Frank Herbert's 1964 novel Dune is widely regarded as one of the most noteworthy works of science fiction ever written. Marks of its influence can be seen absolutely everywhere from high-flying genre films, to music, to children’s TV shows.
Now that the classic novel is on its third ever screen adaptation, it seems like a very good time to get better acquainted with this doorstopper of a book, as well as its various adaptations. With a piece of fiction this iconic and influential, there will of course be many bits of trivia about its journey from magazine serial, to multi-million dollar grossing blockbuster adaptation.
What follows is a veritable compendium of said trivia, some facts which are better known and others that might not have been brought to light before. This list is for Dune fanatics and casual genre fans alike. A sidenote: I'll only be treating Herbert’s first six Dune books - and their subsequent adaptations - as canon. With all respect to fans of Brian Herbert’s extended universe, it won’t be considered here (Because it’s really, really bad).
Massive spoilers ahead, obviously.
20. Futuristic Technology Is Deliberately Absent
If you managed to catch Denis Villeneuve's recent big-screen adaptation and thought to yourself, “Huh? Why all the swords? Why not just use guns? Where are the calculators? Dammit, just use a calculator, stop turning your eyes milky-white so help me god!” then fair enough. This deliberate lack of technology works opposite to what you’d expect from a science fiction novel, however, this was actually a very shrewd creative choice that aids in world-building.
The neo-feudalism of the Dune universe is a direct result of something called the Butlerian Jihad, which takes place roughly 10,000 years before the events of the book. During this revolution humankind ideologically rejected reliance on computers, forevermore banning so-called ‘thinking machines’.
The reverberations of this cultural shift were so strong that the tenants of the Jihad are still very much in force 10 millennia after. Humankind has learned to rely on itself for tasks we would normally delegate to machines, becoming a more advanced species in the process. The mentats handle high-level computation and guild navigators inhale vast amounts of spice to guide their ships through the galaxies. This means the world around these characters never actually became much more futuristic than we are now and it’s this wonderful thematic contradiction that drives much of the book’s plot.