When I was writing Dune
. . . there was no room in my mind for concerns about the book's success or
failure. I was concerned only with the writing. Six years of research had
preceded the day I sat down to put the story together, and the interweaving of
the many plot layers I had planned required a degree of concentration I had
never before experienced.
It was to be a story exploring the myth of the Messiah.
It was to produce another view of a human-occupied planet as an energy machine.
It was to penetrate the interlocked workings of politics and economics.
It was to be an examination of absolute prediction and its pitfalls.
It was to have an awareness drug in it and tell what could happen through
dependence on such a substance.
Potable water was to be an analog for oil and for water itself, a substance
whose supply diminishes each day.
It was to be an ecological novel, then, with many overtones, as well as a story
about people and their human concerns with human values, and I had to monitor
each of these levels at every stage in the book.
There wasn't room in my head to think about much else.
Following the first publication, reports from the publishers were slow and, as
it turned out, inaccurate. The critics had panned it. More than twelve
publishers had turned it down before publication. There was no advertising.
Something was happening out there, though.
For two years, I was swamped with bookstore and reader complaints that they
could not get the book. The Whole Earth Catalog praised it. I kept getting
these telephone calls from people asking me if I were starting a cult.
The answer: "God no!"
What I'm describing is the slow realization of success. By the time the first
three Dune books were completed, there was little doubt that this was a popular
work -- one of the most popular in history, I am told, with some ten million
copies sold worldwide. Now the most common question people ask is: "What does
this success mean to you?"
It surprises me. I didn't expect failure either. It was a work and I did it.
Parts of Dune Messiah and Children of Dune were written before Dune was
completed. They fleshed out more in the writing, but the essential story
remained intact. I was a writer and I was writing. The success meant I could
spend more time writing.
Looking back on it, I realize I did the right thing instinctively. You don't
write for success. That takes part of your attention away from the writing. If
you're really doing it, that's all you're doing: writing.
There's an unwritten compact between you and the reader. If someone enters a
bookstore and sets down hard earned money (energy) for your book, you owe that
person some entertainment and as much more as you can give.
That was really my intention all along.
Here is the prologue from the UK edition:
In the name of the Bene Gesserit Order and it's unbroken Sisterhood, this account has been judged reliable and worthy of entry into the Chronicles of Chapter House.
This well-recognized prescript has been tossed into limbo by the words and actions of the Bashar Miles Teg, the last person in the universe we might have suspected capable of such revelation.
What opened Teg's eyes? He says it was his encounter with a captive soldier from the Scattering, taken on Gammu and subjected to heavy interrogation. The man called upon the Great God Dur (Archives ref: "Guldur", another name for the Tyrant) to fill his captors' pockets with jewels if they would restore him to the Honoured Matres.
Teg, mindful of the Missionaria Protectiva's workings, wondered aloud if this prayer had ever been answered. Teg thought that this question would bring a call by the captive for Dur's wrath to fall upon his enemies.
Instead, the captive was amused. He appeared to think about it for a moment and then said that no one in his acquaintance had ever been answered with jewels.
"Would you want such a devine response?" Teg asked, probing for the man's real beliefs.
"It would frighten me," the captive said. "To many would ask for their share."
Teg's account relates that he immediatly saw through to this man's granular universe, becoming fully aware of how that construct was perfectly submissive to the choices of the believer. It was a matter of faith. The universe was that way because the believer chose to view it that way.
"I saw immediatly that it was the same for me and for everyone i had ever met," Teg tells us, adding that he recognized in that instant the true nature of the Mother Superior Taraza's design for the ghola and for Rakis.
Teg's revelation focused his attention on fixed accounts of historical events. He was reminded of our teaching that exotic ideas embedded in particular languages require those languages for expression. Translation always falters without the original mode of expression. The fixed accounts, he said, mostly divert attention from the secret influences around the recorded events. He calls this "stage-manage history".
We have often remarked how easily the major historians can be lured into furthering the aims of those who would divert attention. I remind you of how the Tyrant killed the historians who angered him for this very reason.
The ease with wich historians can be captivated is explained in part by the fact that bloody events exert a magnetic attraction on humankind. Historians are no exception. They cater to that ancient human desire you see manifested in the mobs gawking at executions or people stopping to stare at the scene of an accident.
Historians have the added incentive that catering to this bloody attraction often produces wealth and power. it is popular. Digging deeply into obscure events and the secret machinations of unknown people is not only more difficult, it is observably dangerous to carrers if not to lives. Such activity seldom produces historical works wich attract popular approval. Even when such revelatory works appear, they have a way of vanishing, along with their authors. This is but an extention of what our Order calls "the constant conflict". The stakes in conflicts do not change. Battle determines who will control the wealth or its equivalent.
Teg reminds us of what we already knew but did not apply fully to ourselves. We of the Sisterhood are miners digging ever deeper into veins of human complexity. We know very well that appearance, stature, bodily shape and colour--none of these things necessarily signals human worth or human intelligence.
No person or society is ever a pinnacle. Evolution does not end short of death for an entire species. The fixed pattern of the seasons has been imposed on countless planets but few have dared a perpetual springtime, or even a perpetual summer. Lack of change creates boredom. Those who are bored become unruly.
Did the Tyrant not warn us?
"I am anthropology," he said. "Study me and you will see why no argument justifies any belief in the natural superiority of your own kind. Individuals may be superior. Some societies may demonstrate superiority. But all is transient."
Do not tell me you understand this! If you dare say that i will throw the Zensunni Warning into your faces!
"Assumptions built on ideas of understanding assail us from all sides. Such assumptions place a faith in words stronger than that promoted by the organized religions. It is a faith seldom questioned. The very act of saying that things exist wich cannot be described shakes a universe where words and the systems for sharing and transitting them are the ultimate god."
Systems, my sisters! There is the heart of Teg's revelation. Rank and social position may be at the core of all social evolution but systematic remains a dangerous word. Systems, following the unconscious patterns of their human creators, always take over. It is our systems wich have brought us to our present sorry state! But we still have that deathless choice: degenerate or overcome our adversities!
-Mother Superior Darwi Odrade, Argument in counsil