Another short post today, this time a quick update about my fiction development. I wrote a couple of weekends ago about the ideas I developed over the last few months for this piece of epic science-fiction updating Lost in Space's key concept in a serious way. However, one thing I felt I should do in order to figure out the proper approach to writing the story is get to know some epic science-fiction that takes place in strange (yet familiar enough) worlds.
So I finally started reading Dune. Yes, I know it probably ruins my credibility as a science-fiction author to admit that I'm only reading Dune now. My apologies for sticking to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke during my younger years like the fool that I was. But I just never encountered it in a way that sucked me in. And it still doesn't suck me in, because I'm reading it just as much for my research as for pleasure. Because writing fiction involves research. For my novel about Korea, I'm researching recent Korean history and I'll interview people who've visited the country for work. For my novel about an isolated shipwreck in deep space, I'll research work on how to survive in isolated foreign ecosystems, and literature that does a solid job of representing a wildly different world that still hooks readers from the beginning.
Herbert does that very efficiently during his first chapter. Yes there are references to priesthoods, caste systems, and mystically messianic figures straight from the start. But you actually care about them. It isn't through some subtle literary trick either. The protagonist has a creepy prophetic dream about the high-tension scene where a strange priestess holds a poison dart to his neck and administers a disturbing pain tolerance test involving putting his hand in a box. Then that exact scene happens. You're too engrossed in the tension and underlying violence of the scene that the funny words they use like Kwisatz Haderach have emotional weight attached to them, even as their meanings are still mysterious. And that's only the first 20 pages.