A Tall ‘Dune’ Appears on November’s Charts, Driven by Film

From Publishing Perspectives:

The new Warner Bros. adaptation by Jon Spaights and director Denis Villenueve of Frank Herbert’s 1965 Dune was released on October 22 in China. With Hans Zimmer’s exhilarating score, Patrice Vermette’s design, and the complex performance of Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) as Paul Atreides, the film seems to be working its windswept magic on the Chinese readership.

Dune in an edition from Jiangsu Literature & Art Press has entered the overall fiction list at No. 19 in November, just as in the United States, the film tie-in edition (Penguin Random House/Ace Books) has arrived at No. 2 on the Most Read Amazon Charts and No. 7 in Most Sold.

Our associates at Beijing OpenBook note that the book has been published in China before now, although the interest driving it onto the lists is clearly related to the film release. The edition you see at No. 19 in overall fiction–and moving up a spot from No. 5 to No. 6 on the international fiction bestseller list–was first released in 2016.

The real question becomes how much staying power something like a film-fueled Dune can be expected to show on the Chinese list.

Those who regularly follow our lists will see that the top three positions in November were occupied by the 2008 The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. It’s followed by its series-mates, The Dark Forest and Death’s End at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively. This can be interpreted to be a reflection of Dune-prompted science-fiction interest, of course, but Liu’s trilogy has been charting for decades and these books are some of the cluster of the most reliably popular in the Chinese book industry.

What the OpenBook team describes as a condition of “insufficient hot spots” remains in sway on the Chinese lists. New work seems to have a tough time displacing the relatively recent “classics” that dominate this market’s slowly moving –most of these titles dating from the mid-20th century. “If a new book wants to be known by more readers,” our associates say in their discussion of the November charts, “it must overcome the existing bestsellers and gain an advantage. And that increases the difficulty of selling new authors and new works” who don’t come with their own following already intact.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

9 thoughts on “A Tall ‘Dune’ Appears on November’s Charts, Driven by Film”

  1. The squib on the front cover says “Now a Major Motion Picture.”

    “Now,” obviously, including “Since 1984, when David Lynch’s oft-criticized ‘Major Motion Picture’ was released.”

    This retconning is worthy of especially-inept Star Trek fan fiction. Darn, I think I just showed my contempt for marketing dorks and franchise brand protection — again…

    • It also neglects the excellent five hour SyFy miniseries. Not a movie but a better adaptation than any movie can hope to do in 2 hours. Hollywood snobbery.

      (BTW, the Lynch movie was so bad I remain convinced to this day it was a money laundering project. No way did that thing cost $40M 1980 dollars.)

      • Which did more damage to the underlying franchise:

        Lynch’s Dune, or
        The Star Wars Christmas Special

        Discuss. Somewhere far, far away from me.

        But: In the course of marketing, you don’t get to make statements that deny the existence of either. You can be silent; you can emphasize the canon you prefer; you can’t act as if the nonpreferred thingy doesn’t even exist. (It’s not just dishonest, but a violation of the Lanham Act.)

        • Easy: Lynch. Not even close.

          SWCS was watchable by six year olds. And the Boba Fett segment is legendary. Plus it was quickly followed by THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Best ever SW movie.

          A better comparo would have to be with any of tbe Disneyfied movies. Particularly THE LAST JEDI. If not for Dave Filoni tbe franchise would be STAR TREK irrelevant.

          Plus, SW is such an amorphous mess to start with (a non-SF property masquerading as SF) that no single disaster can kill it. It’s a lot like the amoeba-like monster from THE BLOB. Formless to start with.

          Dune, however, comes with a touchstone novel that clearly defines what live action DUNE needs to be like. If they stumble with any of the sequels, that would be tolerable as they are just money grabs with little reason to exist.

          The best comparos are both obscure Asimov adaptations: the 1988 NIGHTFALL (possibly tbe worst movie ever–at least PLAN 9 was bad enough to be good fodder for MST3000) and APPLE’s 2021 “FOUNDATION” (in name only) mess that went off tbe rails in two minutes flat by making an obscure spear carrier from one short story the central character of the entire production. No wonder the thing fell to Apple. No Hollywood money type would waste money on that mess; even tbey could recognize that kind of SFX-driven incoherent mess a mile away. (And we’re talking folks tbat paid for ISHTAR!)

          Lynch still stands as the worst adaptation of a great franchise ever but not for there is hope for him: APPLE is paying for a second season of “FOUNDATION”.

          FWIW, I managed to stick through a full hour of “FOUNDATION”, 15 minutes of NIGHTFALL, but all of Lynch’s DUNE. I kept trying to figure out what he was trying to do. I had more luck with tbe Tracy Lords/Antonio Sabato PRINCESS OF MARS. That only took me 5 minutes to understand its existence.
          Still working on the others above.

          In defense of BPH marketing you *can* say they never did tie-in editions of the above. All cases where staying silent was appropriate.

          Over to you.
          Worst movies?

          • I didn’t ask which was worse; I asked which did more damage, and I narrowly think it was SWCS because:

            A lot more people saw it, and
            A disturbing number of those people eventually “grew up” to write truly execreble fanfic in that universe, and
            Leaving the fanfic out, the increased dumbness/cuteness aspect helped justify the existence of He Who Shall Not Be Named (the one with the fake Caribbean accent) even more than the very existence of the furry things whose only purpose was as a basis for merchandising

            But this is one of those arguments in which there are no winners — only losers. Because both are objectively baaaaaaaaaaaad, and it comes down to arguing over whether an untreated ruptured appendix or an untreated gangrenous head wound will kill you first and most painfully.

            • Fair.
              But I still think EMPIRE undid a lot of tbe SWCS damage right away whereas Dune was ruined for a whole generation. Nothing followed that mess.

              • I hated Dune before Lynch got ahold of it, so at least the film didn’t ruin it for me. It was already ruined, and my professional responsibilities just made that worse.

                Which is not at all to say that the Star Wars universe is any better; it’s just different. Midichlorians obviously displace grey cells — there’s only so much room in one’s skull! — and too many midichlorians (that is, “the Force is strong in this one”) inhibit rational thought. Which explains the idiotic schemes pursued by both the Jedi and the Sith all too well.

                • Agreed on SW. It has always been a fantasy trying to pass as SF with the two aspects ruining it for tbe other. They would have done much better if not trying to “explain” the magic. An open fantasy of magicians in space would’ve been far more entertaining.

                  Dune I think highly of tbe first…as a standalone novel, what it was intended to be, focused on the politics of humans. It has something enduring to say about politics and, while its ecologic messaging has been trite since the 70’s, it was meaningful when he wrote it.

                  Not fond of the sequels which I see as moneygrabs (Messiah in particular) and fan service. An example of why backstory should remain in the background. The sequels muddy the watters and dilute the value of the original. I ignored everything after the third.

                • Sorry, Felix, I can’t agree on almost any of the praise for Dune. In many senses, it’s what Said complained about in Orientalism at its worst: Not only is it based upon inaccurate and condescending caricatures, but it’s saddled with massive quantities of both White Savior and Idiot Plot. I recognized this when I first read it (without even the dubious benefit of a 1970s high-school education), but even then I was one of those weirdos who refused to suspend disbelief by the neck until dead (especially regarding the dubious physics of the “shield” technology).

                  Dune was praised as being just different enough from the regime of the steely-eyed missile man that dominated speculative fiction at the time of its publication because it didn’t really threaten the steely-eyed missile man weltanschauung. Roughly at the same time, “The Word for World Is Forest” is far more subversive (and far more accomplished) along all of the axes for which Dune garnered praise… which, given who selected it for publication and where it was published, shouldn’t surprise anyone. Similarly, Colin Greenland’s The Hour of the Thin Ox (1987) is so subversive to the steely-eyed missile man norm that it’s never been printed in the US (what’s available on Amazon are very, very old UK imports).

                  So I was predisposed to dislike Lynch’s film because I already despised the source material.

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