Writers Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Discuss Dune’s Enduring Legacy

To start, I’d like to ask what books outside of the Dune series have been the biggest inspirations for both of you?

Brian Herbert: I tend to read non-fiction, so I don’t like to quote too much fiction. I have read a lot of history. This is what I read every day. Dune is the greatest – not just fantastic – it is the great American novel and will be read for 500 years. It’s so incredible. I wouldn’t want to belittle it by saying that Frank Herbert was influenced by something, and I certainly wasn’t influenced by anything else.

Dune is pretty unique. He appeals to old myths, but [Frank Herbert] did the same thing I just told you. He literally read encyclopedias. He would be looking for something. He was in the Smithsonian—sometimes he did in Washington, DC—he was looking for something and he couldn’t resist the temptation to read what was on the other page. He absorbed everything. I do it on a smaller scale, but I absorb a wide variety of things.

Kevin J. Anderson: I do it myself, but I’m not Frank Herbert. To answer the question, Dune is undoubtedly my favorite sci-fi novel. And How –

Herbert: Ah, he clarified it.

Anderson: As a writer, I love to read outside the genre to get the best out of great works and other genres. I love big, sprawling stories like Dune. I really like James Clavell’s Shogun, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove and Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Stephen King’s The Stand is another one of my all-time favorite giant novels.

Herbert: In Lonely Dove, I showed Kevin the 1948 film Red River, which has a lot in common. Kevin was surprised, but I think everyone is influenced by everything.

Anderson: You draw from it. That’s the problem. This is a conversation. When I read Lonely Love, it’s not stealing from someone, and it affects what I put in the scene in the Dune book that Brian and I are writing. This enriches the final work.

Here is an example. In the 1980s, epic adventure fantasy novels were the most popular genre, and everyone was writing fantasy trilogies. It seemed to me that many of these writers were just reading other epic quest fantasies, that they kept reading the same stuff they were writing. It’s like there’s always leftovers. I [don’t] I want to read the material that I write. I want to read beyond that, the way Brian reads non-fiction.

Oh, and the last one. … Like I said, I love The Godfather. I love Lonesome Dove, it’s huge books, and Shogun. I have only read them once. My last count seems to be 23 times when I read Dune. I don’t think I’d live long enough to read Lonesome Dove 23 times, but Dune is something we keep coming back to over and over again.

Brian and I just did a very detailed, step-by-step graphic novel based on the original Dune by Frank Herbert. Abrams Books is about to publish the second volume of this book. Doing it [it] it was like a deep dive, a deep x-ray into a novel. I still came up with all kinds of things that [made me think]”Oh, it’s related to something else that I’ve never seen before.” This is a brilliant book. Brian and I admire this.

Herbert: This also applies to good films. You can watch a great movie 23 times and you’ll see things in it that you didn’t see before. Sometimes you follow a topic and see something you didn’t know about. It’s amazing, and Dune is just that. There are so many things in it that we find every time we look at it.

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