I’ve come to this book later than most, and I’m so glad I did.
I’ll start with the criticism. First let me acknowledge that, as a book published in 1965, Dune contains a few elements that are likely to be problematic to the modern reader. The world depicted (which is an active choice made by the author) is almost universally patriarchal — not just one society, mind you, but all of them, with the possible exception of one. (However, even that one, the Bene Gesserit multi-generational society of powerful sorcerer-ninja women, is incomplete and cannot fulfill its ultimate purpose until a LONG-PROPHESIED MALE CHILD is born to do what somehow none of them can.) And apropos of long prophesies, the story is definitely among the Chosen One narratives, which seem to have gone decisively out of style (at least in more literary science fiction).
All that said, I was thoroughly engrossed in the world: the captivating setting with its desert aesthetic strongly influenced by the Islamic world, the interweaving of complex politics and deep religions, and the layers upon layers of motivations and counter motivations that tear at almost any character with a name. Dune also falls within the prestigious company of those few books that I’ve read which manage to blend hard science fiction and fantastical elements seamlessly together in the service of evoking wonder — such as Revelation Space or Anathem.
I’m hooked. I can finally understand why Dune became the genre’s gold standard for science-fiction that isn’t afraid to talk about the human element, and does it exceptionally well. I definitely plan to add the rest of the series to my To-Read list.
The original “Bladerunner” was possibly my favorite science fiction movie for a long time. After seeing Bladeruner 2049 yesterday, I think the sequel has pushed the series back to the top of my estimation.
Visually, this was one of the very best films I have seen: a fantastic future as if imagined from the 1980’s, which allows it to stay true to (and even surpass) the original aesthetic.The atmosphere accurately and brutally captures the paranoid, soul-twisting vision of Phillip K. Dick, and the questions raised are just the kind that would keep PKD up at night. What is reality? What is the self? What constitutes human / consciousness / memory / morality? And what happens to our identity, love, and sense of self when the above can be commercialized and sold?
The experience of watching the film is jarring, and the questions it raises are uncomfortable. A few people walked out during a certain scene, and I am not surprised that it did more poorly than expected at the box office. But this is exactly the kind of science fiction needed to jolt people out of the endless desire for escapism, low-brow action, and stock plots in the genre. With the current pace of biotechnology, artificial intelligence, climate change, off-world colonies, and mass surveillance, we cannot afford to ignore the issues raised in this film.
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to do anything writing related, including update this blog. But there has been exciting news!
First of all, We See a Different Frontier is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, among other places. Please support this much anticipated anthology!
The anthology is overtly political from the standpoint of the editors:
This anthology of speculative fiction stories on the themes of colonialism and cultural imperialism focuses on the viewpoints of the colonized. Sixteen authors share their experiences of being the silent voices in history and on the wrong side of the final frontier; their fantasies of a reality in which straight, cis, able-bodied, rich, anglophone, white males don’t tell us how they won every war; and their revenge against the alien oppressor settling their “new world”.
But this does not mean that the collection is one-sided or polemical. I have been alternately intrigued, challenged, angered, and inspired when reading this anthology.
Nalin has written the short story “Remembering Turinam,” a complex story which spoke to me on many levels. It is a sad story about a meeting between a young man and his grandfather. Also, the idea of language as a tool in colonization is strong in the story, something I believe to be very true. One thing is a dominant military force, but the silent conquer through education, language, culture, is perhaps even more brutal. Like the editors Fabio Fernandes and Djibril al-Ayad write in the introduction in the anthology: «That suppression of culture and especially language are common tactics in the repression of a people, and as effective as violence itself.” I really liked how Nalin weaved the plot around this.
The story gives much food for thoughts and pondering, which I love. I’m so happy Nalin took the time to answer some of my questions.
You can read the interview in full over at her blog.