by Brian Herbert
Copied from BookBrowse
For more than a decade there had been 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. I had published a number of acclaimed science fiction novels, but wasn't sure I wanted to tackle something so immense, so daunting. After all, Dune is a magnum opus that stands as one of the most complex, multi-layered novels ever written. A modern-day version of the myth of the dragon's treasure, Dune is a tale of great sandworms guarding a precious treasure of melange, the geriatric spice. The story is a magnificent pearl with layers of luster running deep beneath its surface, all the way to its core.
At the time of my father's untimely death in 1986, he was beginning to think about a novel that carried the working title "Dune 7," a project he had sold to Berkley Books, but on which there were no known notes or outlines. Dad and I had spoken in general terms about collaborating on a DUNE novel one day in the future, but we'd set no date, had established no specific details or direction. It would be sometime after he completed Dune 7 and other projects.
In ensuing years, I thought about my late father's uncompleted series, especially after I concluded a five-year project writing Dreamer of Dune, a biography of this complex, enigmatic man'a biography which required that I analyze the origins and themes of the Dune series. After long consideration, it seemed to me that it would be fascinating to write a book based upon the events he had described so tantalizingly in the Appendix to Dune, a new novel in which I would go back 10,000 years to the time of the Butlerian Jihad, the legendary Great Revolt against thinking machines. That had been a mythical time in a mythical universe, a time when most of the Great Schools had been formed, including the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats and the Swordmasters.
Upon learning of my interest, 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. So I kept turning to other projects, avoiding the big one. Besides, while Dad had sprinkled many provocative loose ends in the fifth and sixth books of the series, he had written an afterword for Chapterhouse: Dune that was a marvelous dedication to my late mother, Beverly Herbert--his wife of nearly four decades. They had been a writing team in which she edited his work and acted as a sounding board for his overflow of ideas. So with both of them gone, it seemed a fitting conclusion to leave the project untouched.
The trouble is, a fellow named Ed Kramer kept after me. An accomplished editor and sponsor of science fiction/fantasy conventions, he wanted to put together an anthology of short stories set in the Dune universe stories by different, well-known authors. He convinced me that it would be an interesting, significant, project, and we talked about co-editing it. All the details weren't finalized, since the project had a number of complexities, both legal and artistic. In the midst of this, Ed told me had received a letter from bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson, who had been invited to contribute to the proposed anthology. He suggested what he called a "shot in the dark," asking about the possibility of working at novel length, preferably on a sequel to Chapterhouse: Dune.
Kevin's enthusiasm for the Dune universe fairly jumped off the pages of his letter. Still, I delayed answering him for around a month, not certain how to respond. Despite his proven skills, I was hesitant. This was a big decision. By now I knew I wanted to be involved closely in the project, and that I needed to participate to such a degree in order to ensure the production of a novel of integrity, one that would be faithful to the original series. Along with J.R.R. Tolkien's 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 couldn't select the wrong person. I read everything I could get my hands on that Kevin had written, and did more checking on him. It soon became clear to me that he was a brilliant writer, and that his reputation was sterling. I decided to give him a telephone call.
We hit it off immediately, both on a personal and professional level. Aside from the fact that I genuinely liked him, I felt an energy between us, a remarkable flow of ideas that would benefit the series. After obtaining the concurrence of my family, Kevin and I decided to write a prequel--but not one set in the ancient times, long before Dune. Instead we would go to events only 30 or 40 years before the beginning of Dune, to the love story of Paul's parents, to the Planetologist Pardot Kynes being dispatched to Arrakis, to the reasons for the terrible, destructive enmity between House Atreides and House Harkonnen, and much more. Our concept quickly grew to three books, a trilogy.
Before writing a detailed outline, we set to work rereading all six Dune books my father had written, and I took it upon myself to begin assembling a massive Dune Concordance--an encyclopedia of all the characters, places and wonders of the Dune universe. Of primary concern to us, we needed to determine where Dad had been heading with the conclusion of the series. It was clear that he was building up to something momentous in Dune 7, and without intending to do so he had left us with a mystery. There were no known notes or other clues, only my memory that Dad had been using a yellow highlighter on paperback copies of Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune shortly before his death--books that no one could locate after he was gone.
In early May 1997, when I finally met Kevin J. Anderson and his wife, the author Rebecca Moesta, new story ideas fairly exploded from our minds. In a frenzy the three of us either scribbled them down or recorded them on tape. From these notes, scenes began to unfold, but still we wondered and debated where Dad had been going with the series.
In the last two books, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, he had introduced a new threat--the reviled Honored Matres--who proceeded to lay waste to much of the galaxy. By the end of Chapterhouse, the characters had been driven into a corner, utterly beaten -- and then the reader learned that the Honored Matres themselves were running from an even greater mysterious threat -- a peril that was drawing close to the protagonists of the story, most of whom were Bene Gesserit Reverend Mothers.
A scant two weeks after our meeting, I received a telephone call from an estate lawyer who had handled matters involving my mother and father. He informed me that two safety deposit boxes belonging to Frank Herbert had turned up in a suburb of Seattle, boxes that none of us knew existed. I made an appointment to meet with the bank authorities, and in an increasing air of excitement the safety deposit boxes were opened. Inside were papers and old-style floppy computer disks that included comprehensive notes for an unpublished "Dune 7"--the long-awaited sequel to Chapterhouse: Dune! Now Kevin and I knew for certain where Frank Herbert had been headed, and we could weave the events of our prequels into a future grand finale for the series.
We turned with new enthusiasm to the task of putting together a book proposal that could be shown to publishers. That summer I had a trip to Europe scheduled, an anniversary celebration that my wife, Jan, and I had been planning for a long time. I took along a new laptop computer and a featherweight printer, and Kevin and I exchanged FedEx packages all summer long. By the time I returned at the end of the summer, we had a massive 141-page trilogy proposal--the largest that either of us had ever seen. My allied Dune Concordance project, the encyclopedia of all the marvelous treasures of the Dune universe, was a little over half completed, with months of intensive work remaining before it would be finished. As we waited to see if a publisher would be interested, I remembered the many writing sessions I had enjoyed with my father, and my early novels in the 1980s that had received his loving, attentive suggestions for improvement. Everything I had learned from him--and more--would be needed for this huge prequels project, which we were entitling Prelude to Dune.
-- Brian Herbert