Archives: Dune

Mother’s Day 2021

Stand and doff your caps to mothers. They deserve it. Good, bad, or indifferent, they gave us life, and that’s an unpayable debt. So don’t feel guilty about merely sending a card; there’s nothing expensive enough you could give to recompense your mother for your existence, unless you value yourself lightly. (Don’t do that.)

In honor of Mother’s Day, let’s consider a few fictional mothers. 

Dune: The Spice Still Flows

Is there a work of science fiction that acts as the standard-bearer for the entire genre, the way “The Lord of the Rings” does for fantasy? I’m not sure. The field is crowded with worthy candidates. But I’d nominate Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”

It is a sprawling, glorious space opera, replete with memorable images, clever conceits, scientific speculation on a grand scale, and magnificent characters. The villains are vile and the heroes heroic. Who can ever forget Baron Vladimir Harkonnen? Or Duncan Idaho? “Dune” gave us mentats, gholas, hunter-seekers, the Gom Jabbar, and ornithopters.

Portland Film Festival

Portland film fest

Saturday afternoon I attended a panel on Science Fiction, Film, and Technology. The panel boasted a pretty good line up, including Daniel H. Wilson of Robopocalypse fame. I enjoyed the discussion. Though I was struck by the thought that I may have spent too much time reading and thinking about this stuff. Wh? Well, during the course of listening to the flow of the conversation I would conceive a thought, a reference, a quote, etc. Within the next thirty seconds to a minute, one of the panelists would vocalize that exact thought. Perhaps I’ve spent too long marinating in the sci-fi pond, or perhaps it is growing stagnant.

One of the points politely contended was if the sort of films marketed as science fiction are truly science fiction. Or are they simply films of a different genre supplied with sci-fi trappings. An interesting question. Another question, that I don’t recall being addressed iis how interested would an audience be in a film that legitimately delved into hard sci-fi, the sort of technologically driven story written by scientists and engineers with a penchant for fiction, like the OG writers from the Golden Age of science fiction. A few films do tackle sociologically driven stories. But I believe those are easier to translate to compelling film.

The final question, delivered via Twitter, asked the panelists what their favorite science fiction story was, in any medium: film, novel, short story, etc. Now that is a broad question. I don’t think I could answer it. I cordially dislike most such arbitrary quantifications. Must I have a favorite? Cannot I enjoy multiple items equally? And of course one must separate ‘favorite’ from ‘greatest’, yet another arbitrary decision. Also the question eliminates categories. I don’t like requiring to pit novels against short stories, or short stories against film, or televisions shows against novels, etc. I suppose I should toss out some ideas. Dune, I could contend, is the greatest science fiction novel. But is it my favorite? I’d probably go with an old short story, something from RAH, or Fredric Brown. Or perhaps one of Jack Vance’s short novels. How to choose? Can’t do it. Same with film. I think Inception is a terrific science fiction film. But is it my favorite? Which would I rather watch again? Inception, or something like Robocop, or Predator, or The Terminator, Aliens, or hell, even Starship Troopers?

What do you think? Any favorites?