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SandRider interviews Norman Spinrad

PostPosted: Wed Feb 01, 2012 6:07 pm
by D Pope
The SandRider interviews Norman Spinrad about Frank Herbert & DUNE, January 2009

SandRider: Would you talk briefly about the very first and very last time you spoke with Frank Herbert?

Norman Spinrad: I don't really remember when I first spoke with Frank. I think the last time was in a car somewhere, where Frank told me about being in another car with Dino De Laurentis. According to Frank, Dino asked him to try to write the screenplay to the DUNE movie. Frank told him screenplays weren't his thing, he didn't think he could do it. Dino says "I'll give you a million dollars to try."
Frank: "You talked me into it."
Then Frank tried, the screenplay was no good, and he said to Dino: "See, I told you."
This is me now, not the story Frank told me then, except he did go on about being supportive of Lynch's screenplay, and I think because he himself had failed to adapt the novel.

SR: Is there a non-DUNE Herbert book that you think is "better" or "more important" than his most popular and widely-read work ?

NS: I don't like "better" or "more important" as categories, but I would say that THE SANTAROGA BARRIER is argueably Frank's best novel on a literary level.

SR: You've written that DUNE has become "the template for a generation and more of imitative works, including all too many sequels by Herbert himself. " Where do you think Frank should have ended the DUNE storyline ? Or, what seemed to you to be the natural ending point that he exceeded ?

NS: The third DUNE novel should have been the last one. Frank told me that when he started, he actually wanted to write one huge novel, and thought it out that way. Publishing reality mandated it be published in thirds. After than, it was mostly about money, offers he couldn't refuse

SR: I've always thought DUNE could have stood alone, on its own. Certainly the "story" of the Golden Path was completed at the end of GOD-EMPEROR, when Leto II is "returned to the sand". What did you make of very open-ended conclusion to CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE ?

NS: Well DUNE, the first volume, left some things in midair. DUNE MESSIAH was book 2, right, CHILDREN book 3, could have ended after book 2, but publishers alway want at least a trilogy. There's a story, I only heard second hand, that Lester del Rey rewrote the ending of 2, or persuaded Frank to do it, so that a third book would be possible.

SR: Do you believe Frank had intentions of a "Dune7" ? Along the same lines, what do think of the claim of Brian Herbert to have found floppy disks containing the "complete" Dune7 outline in a safety deposit box years after Frank's death ? If there were notes, do you believe Brian and Kevin J. Anderson used them faithfully in their new "Dune" books ?

NS: Maybe. Frank kept going as long as the big money kept rolling in. Knowing Frank's political philosophy, I once asked him how he could keep writing this royalist stuff. He told me he planned to end the series with a novel that would transition to a fictional universe of democratic rule. Never wrote it, of course. And Brian and Kevin certainly didn't from any 7 notes.

SR: Now that Brian and Anderson's new book "Paul of Dune" is set in between DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH, not just a sequel or a prequel, but an "interquel" if you will, do you think Frank Herbert's Dune Legacy is in danger ? Will these new books "devalue" the DUNE trademark and so taint Frank's literary Legacy ?

NS: Who knows? In the long run, it depends on the critics, readers, and publishers. One thing Brian and Kevin can't ever do is put the byline "by Frank Herbert" on their stuff. That "Dune" is now a trademark I find disgusting, and the more it is devalued, the better. That trademark has little or nothing to do with Frank Herbert's literary legacy.

SR: At this point, Peter Berg is set to direct the next film adaption of DUNE. He has stressed the "ecological" theme of the book. I know you have an opinion on that. How has Berg missed the point, of DUNE being a primarilay "ecology-themed" novel ?

NS: I don't like judging a film that hasn't even been shot. But certainly DUNE is not primarily an ecology-themed novel. Indeed, with the depicted ecology of Arrakis consisting of the Worms, the Spice, and humans, it's hardly a novel with ecologial sophistication on a scientific level. I think those who try to see or play it that way do so because the truth is so dangerous--namely that DUNE is centrally about chemically enhanced states of consciousness, and while balanced, is not negative about it. In THE SANTAROGA BARRIER, Frank confronts this head-on, and no way anyone can pretend it's about something else.

SR: Have you read Brian Herbert's biography of Frank, DREAMER OF DUNE ?

NS: I don't have that strong a stomach.