- CRITTER TALK
“Fornication? But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.”
Christopher Marlowe, “The Jew of Malta” Act 4, Scene 1
House of Atreides? OK, Homer. Who could have a problem believing that a lineage could be traceable and cohesive after 20,000 years, but of course anything can be true where truth is simply what you want it to be. There never was a house of Atreus anyway, nor was Homer much concerned with plausibility.
It doesn’t take long to see the latest version of Dune or the book it’s based on as a derivative of William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique or the popular game of Mad-Libs. Bits of this and bits of that strung together to make up the almost inevitable swords and sorcery world masquerading as Science Fiction. Our ancient future. It has become a genre.
Is this about our Universe in the future, or an alternate universe with a flexible reality that allows the writer to ignore science and reality altogether? If the former, the appearance of classical Mesopotamian and Mediterranean memes and art seems odd in a culture removed 8000 years from our time. (assuming that Dune denizens still use a Christian date system) Of course, it would be a culture spread over astronomical distances (Literally) but all the more odd for the Semitic references mixed with Homeric Greek and many others not likely familiar to a resident of that future time. Duncan Idaho? Really? Has humanity, science, and mythology not changed in all that time and over all that distance?
When I read the book in the mid-1960s, a time when recreational drugs and recreational delusions were spurring imaginations, I was already aware that if that pill made you bigger or smaller or sent you to a different universe, your phantom caravan would still arrive at the place it set out from. Coleridge woke up back in England after all, no matter how real the damsel from Abyssinia seemed. Frank Herbert’s proposition that some drug allows one to “fold space-time” without needing levels of energy beyond the imagination of an unaltered mind, needs to postulate a separate and not really equal universe where time is equal all over. It won’t work in ours. An alternate universe seemed like cheating [to this reader] in 1966. It seems childish in 2021.
The movie is trying to recreate the distant past in the distant future. Is it to relieve the writers of the need for plausibility or originality? Is it because we just love ancient weapons or because of imagination so weak that we can’t come up with something we would actually have ten thousand years hence? I won’t even pursue the question of whether our already ancient and religious scale of measuring history would still exist in a space-time where “we” is no longer definable and newer ancient heroes and deities have arisen.
Cut-Ups. It’s the practice of producing a mosaic, a collage of fragments that form an expression of some modern author’s message: Ideas about colonialism and imperialism and Capitalism or the victimization of various nations and peoples and cultures. He doesn’t have to be very accurate, he can be as biased as he pleases and has no need to apologize for any insults or opinions about the Arab / Israeli conflicts of its time because it’s not only fiction, but it’s in another universe – not ours. Fortunately or not – it will be here when you get back.