The original series of ‘Dune’ novels is heavily influenced by ecology and sociology — as well as imagery from the Islamic world and the Middle East.
(RNS) — Islamic and Arabic themes were a key influence on the seminal sci-fi novel “Dune,” which went on to influence many works in the genre — notably the most popular science fiction film franchise of all time, “Star Wars.”
Oct. 22 will see the release of “Dune” to HBO Max, the second major motion picture adaptation of the 1965 sci-fi novel, which centers on the struggle for control of Arrakis, a desert planet that produces the galaxy’s most valuable commodity: spice.
The original series of “Dune” novels by Frank Herbert is an exercise in building detailed fictional universes. The Duniverse, as some fans call it, is heavily influenced by ecology and sociology — as well as imagery from the Islamic world and the Middle East. Herbert also used Middle Eastern languages, in particular, Arabic, throughout his novels.
Whether — and how — the movie will draw on the Islamic motifs of the books remains to be seen. In the trailer, the word “jihad” — used repeatedly in the novels — is replaced by “crusade.”
“The problem with using crusade, (it) is a very anti-Muslim term, and that is the stuff that becomes problematic,” said Amir Hussain, a cultural critic and professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University.
Hussain says that, as a kid growing up in the 1970s, he was personally drawn to Dune’s Islamic themes. “You have to understand, there weren’t Muslim ideas and storylines on television or in movies. Then, there was this book of science fiction that for myself, as a Muslim minority, I was able to see my culture, Islamic culture, as one of the sources for inspiration and being represented in a positive way.”