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On writing and Dune.

Welcome to Edda-Earth. If I post here, it's likely to be about one of the following topics:

  • Progress on selling Edda-Earth.

  • Progress on writing more books in Edda-Earth.

  • Progress on writing books set in universes other than Edda-Earth.

  • Progress on marketing the books.

  • Or. . . because this is a blog about writing. . . I'll talk about writers who've inspired me, moments in my history as a reader that left marks on how I approach writing and understanding other authors' works, and so on.

  • You might get some sociolinguistic, sociohistorical, or mythological maundering now and again, too.

Just to kick things off, I thought I might talk a little about how reading the same book, or listening to the same song, at different points in your life, are fundamentally different experiences.

I first encountered Frank Herbert's works through the 1980s Dune film. Which has not aged well. No. Step away from the Netflix queue. It hasn't aged well at all. (Also, I'm terminally confused as to why, when I watched it in the 80s, it had a narrator with graphics at the beggining that clearly delineated the history of the Dune universe, but when I purchased it post 2010, it now had a female narrator telling a different version of events. But I digress.)

But I enjoyed it enormously when I was younger. It excited my imagination, as it did the imaginations of many others. When I first read Dune. . . at the age of eighteen. . . I was slightly disappointed. Because I had one set of expectations set up from the film, and the two different realities didn't match up well. I pushed on and tried to read the rest of the books in the series. . . and thought them really quite boring, at the time. (And I'd tackled Spenser's The Faerie Queen and Tolstoy's War and Peace at the age of seventeen. Not that I got much out of them, admittedly. No footnotes. No reference-points in my own head.)

Years later, with my master's degree in English behind me, I decided to get back on the horse. The images from the Dune universe haunted me, and I really wanted to understand the books. And now, suddenly. . . I encountered a tough, canny writer. A writer with so much philosophy behind his eyes, but a gnomic way of saying things. A writer who'd give you just the end of the ball of string. . . but then wanted you to wrestle with him. Fight with him, for every scrap of meaning. A game in which one of the pieces cannot be moved? I have an idea of what he may have meant by this phrase, repeated over and over in Chapterhouse: Dune, but I'll never know for sure that the meaning I've derived from it, is the meaning he meant for me to get.

Two very different experiences in reading. All because I had more tools for understanding the work, and more reference points in my own mind. More complexity, more nuance, more experience, changed the entire way I understood the books.

And then I read the books written by Herbert's son and another author, based on Herbert's final outlines. And while I enjoy them, in that I can see what Herbert wanted to do to finish his story. . . I miss the crytpic, gnomic voice. I miss wrestling with his meaning, and trying to get at the meaning he held, stubbornly, inside a clenched fist.

Herbert's a hero of mine, because he also stated that he saw no diffence in quality between the writing he did when "inspired" and the writing he did when he sat down to just do the work. So, you might as well do the work.

That's a lesson I've tried hard to take to heart. :)

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