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Untold Dune stories


Dunenewt

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Obviously.

If you're asking if there are any further stories I would like to hear (here or elsewhere) from the current stunning team of Hackle and Jerkle, um, NO.

They really should open the Duniverse up to other authors. THAT might be interesting.

I'd be interested in a BETTER story of the Jihad. "Tales from The Scattering" seems to be a popular theme. I'm sure there are a lot of things GOOD authors could write about....

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I wouldn't mind reading more Byzantine intrigue from the glory days of Corrino rule--successions, assassinations, civil wars, things of that nature. Something to give us a better idea of the flavor of the politics leading up to Dune, what role the Convention played, when invoked, what happened if houses used atomics (to borrow from another thread), that sort of thing. Though, to be fair, the House prequels have soured the concept somewhat for me.

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It occurs to me that many of the interactive fics (and presumably those that weren't) in the Fanfiction board covered a lot of the "what we'd like to see" in Dune. Off the top of my head, we had an Atreides victory over the Emperor (rather than a Fremen one), many who shared various theories on the inner workings of the Landsraad, several "what if" scenarios such as Paul escaping Dune rather than become Muad'Dib, the political machinations of the Guild and Bene Gesserit, and of course as Wolf said (which brought the idea to mind in the first place): the blood politics of the post-Jihad, pre-Atreides era. Those were very popular.

Many of us, sadly, have rather moved on since then. Shame. I know for a fact that many of those threads were better than the post-Frank material that was actually published.

Edit: As far as the Titans go, I actually wouldn't mind some more books about them. Provided they were written by someone with a smattering of talent and took place somewhere other than the Duniverse.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I would like a good retelling of the butlerian jihad, as well as the story of norma cenva and the beginnings of the spacing guild. I would like to hear the history of the bene gesserit and it's origins all the way back to old terra. The origins of the empire's fanatic soldiers. I will think of some more and post them later.

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I haven't actually read any of the prequels (and sequels and midquels and whatever) - and I don't intend to - but I would very much like to see a retelling of the Butlerian Jihad that was not just another recycled old story about a straight-out war between good humans and evil machines.

Some creative options include:

1. A war between humans and machines in which the humans are the evil side. For example, you could have benevolent machines that wish to create a utopian society for all Humanity, but are attacked by misguided fanatics led by the human ruling class, who fears losing its power and privilege if the machines succeed in creating a utopian society.

2. A war between evil humans-with-thinking-machines and good humans-without-thinking-machines. Thinking machines are servants of the rich and powerful. Thanks to their advanced intelligence and capacity to predict human behavior, they have helped enforce complete social stagnation for thousands of years. Any rebellion is predicted in advance and swiftly annihilated. But then, some group of humans manage to stage an unpredicted rebellion somehow (perhaps after discovering the spice?) - and that becomes the Butlerian Jihad.

3. A war between good humans-with-thinking-machines and evil humans-without-thinking-machines. Like the above, except the static society is actually good and provides prosperity and happiness for all. The unpredicted rebellion succeeds only in destroying utopia.

4. Not a conventional war at all, but a campaign of subterfuge and terrorism aimed at destroying all the thinking machines in human society, one by one (perhaps ending with something like the equivalent of genocide against thinking machines by a newly installed Butlerian government).

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Edric, I like where your head is at, but allow me to make a modification that may (or may not, who knows) disguise the flagrantly Marxist flavor (not judging; merely observing) of the scenarios you've described.

Perhaps mankind, through the assistance of thinking machines, achieves some sort of trans- or post-human perfection in the very style of Paul Atreides and his successors. Thereby achieving some form of prescient ability, genetic memory, etc., etc., etc. And in this, I recall directly the ending of Deus Ex, where J.C. Denton fuses with the unimaginably powerful AI Helios and becomes a benevolent God-Dictator for planet Earth. I find this interesting not only because it would foreshadow the subsequent events of Dune and God Emperor, but also it would echo the fallen-utopia themes that Edric pointed out. (And yes, the proletarian class can rise up in the end and whatever.) How many individuals utilize computer- and nano-machinery to elevate themselves to Godhood? Maybe these were the true "thinking machines," and dumb robots only served as various manufacturers, foot soldiers and warships (recalling again the universal constructor in Deus Ex that allowed Helios to create everything from gray aliens to robot spiders). But then again, as my primary inspiration for this is a video game, there's probably not that much depth to the idea in the first place.

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Well, at least one of my scenarios (#2) is more of a repeat (or foreshadowing, if you will) of the plot of Dune than anything else. After all... you have a society that has stagnated for millennia, being finally overthrown by a rebellion aided by prescience - or at least a rebellion with the ability to hide itself from the prescience of others. That's basically Dune, with a light seasoning of ideas from later books in the series (hiding from prescience = no-technology, although in this case the prescience of the thinking machines would be more like Asimov's psychohistory than the mystical powers of Paul and Leto II).

Edit: And by the way, Asimov's Foundation has a very strong Marxist flavour, too. It must be part of the reason why I like it so much. ;)

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Edric, I like where your head is at, but allow me to make a modification that may (or may not, who knows) disguise the flagrantly Marxist flavor (not judging; merely observing) of the scenarios you've described.

Ah, good, someone else noticed that too. ;)

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It was rather obvious.

If I remember correctly, the Buterlian Jihad was a reaction against both the stagnant society that 'thinking' machines facilitated (not created) and the power that actual AI held over humans (because lazy humans had given it to them in the first place). Both of these ideas were present, albeit in hideously twisted ways, in the prequels.

One idea that I always wondered about (which was completely overlooked in the prequels) was how the machines felt about all this. I don't think it's specified whether these were truly sentient or simply 'intelligent as defined by the Orange Catholic Bible' machines, but if the former then presumably they had every justification to fight in self defense. If the latter then one must assume that the 'enemy' was largely human, and that the disagreement was ideological rather than racial.

I always got the impression that Frank Herbert had not imagined the Jihad as a good vs bad scenario, but as a human vs other. Or possibly human vs human + other. No moral judgement per se, simply a clash of ideals. The parallel with Leto's Scattering and the prior enforced stagnation is, I think, no coincidence.

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1. I actually think Dante's right about this: the "Jihad" was probably a fairly bloodless one (relatively speaking), and represented more of an intellectual revolution than a violent one. That being said, one might wonder how the "state of the species," if you will, "regressed" to 1100's-style feudal warfare.

2. I adored Asimov's Foundation series. But that doesn't mean I'm going to overthrow the government. I'd like to think that reasonable people can disagree, reasonably, about reasonable things, but that may or may not be some form of fiction...

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1. Whatever the Butlerian Jihad was, it must have produced enormous changes in human society - and destroyed a lot of machines. If those machines were sentient, they must have put up some resistance. If they were mere tools, then still, the humans using them must have put up some resistance. Either way, I don't see how the Butlerian Jihad could have been anything other than a very bloody affair. You cannot destroy an entire race of sentient beings, or take away advanced technology from billions of people who have benefitted from it, without heavy fighting.

2. The Marxist flavour to be found in the Foundation series does not come from the Marxist views about the future (which include revolution and such), but rather from the Marxist interpretation of the past. Marxists believe that history is driven by the actions of large groups of people - not the actions of individuals - and that the course of history follows a largely predictable path. Marx's goal in the last decades of his life was to create some kind of complete model of human society that would be just as accurate as models in physics or the other hard sciences. In other words, Marx wanted to be Hari Seldon. The task proved to be much more difficult than he expected.

Edit:  Crap, hit modify instead of reply - Mahdi

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1. Whatever the Butlerian Jihad was, it must have produced enormous changes in human society - and destroyed a lot of machines. If those machines were sentient, they must have put up some resistance. If they were mere tools, then still, the humans using them must have put up some resistance. Either way, I don't see how the Butlerian Jihad could have been anything other than a very bloody affair. You cannot destroy an entire race of sentient beings, or take away advanced technology from billions of people who have benefitted from it, without heavy fighting.

I agree: whenever you have a small number of people who think they know what's best for everyone take control and start taking things away from others, you're going to have bloodshed. I promise it. ;D

Dune fans tend to go on about the Butlerian Jihad like it was a good thing. "Oh, humans were forced to develop and rely on their own mental and physical abilities! They became more self-sufficient!" Yeah, right.

Not everyone became a Mentat. Or a Bene Gesserit. Or a Guildsman. Or was a member of an aristocratic House. The majority of humankind was bound by the rigid "ordered security" of the faufreluches. "A place for every man and every man in his place." (Oddly reminiscent of something else, no? What was it, from each something something? Whatever.) And everyone was constrained by the Guild monopoly on travel.

If you include the reign of Leto II, that's thirteen millennia or so of GOOD TIMES IN HUMAN SPACE, all thanks to the Jihad and the injunctions it left in its wake.

(Actually, Edric, I like all four of your scenarios above. A "combo platter", done the right way, could be absolutely stunning. Seriously. But of course anything would better than what we've been given.)

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1. Whatever the Butlerian Jihad was, it must have produced enormous changes in human society - and destroyed a lot of machines. If those machines were sentient, they must have put up some resistance. If they were mere tools, then still, the humans using them must have put up some resistance. Either way, I don't see how the Butlerian Jihad could have been anything other than a very bloody affair. You cannot destroy an entire race of sentient beings, or take away advanced technology from billions of people who have benefitted from it, without heavy fighting.

2. The Marxist flavour to be found in the Foundation series does not come from the Marxist views about the future (which include revolution and such), but rather from the Marxist interpretation of the past. Marxists believe that history is driven by the actions of large groups of people - not the actions of individuals - and that the course of history follows a largely predictable path. Marx's goal in the last decades of his life was to create some kind of complete model of human society that would be just as accurate as models in physics or the other hard sciences. In other words, Marx wanted to be Hari Seldon. The task proved to be much more difficult than he expected.

Edit:  Crap, hit modify instead of reply - Mahdi

Of course, in the end, Seldon and Psychohistory turned out to be the wrong path ;p

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Dune fans tend to go on about the Butlerian Jihad like it was a good thing. "Oh, humans were forced to develop and rely on their own mental and physical abilities! They became more self-sufficient!" Yeah, right.

I've noticed that many readers assume the protagonists of all stories they read to be "the good guys" unless they are blatantly and explicitly labeled otherwise. Sometimes, even such explicit labeling isn't enough to convince readers that the characters are supposed to be morally ambiguous. For example, there is a conversation in Dune Messiah where Paul compares himself with Hitler. When I first read it, I thought it was extremely odd and out of place. Ancient history from Earth is supposed to be almost entirely lost in the Duniverse. Why did FH add that tidbit of information? After seeing other people's reaction to Dune, I decided that it must have been Frank's way of shouting "PAUL IS NOT A HERO!! Stop reading my work like an action movie!"

And yet, it didn't work. People still read Dune as if it were Star Wars - a story about a heroic rebellion against an evil empire. It drives me crazy.

As a side effect of this stupid interpretation of Dune, people take it for granted that everything the protagonists consider to be good must really be good. Like the Butlerian Jihad. Or manipulating the masses through false religion. Or thousands of years of horrible theocratic tyranny.

(Actually, Edric, I like all four of your scenarios above. A "combo platter", done the right way, could be absolutely stunning. Seriously. But of course anything would better than what we've been given.)

I agree. I think one of the greatest crimes of the McDune books is that they take the moral ambiguity out of the story... and don't even do a good job of it. I mean, in the excerpts I read, the heroes are hardly any more sympathetic than the villains, and yet, for some bizarre reason, the story is still written in a heroes-vs-villains format. It's like the message were supposed to be "Yay! OUR genocidal maniacs defeated THEIR genocidal maniacs! Isn't it wonderful? Let's all have a party and celebrate!"

Not everyone became a Mentat. Or a Bene Gesserit. Or a Guildsman. Or was a member of an aristocratic House. The majority of humankind was bound by the rigid "ordered security" of the faufreluches. "A place for every man and every man in his place." (Oddly reminiscent of something else, no? What was it, from each something something? Whatever.) And everyone was constrained by the Guild monopoly on travel.

Actually, it's reminiscent of the rigid social hierarchy of feudalism - which is kind of obvious when you have aristocratic Houses, and a Guild, and an Emperor, and warfare relying on highly insanely skilled warriors using hand-to-hand weapons... oh, and the author himself openly saying it's supposed to be a feudal society.

I will use this opportunity to go off on a tangent about weapons and warfare. In any society where warfare is common, the social structure is going to depend to a large extent on the kinds of weapons being used. Consider, for example, the sword and armour of the medieval knight. They were extremely expensive - only the rich could afford them. And you needed many years of dedicated training in order to master them - only the rich had that much free time on their hands. So, as long as combat was done with such weapons, the wealthy were vastly superior to the poor. But then came the great equalizer: gunpowder. Unlike swords, firearms required very little training to use, and they were relatively cheap. An aristocrat with a musket was no better than a peasant with a musket. The sword is always a weapon of tyranny; the firearm can be a weapon of liberation.

And this is why I greatly enjoyed that scene in The Last Samurai (the Tom Cruise movie) when the reactionary aristocratic bastards (ostensibly the "good guys") got mowed down by machine gun fire. Eat progress, bitches. ;D

Of course, in the end, Seldon and Psychohistory turned out to be the wrong path ;p

Yes, and the right path turned out to be outright communism - by, err, unconventional means. ;)

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Yeah, I pretty much agree. And I think that you guys are right about how the Butlerian Jihad probably "went down." Probably, a lot of people died. But was everyone involved? To that, I cannot testify, but will still hold to the idea that this was a war, if it was a war, or a revolution, if you want to call it that, between elites of one mindset and elites of another. At the same time, I think Edric's analogy to the evolution of warfare from late medieval Europe to the Renaissance vis-a-vis gunpowder is right on. However, it's possible the the very creation of the Feudal House structure was a response to a (somehow) even more repressive regime of humans empowered by advanced computational machinery. Whether or not that machinery was sentient--to me--actually falls by the wayside when I consider the grander implications of how a universe's political structure can be unmade, then made again.

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I think Edric's analogy to the evolution of warfare from late medieval Europe to the Renaissance vis-a-vis gunpowder is right on. However, it's possible the the very creation of the Feudal House structure was a response to a (somehow) even more repressive regime of humans empowered by advanced computational machinery.

Actually, I've always assumed that the Feudal House structure was a result of the invention of shields, and (possibly) the fact that space travel relied so much on a single rare resource.

The invention of shields made warfare once again dependent on highly skilled, dedicated warriors. It erased any hope of defeating such warriors with an army of poorly trained but well-armed commoners. Thus, the social institution of the warrior caste came back in fashion with a vengeance. A society with Holtzman shields is necessarily a society dominated by a ruling class of warriors, or a ruling class dependent on the support of warriors. The feudal structure is one possible form that such a society might take. But feudal or not, the Duniverse HAD to be a warrior-dominated society of some kind, thanks to Holtzman.

Also, when you have an economy that depends on a rare and easily monopolized resource, your society tends to develop a rigid hierarchy. It is no coincidence that the only remaining absolute monarchies on Earth today are to be found in countries whose economies depend entirely on oil exports. It is no coincidence that the consolidation of power by Putin in Russia happened while the Russian economy developed a heavy focus on natural gas exports. When "he who controls the spice controls the universe", he is very likely to be an all-powerful despot - whoever he is.

In fact, I think the Corrino Empire in the Duniverse was unrealistically decentralized, given the vital importance of spice. The Emperor should have always ruled from Arrakis like an Egyptian Pharaoh. The idea that Houses could ever maintain any degree of independence against the power that controlled the spice is quite ridiculous. Why did they have to wait for Paul to come around before they realized that the ruler of Arrakis could bring the entire universe to its knees before his throne?

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That's... a great point. And the Egyptian Pharaohs were even described as "hydraulic despots"--for their monopoly on water and irrigation. The only explanation that I can hope to offer in the amount of time I've spent thinking about your question--which, in point of fact, never occurred to me before--is that the Fremen were just too damn good at their jobs. They must have posed a seemingly-insurmountable threat (since you couldn't nuke them or risk some sort of biological warfare), and through their absolutely insular society, they never offered any opportunity for negotiation or treaty, nor could they have been infiltrated with even the best-trained of operatives. Spice production had to have been the most dangerous job in the Known Universe in addition to being the most lucrative. At the same time, I have to assume that the Padishah Emperor watches, with great intensity, any individual associated with spice production, and I am at an utter loss to explain why, regardless of whoever is temporarily "in charge" of spice mining, there wasn't at least a full Sardaukar legion present in Arrakeen in all the days of Corrino rule.

Unfortunately, I know that explanation isn't true. The Fremen, apparently, didn't really constitute that grave a threat to spice production until the Atreides arrived. It seemed that, save for a few exceptions, they were content to live and let live and ignore the pack of fools dicking around in the sand near the poles.

A better explanation, then, is that--even from Kaitan and Salusa Secundus--the forces of House Corrino could smash anyone who attempted to interfere with spice production on Arrakis before spice mining operations were jeopradized. Perhaps the nearest systems contained vast bastions and fortress worlds dedicated to the rapid deployment and defense of Dune. Certainly, the swiftness of the Corrino response and the purported vastness of that armada at the end of Dune may give us some information with which to justify that inference. Truly, it must have been that the only way to get on Arrakis in the first place was by permission of the Padishah Emperor--but certainly, then, the Guild at least was free to accept or ignore that restriction, and they had the most incentive to do so? And wouldn't the Corrino response forces--regardless of their celestial proximity to Arrakis--require at least one Heighliner to get there in real-time? And even then, the presence of smugglers on Arrakis implies that there's at least some level of black market and illicit transportation to and from the planet. It seems, therefore, that a House Minor would be in the perfect position to commit all its resources to the rapid deployment to, and conquest of, Arrakis, and to hold the planet hostage with whatever atomics it possessed. Certainly no one would miss the probably-disinterested management of a galactic backwater, until that same house appeared on Dune cocked, locked, and ready to rock.

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Wouldn't the Guild Navigators have foreseen some danger to the spice supply, as they do with the "nexus" that forms before the end of <i>Dune</i>? And just as the Guild knew better than to ever try to take over Arrakis for itself, wouldn't it have exerted its influence to keep the Emperor from residing there or militarizing the planet as well?

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In fact, I think the Corrino Empire in the Duniverse was unrealistically decentralized, given the vital importance of spice. The Emperor should have always ruled from Arrakis like an Egyptian Pharaoh. The idea that Houses could ever maintain any degree of independence against the power that controlled the spice is quite ridiculous. Why did they have to wait for Paul to come around before they realized that the ruler of Arrakis could bring the entire universe to its knees before his throne?

Don't forget that the Guild's dependency on spice was not common knowledge - in fact, it was a heavily guarded secret. To most people, spice was a luxurious drug, a geriatric substance that prolonged life whilst making you addicted.

And the Emperor was very much of a figurehead for the Guild. Although it's not that obvious as in the movie, where a Guildsman commands the Emperor around and threatens him, I think that Lynch grasped this idea from the book pretty well.

This is, by the way, yet another aspect of politics in Dune: whatever was on the surface, the whole situation was largely controlled by the Guild and the Bene Gesserit (and, to a probably lesser extent, by Ix and Tleilaxu), whose motives and scale of involvement were concealed from the public.

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