Introduction by
                                Norman Spinrad
           Frank Herbert's DUNE is one of the four most culturally-
      influential science fiction novels ever written, the other three 
      being Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD, George Orwell's 1984, and 
      Robert A. Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND.
           Of these four novels, DUNE is the longest, most complex, the 
      deepest by far, arguably the most successful on a literary level, 
      certainly the most culturally important, and yet the least under-
      stood by critical establishments, both genre and general.
           BRAVE NEW WORLD, published way back in 1932, became the tem-
      plate for the science fictional dystopia, particularly of the 
      "Friendly Fascism" variety wherein the dystopian reality emerges 
      from a superficially utopian surface, but read now seems stilted, 
      schematic, and amateurish; inferior, in fact, to Huxley's own 
      later science fiction.  
           1984 is much more skillfully written, far more politically 
      and psychologically sophisticated, a classic that remains literar-
      ily valid long after its political relevance has faded, written by 
      a so-called "mainstream" writer, who, unlike Huxley, wrote no 
      other significant science fiction.
           STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND was written by an acknowledged 
      master of science fiction who never wrote anything else of signif-
      icance, but it is not Heinlein's best novel any more than BRAVE 
      NEW WORLD is Huxley's. Structurally, it breaks in half rather 
      clumsily, on a stylistic level it is inferior to THE MOON IS A 
      HARSH MISTRESS. It has become Heinlein's sigil novel largely 
      because of its centrality to the evolution of the Counterculture 
      born in the 1960s and its unfortunate notoriety as the novel that 
      inspired the discorporative depredations of Charles Manson and his 
           DUNE, as a cultural icon, partakes of some of the aspects of 
      all three of the other books, but is something much more. Like 
      BRAVE NEW WORLD, it has become the template for a generation and 
      more of imitative works, including all too many sequels by Herbert 
      himself. Like 1984, it is a novel written on a level of sophisti-
      cation that will preserve it as a literally classic long after its 
      cultural relevance has faded.
           And like STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND only more so, DUNE was a 
      formative literary factor in the cultural revolution of the 1960s, 
      and in a much more positive manner, which is why it is so general-
      ly and deliberately misread as a novel centered on "ecological" 
           The truth is far more complex and, even today, far more 
      politically incorrect, and therefore still far more politically 
           After thirty years and more and millions of copies sold, it 
      is hard to realize that back in the early 1960s this now famous 
      and best-selling classic had a difficult time getting published.  
      And it so happens that I was around for part of the story.
           DUNE was first published in Analog, John W. Campbell, Jr.'s 
      magazine, as two separate "novels" in serial form.  "Dune World" 

      was serialized in 1963-64, and "The Prophet of Dune" in 1965, 
      though as Frank Herbert told me in personal conversation much 
      later, DUNE had always been conceived and written as one novel.
           And indeed, as an avid reader of each installment of the 
      "Dune World" serialization as a young writer just starting out, I 
      was deeply disappointed, not to say outraged, by the way the last 
      installment seemed to end in mid-air.
           By the time Analog began to serialize "The Prophet of Dune," 
      I was being published in the magazine myself. But I was still an 
      avid reader of the serialization.  And I was working at the Scott 
      Meredith literary agency, which was trying to place the novel with 
      a publisher.
           Despite the success of the serialization, this wasn't easy, 
      and the literary agency finally had to settle for selling the 
      American trade edition rights for a small advance to Chilton, an 
      obscure house, who brought out the hardcover in 1965 in a very 
      modest printing.
           Only later, when Ace Books reprinted DUNE in paperback, did 
      it begin to slowly gather momentum to become the long-term best-
      seller that we know it as today.
           Why this difficult publishing history of a novel that was to 
      become an enormous commercial success over time?
           The answer must be sought within the pages of DUNE itself.
           And understood within the context of the times in which it 
      was written and published.
           In superficial plot outline, the story of DUNE seems not only 
      simple but something of a derivative cliche. 
           Due in part to the machinations of the Harkonnen clan and its 
      evil leader Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the Padishah Emperor, ruler 
      of the human interstellar empire, banishes the hereditary enemy of 
      the Harkonnens, the Atreides clan, led by Duke Leto Atreides, to 
      rule the desert planet Arrakis.
           Bereft of any other significant economic interest, Arrakis is 
      the sole source of the "spice" melange, the psychoactive drug that 
      allows the navigators of the Spacing Guild to move their starships 
      faster than light through a form of hyperspace and thus maintain 
      the coherence of this unlikely pseudo-medieval interstellar cul-
           It's all a Harkonnen set-up, in collaboration with the Em-
      peror, to destroy the Atreides and gain control of Arrakis and the 
      spice themselves.
           Unrest is fomented, Harkonnen mercenaries arrive, a war 
      starts, Leto is assassinated, the Harkonnens take over, and his 
      heir Paul, along with the boy's mother Jessica, flee into the 
      wilds of the deep desert.
           There they are taken in by the Fremen, a Bedouin-like tribe 
      battling the oppressive rule of the Harkonnens.  Through a series 
      of feats, rituals, initiations, and battles, young Paul becomes 
      the leader of the Fremen, turns them into a People's Liberation 
      Army, and eventually not only reclaims his rightful throne but 
      becomes Emperor himself and a kind of God-King of this fictional 
           An oft-told story?
           A cliche?

           Not at all.
           For what we have here in outline is Frank Herbert's version 
      of what Joseph Campbell argues is the basic human story in his 
      landmark work of mythic analysis and literary comparative cultural 
      anthropology, THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.
           The Hero (Paul) is dispossessed of his rightful heritage 
      (Leto's throne) by the forces of evil (the Harkonnens) and must 
      flee into the wilderness(the Arakeen desert). 
           There he encounters his spiritual guide and master who edu-
      cates him in mystical and practical lore. Interestingly enough, as 
      we shall see later, in DUNE, Herbert divides this archetype into 
      three masters, one for each level of knowledge: Duncan Idaho, his 
      warrior sensei; the Mentat Thufir Hawat, his mentor in things 
      tactical and intellectual; and his mother the Bene Gesserit adept 
      Jessica, his guide to the things of the spirit and mystical 
           There in the primal wilderness he also undergoes spiritual and 
      physical testing and initiations, proves his worth, and gathers loyal 
      followers and allies (the Fremen).
           He descends into the Underworld, the place of the dead, the 
      world of spiritual and moral darkness, where he undergoes the 
      ultimate testing, triumphs, and returns to the world of men as the 
      liberating Lightbringer.
           Whether this is the main human template myth may be arguable, 
      whether this is even the main Western mythic template somewhat 
      less arguable, but that this generalized tale of The Hero With a 
      Thousand faces is the structure and inner reality of everything 
      from the New Testament to Tarzan, from THE STARS MY DESTINATION to 
      SIDDHARTHA, from the various tellings and retellings of the King 
      Arthur cycle to the myths of Gilgamesh and Barbarossa, to endless 
      samurai epics and much of Shakespeare, as well as DUNE, certainly 
      is not.
           So DUNE's superficially simple and derivative story line is 
      not a cliche but the retelling of one of humanity's deepest and 
      most powerful myths.
           Deep and powerful because it is the story of ourselves as we 
      would like to be. 
           Our adolescent selves identify with the young Paul because we 
      all, one way or another, feel deprived of our rightful place at 
      the center of the world.  We all seek to escape from the usurping 
      forces of repression into the wilderness of self-discovery where 
      we will perform feats that will allow us to return to the seat of 
      power and triumphantly confront the oppressors as the darling of 
           On this level, the tale can, and all-too-often has, become a 
      psychologically fascist power fantasy; in fiction, and worse 
      still, in the real world.
           And this seductive appeal to egoistic power fantasies is 
      certainly strong in DUNE, particularly to adolescents, most par-
      ticularly to male adolescents, which partially explains the popu-
      larity of Frank Herbert's novel, and almost entirely explains the 
      popularity of the imitative "science fantasy" that was to follow.
           But on a deeper level, the level Joseph Campbell addresses, 
      and a level that is fully present in DUNE, the ultimate adversary 
      that the true hero (as opposed to the barbarian with a broadsword 
      or the space cadet with a blaster) confronts in the nethermost pit 

      of the moral and spiritual underworld is himself. The egoistic 
      power-tripping self of the superficial level of the story. 
           And the climactic battle, the ultimate test, is a spiritual 
      and moral one, between these two aspects of the hero; the false 
      and the true, the merely physical and the mystical, the warrior 
      and the man of knowledge, and what emerges to champion the cause 
      of the people if the hero is successful is not merely an irresistible 
      warrior, but a true Lightbringer, an Enlightened One, a Bodhisattva.  
           What makes DUNE such a unique and powerful retelling of the 
      myth of The Hero With A Thousand Faces is that Paul, however 
      imperfectly, understands this very dichotomy early on, and strug-
      gles with it, however ambiguously, throughout the bulk of the 
           And in the end, what can be read as the ultimate triumph on 
      one level can be read as tragedy on the other. And that is the 
      level upon which Paul Atreides, become Muab'dib, become the Kwi-
      satz Haderach and Padishah Emperor, sees it. His prescient vision 
      may make him God-King of this fictional universe, but he cannot 
      escape from the deterministic destiny thereof and the jihad he 
      will bring, the jihad he has spent so much of the novel trying to 
           This is what is thematically and mystically and dramatically 
      and psychologically central to DUNE and not "ecology." This is the 
      visionary core of this long, complex, often-discursive, multi-
      leveled novel. This is what makes it a literary classic. 
           And this, in the context of its time, explains why a science 
      fiction novel serialized in eight parts in a genre magazine, first 
      published in small printing by a minor house and then modestly 
      reprinted by a genre publisher in paperback, could become a cul-
      turally-influential book in a much wider context and, over time, a 
           The so-called ecological theme of DUNE does not stand up to 
      serious scrutiny because the ecology of Herbert's fictional Arra-
      kis is extremely simplified and unrealistically schematic. Arrakis 
      is a vast planetary desert, its ecospheres only varying somewhat 
      in degree of dessication, and indeed the main native food chain 
      seems to consist of only two organisms--the tiny ones that produce 
      the raw material of the "spice" and the huge Sandworms which graze 
      upon them and convert it into the precious melange.
           It is the melange, in effect Sandworm droppings, upon which 
      the wealth of Arrakis, and indeed the existence of the novel's 
      interstellar empire, entirely depends. It is the melange for which 
      the Atreides and the Harkonnens contend. It is the melange which 
      is the center of the Fremen culture and religion.
           It is the melange which will eventually transform Paul 
      Atreides into the Kwisatz Haderach, the prescient being who can 
      see into levels of reality to which all others are blind. The 
      melange which turns a boy and then a guerrilla leader into a kind of 
           And though melange is referred to throughout the novel as a 
      "spice" and consumed in small quantities as such, that is not what 
      it really is at all.
           What it really is is that which could hardly speak its name 
      in clear in the science fiction of the early 1960s, which explains 
      why the book was such a hard sell to publishers in 1964 and 1965 
      even with the terminological obfuscation. Which also explains why 
      it became a best-seller after the cultural transformations of 1967 
      once it was published and why it was one of the engines of those 

           Melange is not a fictional "spice."
           Melange is a fictional psychedelic drug
           Its effects are similar to those of LSD or mescaline or peyote.
           Only much more powerful.
           DUNE, therefore, is not primarily a novel thematically cen-
      tered on ecology. It is centrally a novel exploring chemically 
      enhanced states of consciousness and their effects not only on 
      individual personality and spirit but on culture.
           One of the very first.
           And, after all these years, still one of the most profound.
           Melange, in even small continuous doses, is addictive, turns 
      the sclera of the eyeballs blue, has milder psychedelic effects 
      than LSD, and, like the peyote of the American southwestern de-
      sert, an integrated sacrament of the Native American religion, is 
      thoroughly incorporated into the culture and religion of the Fremen.
           On the level of the interstellar culture, it is taken in much 
      stronger doses by the Navigators of the Spacing Guild, who use it 
      to attain extreme states of altered consciousness which allow them 
      to pilot starships through a form of hyperspace, turning them into 
      transhuman beings as part of the existential bargain.
           The Bene Geserit female adepts use it for more visionary 
      purposes, and dream of creating and/or finding the "Kwisatz Hader-
      ach," a male capable of handling the spice on the highest level, 
      whose consciousness will be freed thereby from conventionally 
      perceived space and time into a kind of Einsteinian four-
      dimensional viewpoint which will enable him to see "the future" 
      presciently, or, more subtly and profoundly, to surf the geodesics of 
           Thus Herbert portrays four levels of both the use of psycho-
      active drugs by a society and the corresponding levels of con-
      sciousness. The Fremen incorporate melange as the sacrament of a 
      tribal religion.  The Guild Navigators employ it as a pragmatic 
      technological augment. The Bene Gesserit use it in vision quests and 
      mind-melding sessions.
           Paul Atreides passes through these three ascending stages on 
      his way to finally employing the drug to achieve the ultimate 
      level, to become the Kwisatz Haderach, the fully Enlightened One, 
      able to view the conventional realm of space and time from the 
      outside, as Einsteinian four-space, a consciousness rendered 
      therefore prescient up to a point, an Enlightenment that turns out 
      to be both a godlike power and a tragic curse.
           All this is set in a culture which is anachronistically archaic 
      in a manner which is both rather too familiar and yet interestingly 
           Stretching disbelief and contorting technological logic by 
      staging swordfights in a space-going technology capable of using 
      atomic weapons and inflicting an improbable monarchical political 
      system upon it for the purpose of setting a pseudo-medieval ac-
      tion-adventure story on alien planets is hardly Frank Herbert's 
      invention, and these fictional swords-and-spaceships cultures are 
      almost always implicitly Christian and more or less Catholic.
           In DUNE too, we have an Emperor and noble vassals and a hier-
      archical feudal system with a theocratic underpinning. But it is 
      not Catholic or even Christian. 
           Although the word "Islam" never even appears in the novel and 
      you have to be rather conversant with the real-world referents to 

      get it, the religious template in DUNE is Islamic, not Christian, 
      more Eastern than Western.
           The term "Padishah Emperor" certainly points to Herbert's 
      deliberate decision to do this, since "Shah padi Shah" means "King 
      of Kings" in Farsi, the language of the Islamic Persian Empire.
           Nor is it going too far to suppose that the grudge-nursing 
      Fremen, exiled on Arrakis after a long and complex interstellar 
      hegira, are cognates of the minority Shi'ite followers of Ali 
      persecuted and reviled by dominant Sunni cultures.
           And the visionary Bene Gesserit have their similarities to 
      the mystic Sufis, Muslims who claim their sect predates Islam, and 
      who emphasize techniques designed to induce direct mystical ex-
      perience and insight, rather than ritual, rules, or a belief 
           Why Frank Herbert chose Islam as the religious and mystical 
      underpinning of an interstellar culture that is otherwise based on 
      that of medieval, feudal, Catholic Europe, is perhaps beyond the 
      scope of literary analysis, a choice made somewhere in the deep 
      subconscious regions from which artistic creation arises.
           However, one can speculate...
           While Islam is generally grouped with Judaism and Christiani-
      ty, the monotheistic religions out of which it arose, there is one 
      fundamental difference between Islam and its direct predecessors.
           Judaism began as a tribal religion centrally concerned with 
      the relationship between the history of the Jews and their God and 
      its Bible was written by diverse hands over a long period of time. 
      Christianity converted Judaism into a proselytizing universalist 
      religion based on the story of one transhuman figure, Jesus 
      Christ, its Bible was written in a much shorter period of time in 
      four alternate versions (not unlike Lawrence Durrell's ALEXANDRIA 
      QUARTET), it is basically a biography of Jesus, and its central 
      concerns are sin, redemption, and morality.
           Islam too began as a tribal religion, that of the Arabs, and 
      was transformed into a proselytizing universalist religion, and 
      its holy book, the Koran, is also filled with rules and regula-
           But the Koran, unlike either Testament of the Judeo-Christian 
      Bible, was created by one man, Mohammed, over a very short period 
      of time in historical terms; directly dictated to him by Allah, if 
      you are a believer, and certainly in the throes of some powerful 
      mystical and visionary experience even if you are not, since 
      Mohammed was an illiterate who had never created a literary work 
           Thus Islam, unlike Judaism or Christianity, but like Bud-
      dhism, has as its core one man's mystical and visionary awakening 
      experience. And Mohammed, liked Buddha, made no pretense of being the 
      Godhead, merely (if that can be the word)of directly experiencing it.
           The transcendent goal of Christianity is individual immortality 
      in a vaguely described but rather concrete heaven, to be achieved by 
      following the rules. Thus it is basically a religion of morality.
           The transcendent goal of Buddhism is the achievement of 
      Nirvana, the ecstatic reintegration of the individual spirit with 
      the universal Godhead from which it arose, to be achieved by 
      meditative techniques. Thus Buddhism is an experiential religion, 
      whose goal is achieving a transhuman state of consciousness.
           Islam stands somewhere between. The Koran is as full of moral 
      and legalistic prescriptions as the Bible, but it was written by 
      one man in a state of mystically transcendent consciousness.

           And the "heaven" of Islam, salaciously misunderstood by many, 
      including many Muslims, is described as a state of continuous 
      orgasm, which, seen on a mystic level, is a state of transcendent 
      consciousness not unlike the Buddhist Nirvana.
           Which perhaps explains why the Sufis, an older and thoroughly 
      experiential religion, aimed entirely at achieving such states by 
      ecstatic dancing, drugs, and other such means of transforming 
      consciousness, could become an aspect of Islam and be generally 
      accepted as such by the mainstream thereof.
           And why alcohol, a drug not known for its psychedelic ef-
      fects, is far more acceptable in Christian cultures than marijuana 
      and hashish, which are far more acceptable in traditional Islamic 
      cultures than alcohol.
           Which may explain why Frank Herbert chose to employ Islamic 
      mystical and religious referents in a novel whose central themes 
      are the cultural, psychological, and religions relationships 
      between a psychedelic drug and the societies based upon it, and 
      the stepwise visionary transformation of a young boy's conscious-
      ness by the use thereof into the transcendent consciousness of a 
      "Kwisatz Haderach," a being so enlightened that in the end he can even 
      perceive the ironic tragedy of his own prescience.
           Which certainly goes a long way towards explaining why DUNE 
      could not find a major American publisher, inside the science 
      fiction or in the mainstream, in the early 1960s, before there was 
      anything like the Counterculture it helped to create.
           And why it eventually became a long-term best-seller after 
      the evolutionary changes in the consciousness of a generation it 
      did so much to catalyze.
           STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND may have been the model, for 
      better and for worse, for much of the hippie life-style--communes 
      centered around a charismatic guru, an alternate life-style in-
      cluding free sexuality, and in the unfortunate case of the Manson 
      Family, a glib moral rationalization for the discorporation of 
      inconvenient people--but DUNE did something much more profound.
           Reading DUNE can actually transform your consciousness in a 
      positive manner. It can elevate your spirit. It can take you on a 
      fictional "psychedelic trip," can induce a visionary experience 
      that stays with you, from which, in some small or not so small 
      way, you might emerge as something of a Lightbringer yourself.
           A large claim for a science fiction novel?
           To be sure.
           But if you are reading this, you have the book in your hand, 
      and the opportunity to see for yourself that DUNE is an empowering 
           I can only send you on your way to that experience with the 
      testimony of my own, published as a part of my autobiography in 
           Here I describe my decision as a 25-year-old who had pub-
      lished about four stories and who had had a near-death experience 
      in a hospital two years previously to leave New York for Califor-
           "And California, San Francisco in particular, for me, like so 
      many others, was the mythical Golden West towards which Young Men 
      were supposed to go, the land with no winter, North Beach, the 
      Sunset end of the Road, the object of a thousand and one vision 
      quests, the Future itself, somehow, the glorious leap into the 

      Great Unknown. 
           Appropriately enough, Frank Herbert and about 300 mg of 
      mescaline sent me on my way....
           Walking west through the Village night on 4th Street, peaking on 
      mescaline after reading the final installment of the magazine 
      serialization of DUNE, a powerful meditation on space-time, pre-
      cognition, and destiny soon to launch a hundred thousand trips, I 
      had a flash-forward of my own.
           I would be a famous science fiction writer, I would publish 
      many stories and novels, and many of the people who were my liter-
      ary idols, inspirations, and role-models, and former clients, 
      people I had never met, would come to accept me as their equal, as 
      their ally, as their friend.
           And my life's mission, would be to take this commercial science 
      fiction genre and turn it into something else somehow, write works 
      that transcended its commercial parameters....that would help to 
      open a new Way....
           This is what you're here for.  This is why you passed through the 
      fever's fire and didn't die in that hospital bed. This is what you 
      must do.  You must go West to meet your future.
           The mescaline talking?  An overdose of 25-year-old ego?  A stoned 
      out ego-tripping wish-fulfillment fantasy?
           Call it what you will.
           Everything I saw in that timeless Einsteinian moment would 
      come to pass."
           That was my description of the prescient DUNE-inspired vision 
      of my 25-year-old self.  Here is the present tense:
           "And when I'm really feeling down, I remember a 25-year-old 
      kid stoned on mescaline, walking across 4th Street to the Village, 
      high on DUNE, and dreaming those crazy prescient dreams....
           He was going to be a famous science fiction writer, he would 
      publish many stories and novels, and the many of the people who were 
      his literary idols, inspirations, and role-models would accept him as 
      their equal, would become his allies, his friends.
           And his life's mission would be to take this commercial science 
      fiction genre and turn it into something else somehow, write works 
      that transcended its commercial parameters, works...that would 
      open a new Way....
           This is what you're here for.  
           And so I was.  And so I am."
           One of the many epithets attached in the novel to Paul 
      Atreides, Muab'dib, Kwisatz Haderach, is "the Opener of the Way."
           As witness the above, certainly something Frank Herbert's 
      masterpiece was for me. 
           The Opener of the Way.
           Something that DUNE will never cease to be.