What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

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What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Nekhrun » 09 Apr 2010 19:17

The short story Hunting Harkonnens by Brian Herbert and kja gives us insight into Brian’s relationship with his father.

According to editor Patrick LoBrutto
“Hunting Harkonnens” is a wild roller coaster of a tale reminiscent of classic short stories like “The Most Dangerous Game” and the great SF stories of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert. It tells the story of the deadly hunt by the cymeks for Piers Harkonnen, the older brother of Xavier Harkonnen, just one of the new characters to be found in THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD.

Sounds exciting. Page 1. Shall we get started?

Stern, hardline Ulf Harkonnen piloted the yacht, concentrating on the hazards of space and the constant threat of thinking machines, though he kept lecturing his twenty- one-year-old son, Piers. Ulf's wife Katarina, too gentle a soul to be worthy of the Harkonnen name, asserted that the quarrel had gone on long enough.

In this text it would appear that Brian Herbert will play the role of poor Piers. And the harsh Ulf is a representation of his father Frank Herbert. This seems to signify a certain resentment between son and father. I can see the stern Frank Herbert being frustrated by his son for whom he was passing on a significant literary achievement. His adult son had none of the intellectual curiosity of the father, nor the work ethic and drive to create something meaningful.

In the very next sentence we see something that could perhaps related to a close female connection to Brian. This could really be anyone: his wife; sister; child. Someone who has an interested in patching the divide between father and son.

Ulf's wife Katarina, too gentle a soul to be worthy of the Harkonnen name, asserted that the quarrel had gone on long enough. "Further criticism and shouting will serve no purpose, Ulf." Vehemently, the elder Harkonnen disagreed.

I think this line says a lot about Brian actually. He’s someone who is willing to let others fight his battles for him. He gives up; he accepts that he’s the victim; he backs down instead of standing up for himself.

Piers sat fuming, unrepentant; he was not cut out for the cutthroat practices his noble family expected, no matter how much his father tried to bully them into him. He knew Ulf would browbeat and humiliate him all the way home.

The gruff older man refused to consider that his son's ideas for more humane methods might actually be more efficient than the inflexible, domineering ways. Clutching the ship controls as if in a death grip, Ulf growled at his son, "Thinking machines are efficient. Humans, especially riffraff like our slaves on Hagal, are meant to be used. I doubt you'll ever get that through your skull."

It’s at this point I realize I should just substitute the names Frank and Brian for Ulf and Piers.

He shook his large, squarish head. "Sometimes, Piers, I think I should clean up the gene pool by eliminating you." "Then why don't you?" Piers snapped, defiant. His father believed in forceful decisions, every question with a black-and-white answer, and that belittling his son would drive him to do better. "I can't, because your brother Xavier is too young to be the Harkonnen heir, so you're the only choice I have . . . for the time being. I keep hoping you'll understand your responsibility to our family. You're a noble, meant to command, not to show the workers how soft you can be."

This is where the resentful Brian lets us know how harsh his father is and he knows he’s really his father’s only hope for a continuing literary family legacy.

He knows that his brother is an even bigger disappointment that he is.

In the next line Katarina sticks up for him again outlining his latest accomplishment but the father shoots that down as well and lets his son know that even that “accomplishment” wouldn’t have amounted to much without his own influence.

Reminds me of an aspiring writer who gets a little boost from the family name and the experience co-authoring a book with the successful writer.

I'll get to other pages as time permits, but I think this gives us enough to talk about for a while.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby TheDukester » 09 Apr 2010 19:27

Never read it; never plan to. Curious, though: is the writing that poor throughout?

"Sat fuming"? Fuck's sake ... how about "fumed"?
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Freakzilla » 09 Apr 2010 20:03

I read it but immediately forgot it. I never picked up on the Herbert symbolism but it seems obvious now that you point it out.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby SandChigger » 09 Apr 2010 22:58

KJA ghosting for BoBo?
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Freakzilla » 10 Apr 2010 08:34

You think stealing ideas from Bobo's personal life is beneath him? :snooty:
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Nekhrun » 10 Apr 2010 10:49

To me, this seems like the kind of resentment that one has experienced first hand.

I don't give kja enough credit as a writer to give him credit for this. He is too much of a narcissist to to be able to put himself in Brian's shoes for one second and write about that experience. If he did write it then he's got daddy issues of his own. I think this is Brian's way of marking his territory on Frank's work.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Nekhrun » 10 Apr 2010 11:42

Here's the rest:

Page 2

There is an argument from the son that there is more than one way to do things, but he is shot down by his father and accused of taking after his mother. Even to the point of mentioning the father has a “shaggy” beard “framing a blunt-featured face.”

I do think there’s a bit of kja insertion at this point that mentions the son would’ve been better suited as a poet or storyteller. I think this is his way inserting himself into the Dune mythos as well. They’re telling us that their styles are different and that is okay. We know better of course. This new method of writing Dune books has only watered down and de-intellectualized an important piece of art to the point of pulp fiction.

There is more sulking from the son character and at this point in the story I believe that we are meant to feel sorry for him. He actually comes off as rather pathetic and broken. The son is disgraced, disrespected and isolated.
He hated arguments with his stubborn father. The rigid old ways of the Harkonnen family were not always best.

I think it’s worth noting that this exchange takes place within the Harkonnen and not the Atreides family.

He wished he could stand toe to toe with his father, just once. Every time he tried, though, Ulf made him feel that he had let the family down, as if he were a shirker who would waste their hard-won fortunes.

In his mind he thinks that he has made good decisions with his father’s legacy, just not in the same way his father might have. The next page goes into this even more.

Page 3
His father had entrusted him to manage the family holdings on Hagal, grooming him as the next head of the Harkonnen businesses. This assignment had been an important step for Piers, with complete authority over the sheet diamond operations. A chance, a test. The implicit understanding was that he would operate the mines as they had always been run.

His parents had been forced to leave their younger son Xavier on Salusa with a pleasant old-school couple. "I shudder to think how the boy will turn out if they raise him.

I had to include this part, not only because it adds another neglected son into the mix but just for the sheer idiocy of introducing the term “old-school” into the Duniverse.

There seems to be less and less of this for awhile, which leads me to believe that Brian had this story ready to go for sometime. Perhaps he even ripped it from the pages of his own journal. More and more filler seems to be introduced into the story that has no relevance to any kind of character development. Pages 4-11 is nothing but kja machine description/battle filler.

There is really nothing of note other that the son is abandoned by his father and mother and then they die. The author is careful to note that the blurred vision is from blood that came from the battle, not from tears for his lost parents. He was his father’s son after all and showing emotion would’ve been considered a weakness.

There is a brief admission that some of his father’s advice was wise and helpful. But on page 12, even though he is still recalling his father’s advice that is helping him to survive we see this:

Only a fool leaves himself without options, Ulf Harkonnen would have said. Piers grumbled at the memory. "At least I survived longer than you did, Father."

So what has Brian done? He took the easiest option that would help him profit from his father’s legacy; he hired the one author that would be able to help him pump out novel after novel. His father abandoned him after all, why not take advantage of whatever resources you have available?

The son in the story is faced with the same dilemma as the writer, does he just give up on live and his family’s assets, or does he join with the primitive natives who cannot match the level of innovation and creativity he has taken for granted his entire life? He takes the easy way out but suffers from this realization.

Page 14
He had not yet had time to accept the deaths of his parents. He missed his mother, for her kind attentions, her intelligence…In a way, Piers even missed his father. Despite Ulf's gruffness, he had only wanted the best for his sons, harshly focused on his responsibilities for Harkonnen holdings. Advancing the family fortunes was always paramount.

So that was the lesson he learned. Anything to make a buck.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby TheDukester » 10 Apr 2010 12:24

Nekhrun wrote:He is too much of a narcissist to to be able to put himself in Brian's shoes for one second and write about that experience.

Complete agreement. TheKJA has proven himself utterly incapable of having empathy for another living being. It's the main reason he doesn't succeed at characterization — he doesn't understand people, nor does he care to. He pretty much hates other people.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Nekhrun » 10 Apr 2010 12:38

I'd wager that this percentage of workload division is about what all of their books amount to. It seems like Brian probably writes about 1/10 to 1/15 of what kja does. Which kja then peppers with his "polished prose". I think Brian probably gives kja's work a glance and then gives up on it. He clearly can't be bothered to exert any type of editorial control over kja.

I believe that this is what makes their editing sessions as long as they are. Since Brian is asking for certain parts to be fleshed out a little more kja actually might have to write something while they are together (see the pics of the two with their laptops). It's one thing to belch out 20 chapters on a hike, it's quite another to sit at a keyboard and physically type a few descriptive paragraphs. It must be torture for him. (See SandChigger's blog post on kja's process.)

We've seen how he reacts to any critique of his work. Brian might say things like, "Gee I don't know kev, maybe we should add more to this part." (We've seen this first hand in the first release of this short story.) But I'm quite certain he would never criticize what was already on the page.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby dunaddict » 10 Apr 2010 13:29

According to editor Patrick LoBrutto
“Hunting Harkonnens” is a wild roller coaster of a tale reminiscent of classic short stories like “The Most Dangerous Game” and the great SF stories of Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Frank Herbert. It tells the story of the deadly hunt by the cymeks for Piers Harkonnen, the older brother of Xavier Harkonnen, just one of the new characters to be found in THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD.


Oh, I remember this introduction well. The first thing I thought after reading this (when it was released on the internet);
What an ARROGANT thing to say about some free snippet of text. Big Words, comparing it to classics.....but it is really nothing more than an utterly mediocre pulp story at best. Disgusting.

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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby Mr. Teg » 10 Apr 2010 23:08

Brian's own book, Time Web, begins with the estranged relationship between son and father.
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby SandChigger » 11 Apr 2010 03:58

And he destroys the world (Earth) in that one, too. ;)
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Re: What Hunting Harkonnens Tells Us about Brian Herbert

Postby TheDukester » 11 Apr 2010 11:28

I'm telling y'all, Hellhole is going to be a treat!

The Jacket hates mankind. The Nappy-Headed Zombie hates the planet itself. Add it all together, and I'm sure it's a feel-good tale for the ages! :lol:
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