Though summer has yet to really make much of an appearance here in Seattle (it’s 55 degrees and raining as I type this right now), I’m trying in earnest to at least go through the motions of summertime. Mona and I have taken to incorporating late-night neighborhood strolls into our routine, enjoying the extra hours of sunlight with the sun setting most nights around 9:30. My garden is flourishing (I even have artichokes!), and though the breeze may be a cold one, I’ve left my windows open at night to at least wash some fresh air through the house. There’s one more summertime tradition yet to come, one that I have enjoyed since I was a child: reading sci-fi books. While most young girls or grown women might take to their stack of “beach reads” when summer rolls around, I find enjoyment in less commercially-popular fiction. Some years, I re-read the entire Lord of the Rings series (The Hobbit included, of course) while other years I’m tempted to branch out and see what’s new in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. This sci-fi obsession doesn’t always fly with my literary friends, but hey—sometimes, a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.
My oldest brother, Dylan, is staying with me at my house for a few weeks this summer while he finishes up the very last of his schoolwork, and we’ve been having a blast so far, taking turns cooking meals and sharing beers over old movies on TV at night. Though most adult siblings would buck at the close quarters of my tiny apartment, Dylan and I have slipped into an easy, workable routine. The other night while eating dinner (sloppy-joe bison burgers with sweet potato fries) with a close and dear family friend, the topic of conversation moved to my collection of nerdly books—more specifically, I was asked about my love of the Dune Chronicles.
Now, those who know me well know not to get me started on the subject of Frank Herbert or my beloved Dune series unless willing to hear me discuss, at great length and for many hours, why Dune is the original and ultimate science fiction masterpiece. But our poor friend, Mark, didn’t know what he was getting into when he asked me if Dune was “any good,” and had to listen to me go on and on, even when the conversation had moved on to two or three new topics. Try as they did to steer the conversation on to more mutually interesting subjects, I kept reeling it back in to Dune, nearly forcing the book into Mark’s hands. (He didn’t take it, and I will continue to chastise him for this negligence until he finally relents).
Yes, I have loved Legend of the Drow, Neuromancer, and of course Tolkien’s contributions to the fantasy genre, but Dune will always have a very special place in my heart. Reading Frank Herbert’s opus was a life-changing experience for me; I hit those books at exactly the right time in my adolescence. At a time when I couldn’t get enough of Star Trek, Tron, Blade Runner, The Secret of Nimh, Star Wars, and other geeky conglomerates, Dune broke through the sea of lame costumes, elaborate settings, and over-played themes. Part of what I loved so much about Dune was that it didn’t need any glamour or fanfare to make the story engaging. The story was good enough to hold my fanatic interest through all six of the novels, and through all of the seven prequels. I poured over Frank Herbert’s biography, Dreamer of Dune, eagerly soaking up details about the Pacific Northwest landscape that served as inspiration for his novels. Published in 1965, the groundbreaking hero’s journey set in space concept of Dune predated any of the Star Wars or Star Trek stories to which we now associate that concept. And while I can appreciate the historical significance, what brings me back to the series after so many years is the highly imaginative landscape, the complex character development, and the epic grandeur of the storylines.
Tolkien had his turn last year; I think that this summer, as I hope for warmer weather and for the rain to dry up, I’ll let the sands of Arrakis fill my head for a spell. There is much of value in these books beyond simple entertainment–tools of the craft that I can adapt for my own novel-in-progress, though it resides in a totally different genre and style than Dune. And hell, Dylan has even agreed to watch the Sci-Fi channel film adaptation of Dune later this week. The nerd in me can barely contain herself with glee. In preparation for another round with Frank Herbert’s brilliant Dune universe, I will set my phaser to AWESOME, and enjoy in a way that no nerd has ever enjoyed before.