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Lynch Ideas Frank Herbert Incorporated into Dune

Mr. Reindeer

Waiting Room
Apr 13, 2022
About a year ago, I reread Frank Herbert’s Dune books after seeing the Villeneuve movie. Although I never got around to posting it, I made note of some points where the final two books written before Herbert’s death—Heretics of Dune (1984) and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985)—adopt elements from Lynch’s film into the canon of the books. Herbert was on record as really liking Lynch’s film, aside from the awful ending which totally undermines the point of the book. On the off-chance that this is interesting to someone besides me, here are the points where I noticed Herbert taking a cue from Lynch.

“Stages” of Guild Navigators
The concept of a “third-stage” Navigator is not present anywhere in the earlier books, and seems to have been a Lynch invention. Herbert adopted this in Heretics, referring to a “third-stage Guild steersman.”

Folding Space
In the early books, the Navigators’ power is simply a high degree of prescience due to their excessive spice use. Previously, although interstellar travel at light speed was possible, it inevitably resulted in fatal collisions with moons, planets, space debris, etc., because no pilot could react quickly enough at such high speeds. The Navigators were a game-changer because they could see all these obstacles way in advance and chart the ship around them. Lynch seems to have invented the rather cool idea that they can actually “fold space,” and Herbert followed suit and retconned this as the Navigators’ power beginning with Heretics.

Description/Appearance of the Navigator
When a Navigator appeared in Dune: Messiah, he was described as an “elongated figure, vaguely humanoid with finned feet and hugely fanned membranous hands - a fish in a strange sea.” This description was the jumping-off point for Lynch, but clearly he and Carlo Rambaldi went in a different direction. In Chapterhouse, Herbert has amended his description to echo the portrayal in the film, referring to “the Navigator’s tiny v of a mouth and the ugly flap of nose. Mouth and nose appeared small on a Navigator’s gigantic face with its pulsing temples.”

Giedi Prime
In the first Dune book, the loose description of the Harkonnens’ home world is a fairly generic medieval type of thing. Beginning with Heretics, the planet is repeatedly described as having oil soaked into the ground even 5000 years after the Harkonnens abandoned it, reflecting the industrial feel of Lynch’s interpretation. Moreover, the lengthy description of the capital, Barony, in Heretics, clearly owes a great deal to Lynch’s depiction: “It had relied exclusively on suspensor guide-beams for transport of people and material—all of them high up. No ground-level openings. … The plan translated physically into a city that used every possible square meter of vertical and horizontal space for things other than movement of goods and humans. The guide-beam openings required only enough head room and elbow room for the universal transport pods. … Suspensor tracks shot through it like worm holes—straight, curved, flipping off at oblique angles…up, down, sideways. Except for the rectangular absolute imposed by Harkonnen whim, Barony was built to a particular population-design criterion: maximum stuffing with minimum expenditure of materials.”
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