DUNE 7 BLOG
Saturday, August 5, 2006
The Order of Things
So, why didn't we just start with "Dune 7"?
That was indeed my original idea when I first spoke with Brian. As a DUNE fan, I was as anxious as anyone to learn how the story concluded after CHAPTERHOUSE. I waited for a final manuscript to be completed, or maybe something new written by Brian Herbert. When we finally got together ten years after Frank Herbert's death, that was our first topic of conversation. After all, it was clear that Frank had intended to complete, or at least continue, the story. He had certainly left a cliffhanger for all of us.
However, when looking at the big picture of all the DUNE chronicles, we found that every fan had of course read the original classic, and most had read the first three, through CHILDREN OF DUNE. The audience began to drop away after GOD-EMPEROR OF DUNE (which for some DUNE fans is their favorite book), and we saw the same thing for HERETICS and CHAPTERHOUSE. While each of these books was still a major bestseller, a lot of the core audience had not kept up with the later books. Before jumping in with the grand climax after fifteen years or so, we felt we wanted to reawaken interest in the magnificent DUNE universe, and perhaps introduce a whole new generation of fans.
Brian's idea was originally to go back to the time period of the Butlerian Jihad, a story that he and his father had talked about writing together as they collaborated on MAN OF TWO WORLDS. The problem with doing an idea so far separated from the original stories, though, was that we would be writing a DUNE book with none of the familiar "Dune" ingredients, set ten thousand years before Paul Atreides, with none of the familiar characters, politics, or places.
After further discussions, including input from my wife Rebecca (who is also an award-winning author), we decided the best way to bring readers back to the original DUNE was to tell the immediate prequel story of Duke Leto Atreides, his love story with Lady Jessica, his first battles with Baron Harkonnen, the planetologist Pardot Kynes exploring Dune and meeting the Fremen, the Imperial politics with Shaddam and Fenring.
We succeeded even better than we had hoped. HOUSE ATREIDES was a "runaway" bestseller -- meaning that the books were selling faster off the shelves than the warehouse could resupply them. The sales of Frank Herbert's DUNE novels shot up by more than three-and-a-half times their previous level as fans reread the first six books, or new fans picked them up for the first time. We followed that with the Butlerian Jihad trilogy, which filled in many of the historical background details and established necessary information for completing "Dune 7" as was described in Frank Herbert's last outline and notes.
Finally, Brian and I -- and the readers -- were ready for the two-volume grand climax, HUNTERS OF DUNE and SANDWORMS OF DUNE.
While this will be the chronological end of the "Chronicles" Frank Herbert established, we will revisit some of the earlier times -- we have more than 15,000 years of history to consider. Our next planned project is a trilogy we've called "Paul of Dune," with the titles of the three books tentatively, PAUL OF DUNE, JESSICA OF DUNE, and IRULAN OF DUNE.
This story, set between HOUSE CORRINO and DUNE -- as well as between DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH, in alternating storylines -- will tell the story of Paul's younger years, his friendship with Duncan and Gurney, and Duke Leto's War of Assassins against Grumman; and it will also fill in the story of Muad'Dib's great Jihad, Princess Irulan's task of building the legend of Muad'Dib, and Shaddam's bid for a return to power.
That is as far as our definite plans extend. After that, we've got some general ideas, but we haven't made any firm plans. Since Brian and I work so well together, we might even try something original of our own -- I've got my very popular "Saga of Seven Suns" series (just turned in volume 6, out of seven), and Brian is writing his "Timeweb" trilogy. We've already started talking about a big space opera to do together.
We may do a novel or trilogy set after BATTLE OF CORRIN dealing with the formation of the great schools, the Great Convention, etc. The fans keep writing us and asking for that story.
We may also do an art book showcasing the various planets in the Dune universe, or -- a massive job -- we could compile a new and accurate encyclopedia or chronology.
Maybe we'll consider doing a sequel to HELLSTROM'S HIVE (in my opinion, Frank Herbert's best book besides the DUNE novels).
All of these are just general ideas on the back burner, and we wouldn't get to them until many years from now. Even if we continue to write a new DUNE novel every year, the Paul of Dune trilogy won't be published until 2010.
We hope you will keep reading and enjoying.
PS -- this morning I leave to do my charity climb of Wetterhorn Peak. I am still hoping for a few more donations from Dune fans to meet our goal for the challenge. So far, the response from readers at dunenovels.com has not been what I had hoped. Please consider making even a small donation -- just click on the Tip Jar below, note that it's for "Peak Challenge 2006" and make your contribution. For full details, see the July 28 blog. I'm counting on you!
Copyright 2006 The Herbert Limited Partnership