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Untold Dune stories


Dunenewt

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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 Dune? 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?

I think you're right about that, and I think that begs the question, "who really is Emperor of the Known Universe?" Certainly not the titular head of House Corrino--no, it's whatever bizarre, esoteric entity controls the Spacing Guild. As I implied in my post above, all of the military might in the universe is insubstantial if it cannot muster even one Guild Heighliner to transport itself with. Perhaps at one point, House Corrino or the Landsraad once considered the possibility of militarizing Arrakis, and the Guild probably threatened immediate cessation of interstellar transport. They probably never broached the subject again. In fact, we probably have the Guild, and the Guild alone, to thank for the very precarious and interesting political structure that made Dune so entertaining.

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I think the Guild realise that should the Guild start to threaten this cession, or even give hints that they will, the Landsraad, the Emperor, etc, would unite and look at alternatives, such as Ixian powered heighliners like the ones in the later books.  That's what keeps the balance of power.

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I think the Guild realise that should the Guild start to threaten this cession, or even give hints that they will, the Landsraad, the Emperor, etc, would unite and look at alternatives, such as Ixian powered heighliners like the ones in the later books.

Yeah, with the only problem that it took several thousand years to invent those Ixian navigation machines. All that time without the Guild, humanity would scatter into isolated pockets without any ability to "unite" at all.

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Fair enough, if not unsatisfying.  

But do you recall how it was that the Bene Gesserits originally acquired these supernatural skills and passed them on to their acolytes?  Some of their skills just seemed to be ultra high sensory abilities and phenomenal physical control, which I suppose could be deemed as supernatural to the extent that they were developed in the Bene Gesserit.  Of course there was the experience of the spice agony and converting it into a non-lethal substance as a prerequisite to becoming a full reverend mother, but it wasn't like they went around casting spells on people, unless you consider the use of Voice as a form of spellcasting.  Technically, they were able to interact with the dead via Other Memory.

Also, was the public at large aware of the Bene Gesserits

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Oh yes, the lightning ladies. Because there's a completely reasonable hypothesis.

And if my google search is any indication, the Bene Gesserit were formed after the Buterlian Jihad, but before the guild. This may place their origins before the Great Convention, but I don't recall.

On the subject of the guild, remember that the Imperium was often compared to a tripod. The guild formed one leg of this structure, the Landsraad the second, and the Emperor the third (according to Mohiam. CHOAM was, after all, not a source of power so much as a combined weathervane, reward and battlefield). Each of these three possessed the power to render the other two defunct, making any alliance between two against one unworkable. It also meant that neither the Emperor nor the Guild could hope to hold a monopoly over the spice, since that would concentrate far too much power in their hands for the liking of the others. That's why bits of the Landsraad get to hold it for short spaces of time; it's a compromise in order to prevent too much accumulation of power in a single place, which could upset the tripod.

It could be argued that a similar situation applied to the various minor factions and great schools (off the top of my head: Ix, the Tleilaxu, the Bene Gesserit, Mentats, Swordmasters, the Suk doctors). All of them were in some way useful to the Imperium, from the point of view of the Imperium, but the Imperium would not stand for any of them gaining too much power. Much like the tripod factions. In order to protect themselves, therefore, they served rather than ruled. Of course it's bizarre to imagine the Suks ever wanting to rule, but you get the idea. And the Tleilaxu are a special case, but even they gave the pretense of serving for thousands of years.

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I'm still unsatisfied with our discussion on the political structure of the pre-Paul Dune universe. It seems to me--given that SandChigger is right about the Guild's prescient awareness of the threats to the spice, and given their monopoly on space travel--that the Guild is really, far and away, the most powerful member of that "tripod." The Landsraad and the Emperor, for all intents and purposes, represent essentially the same interests, and I suppose if House Corrino were deposed, another house could take its place, unless of course we buy into the notion that the Emperor has some monopoly over the military resources of the Known Universe (which I think may be demonstrably untrue). It's perfectly clear that the Emperor, the Landsraad, and CHOAM all need the Guild to transport things, but I suppose my question really is, what does the Guild need with the rest of the human race? Money? It seems that the Guild's interests lie solely with its self-empowerment through spice, and the preservation of its access to spice. What's preventing them from securing Arrakis and letting the Known Universe spend hundreds, if not thousands of years in relativistic travel even to begin to do anything about it? Disinterest? Does the human race live and thrive solely at the boredom--not even the mercy--of the Spacing Guild?

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The Emperor, through the Sardaukar, has the power to flatten any single Great House. It was only with the advent of the Fremen, remember, that the Sardaukar lost their complete military supremacy. They probably couldn't take on the entire Landsraad, but then the Emperor would be expected to have allies of his own.

It could be said that the guild is the most powerful of the three, but what would it do without the other two? It's in the guild's interests to allow someone else to mine the spice, simply because it avoids upsetting anyone. Also, I think the most telling point is that in the Pre-Paul era, the guild's dependence on spice was a secret. Insisting on controlling the supply could have exposed that weak point, possibly leading to the creation of competitor navigators. And with that, bang goes the guild's monopoly, their only leverage.

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Well, that's to be expected, really. In the realm of speculative fiction, we can talk about things like the best procedure for first contact with aliens, or time travel, or dealing with vampires. If anyone seriously brought up one of those subjects in a conversation about the real world, it would rightfully be considered ridiculous. Not everything that seems plausible in fiction is actually possible in reality. The existence of a substance like the spice melange, for example, is utterly and absolutely impossible.

And do you find SETI to be particularly ridiculous?  I mean, for goodness sakes, they are searching for radio signals from extraterrestrials

I think that there are some topics that we are uncomfortable with discussing in a real sense, but look at how much time, thought and energy are channeled into these discussions when we move them to another realm.  In other words, it seems like there are subjects that we are most eager to discuss, but feel too embarrassed to admit that we have a desire to discuss them.  Science fiction/fantasy is a safe haven to discuss the things that may concern us most.

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Two points...

Guild first. I think this bit from late in <i>Dune</i> helps:

"There're some Guild people, too, demanding special privileges, threatening an embargo against Arrakis. I told them I'd give you their message."

"Let them threaten."

"Paul!" Jessica hissed behind him. "He's talking about the Guild!"

"I'll pull their fangs presently," Paul said.

And he thought then about the Guild

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The quote's good, but I'm still left wondering about the Guild. Perhaps their "specialization," as Paul calls it, made them a "parasite," unable to live off their chosen host, humanity--but I think this is incorrect. (I know, what balls to call out the Great Author, ah, well, nobody's perfect.) The Guild didn't need humanity to survive, it needed the spice. It wasn't a lamprey clinging to the belly of Leviathan, it was an addict desperate for his next fix, and this is perhaps the better term. The entire organization was solely dependent on the spice. It wasn't as if they desired or even really needed material wealth, though I'm certain the fee for Heighliner passage was exorbitant. What did it need mankind, "the life upon which it fed," for? To survive? I suppose the more accurate interpretation of Paul's words, and the answer to Edric's question, is that, like any addict, the Guild became so focused on its drug of choice that it ignored all other possibilities, that reality itself was warped around the spice-as-idol, and the Guild's prescience eventually became more of an illusion than realistic precognition. Perhaps the Guild very well could have conquered and held Arrakis, leveraging its now, truly limitless mobilis in mobili against the species for protection, whilst gorging itself on spice. But of course, this would require a measure of audacity, and the presence of risk. This is what Paul's getting at: so terrified of any possibility of losing access to spice, the Guild actually became its own worst enemy in this very regard.

I think what I've really decided, now, is that I want a book about the Spacing Guild. Are the Kevin J. Anderson/Brian Herbert ones any good?

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I think what I've really decided, now, is that I want a book about the Spacing Guild. Are the Kevin J. Anderson/Brian Herbert ones any good?

:O  ::)  :O  :(  >:(  :P  :-[  ???  :-X  :o  :-  >:(  ::)  :'(

Oh hell, look what you've done, 'caused another flare up of my emoticon addiction!  ;)

Um, no, they're not any good at all. Seriously. NO. NO. NO. Bad Wolf, BAD! Stop. Now. NO. Нет! Nein. No. لا لا لا لا لا

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I take it that, if you could, you'd put a shock-collar on every Dune fan there was and give them a solid dose of current every time they talked about reading anything but the Immortal Six?

But seriously: I'd love to know what the Guild was really all about. I know that it's a tough field with a lot of great contenders, but the Guild is certainly one of the most insane and bizarre organizations Herbert came up with. I'd love to know what these guys were thinking.

(Oh, and I kinda figured that that would be your reaction... things had been too civil for too long. I needed sommore war.)

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(What, that wasn't civil, for us? ;) )

Actually, I rather prefer that people do read them: I don't expect anyone to take my word for how bad they are. The electrodes (Are you thinking cattle prods, like I am?!) I'd save for anyone who suggests there's anything remotely redeeming about them!

I prefer to imagine the Navigators as having begun by accident. The mujahideen would have needed some way to fly their foldships (because I imagine space-folding as having existed for some time before the Jihad) but wouldn't have wanted to use computers or AI. (Maybe they had a few AI that had thrown in their lot with the anti-machine side?) I rather like the idea of a Jihad fleet popping into a system, causing some havoc, mixing it up, and then spending a few weeks or months calculating their next fold. Would've served 'em right. ;)

Maybe before a certain fold into the next system someone among the navigation brigade or on the bridge would have had a bad premonition and called it off or delayed just enough to save the ship from disaster and that would have led to psychics being employed on ships and etc etc etc. A lot can happen in 93 years of war and 108 years of turbulent "peace".

Just more late nite ramblings...

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I think that makes sense. When I think of "the machines," I don't really imagine them as sentient per-se. I certainly believe that their abilities in terms of computation and precision were far, far beyond what a human being was capable of, but computers today are like that. Perhaps they were capable of generating the illusion of sentience, but that would be as-perceived by a human being in the first place. I don't think the AI that Herbert was thinking about was necessarily sentient; in the sense that it felt, had emotions, etc.

As for the Jihadists... you're probably right. It was a combination of trial and error, and I'm sure that they were constantly preoccupied with finding a replacement for ship AIs. It's likely that numerous methods were tried; crash-training human beings (probably with the use of machinery) as (little 'n') navigators, surgical alterations, genetic engineering... over the course of a hundred years or so, it's possible that they found a number of solutions that, with some degree of reliability, brought them close to the same level as their machine-loving opponents. They absolutely waited weeks, perhaps even months, making the necessary preparations for their next assault, and I'm certain that dozens, if not hundreds, of raised-from-birth, surgically altered, genetically-modified navigators died in the process. All of which put the Jihadists in the perfect position to create something like the Spacing Guild. At the same time, I think that they may have fought the war with relativistic weapons in addition to FTL blitzkriegs, content to wait 50 years or so while a powerful doomsday warhead "slowly" approached its unaware target.

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The Guild didn't need humanity to survive, it needed the spice. It wasn't a lamprey clinging to the belly of Leviathan, it was an addict desperate for his next fix, and this is perhaps the better term. The entire organization was solely dependent on the spice. It wasn't as if they desired or even really needed material wealth, though I'm certain the fee for Heighliner passage was exorbitant. What did it need mankind, "the life upon which it fed," for? To survive?

Isn't it a bit weird to say the Guild did not need humanity? It relied on human workers, engineers and functionaries, and the Navigators themselves were essentially humans (remember that Navigators could not reproduce after having been mutated by exposure to excess spice).

I suppose the more accurate interpretation of Paul's words, and the answer to Edric's question, is that, like any addict, the Guild became so focused on its drug of choice that it ignored all other possibilities, that reality itself was warped around the spice-as-idol, and the Guild's prescience eventually became more of an illusion than realistic precognition. Perhaps the Guild very well could have conquered and held Arrakis, leveraging its now, truly limitless mobilis in mobili against the species for protection, whilst gorging itself on spice. But of course, this would require a measure of audacity, and the presence of risk. This is what Paul's getting at: so terrified of any possibility of losing access to spice, the Guild actually became its own worst enemy in this very regard.

I believe Paul conveys that idea of being locked into a prescient vision: even if it is powerful, as visions of Paul or Leto II, it is still a path to destruction; although limited, the prescience of the Navigators have the same destructive potential.

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  • 5 weeks later...

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.

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!"

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

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

Brilliant! Exactly how I thought of it!

Frank Herbert didn't want another heroes vs vilans story, he wanted a story where the so-called hero was really possibly the villian. By usurping a government and causing massive bloodshed, is Paul any better than the Harkoneens? I think the idea of Paul's grandfater being Baron Vladimir is an extention of that.  Paul didn't want to be a hero. I believe he said that in Messiah, but I'm not sure. The fallen moon vision was exactly like his treatment of the other houses during the Jihad of Maud'Dib. Paul  could have killed the u imperium by destroying the spice with the water of liffe. But he didn't. Not because hwanted power, but because he wanted to keep Humanity alive. That's the whole point of the Golden Path which Leto II  saw in his vision, not to keep him as emperor, but to follow on Paul's legacy of keeping humanity evolving.

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:O  ::)  :O  :(  >:(  :P  :-[  ???  :-X  :o  :-  >:(  ::)  :'(

Oh hell, look what you've done, 'caused another flare up of my emoticon addiction!  ;)

Um, no, they're not any good at all. Seriously. NO. NO. NO. Bad Wolf, BAD! Stop. Now. NO. Нет! Nein. No. لا لا لا لا لا

I know how you feel, but if noone minds my use of a quick cross-over, Wolf will take KJA and BH to the end of the Universe, also known in the Whoniverse (Dr Who) as Bad Wolf, and destroy them. By doing this, he will save us from their prequels.

A quick prayer to Wolf:

Wolf,

Who art most powerful,

Hallowed be thy name

Thy powers come,

Thy destiny unfold,

Here to save us from THEM.

Forgive us our purchases and forgive those who purchase for us.

Lead us not into purchasing, and deliver us from THEM.

Amen.

;D

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Because the Guild and the Bene Gesserit' date=' unlike real human beings in our universe, had supernatural powers (prescience for both of them, the Voice and the Weirding Way for the BG, and so on).[/quote']

Prescience is obviously rare at the time of Dune.

In Dune messiah it's said that the ability to use the Dune tarrot combined with spice is common enough to distort Paul's and Alia's vision, but that only provided the user with hints. The ability to see the future, the degree of prescience required to safely navigate a heighliner is extremely rare. Much rarer, I think, than the ability to survive the spice agony wich the Bene Gesserit capitalize on. I think that the Bene Gesserit had very few people with such a degree of prescience, if at all, during the time of Dune. The Guild would be in a much better position to locate latent-prescients in the "wild" and coopt them into their organisation, anyway.

Also, I think that a feudal structure is much more "suitable" for quasi-cultist organisations like the Bene Gesserit anyway.

I'm still unsatisfied with our discussion on the political structure of the pre-Paul Dune universe. It seems to me--given that SandChigger is right about the Guild's prescient awareness of the threats to the spice' date=' and given their monopoly on space travel--that the Guild is really, far and away, the most powerful member of that "tripod." The Landsraad and the Emperor, for all intents and purposes, represent essentially the same interests, and I suppose if House Corrino were deposed, another house could take its place, unless of course we buy into the notion that the Emperor has some monopoly over the military resources of the Known Universe (which I think may be demonstrably untrue). It's perfectly clear that the Emperor, the Landsraad, and CHOAM all need the Guild to transport things, but I suppose my question really is, what does the Guild need with the rest of the human race? Money? It seems that the Guild's interests lie solely with its self-empowerment through spice, and the preservation of its access to spice. What's preventing them from securing Arrakis and letting the Known Universe spend hundreds, if not thousands of years in relativistic travel even to begin to do anything about it? Disinterest? Does the human race live and thrive solely at the boredom--not even the mercy--of the Spacing Guild?[/quote']

Herbert apparently got some inspiration for Dune from OPEC...what I'm about to say will make even more sense if we assume that FH himself was prescient.

The problem for a cartel such as OPEC, or a "guild of navigators", is the destructive incentive that individual cartel members have to abandon past agreements. OPEC is much, much less powerful now than it got credit for in the 70'ties because individual countries within the cartel started to default on their agreements and produced more oil then they were supposed to. While this was financially beneficial for them individually it harmed the cartel as a whole. The only reason that OPEC didn't become completely irrelevant was because Saudi Arabia decided to produce less oil to offset the damage.

The Guild would need some sort of lever to assure that "renegade navigators" would be punished, to discourage the very act. I'm assuming that the Guild let other factions, maybe Ix, build and maintain the highleiners for them and that they got an exclusive deal. Ensuring that the flow of spice doesn't end up with possible competitors would probably weigh in as well.

It's written explicitly, yet vaguely, that the Guild would surely have collapsed eventually if they tried to grab power - i.e. taking control of the spice directly. I don't remember if it was elaborated on further, but it's reasonable to assume that this have opened the door to factionalism within the Guild. As long as the Guild was dependent on external suppliers, there were compelling reasons for unity.

(I know this post is pretty vague, but cut me some slack. I still have a hangover)

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The Guild would need some sort of lever to assure that "renegade navigators" would be punished, to discourage the very act. I'm assuming that the Guild let other factions, maybe Ix, build and maintain the highleiners for them and that they got an exclusive deal. Ensuring that the flow of spice doesn't end up with possible competitors would probably weigh in as well.

It's written explicitly, yet vaguely, that the Guild would surely have collapsed eventually if they tried to grab power - i.e. taking control of the spice directly. I don't remember if it was elaborated on further, but it's reasonable to assume that this have opened the door to factionalism within the Guild. As long as the Guild was dependent on external suppliers, there were compelling reasons for unity.

Some interesting observations here, but I don't think it has been hinted anywhere that the Guild was susceptible to possible infighting. They were unified by the addiction to spice, I suppose. Besides, I think the Guild is more than just a greedy corporation with a monopoly on space travel. Mohiam calls it a "great school" on par with the Sisterhood of Bene Gesserit, and the Guild's will to maintain peace and order in the Imperium (Guild Peace, the Great Convention etc.) might be the result of some higher aspirations than mere pursuit of profit.

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Some interesting observations here, but I don't think it has been hinted anywhere that the Guild was susceptible to possible infighting. They were unified by the addiction to spice, I suppose. Besides, I think the Guild is more than just a greedy corporation with a monopoly on space travel. Mohiam calls it a "great school" on par with the Sisterhood of Bene Gesserit, and the Guild's will to maintain peace and order in the Imperium (Guild Peace, the Great Convention etc.) might be the result of some higher aspirations than mere pursuit of profit.

Well, going by the quote that Sandchigger posted:

And he thought then about the Guild

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