Fantasy/SciFi

‘Dune’ at 50: Why the Groundbreaking Eco-Conscious Novel Is More Relevant Than Ever

1 September 2015

From Flavorwire:

“Men and their works have been a disease on the surface of their plane… you cannot go on forever stealing what you need without regard to those who come after.”

These are not words recently uttered at the UN headquarters, but rather by a fictional planetologist, Pardot Kynes, in Frank Herbert’s renowned sci-fi novel, Dune. With Dune, Herbert managed a rare feat: he created a gripping page-turner while building a universe every bit as intricate and believable as our own, an achievement in scope and execution that deserves comparison to Tolkien. Dune is replete with fully formed religions, philosophies, wars, and Machiavellian politics. But what was perhaps most groundbreaking when the book was published in 1965 — 50 years ago this month — was its attention to ecology.

Ecology in Dune is a vital pillar, without which the story would fall apart. It is every bit as important as a warrior’s ability in battle or a mystic’s ability to see into the future. It may seem surprising, but at the turn of the 20th century, pollution was a concern in the minds of Americans, though these fears tapered off as the Depression took hold. It wasn’t until the extraordinary rise of affluence during the postwar years that many ecological concerns were reevaluated on a large scale. With Dune, Herbert was at the start of a new wave’s swell, albeit a small one. The instigator of the first ripple was Rachel Carson, with her 1962 book, Silent Spring. It highlighted the detrimental effects of pesticides, and is credited with eventually leading to the ban on DDT. After this, the discussion of environmental issues in print increased, but not as much as you’d expect — and certainly not in a novelistic sense — until Dune.

. . . .

Nowadays, novels that concern life in extreme or altered climates are commonplace, and even have their own subgenre: “cli-fi.” Climate fiction has even been broached by literary darlings like Ian McEwan (Solar) and Margaret Atwood (the MaddAddam trilogy). And it’s not hard to understand the reasons for its growth as a sub-genre, spiking as it has with real life concerns about Earth’s ecological stability. This reality has shifted the timescale of traditional sci-fi works from the dystopian future (such as that in Dune) to the dystopian present. The flooding and/or desertification of major cities, leading to starvation, mass movement of people, and general catastrophe no longer seems a matter of fictitious distance. Ten years ago we got a horrific snapshot of what such devastation could look like with Hurricane Katrina. Before this, many had gotten by under the illusion that such vulnerability wasn’t possible in one of the world’s richest countries.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

Mutiny at the Hugo Awards

31 August 2015

From Real Clear Politics:

The latest pitched battle in science fiction is not between space pirates and alien monsters but between fandom factions, with the Hugo Awards as the battlefield. Depending on where you stand, this fight pits either forces of progress against reactionary barbarians or the elitist establishment against anti-authoritarian rebels. The progressive elites have decisively won this round; but was it a pyrrhic victory? One thing is certain: this culture war is here to stay.

The Hugos are science fiction’s Oscars, selected by fans—anyone who pays the $40 World Science Fiction Convention membership fee is eligible to nominate and vote—and presented at the annual WorldCon. Earlier this year, a large share of the nominations was captured by the so-called “Sad Puppies” slate, organized by a group of writers opposed to what they saw as a politically correct domination of the Hugos. It was the culmination of an effort that began in 2013.

. . . .

When the nominations were unveiled in April, the science fiction fandom and much of the popular culture media had a meltdown. The Puppies were accused of “gaming the system” by voting as a bloc—and portrayed as a right-wing “white boys’ club” reacting to the growing prominence of female, nonwhite, progressive voices in the field.

At the 73rd WorldCon on August 22, the empire struck back. Not one Puppy nominee won a Hugo. In five all-Puppy categories, the top choice was “No Award,” just as progressive sci-fi bloggers had recommended. At the presentation, each “No Award” was met with applause and cheers, which Puppy supporters saw as unseemly gloating at sticking it to “WrongFans.” Of course, the “Puppy Kickers” (as the Puppies call them) and their mainstream media backers saw it very differently: as a defeat for ballot-stuffing reactionaries and a victory for both quality and diversity.

. . . .

Then there are the politicized “message” stories. Thus, last year’s Best Novel Hugo went to “Ancillary Justice” by Ann Leckie, whose protagonist belongs to a futuristic human civilization with no concept of gender distinctions and with “she” as the universal pronoun. The Best Story winner, “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu, dealt with a Chinese-American man’s struggles with coming out as gay. (The “fantasy” part was a clunky plot device: a mysterious phenomenon that causes anyone telling a lie to be instantly doused in water.) Also high on the gripe list is last year’s nomination for “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, a short story that even some of its fans concede is not really science fiction or fantasy. It is the internal monologue of a woman who daydreams about her comatose fiancé—the victim of a hate crime by men who apparently thought he was gay or transgendered—becoming a human-sized dinosaur.

. . . .

Perhaps the real issue isn’t the quality of any specific work, or even the prevalence of “message fiction” in the genre; it’s that, as cautiously Puppy-sympathetic nonfiction writer and data scientist Nathaniel Givens has argued on his blog, “the message has never been so dogmatically uniform.” What’s more, Givens argues, the current crop of pro-“social justice” authors who dominate the field not only use their fiction as a vehicle for ideology but seek to enforce conformity throughout the fandom, posing a genuine threat to intellectual diversity. He points out that, by contrast, the Sad Puppies “went out of their way to put some authors on the slate who are liberal rather than conservative.”

Givens’s observations are echoed by Hoyt, who has written on her blog about the “state of fear” that has existed for a while in the speculative fiction community—the fear of being blacklisted for having the wrong politics. While Hoyt says that this fear has lost much of its grip now that independent publishing has allowed writers to make a living outside the “establishment” sci-fi presses, the elites still control recognition and legitimacy within the fandom. Hence, the Hugos rebellion.

Link to the rest at Real Clear Politics and thanks to Julia and several others for the tip.

Share the Force

28 August 2015

Who Won Science Fiction’s Hugo Awards, and Why It Matters

23 August 2015

From Wired:

Since 1953, to be nominated for a Hugo Award, among the highest honors in science fiction and fantasy writing, has been a dream come true for authors who love time travel, extraterrestrials and tales of the imagined future. Past winners of the rocket-shaped trophy—nominated and voted on by fans—include people like Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Harlan Ellison, Philip K. Dick, and Robert A. Heinlein. In other words: the Gods of the genre.

But in recent years, as sci-fi has expanded to include storytellers who are women, gays and lesbians, and people of color, the Hugos have changed, too. At the presentation each August, the Gods with the rockets in their hands have been joined by Goddesses and those of other ethnicities and genders and sexual orientations, many of whom want to tell stories about more than just spaceships.

Early this year, that shift sparked a backlash: a campaign, organized by three white, male authors, that resulted in a final Hugo ballot dominated by mostly white, mostly male nominees. While the leaders of this two-pronged movement—one faction calls itself the Sad Puppies and the other the Rabid Puppies—broke no rules, many sci-fi writers and fans felt they had played dirty, taking advantage of a loophole in an arcane voting process that enables a relatively few number of voters to dominate. Motivated by Puppygate, meanwhile, a record 11,300-plus people bought memberships to the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo winners were announced Saturday night.

. . . .

Though voted upon by fans, this year’s Hugo Awards were no mere popularity contest. After the Puppies released their slates in February, recommending finalists in 15 of the Hugos’ 16 categories (plus the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer), the balloting had become a referendum on the future of the genre. Would sci-fi focus, as it has for much of its history, largely on brave white male engineers with ray guns fighting either a) hideous aliens or b) hideous governments who don’t want them to mine asteroids in space? Or would it continue its embrace of a broader sci-fi: stories about non-traditionally gendered explorers and post-singularity, post-ethnic characters who are sometimes not men and often even have feelings?

With so much at stake, more people than ever forked over membership dues (at least $40) in time to be allowed to vote for the 2015 Hugos. Before voting closed on June 31, 5,950 people cast ballots (a whopping 65 percent more than had ever voted before).

. . . .

The evening began with an appearance by a fan cosplaying as the Grim Reaper, and it turned out he was there for the Puppies. Not a single Puppy-endorsed candidate took home a rocket. In the five categories that had only Puppy-provided nominees on the ballot—Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editor for Short and for Long Form—voters instead preferred “No Award.”

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Amy for the tip.

You can see the full list of winners below:

Best Novel: The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu (Tor)

Best Novella: NO AWARD

Best Novelette: “The Day the World Turned Upside Down”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Lightspeed 4/14)

Best Short Story: NO AWARD

Best Dramatic Presentation – Long: Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Dramatic Presentation – Short: Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”

Best Related Work: NO AWARD

Best Graphic Story: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona & Jake Wyatt (Marvel Comics)

Best Professional Editor Long Form: NO AWARD

Best Professional Editor Short Form: NO AWARD

Best Professional Artist: Julie Dillon

Best Semi-pro zine: Lightspeed

Best Fanzine: Journey Planet

Best Fancast: Galactic Suburbia Podcast

Best Fan Writer: Laura J. Mixon

Best Fan Artist: Elizabeth Leggett

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Wesley Chu

In Defense of Uncomfortable Subject Matter in Genre Fiction

22 August 2015

From Flavorwire:

Last week, The New Statesman ran an essay by Liz Lutgendorff, wherein she describes reading every book on NPR’s reader-selected list of the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books, and finding them to be “shockingly offensive” in their “continued and pervasive sexism.” In the course of proposing “a Bechdel test for books,” Lutgendorff launches broadsides at a variety of authors, some of whose work is indeed genuinely awful (step forward, Piers Anthony), and questions why these works remain so respected.

It’s an interesting essay, and makes some valid points about the weight of nostalgia on this particular corner of genre fiction. But it also falls into a pattern that’s worryingly prevalent these days in the world of criticism, particularly when it gets to the topic of rape and sexual assault in fantasy. It’s at this point that Lutgendorff’s argument falls into the trap of confusing a depiction of something in a work of fiction for an endorsement of that thing (at least, in any instance where there’s an absence of explicit, unequivocal condemnation of it).

There is certainly no such explicit condemnation in the work of Stephen Donaldson, for whom Lutgendorff reserves some of her harshest criticism. She describes Lord Foul’s Bane (the first book of Donaldson’s Unbeliever series, #58 on NPR’s list) as “one of the most miserable books on the list,” largely for its depiction of a rape committed by Thomas Covenant, the book’s protagonist. I’m singling this out, not because I necessarily want to defend Donaldson (although, for what it’s worth, I think Lutgendorff’s criticism isn’t entirely warranted), but because Lutgendorff’s problem doesn’t appear to be with the nature of his depiction of rape as much as it is with the presence of rape in the narrative at all.

Lutgendorff doesn’t say this, exactly — she argues that “there were also no real consequences of … [the] rape or sexual assault when it did happen,” and suggests that the book’s protagonist is “an absolutely horrible character that we’re supposed to like or want to continue reading about.” At best, this constitutes a questionable reading of the text. On the first point, the consequences do continue to manifest, in increasingly hideous fashion, throughout the course of the series (which, in fairness to Lutgendorff, she did not read, having apparently stopped after Lord Foul’s Bane, perhaps because she had 99 other books to tackle — although NPR’s ranking was for the series as a whole, not the first book alone).

The second point is more illustrative of a generally flawed argument, though, because liking a character and wanting to continue reading about them are not one and the same. We are supposed to want to continue reading about the character, certainly. That’s the entire point of the narrative. But if youlike Thomas Covenant, you probably need therapy. If this series is notable, it’s notable for neatly inverting the tradition of fantasy protagonists as silver-armored heroes. It transplants a man who’s lost all feeling — both literally, due to his leprosy, and metaphysically, due to his resultant suppression of any emotion as a sign of weakness and vulnerability — into a world where feeling is omnipresent.

. . . .

Nuance is not, admittedly, something one comes across as much in genre fiction — especially genre fiction of the vintage Lutgendorff is discussing — as one might like. But still, it’s disappointing to see the conflation of depiction with endorsement rear its head here. No one condemns, say, A Clockwork Orange for depicting rape and murder — or, perhaps more accurately, insofar as that book and its film adaptation are condemned, they’re condemned on the basis of how lurid or horrifying those scenes are to read or watch.

Lutgendorff’s argument is subtly, but importantly, different: she has a problem with Lord Foul’s Bane being not horrifying enough. “Thomas Covenant, the main character, actually rapes a young woman,” she writes, jaw audibly dropping, “and is astonishingly unrepentant for most of the book.”

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

‘Game of Thrones’-obsessed lawyer demands trial by combat amidst wire fraud trial

11 August 2015

From The Wrap:

A Staten Island lawyer has filed documents with the New York State Supreme Court demanding that he be allowed to settle a court case in a trial by combat in a story straight out of “Game of Thrones.”

Richard Luthmann, an admitted fan of the HBO series, is facing accusations that he aided a client in committing fraudulent transfer. In response, he has officially requested that he be allowed to end the dispute in a fight to the death.

“Defendant invokes the common law writ of right and demands his common law right to Trial By Combat as against plaintiffs and their counsel, whom plaintiff wishes to implead into the Trial By Combat by writ of right,” the court filing states.

. . . .

Luthmann then goes into a detailed history of the practice, going all the way back to the 11th century conquest of England by Duke William II of Normandy. He goes on to assert that no U.S. court has ever explicitly outlawed the practice.

“Since [1776], no American court in post-independence United States to the undersigned’s knowledge has addressed the issue, and thus the trial by combat remains a right reserved to the people and a valid alternative to civil action,” Luthmann writes.

Link to the rest at The Wrap

PG was going to make a comment, but decided he had nothing to add to this report.

Fans Try Bringing Diversity Of Thought To Sci-Fi Literature… And That Scares Liberal Elitist Gatekeepers To Death

3 August 2015

From Chicks on the Right:

I’ve talked about the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies campaign to get sci-fi/fantasy works nominated that people actually want to read/spend money on.

. . . .

The original point of Sad Puppies was to highlight the liberal/progressive social justice bias that had overtaken the Hugos (and sci-fi fandom at large). Rather than award works on the merits of the works themselves, the Hugos tended to award authors and messages who had the “correct” political bent, even if the works themselves were total financial failures, not to mention brain-meltingly BORING. They even managed to find a way to make an A.I. character utterly boring – all the dumb thing can do is refer to all humans as “she” and it got an award for smashing down binary gender barriers. Because when I pick up a sci-fi novel to read for fun, the first thing I look for is a preachy social justice message about how terrible I am for my heteronormative cisgender privilege. Screw that – I want things that blow up!

Sad Puppies is currently in its third year and has already pretty much OBLITERATED the myth that the Hugos aren’t politically driven – mostly by making the liberal gatekeepers accountable to their insistence that no political agenda exists. Which they failed at- and failed MISERABLY. Because since the nominations were announced, the elitist gatekeepers have tried over and over to paint the Puppies supporters as racist, sexist, homophobic, angry white men who are scared of diversity (one editor from a major sci-fi publishing house – completely on her own and without any outside influence – made anti-Sad Puppies statements on a completely unrelated post to her Facebook page (actually calling Sad Puppies supporters “neo-Nazis” at one point) That caused ALL KINDS of strife and drama and her boss actually had to make a public statement about it.

. . . .

Just in the past four weeks, there’s been at least one article demonizing the Puppies in the UK’s Guardian and in the New Yorker. Puppies supporters by and large have come to ignore the demonization, since it’s more of the same politically-driven BS.

. . . .

If nothing else, the Sad Puppies has exposed the fear literary elites have of losing their power over the pop culture.

Link to the rest at Chicks on the Right and thanks to Richard for the tip.

The Puppies are taking science fiction’s Hugo awards back in time

1 August 2015

From The Guardian:

The clock is ticking for the public vote in this year’s Hugo awards, which celebrate excellence in science fiction. Sixteen categories are up for grabs, from best novel to short fiction, fan writing, art and dramatic presentation, and the deadline is 31 July. But this year the prizes are not just about celebrating science-fiction – it’s political war.

There’s usually a kerfuffle of one kind or another – popular authors habitually campaign for fans to vote them on to the list, but 2015 has proved the biggest drama the award has ever seen. That’s because two linked online campaign groups, known as the “Sad Puppies” and their more politically extreme running mates, the “Rabid Puppies”, have been campaigning hard to register supporters and bump their preferred titles on to the shortlists. They have managed it, too: this year’s Hugos are packed with Puppies titles.

There’s no avoiding the politically partisan nature of this campaign. Its leading lights range from respectable rightwingers such as US authors Larry Correia and Brad Torgerson, through to those with more outlandish views such as John C Wright and Vox Day (also known as Theodore Beale). It’s the Tea Party of contemporary US sci-fi.

. . . .

More importantly, as Sarah Lotz says, they’re also suggesting SF has been hijacked by a conspiracy of “social justice warriors” or “SJWs”, intent on filling the genre with progressive ideological propaganda.

The Puppies’ real beef is that SF, and society as a whole, has become too feminist, too multiracial, too hospitable to gay and trans voices. Anti-SJW rhetoric, most of it proceeding from angry straight white men, has flooded online discussions. It’s been ugly. It’s also proving self-defeating. George RR Martin’s intervention, urging people to register and vote in order to defeat the plans of people he call “a******s”, has galvanised the counter-vote.

. . . .

The truth is that this year’s Hugo awards are wrecked. Can you imagine anyone saying that of the Pulitzer, Man Booker, or Nobel? Yet here we are, and if the Puppies succeed in gaming the awards again in 2016 we may as well give up on the Hugos forever.

This is what is so frustrating about the Puppies’ campaign. Not that it has resulted in a bunch of frankly inferior works being shortlisted – although it has. And not that it values old-fashioned SF over more experimental, literary and progressive writing – that’s a matter of taste. What is so annoying is that it so ostentatiously turns its back on the global context out of which the best writing is happening today.

As Damien Walter argues, science fiction is currently in a golden age, “fuelled in large part by the genre’s growing diversity – to be a truly global art, it must be made by a globally diverse roster of creators”. Opening the genre to writers from outside the US and UK, making welcome a greater diversity of voices, has broadened and strengthened science fiction. Conversely, narrowing that pool of talent would only weaken it.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction

30 July 2015

From The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog:

1968, Samuel Delany attended the third annual Nebula Awards, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). At the ceremony that night, “an eminent member of the SFWA,” as Delany later put it, gave a speech about changes in science fiction, a supposed shift away from old-fashioned storytelling to “pretentious literary nonsense,” or something along those lines. At the previous Nebula Awards, the year before, Delany had won best novel for “Babel-17,” in which an invented language has the power to destroy (his book shared the award with Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon”), and earlier on that evening in 1968, Delany had again won best novel, for “The Einstein Intersection,” which tells of an abandoned Earth colonized by aliens, who elevate the popular culture of their new planet into divine myths. Sitting at his table, listening to the speech, Delany realized that he was one of its principle targets. Minutes later, he won another award, this time in the short-story category, for “Aye, and Gomorrah . . . ,” a tale of neutered space explorers who are fetishized back on Earth. As he made his way back to his seat after accepting the award, Isaac Asimov took Delany by the arm, pulled him close, and, as Delany (who goes by the nickname Chip) recalled in his essay “Racism and Science Fiction,” said: “You know, Chip, we only voted you those awards because you’re Negro . . . !”

It was meant to be a joke, Delany immediately recognized; Asimov was trying, Delany later wrote, “to cut through the evening’s many tensions” with “a self-evidently tasteless absurdity.” The award wasn’t meant to decide what science fiction should be, conventional or experimental, pulpy or avant garde. After all, where else but science fiction should experiments take place? It must be—wink, wink—that Delany’s being black is the reason he won.

. . . .

Delany came of age at a time when the genre was indeed characterized by gee-whiz futurism, machismo adventuring, and white, heterosexual heroes. From the beginning, Delany, in his fiction, pushed across those boundaries, embraced the other, and questioned received ideas about sex and intimacy. And, within a few years of publishing his first stories, he won some of the field’s biggest awards. Delany’s career now spans more than half a century, and comprises dozens of novels and short stories, many of which have challenged every notion of what science fiction could or should be. Even now, when graphic sex and challenging themes are hardly unusual, Delany’s rapturous sexuality and his explorations of race within the trappings of science fiction have the power to startle.

. . . .

Delany’s novels and stories have taken place in outer space and the future and other alien worlds. His plots are speculative: the race to harvest an energy source from the sun, the struggles of a libertarian society on one of Neptune’s moons, the plight of slaves in a pre-industrial world of magic and barbarism. But he does not believe that science fiction is the right genre for his concerns any more or less than another genre would be. “Nothing about the sonnet is perfect for the love poem, either,” he said. “Genre simply provides a way for the reader to look for things that have been done. A form is a useful thing to use. It has history and resonance. It informs you as to the way things have been done in the past.” In the preface to “A, B, C,” Delany writes that, “though the genre can suggest what you might need, it can never do the work for you.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

Dune, 50 years on: how a science fiction novel changed the world

5 July 2015

From The Guardian:

In 1959, if you were walking the sand dunes near Florence, Oregon, you might have encountered a burly, bearded extrovert, striding about in Ray-Ban Aviators and practical army surplus clothing. Frank Herbert, a freelance writer with a feeling for ecology, was researching a magazine story about a US Department of Agriculture programme to stabilise the shifting sands by introducing European beach grass. Pushed by strong winds off the Pacific, the dunes moved eastwards, burying everything in their path. Herbert hired a Cessna light aircraft to survey the scene from the air. “These waves [of sand] can be every bit as devastating as a tidal wave … they’ve even caused deaths,” he wrote in a pitch to his agent. Above all he was intrigued by the idea that it might be possible to engineer an ecosystem, to green a hostile desert landscape.

About to turn 40, Herbert had been a working writer since the age of 19, and his fortunes had always been patchy. After a hard childhood in a small coastal community near Tacoma, Washington, where his pleasures had been fishing and messing about in boats, he’d worked for various regional newspapers in the Pacific northwest and sold short stories to magazines. He’d had a relatively easy war, serving eight months as a naval photographer before receiving a medical discharge. More recently he’d spent a weird interlude in Washington as a speechwriter for a Republican senator. There (his only significant time living on the east coast) he attended the daily Army-McCarthy hearings, watching his distant relative senator Joseph McCarthy root out communism. Herbert was a quintessential product of the libertarian culture of the Pacific coast, self-reliant and distrustful of centralised authority, yet with a mile-wide streak of utopian futurism and a concomitant willingness to experiment. He was also chronically broke. During the period he wrote Dune, his wife Beverly Ann was the main bread-winner, her own writing career sidelined by a job producing advertising copy for department stores.

. . . .

Dune (400 pages in its first hardcover edition, almost 900 in the paperback on my desk) was rejected by more than 20 houses before being accepted by Chilton, a Philadelphia operation known for trade and hobby magazines such as Motor Age, Jewelers’ Circular and the no-doubt-diverting Dry Goods Economist.

. . . .

Though Dune won the Nebula and Hugo awards, the two most prestigious science fiction prizes, it was not an overnight commercial success. Its fanbase built through the 60s and 70s, circulating in squats, communes, labs and studios, anywhere where the idea of global transformation seemed attractive. Fifty years later it is considered by many to be the greatest novel in the SF canon, and has sold in millions around the world.

. . . .

This setup owes something to the Mars stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation books, as well as the tales written by Idaho-born food chemist Elmer Edward “Doc” Smith, creator of the popular Lensman space operas of the 1940s and 50s, in which eugenically bred heroes are initiated into a “galactic patrol” of psychically enhanced supercops. For Smith, altered states of consciousness were mainly tools for the whiteous and righteous to vaporise whole solar systems of subversives, aliens and others with undesirable traits. Herbert, by contrast, was no friend of big government. He had also taken peyote and read Jung. In 1960, a sailing buddy introduced him to the Zen thinkerAlan Watts, who was living on a houseboat in Sausalito. Long conversations with Watts, the main conduit by which Zen was permeating the west-coast counterculture, helped turn Herbert’s pacy adventure story into an exploration of temporality, the limits of personal identity and the mind’s relationship to the body.

Every fantasy reflects the place and time that produced it. If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war, and Game of Thrones, with its cynical realpolitik and cast of precarious, entrepreneurial characters is a fairytale of neoliberalism, then Dune is the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius. Its concerns – environmental stress, human potential, altered states of consciousness and the developing countries’ revolution against imperialism – are blended together into an era-defining vision of personal and cosmic transformation.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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