Dune survival guide. Welcome to Arrakis!
Dune, or Arrakis, is one of the most important planets in the universe. But there are a lot of important things – things you should know before going to see Denis Villeneuve’s new film on the big screen. And yes, I will emphasize that whenever I can – Dune was designed to be watched on the big screen. We have 12 days to the premiere; a perfect moment to learn more about this sci-fi phenomenon.
The concept of progress acts as a protective mechanism to shield us from the terrors of the future.
What a time to be alive! To be a witness of something so great and so special! Dune has the potential to change the cinema we know and love. It’s bold, to say the least. Villeneuve has gone all in and from early reviews of early viewers, Dune is getting the recognition and praise it deserves. For me, it means a lot. Personally. I absolutely fell in love with this universe and after the not-so-great version from 1984 (God bless David Lynch!), I am finally ready for some groundbreaking adaptation.
With 12 days to the premiere here in Poland, I decided to share with you the most important things you should know before watching Dune. After all, there is an entire glossary at the end of the book, which only proves the complexity of this sci-fi gem.
There is plenty to know about this universe – after all, there is lots of material to work with. I wanna give you the best experience and not spoil too much. So, with 12 days to go, here is part one of Dune “survival guide” – all you need to know before boarding the Ornithopter to Arrakis. Are you ready?
#1 FRANK HERBERT
First of all, happy belated birthday! He was born October 8th 1920. Dune took six years of research and writing to complete – just to prove how dedication of a writer looks like. It was much longer than commercial sci-fi of the time was supposed to be. It was published in two pieces, called Dune world (December 1963) and Prophet of Dune (1965). It was a rocky road, because it has been rejected by 20 publishers, with one of them admitting that he might be making the biggest mistake of the decade.
And truth being said, I think he did. And still, Dune wasn’t an immediate bestseller. I guess humans like to take time to appreciate the good stuff. But I don’t blame him, as his books are very deep, multi-layered and dimensional. Themes like toxic leadership, ecology, religion, criticism of government, potential, learning, teaching, thinking, survival, evolution… You see where I’m going with this, right?
His saga counts 6 books: Dune, Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, Dune: Chapterhouse. After he died, his son Brian picked up the mantle (with fans divided) and started working with Kevin J. Anderson, to turn Dune into a full-time franchise.
#2 DAVID LYNCH
His 1984 adaptation kept the sci-fi genre weird. I know that this might sound crazy, but hear me out – after all these years, I watched that film again (with my mum and I think it made her love Star Wars a little more). It still is the most terrible book adaptation EVER, but a pretty decent Lynch’s movie. And not that bad sci-fi movie. Okay, the shields were hilarious. And the Atreides battle pug, oh Gosh.
But he didn’t do the worst job. The movie was severely under-funded and therefore, Lynch couldn’t really maneuver around his vision. But for every fan, it is an important film. Having its premiere between Star Wars and Star Trek… It had no option but to fail.
But it served one purpose, though. It made Dune more famous. It was finally getting the noise it deserves. Lynch, on the other hand, was getting weirder and weirder.
It’s vast. Like, you think SW is big? Think twice, when you think about Dune. Middle Earth, the Galaxy far away, Starfleet archives (fully complete) are merely a fraction of how deep Dune goes. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but it really is vast.
But there is an entire trilogy that is set 10 000 years BEFORE the events in Dune. Among the entire series, there are multiple time leaps… It really is tricky. But you should remember, that it is a story that goes thousands of years into humanity’s future, quite long after the “Butlerian Jihad” led to banning all computers, a.k.a. thinking machines.
And it is a story of survival. Survival, that is now depending on humans and it’s resting entirely on their shoulders. Thousands of years in the future, and we were thinking (quite calmly) that machines will take over all the heavy lifting.
#4 BUTLERIAN JIHAD
Okay, since I threw that name, I have to explain what that is. Was. Is! Long story short, it was two generations of chaos. The machine-depending logic was overthrown and a new (old) concept was created: MAN MAY NOT BE REPLACED.
After two generations of violence, humanity pressed pause. Following this event, their gods and rituals were looked upon in a different light. Both were largely seen to be guilty of using fear as a means of control.
Hesitantly, the leaders of religions whose followers had spilled the blood of billions began meeting to exchange views. Much like contemporary conferences or summits. Politics, no? It was a move encouraged by the Spacing Guild, which was beginning to build its monopoly over all interstellar travel, and by the Bene Gesserit who were organizing their ranks.
#5 SPACING GUILD
Other names: The Guild of Navigators or simply the Guild. It is an organization which holds exclusive access to faster than light space travel. Interstellar industry, basically. The Guild’s monopoly on space travel and transport and upon interstellar banking is taken as the beginning point of the Imperial Calendar.
The Spacing Guild is by nature a secretive organization that took up functions previously covered by the Thinking Machines, just as mentats and the Bene Gesserit did.
#6 BENE GESSERIT
The Sisterhood. And among the Villeneuve fuss, we got another great Dune news: a show about the fierce women of Bene Gesserit, ordered by HBO! So, I hope by now you Lot realized, you are in for a ride! But this is where things get complicated. Bene Gesserit are a pseudo-religious organization of all-women spies, scientists, and theologians. They use genetic experimentation, galactic political interference, and religious engineering to push through their own agenda of ascending the human race with the advent of their chosen one, the Kwisatz Haderach.
Their origins are not known. Yet? 😉 What we do know is that they are one of the aftermaths of the Butlerian Jihad. And they made their move quickly and effectively, becoming strong political power. A respected one, too. Among their “ranks”, there was a Reverend Mother. It was a title held by females who had completed training to an advanced level. The leader of the Bene Gesserit, the Reverend Mother Superior, was always chosen from the Reverend Mother ranks.
Lady Jessica is Bene Gesserit. And again, this is where things get complicated.
#7 KWISATZ HADERACH
Feeling lost in Dune yet? Wait, it gets weirder. Just remember that this is deep sci-fi we are talking about. Much deeper than you might think. So, to the point: It was an old Chakobsa term that translated literally as „Shortening of the Way”. Chakobsa is a magnetic language but that’s just a side note.
The term originated from the Bene Gesserit’s prophetic powers, and their inability to venture into a specific region of prescient knowledge. This region, quite mysterious in nature, was known to be unreachable to females. Explicitly, the Spice allowed the Bene Gesserit to unlock genetic memory, but only on their maternal side.
Female humans carry two X chromosomes, while males possess an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. A Kwisatz Haderach would be capable of accessing genetic memories stored within both chromosomes. Memories from male ancestors are still accessible to females with access to genetic memory but due to the lack of the Y chromosome, the memories were incomplete.
The grand Bene Gesserit plan was to breed the daughter of Duke Leto Atreides to a Harkonnen male, which would produce the Kwisatz Haderach. This was to be the finale of more than 10,000 years of careful breeding. But… We all know how that ended.
#8 THE SPICE
Spice mélange, to be precise. It is a naturally produced awareness range narcotic that formed a fundamental block of commerce and technological development in the known universe for as long as we know. Also, it plays an important role in travel and cultural development. It is vital for space travel by enabling navigators to safely guide space ships through warp space.
It is produced exclusively on the planet Arrakis, also called Dune. Some of the effects on those who consume the spice:
- Altering the mind: it could awaken latent parts of the human brain and encourage expanded sensory perceptions.
- Better health: if taken regularly it increased life expectancy
- It will get you hooked: the spice had narcotic properties, so increasing demand and creating a large and hungry market for it. The more you take, the worse it gets.
- Physical effects: the most distinctive thing that happens after taking the spice are eyes, stained blue. The Eyes of Ibad.
It is a harsh desert planet located on the far edge of the Old Imperium in the Canopus star system. Starting point of the saga, stage for political struggle and turf war between Harkonnens and Atreides. Arrakis is located far from the major populated worlds. It is orbited by two moons: the first and larger is a formation that looked like a human fist; the second had a foundation that resembled a kangaroo mouse.
The surface of Arrakis consisted almost exclusively of dry dune deserts, hence the planet’s better-known name. Various weathered mountain ranges stretched across, breaking up the deserts and sheltering the limited native lifeforms.
The sandworms play an important role in the production of the spice, and they aggressively protect their desert territory from humans and other sandworms alike. Sandworms live beneath the sand. Attracted to rhythmic vibrations on the surface, they will breach in pursuit of the origin of such vibrations.
The key thing you need to know about them is that they are deadly. To meet a sandworm and live to talk about it… Extremely unlikely. Unless you are a Fremen (PART TWO, COMING NEXT WEEK) … Then it’s a different story. What did they look like, though? Dr. Yueh cited that specimens “up to 450 meters long” were spotted by observers in the deep desert. So, that is pretty big.
Terror threatened to overwhelm her. She fought it the only way she knew: “I shall not fear. Fear is the mind killer”
There are a million other things I should tell you about Dune, but I know how overwhelming it will be, so part two will come next week. Today I gave you some deeper background into the politics and the settings. I am not sure these will be explored in detail in 2021 adaptation, but I am a firm believer in science and knowing your facts. I am excited, what can I say?
Dune is huge, and so is the community around it. I am lucky to be a part of it and who knows… Maybe you will be too? Next week is going to be all about the people and Great Houses. Don’t miss out this chance to catch up on the most important things about Dune-verse!