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"It's a very old Orange Catholic Bible made for space travelers. Not a filmbook, but actually printed on filament paper. It has its own magnifier and electrostatic charge system." He picked it up and demonstrated. "The book is held closed by the charge, which forces against spring-locked covers. You press the edge - thus, and the pages you've selected repel each other and the book opens."

"It's so small."

"But it has eighteen hundred pages. You press the edge - thus, and so.. and the charge moves ahead one page at a time as you read. Never touch the actual pages with your fingers. The filament tissue is too delicate". He closed the book, handed it to Paul. "Try it."

I don't really have anything meaningful to contribute, this just so very much put me in mind of Dr. Yueh's gift to Paul Atreides at the beginning of Dune. A kind of retro-futurism, where the imagination can't conceive entire new forms of things, and so just tries its best to figure out what a faster horse looks like (granted, in this particular instance, there are other reasons). I wonder what books for a creature with three arms would look like.




Since we got on a bit of a Dune tangent here, I wanted to say that one of the most interesting topics (and this is more in the later books of the series) is that the ultimate "weapon" is being an unknown quantity in a universe dominated by a prescient god-king who sees all paths. The idea of "no-ships" and other places where you couldn't been "seen" seems very similar to dropping off of social media or trying to escape from the permanent record of your activities online, etc.

It really is a fantastic series. The first book is amazing and stands on its own, but it really is rewarding to read the entire series (that Frank Herbert wrote, not the new crap his son puts out).


I don't think there's anything in the story to suggest that the retro-futurism was because of a lack of imagination regarding future, alien-yet-familiar, sustainable information technology.

Perhaps the point was, the book aesthetic was important to the character.

> I wonder what books for a creature with three arms would look like.

Indeed, the book was probably designed for space travel, i.e. usable outside human limits. Perhaps, given the proper circumstances, the book would propel itself through the vacuum of space by way of induced charge ..


The book aesthetic was important because it is a religious text, and also because anything like what we would call a "computer" is not only banned, but seen as unholy. The story of Dune is one of religion, ecology, the fallibility and fatality of prescience, scatterings and exoduses, failures of humans, how mankind matures and develops over a 10,0000+ year period. The actual technology mentioned is often in passing, is often intertwined with some human ability, and almost never a plot device like in so many sci-fi stories (Death Star anyone?).


I believe that the technology in the book must be viewed through the lens of The Butlerian Jihad events of the Dune universe, and the commandment of not making a machine in the image of the human mind. It isn't retro-futurism, it's human-centric technology.

In the later books, shigawire is also mentioned as a data storage method, so I don't think it was a lack of imagination.


Herbert quite deliberately planned the Dune universe to be seemingly technologically backwards to remove the crutch of technology and focus instead on human potential.


Exactly, and this is why I think the series is such a standout.


Yeah, sorry, that's what the parenthetical about "this particular case" was supposed to allude to; that in this particular context, there were a number of reasons why this book took the form that it did


“A print-book!” It was hard to tell whether Dors was shocked or amused. “That’s from the Stone Age.”

“It’s certainly pre-Empire,” said Seldon, “but not entirely so. Have you ever seen a print-book?”

“Considering that I’m a historian? Of course, Hari.”

“Ah, but like this one?”

He handed over the Book and Dors, smiling, opened it–then turned to another page–then flipped the pages. “Its blank,” she said.

“It appears to be blank. The Mycogenians are stubbornly primitivistic, but not entirely so. They will keep to the essence of the primitive, but have no objection to using modern technology to modify it for convenience’s sake. Who knows?”

“Maybe so, Hari, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

“The pages aren’t blank, they’re covered with microprint. Here, give it back. If I press this little nubbin on the inner edge of the cover–Look!”

The page to which the book lay open was suddenly covered with lines of print that rolled slowly upward.

Seldon said, “You can adjust the rate of upward movement to match your reading speed by slightly twisting the nubbin one way or the other. When the lines of print reach their upward limit when you reach the bottom line, that is–they snap downward and turn off. You turn to the next page and continue.”

“Where does the energy come from that does all this?”

“It has an enclosed microfusion battery that lasts the life of the book.”

“Then when it runs down–”

“You discard the book, which you may be required to do even before it runs down, given wear and tear, and get another copy. You never replace the battery.”


If you enjoy that kind of retro-futurism I recommend Asimov's Lucky Starr. For example the main character had the fastest spaceship that can go through the outer layers of the sun to take a short cut, but at the same time every output from the ship's computer gets printed because a computer screen was unimaginable. Also Venus is covered in water.




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