will often favor world-building and individual whims, over plot mechanics.
The best of both avoids such Sarlacc pits and explores the character throughout the story, and vice versa, builds diverse and breathtaking worlds, thus helping us envision better, or at least different, ways of existing.
Obviously, there can be a universe of overlap between fantasy and sci-fi, as evidenced by the “Star Wars” sagas, in which the possible – machines of incredible ability – happily collide with the improbable, where every living being. is connected by an invisible power. who can challenge physics, making objects work by will, rather than with levers and muscles.
The “Star Trek” Franchise – An ugly name, but it’s hard to think of a more appropriate nomenclature for nested stories that encompass books, TV shows, movies, comics, video games, toys, conventions, ways of life ….–- tends towards the theoretically possible, except with things like instantaneous transport in space, which would destroy you, then rebuild a mock-up of your atoms elsewhere, minus anything that you actually composes, actually killing you to let a clone take your life. Remember that a cloned thing, like Dolly the sheep, is not actually the thing that it is derived from, but is its own thing. Like David S. Pumpkins.
The fact that people think about the logical implications of radiation indicates how deep science or fantasy can dig into our noggin. It’s a good idea. How much closer would we be with distant friends if we could walk through a door and be in Austin, New York, or Seattle for a visit, then turn back in time for a good night’s sleep in our own beds? How much of our saved vacation dollars would we save if airfare, gas, hotels, and elapsed time were eliminated?
But unlike Robert Angier in Christopher Nolan’s film on Christopher Priest’s novel “The Prestige”, most of us probably don’t agree to die horribly to give birth to an illusion.
“Dune” leans toward SF, with dystopian worries about a distant future where water is more precious than gold, where too much of every day leans toward the desperate quest for hydration. In other words, Libya, Yemen, Djibouti, Jordan or Western Sahara. Too much of the planet continues to suffer and die from dysentery in 2021 due to lack of drinking water. We Earthlings may not yet be at the point of wearing suits that recycle our urine, but it is to be expected.
And the idea of a medicine, the mixture of spices, which can extend life and improve abilities is not impossible, given the miracles that medicine has worked for the last centuries. And it’s understandable that Herbert imagined this in the ’60s, when it was thought that LSD and other modifying substances increased the potential.
But then in “Dune” there are witches, mental powers and other magical stuff. Arthur C. Clarke’s adages bent the rules. Clarke’s First Law: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist declares that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he declares that something is impossible, he is most likely wrong. Clarke’s Second Law: “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to venture a little beyond them into the impossible.”
Most famous: Clarke’s Third Law: “All sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Or as Terry Pratchett, whose works took the shapes and forms of fantasy and folded them into time / space altering pretzels, wrote: “It is well known that an essential ingredient of success is not not know that what you are trying cannot be finished. “
For my next round, I will be visiting “Dune” with no prior designs.
Contact Tusk Editor-in-Chief Mark Hughes Cobb at [email protected], or call 205-722-0201.