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Dune, 50 years on (theguardian.com)
186 points by Tycho on July 3, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 108 comments



Dune is a fine work and stands on its own pretty well, but Kunzru gets fixated on the first one and misses out on the depth of the latter books. The first 3 (including Dune) explore the Muad'Dib's rise to power and his new imperial system, book 4 is his son's very long reign and books 5-6 explore the dissolution of that system over the centuries. The story arc spans thousands of years. The central theme as I'd see it is the domination of humans by 'oracles' -- creatures with access to resources that dominate by both predicting and shaping the future.

Paul Atreides is not merely a "white man who fulfils a persistent colonial fantasy", he didn't arrive in a vacuum. Fremen culture has been shaped by the oracles, their religion, traditions and prophecies were planted to suit the aims of the oracles. Paul recognized first that Dune is not merely a central position worth holding, but _the_ source of power in that universe, control over Dune means control over the universe. So it's very much a story of hydraulic despotism, of the natural resource curse. How do you break the curse? Herbert's answer is 'technology'. Technology created the problem but it's also ultimately the solution.


> he central theme as I'd see it is the domination of humans by 'oracles'

That is exactly what Herbert set out to write. In his own words:

> I conceived of a long novel, the whole trilogy as one book about the messianic convulsions that periodically overtake us. Demagogues, fanatics, con-game artists, the innocent and the not-so-innocent bystanders-all were to have a part in the drama. This grows from my theory that superheroes are disastrous for humankind. Even if we find a real hero (whatever-or whoever-that may be), eventually fallible mortals take over the power structure that always comes into being around such a leader.

> Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.

From Dune Genesis by Frank Herbert:

http://moodleshare.org/mod/page/view.php?id=2453


I thoroughly enjoyed Dune. It had an interesting story, set in an even more interesting world.

However, it's also the kind of book that should never have had a sequel; other books in the series not only don't measure up, but actively undermine what made the original interesting. It's possible that other good stories could have been written in that universe, but they weren't. I highly recommend reading only the original.


I would disagree. The sequels, especially 5-6 open up the wider universe and explore a variety of human cultures and social interaction. It's a fantasy-scify with deep and complex characters and complex interactions. Normally you'd start to see a scifi universe break apart after a few books, but Dune's could stand, it's 'realistic' in a sense.

If you mean the sequels, prequels, interquels made by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, then those are of a lower quality. They had the good fortune to inherit an IP and just ran with it. They may not be so bad as far as the genre goes (except for Sandworms), but they create a somewhat wider context. It's not for everyone, while I feel the originals of Frank Herbert may be, at least to people with a taste for sci-fi.


The sequels aren't that well written.

The prequels shouldn't have been written.


I would never consider the prequels to be canon, as they were not written by Frank Herbert himself.


I really enjoyed the sequels, personally. I think the 2nd and 3rd have some low points in them with the very unappealing Alia character taking up a lot of the text. But the 4th book (God Emperor of Dune) really reframed the series as an aeon spanning meditation on civilisation and governance and institutions, while building around the fascinating concept of prescience. Then the 5th book is a real thriller with shades of the original. It also has a couple of great twists.


Agreed. The second and third books are pretty boring but the 4th is the best of the series.


The first book is black-and-white affair, the rise of an underdog hero. It takes few more sequels to paint a much bigger picture warning about dangers of religion fundamentalism and about placing burden of leadership on single person. In the end I also like the first book the best, but sequels are also worthwhile to read.


Which (if any) of the Dune sequels are "good" is one of those Kirk vs. Pickard or Joel vs. Mike caliber sci-fi debates that gets unreasonably heated since people get very attached to their opinions on creative works that resonate with them on a personal level. (For the record, I don't really like the first two sequels but I really really love the 3rd-5th sequels; I realize it's a big ask of new readers to get that far just on my say-so though.)


> For the record, I don't really like the first two sequels but I really really love the 3rd-5th sequels

I'll admit to not having gotten that far; two bad sequels was enough for me to give up.


If you've already sloged through Dune Messiah and Children of Dune then you should consider giving God Emperor of Dune a chance because it's very different from the first two sequels. The setting has dramatically changed, so there is a lot of new worldbuilding; the overall narrative shifts to focus on a new central character; there is a return to the more philosophical content of the original as opposed to the strictly expository content of the first two sequels; and the writing itself is (in my opinion) much more lovingly crafted than the prose in the first two sequels which seemed to me as a reader as if it was rushed like he just wanted to spit it out and be done with that part of the narrative. I know I'm really just evangelizing on the basis of my personal reaction to the books but again, if you've alrady read the first two sequels, pop into a Barnes and Noble or something and give the first few chapters of God Emperor a chance.


If I would attempt a re-reading of Dune, would it be advisable to skip those two sequals? It's been over 10 years since I read Dune and among the few things I remember is that I found it a painfully slow read full of details I wasn't interested in and words I couldn't bother to learn.

My English is a bit better now, and I like to think I've become a bit more patient ;) So perhaps I could attempt it again and see if I appreciate it more.


I think you can just skip the first two sequels... The emperor god of dune still reads fine without remembering those two sequels perfectly.

Incidentally I agree, while the first two sequels are interesting they are a bit of a slow read and they don't feel as well written as the later books. Frank Herbert really starts to get into his stride with the Emperor God of Dune.

The books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson are better avoided like all works by Kevin J Anderson (who is IMO a very mediocre writer)


> The books by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson are better avoided like all works by Kevin J Anderson (who is IMO a very mediocre writer)

I quite enjoyed the Jedi Academy trilogy, both for its own sake and for its detail on several bits of the universe.


I enjoyed the last 2 books of the series, although not nearly as much as the originals. It was nice to have an ending to the story. I think they're ok for Dune fans.


Because reasons, I actually started reading the series from the 4th book to the 6th and only years later I acquired the first 3 pieces of the story. I enjoyed the 4-6 books a lot without reading the other books before because they actually make sense standalone. So basically yes, you can start reading from the 4th without a problem.


You missed the best part then.


The sequels don't undermine the original story, they expand on it.

A lot of people think Dune is a straightforward hero story, with Paul Atreides the "good" hero, but actually (edit: I should say, according to Herbert and taking into account the later novels) it is the story of the terrible damage a "hero" can cause to a culture and society.

"No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero." - Frank Herbert

This is similar to Cryptonomicom, which people think is the story of Avi and Randy's success, but is really the story of their misguided quest which is doomed to fail.


What an author intends and what readers take from it are two different things. Definitely an interesting quote, though; I like that.


Agreed. My interpretation is that Paul actually failed completely as a hero.


I read the books 15 years ago (IIRC, the first 4 or 5), and need to revisit.

But my enduring memory was of a flawed young man becoming overly enamoured with his new messianic role, and making some choices that were questionable.


It's not really like that. In the end the choices he made supposedly happened because he saw the future that this was the best way for humanity to survive.


I agree. I found the sequels both not as compelling and harder to read than the original (the notable exception being Dune Messiah, which was still quite interesting and closer to the original): Plans within ploys within ruses within plans for pages on end, contemplations of a literal Godking in an even more distant future made the later storyline very difficult to follow at times.

However, while the first novel was the most digestible and most intriguing plot-wise, it is the sequels that explore the philosophical, political and social subjects of the original much more deeply. In a way the sequels are sometimes more like (huge) essays on various philosophical topics that merely use the original story as a backdrop.


I also think it undermines the ending, which is probably one of the best endings I've ever read, which ties everything together rapidly so you have to re-read the past few paragraphs again. I remember thinking "woah".

The start of the book is maybe a bit slow but it does pick up pace rapidly after a point. The best advice I got was to just push on, I'll understand why later. I don't regret it.


I think Dune was successful because it was a straightforward hero story, whose plot meshed together many interesting sub-themes like politics, religion, ecology, colonialism, drugs, eugenics, AI etc. The sequels failed because they abandoned the simple entertainment that a hero story could provide, and instead put the sub-themes front and center.


The Dune series is absolutely my favourite series ever and in my opinion the original is only a prelude to the real story.

It's depth barely scratches what comes next, especially in the 4-5-6 books. Even though there are inconsistencies the last 3 books are much much better in my opinion, especially the fourth.

The first book is just an (almost boring) introduction.


> it's also the kind of book that should never have had a sequel

The first two books are meant to be read as one. I recommend, at minimum, Dune and Dune Messiah.


I agree. A little like the Ender's Game series. The first two are great, and the rest seem a little like nothing more than a revenue source.

Obligatory XKCD link - https://xkcd.com/304/


Am I the only one who didn't like Speaker for the Dead? To me it felt like a big let down after Ender's Game.


You'll like the "Shadow" books then.

Enders game is a space battle thriller with a great twist.

Speaker is all about what do you consider "human" and what do you consider "alien". It was very mind expanding when I was 14.


The alien-vs-human issue was covered in the beginning setup and then the end of ender's game, when ender realized what he had done. Do you need a whole other book to drive the point home?


I think that is the point--to show that situations that seem like inspiring hero stories from one perspective, are actually more complicated from a broader view.


Read Dune and Dune Messiah together, and then skip the rest and read God Emperor of Dune. That more-or-less provides what you need.


I found Dune Messiah to be a slog through piles of brooding and pontification; Children of Dune was at least an improvement over that.


Agreed. I have read all six but only still own the first one.


I agree wholeheartedly.


The writer missed one of the most interesting points of the Dune future history: it is one that rejected machine intelligence, and relies only on human abilities (however augmented by training, drugs and mystical handwaving).

The original Dune books mentioned, as part of the past, a war against AIs called the Butlerian Jihad, which humans somehow won. Frank Herbert's son later wrote it up in three prequel books.

This is very much against the grain of 1960s and later SF, which, when not ignoring the issue, largely developed into a range of AI friendly views going from blithely assuming machine submission (most SF) up to admitting that humans would be the amusing pets of AIs (e.g. Iain M. Banks and Neal Asher).

On the hostile side, there were dystopian stories that posited human persecution and extermination by machines, but I can't remember off-hand another major SF setting where AI was achieved and beaten back.


The shunning of computers is probably the aspect I found most interesting at first. Are the Butlerian Jihad books actually any good? I'd love to read more about it, but I don't want to ruin my love of the universe with some shoddy fan fiction, even if it is written by Herbert's son.


I read one BH/KJA book and it's name/content is not worthy of recollection. Horrible, fourth grade reading level stuff, IMO.

The Butlerian Jihad was very intriguing to me, as well. As a youth I found it hard to imagine such extremes that would bring about such a rejection of technology and it's benefits. At 45yo, however, I find the drawbacks of modern systems have become too 'costly' to my person and am embarking upon my own cleansing of over-bearing, insinuating devices in my life. Cupertino, Redmond or Mt. View(any Corp, for that matter) will never be allowed to become my masters, my moocher bff nor my nanny beyond a static, transactional relationship. Despite what the marketeers would have me believe, they are doing me no favors entrenching further dependence to their systems. Long live the fighters!


> the drawbacks of modern systems have become too 'costly'

In terms of distraction, privacy, nudging or something else?

> cleansing of over-bearing, insinuating devices in my life

Are you eliminating apps which send data to 3rd-parties, with something like ownCloud or Synology?


Well, I do have to admit, if human beings can develop literal future-sight when using a specific drug in ways that non-biological, not-specifically-human computing hardware simply can't replicate, then I could imagine humanity fighting a jihad against AI and winning.


For the kids: though technically the RTS genre existed earlier in one or two games, it was essentially nearly singlehandedly popularized by Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty. The graphics and sound, probably inspired by the Amiga, were awesome in the era! So many elements of modern RTS were already present: multiple civilizations, each with specialist unit types. Level-oriented progression. Resource harvesting. Terrain types. Unit speed as a key differentiator. High level weapons with the capacity for massive remote destruction. NPCs on the map. See the intro video on Youtube @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4sj2Rf1RFg


Experience the game right now on your browser: http://epicport.com/en/dune2


Amazing to see again. So much clicking.


Erm. Let's not forget Dune the adventure game by Cryo as well, which was some kind of Adventure game mixed with real time strategy in the later parts of the game. Very well done.


Yes, it's the highlight of Cryo's output. Everything from this game is great from the music by Stephane Picq to the mixture of adventure game, trading and strategy.

Lost Eden follows a similar concept but it's nowhere as good.

Dune 2 by Westwood which came out around the same time was also very innovative for the time and is really the father of all RTS.


Yeah, Picq even made a music CD based on his music from Dune, and it's really good.


Yep, he released it on soundcloud by the way: https://soundcloud.com/st-phane-picq


There's also another fantastic game inspired by Dune, an older turn-based strategy game called Emperor of the Fading Suns. The game's religion system, power struggle between noble houses, along with mix of tribal themes and space technology creates a strong Dune-like ambience.


That was the first non-platform game I really got into (before reading the books even), and I don't think anything since has managed to do strategy quite so well, with its blend of RTS and actual democracy in meeting others and negotiating with them.


Dune and the Foundation series are by far my favorite SF series. The reason? Both have unparalleled universe depth. To today I still recite the Dune fear prayer to myself once in a while, I still think about how the Foundationeers used technology as a means to control the Galaxy after the fall of the Empire, I still think of spice as several natural resources on Earth today, etc.

I believe all the books in the Dune series are valuable and even enjoyed the prequels since they gave a background to the story that was just lightly touched in the originals. For me, they completed the Universe and helped me answer the "Why did they do/think...?"

P.S. The Dune 1 game also ruled! It was the first game on my 486 and boy did it help me get a lot of ladies :)


Dune was first scifi book I read at age of 12 and reread couple of times. Other scifi of the era was all about spaceships, colonies and what so ever. I still love these classics from gold era of sci-fi, but Dune is different, it is still relevant and don't age at all.

It is all about "religion" fundamentalism, movement/revolution creation and philosophy. Really great book, highly recommend.


Y'all have seen Jodorowsky's Dune, right? This documentary changed my life:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935156/reference


I saw that movie, I thought it was very good.

Just curious, what did you like about it that it changed your life. Did you mean the how it was shot (i.e. impressed by director's work), Jodorowsky as a person, his story how he worked on Dune with other people (the complexity, dedication, the obsession), or Dune itself?

I found interesting how Dune influenced all these other blockbusters that came after, most importantly Star Wars. It was also fascinating how Jodorowsky never actually read Dune. EDIT: that is not correct as someone pointed out by Nemcue, I (and others apparently) misremembered. It was both the financier, Michel Seydoux and the illustrator Chris Foss who hadn't read it.

Or say, why anyone thought Jodorowsky, based on his previous track record of making surrealist films, would be a good candidate to make Dune. I just don't see the obvious connection from "Holly Mountain" to blockbuster "Sci Fi" for the masses. Now, of course in a funny twist, David Lynch, another surrealist author, actually made the American (Universal Studios) version, and it was terrible I thought.


"It was also fascinating how Jodorowsky never actually read Dune."

It's so bizarre how people keep saying this, because you're far from being the first; like you all fell asleep during the exact same segment.

He _did_ read the book. He clearly says so in the documentary.

He hadn't read the book before he got the go-ahead from the producer.


Thanks for pointing that out. I misremembered. Edited my comment accordingly.


It's the only movie I've watched that made me rewatch it immediately after it was over. I rewatched it two more times in the next two days afterwards and I've watched it every few months since.

The movie invariably invokes a feeling of pure creativity in me. It puts me in a fury, like some sort of creative berserker. I like watching it to conjure that feeling.

At the core it's Jodo's intensity that I love. He approaches every part of making this movie like it's the most important thing in the world and gets everyone around him to rise to that challenge.

His ability to put together a team of world-class people was also inspiring. I have tremendous respect for everyone he picked but I also find the subtext of his quest fascinating. It's never overtly mentioned but each person he convinces to join has a desire that he exploits. Pink Floyd wants fame, Dali wants money, Orson Welles wants food, etc. There's something powerful about aligning a creative team while being conscious of each individual's desires.

There are many great quotes throughout the movie. Two stick out: "Have the greatest ambition possible" which is always worth reminding yourself of. The second occurs near the end, when he realizes the movie won't get made. I forget the exact words, but roughly: "We make the movie: GREAT. We don't make the movie: GREAT." We all suffer crushing defeats, when something we wanted doesn't happen. I love that Jodorowsky approaches this failure with equal creative intensity, and drives that creativity into new outlets (e.g. The Incal). It's a great philosophy for dealing with failure.

There's a lot more I love about the doc, but I'll end on a personal note. The movie also hits a soft spot because I grew up living in Paris and now live in Los Angeles. Two cities where most of the action takes place. I always enjoy multilingual/multicultural movies especially when they engage both my French and American sides.


Thank you for answering! I can see your viewpoint.

I can't decide if Jodorowsky is bit crazy or genius. Probably both.

Thinking back, yeah I did find he dedication fascinating.

I remembered him of course from his films -- Fando Y Lis, Santa Sangre, Holy Mountain. Most Americans have heard or seen a David Lynch movie, well Jodorowsky is more out there if you wish. Even if Jodo's Dune was made, I doubt it would have gained international success and become a "Star Wars". It would have been an awesome and fascinating movie but not for everyone's tastes.


> I found interesting how Dune influenced all these other blockbusters that came after, most importantly Star Wars.

Didn't it bring Geiger to the attention of Ridley Scott (Geiger's art sets the ascetic for Alien and its sequels)?


Heh, go google the difference between ascetic and aesthetic. I think you'll find it interesting.


Or he already knows it and was auto-corrected on a phone or tablet.


Yes, I thought about adding that caveat, but it didn't seem worth it for an off topic comment. If they already knew they could safely ignore it. But it got a single up vote, so I kind of assumed it was news to them.


I really wish I could've seen Salvador Dali in Dune... the best payed actor in history!


Thank the maker that movie never got made.


Those who want to learn more about Dune and Frank Herbert, I strongly suggest to read Tim O'Reilly's interview / autobiography book:

http://www.oreilly.com/tim/herbert/

I am a long-time Dune fan, and this book and the background information it provides makes me read it and Dune again, and again.


Dune is one of my favourite books and I actually enjoyed David Lynch's film.

I would love to see a modern cinema adaptation, but with the current political climate it might be impossible to make a movie about a messiah leading religious fanatics on a jihad against an empire for control of the commodity on which all civilization is dependent.


Most classic sci-fi is deeply anti-liberal. Liberal utopian stuff like Star Trek is the exception. Dune is loaded with implicit acceptance of aristocracy and religion.


Herbert said his whole point in writing Dune was to criticize the tendency of people to rely on Messianic figures for salvation, to show how our reliance on charismatic heroes and saviors can destroy us. Ironically, there's so much propaganda in favor of these things in fiction that most people read his criticisms as support. He also wanted to explore the idea that reading about characters who operate with advanced levels of consciousness might inspire readers to expand their own thinking, especially into thinking about long-term consequences on our environment, to get people to think about living more sustainably as neo-peasants, which he attempted to do himself. So the characters are meant to be inspiring, but their flaws ar meant to be obvious enough that we can avoid the mistakes they make while thinking more broadly and surpassing them.


Another TV adaptation worth mentioning is SyFy's miniseries "Frank Herbert's Dune" and "Frank Herbert's Children of Dune". They are much more faithful to books than Lynch's movie and better show the epic universe that Herbert imagined.


I really disliked the that Dune miniseries[1]. There was some really awful acting and very cheap looking sets through a lot of it.

I also thought they got the tone of Paul's character completely wrong. To me he came across starting off as an arrogant thug whereas my perception of him from the books was a very thoughtful if not perhaps demonstratively emotive young man. (Obviously subjective viewpoint, but it put me off right from the start.)

OTOH, the audiobook produced by Audible I thought was very good. I've probably read the book four or five times, the last time well over a decade ago. I listened to the audiobook recently and really enjoyed it and reminded me how much I liked the first book[2].

[1] Have not seen the Children of Dune miniseries.

[2] I'm in the "first book was good, the rest was crap" camp. I read through 'til about halfway through Heretics of Dune before asking myself why I was still reading and stopped.


I took it as "filmed theater" rather than a movie. Aside from William Hurt, all actors are playing their roles, not "acting". So if you see it that way it's enjoyable. Everything is theatric, from the costumes to the dialogs, it doesn't really feel like a movie at all.

I prefer this to Lynch's film which has great costumes and design but you can't tell Dune in less than 2 hours, like one cannot tell lord of the rings in one movie.

However,there is certainly room for a real trilogy movie. I'm sure it will happen in the next 10 years.


> my perception of him from the books was a very thoughtful if not perhaps demonstratively emotive young man.

I would say that Paul was throughtful, but very emotive - remember the lecture about mood being a thing for cattle? - and not keen enough on acting initially.


OTOH, the David Lynch movie was both good and original. However the bits that were good where not original, and the bits that were original were not good.


Some website a few years ago said that Lynch's Dune is great if you cut out all of the speaking parts. I'd like to see an edit like that.


Absolutely disagree.

From the get, Paul is depicted as a petulant, unthoughtful child with no desire to move off-planet - which is the exact opposite of who he is in the books.

The fact that Paul is mature for his age is precisely why he takes the courses of action he does in the books.

David Lynch nailed that aspect.


Dune shared the 1965 Hugo for Best Novel with Roger Zelazny's This Immortal...which says something about how good Zelazny's work is despite its relative obscurity (compared with Dune).


This Immortal is terrific. And Zelazany in general. Dune and Lord of Light (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_of_Light) are a few of the only SF books I re-read on a regular basis.


Seconded - Lord of Light is really awesome (and just as politically nuanced as Dune, but with better characters, IMO)


No love for Creatures of Light and Darkness?


Well, I read both, but LoL made a bigger impression on me.

To be honest I found CoLaD too much "experimentalist" for my taste (I read both when I was much younger, so it probably went over my head, while LoL I reread and enjoyed through subsequently rereadings).


I've heard people say they find inspiration in the Litany Against Fear (Fear is the mind-killer...) but I prefer the stripped-down version introduced in the 5th sequel: "Face your fears or they will climb over your back."


I thought it odd that the article did not mention the SciFi mini-series Dune and Children of Dune that came out a while back [1][2]. These were actually quite good, much better than the David Lynch version.

[1] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0142032/ [2] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0287839/?ref_=tt_rec_tt


I haven't seen the second, but the first was...unfortunate in its casting, I suppose; it got everything else pretty much right, but the performances were so leaden that I've only been able to watch it the once.


Yeah, fair. The second one was much, much better.


Check out the Destination: Void series (but start with The Jesus Incident). Inspiration for Avatar and similar.


"If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war" - well, no it isn't.

"Actually, the great Dune film did get made. Its name is Star Wars."

This would be a better essay if I could take it seriously.


"If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war,"

Which it isn't, as Tolkien makes clear in the foreward.


I'm not sure I agree with Tolkien on this front. Yes, I know: I'm disagreeing with an author's assessment of his own work.

But authors are necessarily a part of their environment. It is -- literally -- inescapable. The good Professor was directly involved in the first World War, and the second was at his doorstep. His aversion to modernity could have led to him simply denying a a conscious connection between those real world epics and those created by his own mind.

But the works themselves put doubt to his claim. If we take him only at his word, and stop there, then that is the end of it. But if we recognize the imperfect ways we self-assess, well...


What Tolkien was largely dismissing is the notion that his world was a direct allegory. He readily acknowledges that the comraderie and sacrifice he experienced in the trenches of WWI manifests itself in Frodo and his companions, as well as the doomed but defiant determination of the people of England/Gondor in the face of assured destruction, etc. So there are themes that bind the two worlds but he was adamantntly dismissive of any direct mappings (ie Germany as Mordoe or whatever).

Really LotR is about mortality and power.


I am pretty sure there is a passage in the Carter's biography where he clearly states that people drawing parallels between Sauron and Hitler or the West vs the East are idiots.


I believe Tolkien directly said it was about mortality, and that power was a sideshow to move the plot along.

The power of the ring is primarily to delay the inevitable and it corrupts all who cannot accept that.


> I'm not sure I agree with Tolkien on this front. Yes, I know: I'm disagreeing with an author's assessment of his own work.

It hardly takes more than a smidgen of familiarity with the author's history to see it's deeply rooted in the experience of the first world war, not the second. As Tolkien notes, the themes flat out don't make sense for the second.


Yep. And he points out that the Lord of The Rings as a concept and plot was finished well before WWII even started.


I'm not going to cut and paste (or type out) the whole forward but more than half of it talks about this claim in considerable detail. It's not new. Tolkien says:

- He dislikes allegory in all its forms

- The relationship between any author's experiences and his writing are amazingly complex.

- The story is meant to provide a good long tale that would move, delight and surprise readers. It is not meant to have a deeper meaning by intention.

- Parallels between WWII and LoTR simply don't work.

- The key parts of the story are by far the oldest.

- The old miller had a black beard and his name was not Sandyman (his final dig).

He was far more influenced by his classical background and philology than current affairs.


I think LoTR has much deeper connections to the First World War than the second. WWI is outside of our frame of reference, but for example LoTR was very much a ground war.


Would lotr have a deeper meaning if I read a wwi history or novel first?


Possibly, though I am more thinking about how combat worked in WWI vs WWII. Cavalry for example was still useful in WWI at the start and become less useful over time. Trench warfare in WWI often devolved into hand to hand fighting where firearms where more useful and machinguns far more common and better used tactically making tanks a requirement vs simple massed charges. Running out of ammo was also a common issue in WWI though this still happened in WWII.

WWI saw a lot more walled fortifications where bunkers where the preferred WWII due in no small part to increase aircraft use.

LoTR used walled fortifications, some ranged combat but a lot of hand to hand combat, artillery where there but of minimal value, you can even think of the eye as eairly aircraft useage, where you can't really hide, but aircraft can't Effectivly attack. Etc.


An author fully understands their own work the way a programmer knows about every bug in code they've written. This is why we have QA and literary critics.


I don't get that analogy... wouldn't that be an author has basic writing mistakes and this is why we have book editors?

How do bugs/mistakes change the intent and meaning of the actual work by the person creating it? When I create a software program, I don't expect people to come along and point out that I'm actually creating it for different reasons or a different purpose.


> When I create a software program, I don't expect people to come along and point out that I'm actually creating it for different reasons or a different purpose.

You must be new. :) It happens all the time.


"How do bugs/mistakes change the intent and meaning of the actual work by the person creating it?"

Often a bug comes into being because our ability to translate our intents into language is limited by our perceptions.

In code, this works out that we think we told the machine to do one thing, but in practice our instructions have side effects or unforeseen meanings in corner cases.

In language, this could be seen in two way. On one hand, even the best of us can't grasp all the possible meanings of our language and stories, especially given the fact that they will be read in a future that might create a whole new context for those words.

And, on the other hand, sometimes we are strangers to ourselves and are, to over simplify, acting on subconscious impulses that we don't fully understand.


I see that as more the reader/user using the work and applying meaning to it by using it to relate to some other knowledge or experience in their life.

Every reader can get a different meaning because of something specific to them, but I don't see how that would change the author's intentions. He/she can absolutely state exactly why they wrote something and what the meaning is, without contest.

My point: meaning is subjective and we should leave it as such, ie: "I think this story is a nice fit for this scenario" instead of "the author meant this even though he clearly states he didnt."


Have you ever heard of "talk to the duck"? It's the idea that you're so close to a problem and tied up in the details that you haven't stepped back to see the whole picture and truly understand what's going on. Or alternatively, have you ever been struggling with a concept and someone comes along and says "oh, you're building a [design pattern]" and suddenly it all makes sense?

While I'm not sure I agree with the Tolkien assessment above, I understand the sentiment of being too close to one's work.


Or perhaps an author fully understands their own work the same way a programmer knows how users will use their programs.


I don't think this sentence is important to the review. The quoted bit is the entirety of the reference to Tolkien and WWII.


I enjoyed Dune, but it has much to do with software/hacking as installing a kitchen garbage disposal.


It is interesting indeed but the best Sci Fi fiction work in my view is Hyperion.




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