Frank Herbert LP: the Banquet Scene

Moderators: Omphalos, Freakzilla, ᴶᵛᵀᴬ

Post Reply
Posts: 15
Joined: 25 Feb 2011 23:15

Frank Herbert LP: the Banquet Scene

Post by gwern »

(Crossposted from DUNE II since I've started to wonder whether I'm the only active user on there. The 3 LP essays will each get a topic because it'll keep any conversations a little more focused & the topics readable.)

Today I visited the San Francisco public library, which to my surprise had the 3 LPs of Frank Herbert reading Dune material. Alas, I had no card to check them out, no way to digitize them, no way to play them - and turns out, neither did the library! Well, I still benefited (although I hope to listen to them *someday*): on the backs of all 3 are short essays by Herbert, and while they repeat some of his other essays, they seem by and large new material, nor are they already online.

Some of the material is quite interesting. I had my own opinions on the Atreides not being so great, so I was interested to see Herbert's criticism of the Atreides, and some novel lines about leaders enslaving their followers' minds are given much clearer expression in the essays, and I was especially surprised to read Herbert's criticism of Gurney Halleck.

The cover and close photographs of the Banquet Scene LP are available at the following links:

- ... back-1.jpg" onclick=";return false;
- ... back-2.jpg" onclick=";return false;
- ... back-3.jpg" onclick=";return false;
- ... back-4.jpg" onclick=";return false;
- ... t-back.jpg" onclick=";return false;
- ... -cover.jpg" onclick=";return false;

The transcription of the back is available at ... -scene.txt" onclick=";return false; and follows inline in Markdown format:
# Dune The Banquet Scene Read By The Author Frank Herbert

Side A: 26:43

Side B: 26:51

When you look back at a work you've done and seek to define its essential motivations, the intervening years have a way of refining the original intent. We go on learning, even about ourselves.

Where Dune is concerned, I'd like to show the original spark, but that's now a conflagration. What I can do is take you through the chronology, show you the stepping stones which were the thoughts in my mind at the time.

It began with a concept: to do a long novel about the messianic convulsions which periodically inflict themselves on human societies. I had this theory that superheroes were disastrous for humans, that even if you postulated an infallible hero, the things this hero set in motion fell into the hands of fallible mortals. What better way to destroy a civilization, society or a race than to set people into the wild oscillations which follow their turning over their judgement and decision-making faculties to a superhero?

This original concept required that I steep myself in comparative religions, in psychology and psychoanalysis, in the then current theories of history, linguistics, economics, politics and philosophy. The preparation took up a large portion of six years and brought me to a re-evaluation of those schools of thought which I studied. Those six years also brought me into contact with many brilliant and open-hearted people who gave freely of their time and guidance. I owe them all a profound debt.

During this period, I was supporting my family and myself as a newspaperman. Early on, I went to Florence, Oregon, to do a magazine article about the U.S. Department of Agriculture project there learning how to control coastal (and other) sand dunes. I'd already written several articles with ecological overtones, but I had a growing concern with what I was learning about mankind's susceptibility to superheroes.

It seemed to me that ecology might be taken up by the ever ready demagogues, that it might become the new banner for a deadly crusade - an excuse for a with hunt or worse. The faculty for wishful thinking out of which the superhero syndrome arises has not been sufficiently understood. Never under-estimate the power of the human mind to believe what it wants to believe no matter the conflicting evidence. In the very misunderstanding about such matters you find the source of much existing political/economic power. Here is the well from which we draw our fierce loyalties and our blind hatreds.

My original intent had grown.

Now, I had several vehicles for my superhero story - perhaps several stories. But I was still a writer with a sense of responsibility toward my audience. I'm in the entertainment business first. (Otherwise, who will read your pot of message?) And it grew on me that I had to get all of these matters into one story - which is really the Dune Trilogy. I saw all three books as one book, an evolutionary process. Parts of the second two books were written before Dune was completed. The last chapter of Dune was written before I had quite reached the half-way mark in that first book.

Dune, of course, takes you through the creation of the superhero, Paul Atreides, who becomes the Mahdi of the Fremen. Please focus on that word *creation* because many of the elements which go into the making of the superhero are laid out for you in this work. You have here a kind of distillation of an aristocratic bureaucracy, one of whose unmentioned ancestors is the Soviet experiment. You are taken through a history of many power instruments which have been tried and discarded (or adapted to new forms).

The particular passage which I have read here, the banquet scene, is a watershed in the understanding of Paul Atreides. You see his family and his supporters, the malign forces which are organized against him. Raw power is displayed here in its most seductive guise and amidst a scene with commonplace roots - the dinner party, the place where we ingest energy. You see the "good face" which is put upon whatever humans decide is their personal necessity. And you gain insights into the moral base upon which Paul makes his own decisions. All of this is couched in a form which makes Paul and his people admirable. I am their advocate. But don't lose sight of the fact that House Atreides acts with the same arrogance toward "common folk" as do their enemies.

I am showing you the superhero syndrome and your own participation in it. The arrogant are, in part, created by the meek. This is what makes the U.S. Senate a kind of club where the members protect their own despite party differences.

The real division of this banquet scene is how the competing parties cater to their supporters. In each instance, supporters are used, and most important, maintained as followers. Thus, the dinner party, where enemies sit down together.

The overriding theme of the banquet is "the law of the minimum". None of us can be completely separated from the natural forces which formed us. And nature is always right, always has the last word.


Although Frank Herbert is best known for his epic science fiction trilogy - _Dune_, _Dune Messiah_ and _Children of Dune_ - he has about twenty novels to his credit.

His first book, _Dragon in the Sea_ (International Fantasy Award co-winner), is still in print and has just been reissued by Ballantine under its original title, _Under Pressure_.

_Children of Dune_, published by Putnam's in 1976, is on best-seller lists all over the country.

_Dune_, winner of the World Science Fiction Convention Hugo award and the Science Fiction Writers of America Nebula award, is being made into a major motion picture.

Mr. Herbert worked as a professional newspaperman for over 20 years on the west cost. Ten of these years were with the _San Francisco Examiner_.

He lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington - on the northeast corner of the northwest corner of the state, about 30 air miles from Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

One of his major interests is turning his six wooded acres into an Ecological Demonstration Project, with the object of showing how a high quality of life can be maintained with a minimum drain on the planet's total energy system.

**Frank Kelly Freas**, a giant in the field of science fiction and fantasy art, has been contributing astounding illustrations to practically every publisher in the field since 1950. His posters for NASA's space program hang in the Smithsonian and he even designed the shoulder patches for the Skylab astronauts.

# Credits

Cover: © Kelly Freas

Library of Congress # 77-740445

© Caedmon, 1977

Directed by Ward Botsford

Studio Recoding and Mastering: Howard W. Harris

Tape Editor: Daniel A. Wolfert

SOURCE: DUNE, copyright © 1964 by Frank Herbert, published by Chilton Book Company, Pennsylvania (hardcover) and by Berkley Publishing Corporation, New York (paperback).
"Uproot your questions from their ground and the dangling roots will be seen. More questions!"
User avatar
Posts: 307
Joined: 25 Dec 2010 00:27
Location: The dark side of the moon

Re: Frank Herbert LP: the Banquet Scene

Post by Lawliet »

Wow. I've never seen this before. Great read. Thanks for sharing.
Also...i can kill you with my brain. - River Tam

Post Reply