2002: Landsraad Website Interview

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2002: Landsraad Website Interview

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Landsraad Website Interview : June 11, 2002

In this candid interview with the Landsraad Dune site, Kevin J. Anderson shares
his true feelings about criticism from online Dune fans. He also confirms his
involvement in the upcoming Dune 7 novel, and unexpectantly hints at another
Dune writing project following The Legends of Dune trilogy. Special thanks from
BaronMoritani to Catherine Sidor and Kevin J. Anderson for the interview.

Since Frank Herbert’s untimely death in 1986, many authors have wanted to
create projects in his Dune universe. Describe for us the feelings you had when
you first realized the opportunity was yours.

It's a huge joy and a huge responsibility. DUNE is the best SF novel ever
written, and I had very much wanted to learn how the story ended after
CHAPTERHOUSE. After ten years, when Brian hadn't written the grand finale, I
finally contacted him through a mutual friend. When he and I first talked on the
phone, we hit it off immediately. Other people who had approached him saw
only dollar signs with DUNE and didn't have any innate love or passion for the
epic. Frank Herbert had always been my favorite author and I had read all of his
novels, not just the DUNE books. Brian really sees this as his responsibility, a
legacy his father left him -- he compares it to a grand old family vineyard, and
he is making wine from the same grapes. But because Frank Herbert left such
big shoes to fill, it takes both of us with all our skills and all our creativity to
fill them. The Afterword to HOUSE ATREIDES tells more about how the project
came about.

As is well known, you and Brian Herbert co write the Dune prequels. From
what I’ve read, you and Brian Herbert send each other emails with your respective
sections and then edit each other’s work. Do the two of you choose separate
storylines, or do you work on the same sections? Do the two of your brainstorm
together on the story’s outline?

We send disks back and forth through the mail, after we have our individual
chapters written. (Brian isn't on e-mail.) With all of Frank Herbert’s notes, we
have a basic framework of major events, which is like having a flashlight in a big,
dark room. We talk a lot on the phone and, at least once before starting each book,
we meet together for a very intense brainstorming session. Because we are
collaborating, Brian and I need to know in detail how the chapters are arranged and
what happens in all of them. After we have the complete book plotted, Brian and I
choose chapters—usually, we will each take particular storylines for consistency—and
after we split them up evenly, we each write the drafts of our parts. Brian and I
divide the work equally. When we’re done with our chapters, we swap computer
disks and then rework the other person’s prose. In the forthcoming book, THE
BUTLERIAN JIHAD, we went through eleven drafts, by my count. By the end, every
sentence in the manuscript is a collaboration. The result is a novel that blends our
styles, our strengths, our skills, better than anything either of us could have written

It has been noted that Frank Herbert wrote Dune to address the Messianic and
Hero literary models, and of course, to critique man’s need for both. While writing
the Dune prequels, did Brian and yourself use these or any other literary models?

Our main objective was to broaden and strengthen the foundation of the main
characters in the novel DUNE. Personally, I think Duke Leto is the greatest hero in
the entire series, and I was delighted to spend so much time with him in our first trilogy.
In THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD we are laying the groundwork for every major event, institution,
and interaction in the series. We also want to maintain the ecological message that Frank
Herbert put into his original novels, and the warning that "quick fixes" usually cause more
damage than good. Unfortunately, American politicians (and, sadly, most of their
constituents as well) solve problems with the fastest, cheapest manner possible, not
wanting even to consider that a real solution might take longer than one term in office, or
one person's lifespan. Global warming? We fix that by officially pretending it doesn't exist.
Too much reliance on middle-eastern oil? Why not drill in Alaska to give us five more years...
instead of mandating efficient or alternative-fuel cars.

Anything you can tell us about Legends of Dune Book 1: The Butlerian Jihad?

Things can change a lot in ten thousand years. Our first three DUNE prequels were set
immediately before Frank Herbert’s classic novel, using familiar characters and settings.
But for THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD, we had to create a storyline and universe set ten millennia
earlier. Everything would be a lot different . . . yet we had to retain the flavor and
complexity of the original books. We owed that to the readers. From Frank Herbert’s
voluminous notes, we had a broad-strokes outline of the epochal events that establish the
DUNE universe, but none of the details. We spent many days immersed in brainstorming
sessions up in the Pacific Northwest, locked in an office or taking strolls around some of
Frank Herbert’s favorite haunts. (Certainly, anyone eavesdropping on our conversations
got a bizarre earful of mayhem, revolts, and sadistic thinking machines.) The Butlerian
Jihad has always been the tale that most fascinates DUNE fans, and we finally lay out the
answers. It was a process of learning and discovery for us as much as it will be for the
reader. And we even managed to include plenty of sandworms!

In a forward to House Atreides, Brian Herbert mentions that he will use Frank Herbert’s
notes to someday write a Dune 7 novel, thereby completing the storyline of Chapterhouse:
Dune. Will you be involved in that project and can you share any details?

I'll definitely be writing it with him -- that was the project that originally made me contact
Brian. We have the outline for the Grand Finale and how it wraps up all the storylines, so we
are laying the basis for much of it in our prequels. However, the Grand Finale should really
be the last one...why go back and fill in a few more holes after we write THE END?

We still have the Legends of Dune trilogy to finish -- THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD, THE MACHINE
CRUSADE, and THE BATTLE OF CORRIN -- and we also want to write the early years of Paul
Atreides. THE MACHINE CRUSADE is written and is now in its third draft, so we're right on

Those most familiar with Herbert’s original works notice historical differences with the
original Dune novels and the prequels. One example is the secret Zensunni faith of the
Tleilaxu being quite well known in the prequels. Were these differences intentional?

I don't believe there is any mention of the Tleilaxu Buddislamic faith -- secret or otherwise
-- before HERETICS (or possibly GOD-EMPEROR...I don't have my books in front of me), which
take place many thousands of years after DUNE. That's like questioning why religions and
cultures have changed in the time since the peoples who survived the last Ice Age on Earth.
In the intervening millennia, who knows what kind of social or political upheavals may have
occurred in the already-insular Tleilaxu society?

We did not do any "intentional historical differences," but conversely DUNE readers should not
study the novels with blinders on. Frank Herbert did not believe in absolutes. (As soon as
HOUSE ATREIDES was published, people started squawking because we had introduced no-field
technology before it was time...but by HOUSE CORRINO that is all neatly explained. Same with
the identity of Jessica's mother -- which came straight from Frank's notes, by the way -- all
contradictions are resolved by the end of the trilogy.) Honest, we do have a plan and we're
looking at the overall series, not one little piece at a time. Sit back and wait for the end of
the story.

There is quite a fanatical legion of Dune fans online. Do you and Brian Herbert ever visit
Dune sites on the Internet?

I know there are quite a few wonderful and devoted fans online, but unfortunately there
is also a handful of people, "the surly bunch," who need, er, social adjustment lessons! Before
HOUSE ATREIDES was even published, a dozen or so of these surly Dune fans launched their
own crusade to trash our prequels -- they uploaded horrendous postings about the books (which
none of them had ever read, since it wasn't available anywhere), then they posted dozens and
dozens of one-star hate-mail reviews of the novel on amazon.com (again, before anybody had
ever read the book); they called Brian the "illegitimate son of Frank Herbert" and "the antichrist"
and I was "the Dummy of Dune." We were both rather shocked at this unfair reaction, and Brian
stewed over it for a long time -- that's why he ended up terminating his e-mail account.

We were doing this out of a sincere love for the series, and this was the legacy Frank had left to
his son. To see so much vitriol from know-nothings [I'm not being snide: that's by-definition,
since none of them had bothered to read the book before trashing it], was very disappointing to
me...but I had seen the same phenomenon with STAR WARS and X-FILES. I am very pleased to
say that some of those surly trashers had the decency to write us genuine letters of apology after
they had read HOUSE ATREIDES.

I mean, we have put huge amounts of work and soul and energy into this project, and the books
have won various awards, critical acclaim, fans-choice awards, even selected as New York Times
Notable books. So, I think we really did the best we could. All that said, the "web fan" experience
has sort of soured us to some of the fanatical online communities. We respect their right to an
opinion, even if
they don't like the books we write...but at least have the decency to be objective and read the
books before you form an opinion. We're not trying to do better than Frank Herbert -- how is that
possible? -- but we are carrying on his legacy, finishing the stories he himself wanted to write [hey,
I would *rather* he had lived to write them!], and we are introducing a whole new generation of
readers to the overall DUNE epic.

What new projects are lined up for Kevin J. Anderson? Any new publishing projects with your
wife, Rebecca Moesta?

Next month (July) Warner is launching an epic science fiction series of my own, THE SAGA OF
SEVEN SUNS, with the first volume HIDDEN EMPIRE. I really think this series has all the best
ingredients of both DUNE and STAR WARS, and it's the kind of story I have always most wanted
to tell. It has politics and intrigue, sense of wonder and space battles, detailed worldbuilding,
adventure, romance, and very intricate plotting. Brian Herbert helped me a great deal in the
planning and in the manuscript itself. Anybody who likes my DUNE prequels with Brian should enjoy
this series. In early 2002 I published a novel, CAPTAIN NEMO, which tells the life story of Jules
Verne's famous captain of the Nautilus. As a sort of companion novel, I am writing a novel with
H.G. Wells and Percival Lowell fending off the Martian invasion at the end of the 19th century.
I am writing the answers to this interview while I'm on the road from a research trip to Lowell
Observatory and the Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona. And I'm doing the BUTLERIAN JIHAD
books with Brian. My wife Rebecca and I are currently developing a new young adult fantasy series,
and she is working on several projects for BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. So, I'm keeping busy.

With the tremendous success of the Dune miniseries and the current filming of Children of Dune,
do you have any plans or hopes for any of your novels to hit the small or big screen?

The miniseries is great for attracting new readers to the original novels, and we hope they want
to continue to do DUNE projects. Candidly, though, next in line is GOD-EMPEROR...which, because it
is so internal and philosophical, would be difficult to film. We hope they're interested in considering
our prequels for future DUNE films.

You have extraordinary success as a science fiction author, any dream projects you still have?
Any goals you haven’t yet met?

What could be more of a dream project than writing Dune novels with Frank Herbert's son based on
Frank Herbert's original notes? I mean, this is as good as it gets! Of course, I would love for the
numerous DUNE fans to try HIDDEN EMPIRE and help some of my solo novels. I would love to see
CAPTAIN NEMO turned into a film. But for the most part, I am only doing projects I truly love to be
involved with, and I don't feel like I'll be bored anytime soon.

The Landsraad website has been buzzing about the growing success of Dune in the 21st century.
Much of that new success and buzz is due to you and Brian Herbert and your new Dune novels. We
thank you for your hard work.
Anything you would like to say to the members of the Landsraad Dune site?

Before we launched our new prequels, all of Frank Herbert's other books had gone out of print, but
when HOUSE ATREIDES was published, the sales of Frank's original Dune books literally tripled, and
next fall at least four of Frank's classic science fiction novels are being reprinted. Brian's terrific and
personal biography of his father, DREAMER OF DUNE, will be published by Tor Books. The first Sci-Fi
Channel miniseries of DUNE was a smash hit and now they're doing another one -- all of which attracts
new readers. Four of Frank's non-DUNE novels are being reprinted this fall -- THE GREEN BRAIN, THE
feels as if this has been a shot in the arm to the greatest SF series of all time.

I get a lot of fan letters from people who were too intimidated to pick up the original DUNE, but
because they had liked my other novels, they were willing to try HOUSE ATREIDES -- and then jumped
right into DUNE. Wow, I'm a "gateway drug" to the best science fiction novel ever written! But even
with all the work Brian and I are doing, the DUNE fans have also been the biggest help to keeping the
series alive and successful. So we would like to thank you, and everyone on the Landsraad site, for
your continued interest.

Kevin J. Anderson

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