“Did you see that Dune film yet?” I asked Carl, the kid who works in the office next to mine. 

“Just the first one,” he said. “Haven’t seen the second. You?”

“Same here. I’m waiting for a friend of mine to go see it.” 

“He into sci-fi?” 

“Yeah,” I said, “But he’s the only one who’ll go see it with me. My wife would never go. She hates sci-fi.” 


“She’s never seen Star Wars and groans when I turn on Star Trek. But she likes Resident Alien.” 

“Does your daughter like watching sci-fi?” 

“Oh yeah,” I said. “I started exposing her to the original Star Trek when she was little, and she’s seen most of the Star Wars films – though not Revenge of the Sith – too violent. I’ve got her watching Lower Decks now. She loves it.” 

“Lower Decks?” 

“It’s an animated show,” I said. “About some junior officers who work on the lower decks of a second rate starship. It’s very funny, but sort of geared towards adults. Luckily, they bleep out most of the dirty words.” 

Carl laughed. “I bet your wife loves that.” 

“She lets Natalie watch SNL, so I doubt I’m doing anything worse.” 

My wife and I are usually careful with what our daughter watches. “It’s for grownups,” we tell her when watching shows obviously geared towards adults – but we don’t shield her from everything. When the occasional F-Bomb gets dropped we know she’s already heard it at school, though it’s probably never come out of her mouth. (Except that one time she started saying “fuck” in church when she was three.)  But my dad was the king of kiddie inappropriate cinema; taking me to see Jaws when I was seven, and sitting me down to watch PapillionLaurence of ArabiaThe French Connection I & II and my favorite, The Marathon Man. “Will it hurt?” No wonder I don’t like going to the dentist – or swimming in the ocean. But dad drew the line at sex so, whenever he heard a saxophone sensuously playing, he’d flip the channel. Like my wife, however, he never understood my love of sci-fi. 

“Ever read Dune?” I asked.  

“No,” Carl said. “It’s a big book, isn’t it?” 

“Huge. The author was into worldbuilding and just drops you cold into a universe that’s so complicated you need a flowchart to understand it all. It’s been said that making a movie out of Dune is an impossible task, but I think the one with Chalmet is about as accurate as a director can get.” 

“The first one was long.” 

“Well, a guy wanted to turn Herbert’s book into a flick back in the Seventies with Orson Wells and Salvador Dali – and he wanted it to be fifteen hours long.” 


“But you should read the books. That way you can understand why the author wrote them. It’s not about what most people think.” 


“Did you see the adaptation they made in the Eighties?” 

“When I was a kid,” 

“It’s not really faithful to the books,” I said. “Though it’s kind of achieved cult status these days. But in it they turn Paul Muad’Dib into a hero, which he is most certainly not.”

“He isn’t?” 

“If you read the second book,” I said. “You see his becoming a messiah is a disaster. When discussing the jihad launched in his name. he notes that the wars have killed fifty-four billion people and annihilated ninety planets.” 

“Wow,” Carl said. “I didn’t know that.” 

“What’s worse is Paul knew that would happen because he could see the future and, though that knowledge caused him distress, he allowed it all to happen to save his own skin.” Then I said, “Frank Herbert wrote, ‘No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.’ Herbert didn’t want people blindly placing their faith in leaders who created a cult of personality around them.  As history has shown time and time again, that never works out well. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot – fun guys like that.” 

“You’re right.” 

“So maybe there’s a lesson in Dune for us today,” I said. “People tend to want a strong, disruptive leader to shake things up when they think society’s gone amiss –  but be careful what you wish for. As messed up as Dune’s universe was before Muad’Dib, he made it a whole lot worse.” 

“Something to think about,” Carl said. 

“Especially now,” I said. “When they fall, self proclaimed heroes have a tendency to take everybody with them.”

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