Dune is one of the few books of hardcore science fiction that I’ve ever read. I do remember reading another book called Jack the Bodiless, I believe, but needless to say, it’s been awhile and science fiction has never been one of my strong suits. I never figured out why this is, maybe because it requires a certain type of patience that I’ve never really had for reading? Or perhaps I always find myself reeling in the beginnings of anything that I read of science fiction nature.
I do think that it takes great skill to write something of science fiction. In science fiction, one must essentially create a world at least partially different from the one that we live on today, and yet it must still function by a particular set of rules and by a certain perception/understanding of reality. When the reality of the written word is inside one’s own head, how difficult it must be to keep track of everything! I have a hard enough time trying to write a book with more than ten characters, let alone come up with a history, culture, geography, language, political system, or even species that is completely unlike my own. So, props to those of you who are dedicated enough to read science fiction thoroughly enough to understand it, and a loud round of applause for those of you that are brave enough and talented enough to embark on the journey of writing science fiction, because though my aims as a writer may be high, they are nowhere near high enough to inspire to such complicated and detailed fiction.
But I am trailing! What this blog is supposed to be about is the book Dune, by Frank Herbert. What a beautifully written tale of a sad little planet, abandoned and violated by governmental systems too big to be thoroughly understood b y its poor inhabitants. But what struck me most about this novel is Paul’s mother, the Lady Jessica. She is a Bene Gesserit, treated by others as a “witch” because she has super-sensitive cultivated perceptions, can read people’s body movements to such a fine tuned sense as to practically predict what they’re thinking, and can even use “the voice” to influence and, in a way, hypnotize other people. She’s seen by some as a highly talented and essential resource, but by others she is a dangerous and almost evil or inhuman element. How interesting. Especially in a time when communication is so fast between people, and yet more than ever, the connections between people seem to be getting thinner and more shallow. For example, when I went through my ‘friend list’ on Facebook the other day, nearly 75% of the people on it were people I have literally not seen or talked to in years, or that I’ve perhaps met once at a party longgg ago. Do these people really qualify as friends? Half of them I would barely recognize if I saw them on the street. And yet every once in awhile, when I remember them, I will greedily scroll through their pages to see what they’re up to, and what their lives have been like for the past five months. Don’t tell me you haven’t done that too.
But really, am I getting a full picture of a person’s life through what they put up online? At most this can only represent a fraction of their lives! I hope to God that they don’t actually put every single intimate detail or secret of their lives online. Today, more than ever people can create false representations of themselves, hell, entire false lives that they can invest so much time and belief in, that they actually become true. I’m reminded at this time of the recent Casey Anthony murder trial, in which Casey Anthony, although she was acquitted of the murder of her child, was found guilty of four counts of lying to the court. And the things she was found to be lying about were ridiculous. Anything from a fake babysitter, fake boyfriend, imaginary trips to Florida, and even an imaginary job. And thinking of a certain person I know, some people are more afraid of the truth than they are of failure. Because at least they can spin failure to be a fantastic case of prejudice, unfairness, or cruelty, but lies originate from within. Thus, Lady Jessica is one of the most interesting characters, because she can detect lies through people’s body language and tone of voice. What is more devastating or threatening than that? A person who can strip you of your greatest weapon, your imagination?
In this way, Dune sort of reminded me of the greatly missed sci-fi TV series, Firefly. Man, I love that show. But what a beautiful blend of the old and new, having a western-type action set in space, and in Dune, having old, mystic tradition heavily detailed through the chronicles of planet conquest. Just goes to show, that no matter how far behind or ahead you look, people will stay the same through the generations; lying, cheating, war and crime, but also the inexhaustible fuel of human hope.