The Story Behind Dune: House Atreides
by Brian Herbert
When my father first sat down with me to go over one of my manuscripts, he told me that he couldn't teach me how to write; instead, he would teach me what he called "the care and feeding of editors": how to make manuscripts look presentable so that they wouldn't be tossed into a slush pile, unread. He then proceeded to teach me how to write. I remember many instances when we would brainstorm ideas and dissect my own novel manuscripts. He taught me how to develop worlds, to create characters, to invent action...and to describe all of it. We collaborated on the novel Man of Two Worlds, Frank Herbert's last published work, and even talked about working together on a new Dune novel, but we'd set no date, had established no specific details or direction.
That novel was not to be. When my father died in 1986, he left several projects unfinished. For years there were rumors that I would write another novel set in my father's Dune universe, a sequel to the sixth book in the series, Chapterhouse: Dune. Prominent writers approached me with offers of collaboration, but in tossing ideas around with them I couldn't visualize the project coming to fruition. They were excellent writers, but in combination with them I didn't feel the necessary synergy for such a monumental task. Along with Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and a handful of other works, Dune stood as one of the greatest creative achievements of all time, and arguably the greatest example of science fiction world-building in the history of literature. For the sake of my father's legacy, I could not select the wrong person.
It wasn't until I began conversation with Kevin J. Anderson, a critically acclaimed and internationally best-selling author, that I found someone whose enthusiasm and passion for the Dune universe match my own. Much of Kevin's writing had been influenced heavily by the work of Frank Herbert. I read everything I could get my hands on that Kevin had written, and did more checking on him. It soon became clear that he was a brilliant writer and that his reputation was sterling. We hit it off immediately, both on a personal and professional level; new story ideas fairly exploded from our minds and together, we found the energy to tackle such a massive project.
Frank Herbert had left behind literally thousands of pages of notes, ideas, and sketches. Of all the possible Dune stories we could tell, Kevin and I chose to concentrate on an immediate prequel, to go back to the heart of Dune's readership, the core characters and situations that had made this the best-selling science fiction novel of all time: The love story of Duke Leto and Lady Jessica; their first battle with Baron Harkonnen; the quest of the planetologist Kynes, sent to the desert world of Dune to investigate the precious spice and the sandworms and the Fremen...and the power-hungry Crown Prince Shaddam, who would do anything to secure the Imperial throne.
The Dune universe is a vast canvas, with ample opportunity for many stories, but we have chosen to start here, featuring the characters with whom all Dune fans are familiar. Dune: House Atreides is a personal story that means a great deal to us; we hope booksellers and readers alike will feel the same way.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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