WRITTEN IN THE SAND
Episode 1: Introduction
Beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.
-Dune, first sentence
And what better way to begin? Welcome to the introductory episode of Written in the Sand. This episode will be about explanations and backgrounds because that is what introductions are for.
I would like us to explore some concepts and ideas. And I’ll be following a rough foundation set by Frank Herbert’s Dune series. There will be more to it than that, but that is the basic platform I’m working from.
The first thing in the beginning is to ask the question: “why? And why is an interesting question. As Douglas Adams wrote, why is so important it has its own letter.
Why explore these ideas? Why Dune? Why would I attempt to do this?
The best answer is to say keep following the podcast, ‘cuz it’ll be a short series if I can totally answer that right now. The answers to all three aren’t separate.
And so I will present an brief overview. Brief is relative, there’s a lot coming in future installments that I want to prepare for.
Who was Frank Herbert?
Frank Herbert was an author, a journalist, a political speechwriter, and, according to his granddaughter, a man who didn’t like being described by his vocation. I think that he was the type of person who wanted to solve problems as comprehensively as possible but also knew he couldn’t do it for us. He was interested in our fundamental impulses, our self-inflicted traps, and the realistic potential of our highest aspirations. And he presented his thoughts in his writings.
He set Dune about 20,000 years ahead of our time. He did this because he wanted us to look at humanity in a time and place outside our perspectives.
If he had set his story in the modern world, we would be too invested in our own prejudices. By removing everything familiar, we can look at the actual issues without conscious or unconscious reactions based on race, culture, religions, national borders, or current political affiliation.
Considering how seriously we take that last one I’ll say that He did not present a conservative or liberal stance in the sense that we think of today in America.
He spoke at the first Earth Day, which may make you think that he was some left-wing tree hugger. But, he was also a Republican speechwriter, which would make you think that he was some right-wing nut. Maybe he was both— and neither.
I like to think his life carried him to a certain enlightenment that was beyond politics.
Now it sounds like he was some sci-fi guru trying to start up a religion or something. Except he explicitly denied that and, once we progress a little, you’ll realize the idea of that would have actually insulted him.
If you come to this with a partisan perspective, and (let’s be honest) almost everyone will, whether it’s political, social, or religious; I give you fair warning—there are going to be some rough times ahead.
There are some sacred cows that are going to be treated very badly. Try not to get too excited or angry if I touch on something you have opinions about.
I’m not a great defender of sacred cows anymore. I believe that type of holiness is a lot rarer, and much more common, than we imagine because we look for it in the wrong places.
To help understand what I mean, there is an essay that Frank Herbert wrote called “Listening to the Left Hand“. It serves as a bit of a warm-up for realizing that we need to alter how we approach things. I have a link posted on the site and I highly encourage everyone to read it.
Speaking of reading, if you just stumbled in here by accident or curiosity I’m sure you’re wondering if you need to read Dune to follow the podcast.
First off, I’m glad you showed up even if you haven’t, and yes, it would be a really good idea. If you want to you could always read along.
If you follow along without reading it, you’ll probably get a lot out of it, but you’re going to miss references. For now what I’ll say is: do what you think is best, and if it turns out you need to change things up in order to follow along better – then do it. Whatever you choose, I just want to do the work and invite you to follow along as you wish..
Why am I doing this? Why me? The simple answer is because no one else is. Which isn’t actually true. No one else is doing it the way I would like. Isn’t that the Nerdiest thing you’ve ever heard?
Still true, though. I’ve seen reviews, summaries, commentaries, and fan pages. But for what I want to do, a lot less is out there than you would think.
To better explain it, I’ll have to be a bit more personal. Briefly I’m going to go over my history with this series.
(continued in the podcast)
PLATO: THE COMPLETE WORKS
The classic philosopher, recorder of Socrates. This volume is all of it. The digital version is extremely inexpensive.
ARISTOTLE: BASIC WORKS
What was not preserved in the European countries was preserved in the Islamic world, and considering he had no typewriter, his output would have shamed Asimov. There is an extensive collection of Aristotle’s work, so there is no convenient, complete volume.
A list of the main Dune book series.
The David Lynch classic that started it all for me. Love it or hate it, it’s why I’m here.
Joseph Campbell was an amazing man who sought to talk about the stories humanity has created. He delved into the social environments of myths and the commonality of our cherished legends. This interview series with Bill Moyer is a good starting place as it’s very accessible. Highly recommended.
THE SALMON OF DOUBT by Douglas Adams
This the source of the paraphrase in the beginning of the episode. Published after his death, it contains a series of essays gleaned from the author’s computer about various topics. It’s a touching farewell to an author whose work I was introduced to long before Dune. Reading his books is what taught me to love playing with words.
HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE SEASON 1
Season 1. Here in all its improbable glory!
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC SEASON 1
Yeah, I used it for a joke, but I did say I’d link resources, so here you go.