Writers Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson discuss Dune’s lasting legacy

To start, I would like to ask you which books outside of the Dune series have inspired you both the most?

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

“Dune” is quite unique. It appeals to old myths, but [Frank Herbert] does the same thing I just told you. He read encyclopedias, literally. He would be looking for something. He was at the Smithsonian Library – sometimes he did that in Washington, DC – he was looking for something and he couldn’t avoid the temptation to read what was on the other page. He absorbed it all. I do it on a smaller scale, but I absorb a wide range of things.

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

Herbert: Ah, he qualified it.

Anderson: As a writer, I like to read outside of the genre so I can get some of the best stuff out of the great works and other genres. I love those really big, sprawling stories, like “Dune.” I really like “Shogun” by James Clavell, and I like “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry, and I like “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. Another of my favorite giant novels is Stephen King’s “The Stand”.

Herbert: On “Lonesome Dove,” I showed Kevin the 1948 movie “Red River,” which has a lot of similarities. Kevin was surprised, but I guess everyone is influenced by everything.

Anderson: You draw from it. That’s the thing. It’s a conversation. It’s not stealing from someone when I read “Lonesome Love,” and it influences something I staged in a “Dune” book that Brian and I are writing. It enriches the final work.

Here is an example. In the 1980s, the biggest and hottest genre was epic quest fantasy novels, and everyone was writing a fantasy trilogy. It seemed to me that a lot of these writers just read other epic quest fantasies, that they kept reading the same thing they were writing. It’s like eating leftovers all the time. I [don’t] want to read what I write. I want to read outside of it, just like Brian reads non-fiction.

Oh, and one last thing. … Like I said, I love “The Godfather”. I love “Lonesome Dove”, they are giant books, and “Shogun”. I only read them once. My last count, I think it’s 23 times I’ve read “Dune”. I don’t think I’d live long enough to read “Lonesome Dove” 23 times, but “Dune” is something we come back to over and over again.

Brian and I have just done a very detailed scene-by-scene adaptation of Frank Herbert’s original graphic novel “Dune”. Abrams Books is about to publish the second volume. By doing this, [it] was like a deep dive, like a deep X-ray in the novel. I still found all sorts of things that [made me think], “Oh, it ties into something else I haven’t even seen before.” It is a brilliant book. Brian and I admire him.

Herbert: This is also true for great films. You can watch a good movie 23 times and you’ll see something in it that you didn’t notice before. Sometimes you follow a thread and you see things you weren’t aware of. It’s amazing, and “Dune” is like that. There’s so much in it that we discover every time we watch it.