How ecological concerns resulted in a Science Fiction saga: Frank Herbert and the Dune Universe

Introduction

1. Background

Ecology

Economy

2. History and Myth

a. The Myth before the Myth: the Butlerian Jihad

3. Social Structure

a. The crews as microcosms of society

b. The Women

c. The Social Outcasts

d. Homosexuality and Lesbianism

e. Inter-Racial Relationships

4. Forms of Government

a. Democracies

b. Dictatorships

c. Utopias/Dystopias

d. Other Forms

5. Politics and International Relations

a. Overview

b. Treaties and Conventions

6. Law and Order through Space and Time

a. Traditional ways of settling legal disputes and reaching verdicts

b. About the contemporary legal system

c. Examples of contemporary Legal Dilemmas

Protection of Privacy

Genetic Engineering/Cloning

Freedom of Information

d. About the futuristic legal system

The Prime Directive

Time Travel and Time Machines

Birth Control

Genetic Engineering

The use of Telepathy and Telekinesis

Criminal Law

Nanotechnology

Cryonics

Definition and Rights of Intelligent Life

Laws of Robotics

Corporate Laws

The Internet and the Control of Information

7. Technology

Summary

How ecological concerns resulted in a Science Fiction saga: Frank Herbert and the Dune Universe

Introduction

There were two major forces that led to the creation of Dune. The first was Frank Herbert life-long misgivings about what he called the "messianic impulse in human society." That is, the inbuilt hunger for a powerful, charismatic leader to whom we can surrender our responsibility for making difficult decisions. Herbert observed that even the best leaders are humans, and humans have flaws, and elevating any man to a position of god-like power tends to magnify those human flaws to dangerous proportions. And even if the original leader resists the temptation to abuse power, the bureaucracy which springs up around him will outlive him, and over time a bureaucracy becomes more and more incented to prioritize its own needs over the needs of people.

The second was an article entitled "They Stopped the Moving Sands" about the United States Department of Agriculture's ecological experiments in Florence, Oregon. The USDA found that they could prevent the sand dunes from overwashing the highways simply by planting barriers of grass. Herbert chartered a single-engine Cessna airplane and flew over the experiment to take notes and photographs. As he watched the dunes roll by below, Herbert was suddenly seized by a powerful emotional surge. He realized that "...A sand dune is just a kind of fluid, only it takes longer for it to move. It creates waves that, when you see them from the air, are analogous to waves in a sea."

The article was never published, but the seed that would nurture into Dune was sown.

1. Background

Ecology

The ecological link between the Spice and oil, perhaps not intentional, but unavoidable, although Herbert emphasizes more the effect of water (or rather the lack thereof) on society.

Economy

The Global Village lives under the patronage of one superpower (which is more visible today than it was when the novel was written);

A very great power is concentrated in the hands of very a few (see the control of the Guild on interplanetary travel);

Incidentally, in my opinion, Herbert does not offer a plausible explanation of why and how the central authority (the Empire) agreed to give up its control pf such a vital resource, since this is not a case of privatization as we know it today. Was he trying to hint at something? 

2. History and Myth

a. The Myth before the Myth: the Butlerian Jihad

 

Princess Irulan writes:

Any true student must realize that History has no beginning. Regardless of where a story starts, there are always earlier heroes and earlier tragedies.

Before one can understand Muad'Dib or the current jihad that followed the overthrow of my father, Emperor Shaddam IV, one must understand what we fight against. Therefore, look more than ten thousand years into our past, ten millennia before the birth of Paul Atreides.

It is there that we see the founding of the Imperium, how an emperor rose from the ashes of the Battle of Corrin to unify the bruised remnants of humanity. We will delve into the most ancient records, into the very myths of Dune, into the time of the Great Revolt, more commonly known as the Butlerian Jihad.

The terrible war against thinking machines was the genesis of our political-commercial universe. Hear now, as I tell the story of free humans rebelling against the domination of robots, computers, and cymeks. Observe the basis of the great betrayal that made mortal enemies of House Atreides and House Harkonnen, a violent feud that continues to this day. Learn the roots of the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the Spacing Guild and their Navigators, the Swordmasters of Ginaz, the Suk Medical School, the Mentats, Witness the lives of oppressed Zensunni Wanderers who fled to the desert world of Arrakis, where they became our greatest soldiers, the Fremen.

Such events led to the birth and life of Muad'Dib.

(From: DUNE: THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD, Brian Herbert and Kevin J, Anderson)

In the Terminology of the Imperium, the glossary of the novel Dune, Frank Herbert provided the following definition:

JIHAD, BUTLERIAN: (see also Great Revolt) - the crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots begun in 201 B.G. and concluded in 108 B.G. Its chief commandment remains in the O.C. Bible as "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind."

Herbert referred to the Jihad many times in his later works in the Dune series, but did not give much detail on how he imagined the actual conflict. However, he did illustrate its many profound long-lasting effects on the socio-political and technological development of humanity throughout the galaxy. The known universe was purged of all forms of thinking machines, resulting in not only a ban on the re-creation of similar devices (which remains in effect throughout the periods described in the original six Dune novels), but also a great technological reversal for humanity.

I will mention briefly only three of the main characters related to the Jihad:

The robot Erasmus, philosopher and serial killer,

Young Serena Butler attacks and destroys a sentinel robot with her bare hands, encouraging Erasmus' slaves (already groomed for rebellion by slave leader Iblis Ginjo) to rise up;

And Tio Holtzman, inventor and pioneering scientist

The Butlerian Jihad also led to the rise of a new feudalistic galactic empire, which lasted for over ten thousand years, until the rise of the God Emperor Leto Atreides II in 10,217 A.G. This empire, also known as the Imperium, included the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, and the Great Houses, such as House Corrino, House Atreides and House Harkonnen. However, as the centuries passed, Fringe societies such as the Ixians and Bene Tleilax began to focus on developing technology that, if not actually transgressing the commandments of the Jihad, at least came extremely close. This emphasis on technology gave birth to the technological powers of the Ixians and the Bene Tleilax; the former were known for their cutting-edge mechanical technology, while the latter gained fame for their emphasis on biological technology.

 

3. Social Structure

Two main societies the Empire and the Fremen; Conflicts and intrigue among the three main Houses - Atreides, Harkonnen and Corrino

a. The crews as microcosms of society

 

 

b. The Women

In the Dune universe there are several prominent female characters, and they come from every level of society, starting from the Order of Bene Gesserit, whose members, from junior to senior, have a hand in everything from behind the scenes, scheme schemes and match matches, all part of their plan to bring about the birth of the Kwisatz Haderach.

In the Empire we have women like Jessica and Lady Fenring, who supposedly belong to the upper class, but they pay dearly for it; in order to play the part assigned to them in the master plan, they were forced to marry against their will; Nor could they bear children by choice. Even Princess Irulan, the Emperor's daughter, does not marry a man of her choice, but rather as a part of the peace agreement between the Emperor and the Fremen (although I do not remember her voicing any hysterical objection to the marriage with Paul).

In the Fremen society, however, we find Chani, a leader's daughter and a leader's wife, but never a leader in her own right, though she is Paul's mistress and the mother of his children. We also find Harah, a warrior and a warrior's wife, who is forced to join Paul's household with her children after Paul kills her husband in a ritual fight according to Fremen custom.

Than there is Alia, the freak, the abomination, who has no defined position in society.

Incidentally, all the above examples are taken, to some extent, from familiar feudal models. On the whole, not a very rosy picture of the position and status of women in tje

c. The Social Outcasts

Alia

d. Homosexuality and Lesbianism

 

 

e. Inter-Racial Relationships

Paul and Chani? Alia and Duncan Idaho?

4. Forms of Government

 

 

a. Democracies

The Fremen

b. Dictatorships

(Inter)Galactic Empires, whether or not headed by (evil) Emperors

c. Utopias/Dystopias

 

 

d. Other Forms

 

 

5. Politics and International Relations

 

 

a. Overview

 

 

b. Treaties and Conventions

 

 

6. Law and Order through Space and Time

 

 

a. Traditional ways of settling legal disputes and reaching verdicts

 

 

b. About the contemporary legal system

 

 

c. Examples of contemporary Legal Dilemmas

 

 

Protection of Privacy

 

 

Genetic Engineering/Cloning

 

 

Freedom of Information

 

 

d. About the futuristic legal system

 

 

The Prime Directive

 

 

Time Travel and Time Machines

 

 

Birth Control

 

 

Genetic Engineering

Prohibitions spawned by the Jihad also included artificial insemination, which is explained in Dune Messiah when Paul Atreides negotiates with the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam:

"You may have my seed, but not my person," Paul said. "Irulan banished and inseminated by artificial -"

"You dare!" the Reverend Mother flared, stiffening.

"We'll not discuss the things your Sisterhood forbids," Paul said. "I will listen to no talk of sins, abominations or the beliefs left over from past Jihads. You may have my seed for your plans, but no child of Irulan's will sit on my throne."

"Your throne," she sneered.

"My throne."

"Then who will bear the Imperial heir?"

"Chani."

"She is barren."

"She is with child."

An involuntary indrawn breath exposed her shock. "You lie!" she snapped.

Paul held up a restraining hand as Stilgar surged forward.

"We've known for two days that she carries my child."

"But Irulan . . . "

"By artificial means only. That's my offer."

The Reverend Mother closed her eyes to hide his face. Damnation! To cast the genetic dice in such a way! ... Loathing boiled in her breast. The teaching of the Bene Gesserit, the lessons of the Butlerian Jihad - all proscribed such an act. One did not demean the highest aspirations of humankind. No machine could function in the way of a human mind. No word or deed could imply that men might be bred on the level of animals.

"Your decision," Paul said.

She shook her head. The genes, the precious Atreides genes - only these were important. Need went deeper than proscription. For the Sisterhood, mating mingled more than sperm and ovum. One aimed to capture the psyche.

From: Dune Messiah, Frank Herbert (1969).

The use of Telepathy and Telekinesis

 

 

Criminal Law

 

 

Nanotechnology

 

 

Cryonics

 

 

Definition and Rights of Intelligent Life

When humans created a computer with the ability to collect information and learn from it, they signed the death warrant of mankind.

SISTER BECCA THE FINITE

(From Dune: The Butlerian Jihad, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson)

The chief commandment from the Orange Catholic Bible, "Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind", held sway, as did the anti-AI laws in which the penalty of owning one AI device or developing the technology resembling the human mind was immediate death.

As a result, the "human computers" known as Mentats were developed and perfected in order to replace the analytical powers of computers without violating the commandment of the O.C. Bible. Over the millennia, the mental abilities of the Mentats were honed to the point where they became superior to those of the ancient thinking machines.

Laws of Robotics

 

 

Corporate Laws

The Guild deals mainly in Spice Mining and shipping.

Name: Spice Miners Guild

Organisation Type: Guild

Center of Operations: Arrakis

Equipment and abilities: Mining equipment (harvesters, carry-alls) and mining workers.

Function: Spice Mining

Intentions: Continued profit

The Internet and the Control of Information

Mentats instead of the Internet

7. Technology

FTL space flight; The Spacing Guild

The Spice production cycle the technological aspects of the process are unclear, except for the role if the Sandworms in it.

Summary

Except for the novels dealing directly with Paul's life and time

 

Dune

Dune Messiah

Children of Dune

 

There are novels dealing with the House Atreides and Paul's heirs:

 

God Emperor of Dune

Heretics of Dune

Chapterhouse: Dune

 

Kevin J. Anderson and the author's son, Brian Herbert, co-wrote a Prequel to Dune Trilogy using Herbert's notes found after hid death, which includes

 

Dune: House Atreides

Dune: House Harkonnen

Dune: House Corrino

 

 

The two tried to broaden the background which preceded the Saga and deepen our acquaintance with the major protagonists - House Atreides, House Harkonnen and House Corrino. None of them reached the level of the original, but they do add a lot of useful information about the Dune Universe.

 

And also the Legends of Dune Trilogy, including:

 

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad

Dune: The Machine Crusade

Dune: The Battle of Corrin

 

The entire Dune Saga:

 

 

 

Novels

Short Stories

"Dune: Hunting Harkonnens"

Dune: The Butlerian Jihad

"Dune: Whipping Mek"

Dune: The Machine Crusade

"Dune: The Faces of a Martyr"

Dune: The Battle of Corrin

Dune: House Atreides

Dune: House Harkonnen

Dune: House Corrino

Paul of Dune (Parts II, IV & VI)

The Winds of Dune (part)

Dune

"Dune: A Whisper of Caladan Seas"

Paul of Dune (Parts I, III, V & VI)

The Winds of Dune (part)

"The Road to Dune"

Dune Messiah

The Winds of Dune (part)

The Throne of Dune

Children of Dune

Leto of Dune

God Emperor of Dune

Heretics of Dune

Chapterhouse: Dune

"Dune: Sea Child"

Hunters of Dune

"Dune: Treasure in the Sand"

Sandworms of Dune

 

Source: Wikipedia

 

For Paul's Hero's Journey click here.