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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BYRON MERRITT, JUNE 2004.
Below are the questions you sent me along with my replies. I hope they are insightful and enjoyable.
Sincerely, Byron Merritt
Grandson of Frank Herbert
1. Could you tell us about creative prospects for УDuneФ. Do you know what new projects can we expect after УDune-7Ф, "Paul of Dune" and "The road to Dune"?
Byron Merritt: The next Dune book out will be THE ROAD TO DUNE, a compendium of original and unpublished chapters written by Frank Herbert (my grandfather), which were cut from DUNE and DUNE MESSIAH. There are also four (4) original Dune short stories written by Brian Herbert (my uncle) and Kevin J. Anderson that are due out soon. SPICE PLANET is a short novel written from Frank HerbertТs early outline of the Dune novel, which portrays the story of DUNE in a vastly different context. And, of course, HUNTERS OF DUNE and SANDWORMS OF DUNE will finish off the outline of СDune 7' that was left behind by my grandfather just prior to his death. Beyond that, thereТs some murmuring going on but nothing definite.
2. What do you think about the situation in sci-fi nowadays? Which authors you consider are the best?
Byron Merritt: Literature in general is undergoing some significant changes in my mind (good literature anyway). ThereТs a melting pot going on when it comes to genres, I think. Many good writers out there incorporate a lot of different genres into their stories, so itТs becoming more and more difficult to say that Уthis is science fictionФ versus Уthis is horrorФ or Уthis is mainstream.Ф I like to use Connie Willis when I talk about this because I think sheТs one of the stronger writers in the Сscience fiction genreТ right now. Her 1999 Hugo Award winning novel TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG was a mesh-pot of genres, and was only loosely associated with science fiction (equal parts sci-fi, mystery and a little romance thrown in). As to my favorite authors today, IТd have to say the aforementioned Connie Willis is near the top, along with Dan Simmons (almost everything they produce is gold!).
3. Let's speak about your attitude to the screen versions of УDuneФ and "Dune Messiah / Children of Dune"? Which of them you consider most successful and which saved the spirit or the main idea of the books?
Byron Merritt: I wrote a comparison study of the theatrical release of Dune (the David Lynch version) and the SciFi ChannelТs miniseries. You can view this at http:// www.scifidimensions.com/May02/dunevsdune.htm. Basically, I liked the УfeelФ that the Lynch version showed (the dark rooms with a Shakespearean style) . . . but it also cut out A LOT of the story of Dune. So I appreciated the miniseries from that standpoint (that they were able to incorporate so much more of the actually pages of the Dune novel onto the screen). The Children of Dune Miniseries (which incorporated both the DUNE MESSIAH and CHILDREN OF DUNE books) was pretty amazing for a made-for-televison production. Brian TylerТs musical score was spectacular, too! It really added to the flavor of the miniseries. I also think that Alec Newman (Paul) improved his acting role tenfold from the Dune Miniseries to the Children of Dune Miniseries. Alice Krieg was, as usual, superb in her role as Lady Jessica.
4. Do you know anything about new Dune movies? Can we expect to see new Hollywood version of УDuneФ with at least 100-million budget and special visual effects?
Byron Merritt: Boy wouldnТt that be great! But alas, no. There are some projects under considerationЧand with the success of films such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings theyТre increasingly possibleЧwhich hopefully might come to fruition, but nothing has been given a Уgreen lightФ. The SciFi Channel has the option for the remainder of the Dune books (God Emperor of Dune, etc.), but nothing has been exercised legally yet.
5. Do you plan to participate in the work on the new Dune-projects?
Byron Merritt: My uncle (Brian Herbert) and I have talked about this, but heТs been busy with his own projects as of late. I do, however, foresee us working together on something, but itТs many years away. Plus, IТd like to do something fresh for the Dune fans out there, something that would bring back the days of Frank Herbert besides just the Dune title. I donТt mean to sound like I donТt enjoy the prequels that Kevin J. Anderson and Brian are putting out (because I DO enjoy them!), but their novels are geared more toward the СcurrentТ readership of SF out there. IТd like to target the SF readership of thirty or forty years ago . . . when SF was still developing.
6. What can you say about the creation of "father-and-son" and what do you think about the "continuers" in whole? We mean, how do you think, is it right to continue the Great Book?
Byron Merritt: ThatТs a great question. I do think itТs right to continue on in the legacy of Dune for two reasons: #1Ц Many times, great books get lost in the past and IТm happy to say that the original Dune series has been given new life thanks to Brian and Kevin (if you think about it, how many people are reading Moby Dick or Gone with the Wind or The Call of the Wild? Not many, IТll tell you. My kids are in high school and they just donТt teach this material anymore . . . which is a damn shame). People are reading DUNE again; #2 Ц These new Dune books are good reads. They arenТt on the scale that DUNE was, but that was to be expected. DonТt you think so?
7. What is your most favourite Herbert's book except "Dune Chronicles"?
Byron Merritt: IТd have to say SOUL CATCHER. It was the first Frank Herbert book that my grandfather physically handed to me and let me read. So thereТs some sentimental reasons behind my choosing this particular book. Plus itТs autographed to me and I have a first edition hardcover.
8. When did you read "Dune" for the first time? What impression did you have?
Byron Merritt: I first read DUNE in high school (my sophomore year, I believe). I knew that my grandfather had written it, but being a punk teenager I hadnТt read it because . . . well, reading wasnТt cool enough for me! But then, when I read it, I found out how much IТd been missing. DUNE put to shame all the other books IТd ever read. EVER! It was nearly an orgasmic experience (which is saying something considering those teenage hormones were running around inside me!). I think what astounded me the most about it was that it incorporated so much information into one book! It has religion, ecology, government, corruption, love, betrayal, science, and a slew of other ideals. It really is a must read for those who consider themselves Сin the knowТ of literature. And DUNE is literature, not just an old SF book.
9. Is Herbert Limited Partnership going to publish it's own Dune encyclopedia?
Byron Merritt: No. At this time thereТs no listing for a Dune encyclopedia from us.
10. Could you tell us about your creative prospects?
Byron Merritt: IТm the chairperson for a writers group in the Monterey, California area (we call ourselves Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula, or FWOMP for short). We have our own website (www.fwomp.com) and weТve gotten one group of short stories published entitled MONTEREY SHORTS (available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Sunbeltpub.com). IТve also been published on the world wide web at zone~sf.com and at scifidimensions.coms, as well as having a short story published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in Australia (the story, entitled FATHER FIGURE, won the Сbest of the issueТ story in an internet poll). IТm also working with my writers group to publish a second short story collection (tentatively titled MONTEREY SHORTS 2), as well as working on my first fantasy novel. IТm not delving into Dune yet. Right now, IТm happy to write in my own worlds. But weТll see what the future holds!
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