Q&A with Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson
1. Probably the first thing most people would like to know is how this collaboration between you two came about?
When Frank passed away in 1986, his last published novel, Man of Two Worlds, was a collaboration with his son Brian, and the previous book—Chapterhouse: Dune—left the Dune series with a cliffhanger. Kevin was always a big Frank Herbert fan—not just Dune, but all the Frank Herbert books. After years of waiting, expecting Brian to pick up the Dune series and finish the storyline, Kevin was out hiking in Death Valley when he had the idea to write Brian and ask about the plans.
When we spoke over the telephone afterward, we hit it off immediately. Both of us knew Frank's work inside and out. Brian had already considered telling the story of the Butlerian Jihad, a "super" prequel set ten thousand years before the events in Dune; Kevin had wanted to finish the Dune storyline after Chapterhouse: Dune. However, given the Dune readership and fan expectations, after discussing the possibilities with Kevin's wife Rebecca, we decided the best "return" to the Dune universe would be to tell the "immediate prequel", the story of Duke Leto and Lady Jessica, their battles with Baron Harkonnen, how Emperor Shaddam came to power, how the Planetologist Kynes began his studies on Arrakis.
After we had decided what to do, we met together in Brian's home in Washington State, brainstormed the whole "Prelude to Dune" trilogy—and THEN the Herbert estate lawyer called to say he had discovered an old safe deposit box key that had belonged to Frank. I nside the box was, among other things, the full and complete outline for Dune 7, the climactic novel Frank had intended to write. Later, while clearing out his garage to convert part of it into a writing office, Brian also found a large box of Dune notes Frank had stored there years before. Suddenly, we were faced with an overwhelming amount of material, clues, details, storylines, quotes-all of which we have incorporated into our books.
2. When you first announced you would be writing and publishing Dune prequels, there were some fans who were resistant. Over the last few years, there has been a continued positive response to your new Dune novels by critics as well as fans. How does this continued success feel?
Brian: Before we even published Dune: House Atreides, we were attacked by a few vociferous fans on a website. The attacks were vitriolic and unfair, since the detractors had not even read our first novel, but in a sense I have come to understand these fans. They are "Dune" devotees who love the series, and they were worried about what might happen to it. These fans were just protecting the universe that they loved so passionately. After our books were published, we received apology letters from several of them, which was very heartening to us. The overwhelming response from fans has been postive, as they continually thank us for continuing their beloved series. Both Kevin and I are "Dune" fans ourselves, so we want to do the best possible job that we can.
3. Can you tell us how you came about to write Legends of Dune, the new series of Dune novels?
After House Corrino, we had many discussions with our editors and numerous other DUNE fans about what the most eagerly anticipated story seemed to be. The consensus was that it was the epic of the Butlerian Jihad: the war of humans against thinking machines, the Battle of Corrin, and the original ancient rift between Atreides and Harkonnen.
Brian: When I finally decided to write "Dune" books, I wanted to start with the Butlerian Jihad, concerning the mythical time 10,000 years before the events in Dune. Kevin wanted to write a direct sequel to Chapterhouse Dune, but reconsidered when I proposed the prequels idea to him. We then settled on a time 30 to 40 years before the events in Dune, when we could explore the earlier lives of familiar Dune characters. The Butlerian Jihad was a natural follow-up to our first series. The nice thing is, fans can begin reading the series in three places now: with Dune, with Dune: House Atreides, or with Dune: The Butlerian Jihad. It all depends upon where a reader wishes to start. Interestingly, the sales of Frank Herbert's classic Dune skyrocketed after we started writing the new novels. It seems that all roads lead to Dune. The new Legends of Dune series consists of Dune: the Butlerian Jihad (Tor, September 2002), Dune: the Machine Crusade (Tor, September 2003), and Dune: the Battle of Corrin(Tor, August 17, 2004).
The LEGENDS OF DUNE trilogy details the saga of the century-long conflict, as well as the original breach that formed the deadly feud between House Atreides and House Harkonnen. The story includes Tio Holtzman's development of foldspace and shield technology, the establishment of the Imperium by House Corrino, and the Zensunni Wanderers' escape from slavery and their flight to the desert world of Arrakis. Readers will also see the seeds of DUNE's famous Great Schools of the Mentats, the Bene Gesserit, the Suk Doctors, and the Swordmasters.
4. Brian, you recently published a biography about your father called Dreamer of Dune (Tor, April 2003). Can you tell us what that was like for you?
Dreamer of Dune is the fascinating story of my father from three angles: how he created the "Dune" universe, the remarkable love he shared with my mother (Beverly Herbert), and the troubled relationship I had with him as a child that became close when I was an adult . . . My attempt to understand him became an odyssey that went on not only during his lifetime but afterward. It continues to this day, as I learn new things about him each time I read one of his stories, and each time I speak with someone who knew him and saw a different aspect of him than I did.
5. What is it about the first Dune novel that captivated a generation and those to come?
This is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, DUNE is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious Messiah known as Muad'Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family—and would bring to fruition humankind's most ancient and unattainable dream. A stunning blend of adventure and mysticism, environmentalism and politics, DUNE formed the basis of what is undoubtedly the grandest epic in science fiction. Frank Herbert's Dune series is one of the most incredible epics in the annals of imaginative literature. Selling millions of copies worldwide, it is science fiction's answer to The Lord of the Rings, a brilliantly imaginative epic of high adventure, unforgettable characters, and immense scope.
6. Brian, we've heard that you visited the set of the "Children of Dune" miniseries in Prague where it was filmed. Any comments regarding this production?
The new television series is a fantastic production, with terrific actors and sets. Kevin and I were invited to the LA premiere of the series and we thought it was wonderful. I'm sure that "Children of Dune" will be a critical and popular success many times over. My wife and I were treated like a royal family by the enitre porduction crew, and I was even allowed to film some of the top secret scenes on my video recorder! More information on the production can be found at www.scifi.com/dune.
7. Why did you choose not to make use of details in the apocryphal DUNE ENCYCLOPEDIA (compiled by Dr. Willis McNelly, 1984)?
Dr. McNelly's Encyclopedia is an imaginative work that does not reflect the Dune canon, and which we are not using. We have put together the following statement with Dr. McNelly in order to clarify the situation:
"Some fans may have noticed apparent inconsistencies between Dune: House Atreides (1999) and The Dune Encyclopedia (1984) compiled by Dr. Willis E. McNelly. To clear up any confusion that might exist, we think it is important to explain that The Dune Encyclopedia reflects an alternate 'Dune universe' which did not necessarily represent the 'canon' created by Frank Herbert. Frank Herbert's son, Brian Herbert, writing with Kevin J. Anderson, is continuing to establish the canon of the Dune universe. This is being done with the full approval of the owner of the Dune copyright, the Herbert Limited Partnership. While Frank Herbert himself considered The Dune Encylopedia interesting and entertaining, he did not refer to Dr. McNelly's derivative work while writing any of his Dune novels. Likewise, in writing their Dune novels (beginning with Dune: House Atreides), Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have exclusively used, and will continue to use, Frank Herbert's original notes as well as their own imaginations, and not The Dune Encyclopedia. We hope that the millions of Dune fans will continue to enjoy all of the works written in Frank Herbert's marvelous universe."
8. Should newcomers to the Dune series read HOUSE ATREIDES first, or DUNE first?
Keep a copy of the Dune appendix handy to refer to terminology, perhaps, although we have tried to explain the many technical aspects of the Dune universe. We intend for House Atreides to stand on its own, so that it is not necessary to read (or reread) any of the other Dune novels prior to this one. We are encouraged to learn that, due to the increased interest generated by the publication of HOUSE ATREIDES, all of the other Dune novels are being reissued and are selling well.
9. Tell us about the new short stories that are available.
As they did in 2002, with the introductory short story "Hunting Harkonnens" and "Whipping Mek" in 2003, Brian and Kevin have written another original story, "Faces of a Martyr," in conjunction with Dune: The Battle of Corrin. This story is currently available exclusively on www.tor.com/Dune and will be included in the paperback edition of Dune: The Machine Crusade in August 2004.
10. Will you write DUNE 7, the sequel to CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE?
The last DUNE novel Frank Herbert wrote before his death, CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE, ends on a cliffhanger, the story obviously unfinished. The success of HOUSE ATREIDES, HOUSE HARKONNEN, and HOUSE CORRINO as well as the popularity of the Sci Fi Channel DUNE miniseries has brought countless new readers to Frank Herbert's marvelous universe. The history of the epic Butlerian Jihad was the tale the fans most wanted to read. Brian and Kevin have published THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD, THE MACHINE CRUSADE, and the final volume of the trilogy, THE BATTLE OF CORRIN, will be published August 17, 2004.
While there are many more important stories to tell in the Dune universe, Brian and Kevin have decided that the next major project they will undertake—the next story the fans want to read—is DUNE 7, based on a detailed outline Frank Herbert left in a safety deposit box before his death. A great deal of vital information has been set up in the first two prequel trilogies, and now a large readership—who had never before finished reading HERETICS OF DUNE and CHAPTERHOUSE: DUNE—is ready for the rest of the story after the end of CHAPTERHOUSE. After publication of THE BATTLE OF CORRIN, while they prepare for Dune 7, Brian and Kevin may publish an interim volume of short stories, selections from Frank Herbert's notes, and missing chapters from the original DUNE novels, which will be called THE ROAD TO DUNE. For more information, please visit www.dunenovels.com.
11. In writing these new DUNE books, are you consciously trying to mimic the writing style of Frank Herbert?
While both of us admire the writing style of Frank Herbert, and it certainly influenced us greatly, we are trying to capture the "look and feel" of the DUNE books, rather than actively imitate Frank's specific style.
12. What is the "Dune Concordance" and will it ever be released?
Brian compiled the Concordance as a reference tool for writing new DUNE projects. Over 700 pages long, it includes exact references to Frank Herbert descriptions of the Dune universe, as found in all six books that he wrote. We hope to see it released in the near future, perhaps as a CD-ROM or on disk for the fans to find their favorite passages.
13. How do you two split up the writing duties?
After brainstorming the whole book, we assign chapters based upon our comparative expertise and then we rewrite each other's work in order to produce a seamless style. It is definitely a 120% effort from both of us.
14. Brian, how old were you when your father became a success at Dune, and did you understand what was going on?
I was in my twenties in the early 1970s when a groundswell of support made DUNE a huge hit. Up until that time I had not been closely involved with my father's work. Later in his life, however, we became very close and I grew to admire him both as a father and as a writer. We collaborated on his last published novel, MAN OF TWO WORLDS, and we discussed collaborating on new DUNE projects and others, but unfortunately he passed away before those could come to fruition.
15. Are all of Frank's notes you found going to be published someday for the rest of the world to look at?
We have a massive amount of unpublished material written by Frank Herbert. This includes novels, short stories, film treatments, character sketches, newspaper articles, and notes. Eventually, we may publish selected portions of this material, but for the moment our attention is focused on the Legends of Dune series, and Dune 7.