In Dune, why doesn't the Spacing Guild take over the universe?
August 31, 2010 9:49 AM   Subscribe

Dune question: Why doesn't the Spacing Guild just take over the universe?

This question has been bugging the shit out of me for decades. In a book series that's all about political skullduggery, there's an annoying logical conundrum. Is there an answer I've overlooked in the books?

Early in the Dune series, it's established that the Spacing Guild has a monopoly on interstellar travel.

It's not really a monopoly, inasmuch as they're the only ones that have managed to do it safely and effectively. Apparently, in the backstory of the universe, it could be done without the use of Guild Navigators, at a cost of a 10 percent failure rate -- in one out of 10 trips, the ships were just lost in the vastness of space. Later, advanced computers could do it, but then there was the Butlerian Jihad that destroyed all the computers. In the meantime, the Spacing Guild discovered the ability of melange to guide navigation.

Later in the books, thousands of years after the first book in the series, an artificial melange is created, breaking the monopoly.

So ... if you're the only one that can travel through space ... and the key to do it is found on a single planet, Arrakis ...

... why don't you just strand everyone on their own planets, take over Arrakis, gobble up all the spice, and then dictate your terms to the universe?

I mean ... it's not like anyone can just pop over to your solar system to have a word with you ...
posted by Cool Papa Bell to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
They're already dictating terms to the universe. The Guild has as much control as they want; endless profit, without the actual headache of governing.
posted by COBRA! at 9:53 AM on August 31, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well, they don't actually have armies, so it'd be hard for them to "take over" Arrakis. And the Houses have a monopoly of their own - on atomic weapons. And it's not hard to imagine that those 10%-failure-rate ships are still hanging around. So if you force them to, the Houses can probably launch an ugly assault that would arrive 90% intact at Arrakis, deploy their armies (which are going to be vastly more capable than whatever the Guild can field, and nuke the gilled guys into submission.

Basically, the Guild's very happy to run things in a way that generally doesn't get them shot at.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2010 [5 favorites]


I always thought of the guild like the Illuminati. They take a more nuanced, mystical approach to controlling the universe.
posted by Lorin at 9:58 AM on August 31, 2010


SPOILERS

Well, first of all you can't take Arrakis without taking out the Fremen. Remember, that was what everyone before Paul didn't realize: there's many, many more of them than Kynes ever imagined, and they have much more control over the planet's resources (the water supplies, the shai hulud) than Kynes thought. They also control Spice generation, and you can't really "strand" them on Arrakis. It's their home and they have no interest in interstellar travel.

Second, the Guild would be taken by force if necessary. 1/10 ships would be an acceptable casualty rate if they ever brought war against themselves. They'd have all three houses, plus CHOAM and Ix (and whoever else) on them at the same time. And I think there's a tacit acknowledgment that Ix would figure out a way to replace the Navigators, whether it complies with the "no machine with the mind of a man" commandment or not.
posted by griphus at 10:00 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


In the scenario you describe, what is to stop the Mentats from working with the Houses and the Emperor to effectively undo the Butlerian Jihad and redevelop computers and AI pilots?

Moreover, what motivation does the Guild have for taking over? They already dictate all the terms under which they will consent to carry passengers, cargo, etc...(or at least that was my understanding)...and if the Houses/Emperor were to stop the flow of spice, then I imagine the Guild would just strand everyone.

My interpretation of the Pilots themselves was that they live to Pilot, so the setup of Guild to Merchant/House Royal always struck me as a very symbiotic relationship - the Pilots want to pilot and need spice to do so, the Emperor and the royal Houses have the means to pay (in spice or otherwise.) Everyone wins.
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:03 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


To add to what namewithoutwords just said: the Navigators not only need the spice to pilot, they need it to live. The spice-bath they live in sustains them. Unless they managed to both depose whoever was in control of Arrakis and created a way to harvest it, they'd be committing suicide.
posted by griphus at 10:06 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is discussed in the books in some detail. At one point, a metaphor of a village beside a river, just upstream of a major city, is used (if I remember correctly). The village could fish all it wanted and could even take far more than its fair share of the fish in the river, because the people in the city couldn't actually see them do it, though they knew that there should probably be more fish out there. But if they actually dammed the river, taking all the fish, the people in the city wouldn't stand for it.

Essentially, the Houses of the Landsraad were willing to put up with the Guild's monopolistic practices and extortionate fees, but if the Guild actually tried to directly interfere with politics, they would have rebelled, as a 10% loss rate in interstellar transport* would be preferable to submission to the Guild. As discussed above, the Guild did not have the military might to win a direct confrontation in that even though they could probably have destroyed entire worlds--it's amazing what you can do with comets these days--they would have been hard-pressed to seize a single city. Which is what you need to do if you want to exert political power, not just blow shit up.

*Historic trans-oceanic shipping losses were probably much higher than that, so a 10% rate, while bothersome, is still better than the odds for sailing a wooden ship from London to India.
posted by valkyryn at 10:08 AM on August 31, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Guild is, foremost, about the status quo. And why not? They already have a monopoly on space travel, wide power, and wealth. They worry that if they control the spice to tightly:

1) It will draw attention to their absolute demand on it. Look at what happens when Paul takes control of the planet: immediately he subjugates the Guild using their dependency on the spice.

2) It might disrupt the supply. They're prescient, and know that if they leave Arrakis alone they spice will continue to flow. So why risk trying to control it?
posted by sbutler at 10:10 AM on August 31, 2010


The Guild does not control the spice. They are not a desert power. They are however, more aware of the scale of Fremen society and their military capabilities than other actors (and, at the time of Muad'Dib's appearance, they were also being bribed with ridiculous amounts of spice by the Fremen in order to prevent more intrusive aerial surveillance). This, combined with their own precognitive abilities and the uncertainty beyond the event horizon of Paul's awakening, would lead them to tread very lightly in these matters. They are entirely dependent on spice, and they know that they can't just move in and take over.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:13 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Once you start on melange, after a certain point, it's forever. You cannot kick it. You die. The spice must flow for it to be valuable, as, if the Spacing Guild suddenly stopped the flow, shortly after the stockpiles of each House dry run, billions of politically powerful spice addicts end up dying. Far better to simply tax that enormous flow.

The Guild Navigators, the ones who actually fold space, are not neither plentiful nor all that tough, stuck as they are within enormous tanks of the melange gas. They've essentially specialized in this one thing at the cost of so many other things, making them quite vulnerable at the top. Some of the Houses of the Landsraad have specialties: Richese for miniaturization, for example. The Bene Tleilax are master manipulators of biology — dancing within certain limits.

Each of the organizations could make their own obvious power plays and destroy civilization, but prefer, in the feudal society so carefully engineered, to make more subtle thrusts and feints.

Into this comes Maud'dib. He creates the unthinkable threat when he voices his discovery: a way to destroy spice production forever. The end of melange is only one part of the power he represents. That he has appeared in the midst of millennia of checks and balances, the chess of stately society, and the ritual of empire as, comparatively, half a Fremen savage guided by something beyond mere human conception is the black swan of the civilization.
posted by adipocere at 10:13 AM on August 31, 2010


As said above, the Guild is prescient, but not terribly visionary. Most scenarios of conflict entail greater risk and harm to them in the short term future than maintaining their spearation from direct politics. Without a vision to decide that is worth the risk, their prescience likely actually pushes them towards maintenance of the status quo.
posted by meinvt at 10:15 AM on August 31, 2010


The answer is Ix. Even early on the Guild didn't have an true monopoly on space travel. If they attempted to use their power to 'take over the universe' that would, I'm sure, prompt the houses to support the creation of new thinking machines on Ix to replace them. Later, the Ixian no-ship computers can take the place of a navigator and do exactly that. That technology would certainly have been developed earlier if the Guild was seen as a threat to the universe.
posted by jardinier at 10:28 AM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, I think the answer is the simple one--why bother taking over a whole universe when you can just get fat off things the way they are? As far as dictating their terms to the universe--well, they pretty much were.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:21 AM on August 31, 2010


Frank Herbert made it clear that the Guild's prescience was a trap, that it guided them down safe paths that kept the Spice flowing. War is the ultimate uncertainty so they'd do anything to avoid it. They'd much rather work through indirection than any direct action that could expose them to risk.
posted by scalefree at 11:49 AM on August 31, 2010


What everyone seems to be forgetting here is the familial relationships and emotions between all the major players in this universe and the time period of the actual onset of the Guild.

The Guild finds it's beginnings during the heat of the Butlerian Jihad. The Bene Gesserit progenitor and the of creation the Spacing Guild were all began/instigated by direct family members; two differing views on the 'how' of defeating the thinking machines during the Butlerian jihad.

* Zufa Cenva, Supreme Sorceress of Rossak was mother to Norma Cenva, whom Zufa felt was 'Misborn' or undesirable.

* Aurelius Venport, while Zufa's lover at the time of Norma's birth was not her father and eventually became Norma's lover as well.

* Norma Cenva, is a mathematical genius despite her physical infirmities. Many things taken for granted in the time of Muad'dib are a direct result of her genius.

While Aurelius in effect created the Guild as an entity using his not-insignificant business acumen, it was Norma who discovered the navigational enhancement properties of melange and Norma who had earlier discovered the Holtzman effect while working as 'assistant' to Tio Holtzman. The Holtzman effect is what makes Dune-universe space travel possible.
Her continued use of the spice over time gives her vast, though limited similarly to Bene Gesserit 'Other Memory', powers of prescience. There is no love lost between Zufa and her daughter; primarily due to Zufa's lack of emotional attachment. However, out of the three primary players here, she always had the greatest 'humanity' and still attempts to protect humankind from the two remaining thinking machines across 15000 years of time. It is her influence that dictates Guild policy when she cares to exercise it. The guild itself tries more and more over time to make these decisions in her 'absence'; but she gives her orders and sets things right in their course once she returns.

That being said, the guild's bungling is rarely great enough to rouse her as they try to keep things close to what the can ascertain of her wishes. Too bad that's not normal henchman mentality or the villains might stand a chance...
posted by MuChao at 11:55 AM on August 31, 2010


Ask yourself this: Why doesn't Rush Limbaugh take over as RNC Chairman?
posted by coolguymichael at 12:03 PM on August 31, 2010


I could present you with a whole series of logical difficultties with Dune, far more serious than the one you came up with. What prevents the Spacing Guild from taking over the universe? The universe of Dune has lots of very dangerous organizations and people in it, as the preceding answers point out, and just because the Spacing Guild has a strangelhold on space travel hardly means that they can dictate terms to everybody.

Robert A. Heinlein examined the broad philosophical issue of just how essential any given profession is, in his famous story 'The Roads Must Roll". Everybody needs to eat, so if farmers get together to establish a monopoly on food, the world has no choice but to capituate, right? Except that armed forces can still threaten to shoot the farmers if they do not provide food. What about doctors? Even armed men are at the mercy of doctors when they get sick. You can't hold a gun on someone when they are performing surgery on you. What about transportation? It's the Spacing Guild issue again. Even on a single planet such as Earth, there are transportation bottlenecks. Truck drivers do most of the delivery of the essential supplies on which we depend, can they then blackmail the world? And so on and so on. There are lots of professions which are vital to society and which could try to rule the world, but it doesn't work. Everyone has a certain amount of power, even the most powerless underclass - they can still rise up in violent revolution and take over, if they get angry enough.

But we haven't even begun to look at the impossibilities of the Dune universe. There is only one organism native to Arrakis, namely the great sand worm. That's it, nothing else. Even the sand trout are just immature sand worms. OK, what do sand worms eat? This question is not even asked until volume 4 of the series, "God-Emperor Of Dune" in which volume we discover that the sand worms eat sand. What nutritional value does sand have? None that I can see. But wait, there's more! Sand worms (as you will recall) have very large, very sharp teeth, which the Fremen use to make kris-knives. What evolutionary purpose is served by these teeth? What do sand worms bite? All they eat is sand. There is no prey and no predators, just sand and sand worms. And then there is the bizarre reaction of sand worms to rhythmic patterns caused by someone walking on the sand. These patterns cause sand worms to attack. But why? People are not their prey, nor do people even resemble their prey - they don't have any prey. They eat sand. So none of this makes any sense.

Later in the series the planet Arrakis is partially terraformed. Water that is collected out of the atmosphere by means of elaborate condensation devices is used to irrigate large portions of the planet, making them green and productive, rather than desert. Again, an impossibility. If the atmosphere had that much water in it, the water would have appeared by itself in the form of rain. No condensation machines would be required.

You recall that when a laser is fired into a force field, you get the equivalent of a nuclear explosion. Strangely, no one ever uses this to challenge the existing power structure or commit an act of terrorism.

There are many other serious problems with this bizarre novel and its sequels. I won't list them all.
posted by grizzled at 12:06 PM on August 31, 2010


You recall that when a laser is fired into a force field, you get the equivalent of a nuclear explosion. Strangely, no one ever uses this to challenge the existing power structure or commit an act of terrorism.

Well, I was pretty sure they did a shield/lasgun explosion in the original book at least once when Paul was first on the run. But it was certainly a surprisingly under-used strategy.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:32 PM on August 31, 2010


Strangely, no one ever uses this to challenge the existing power structure or commit an act of terrorism.

The rest of the points made are certainly valid, but this one is actually dealt with. There was an outstanding and universal prohibition against the use of nuclear weapons against populations, the penalty for which was planetary obliteration. As it was very difficult to distinguish a shield/lasgun explosion from nuclear weapons, most actors tried to avoid them for fear of the Landsraad.

On the terrorism side, even the Fremen wouldn't have been able to stand against the combined might of the Landsraad and Imperial House if it all descended at once, which is presumably what would have happened.

posted by valkyryn at 1:04 PM on August 31, 2010


What evolutionary purpose is served by these teeth?

To attack rival sandworms.

These patterns cause sand worms to attack. But why?

If the only living thing on the planet is the sandworm, any vibration it senses must be another sand worm, an unfamiliar, rival sandworm.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:17 PM on August 31, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have somewhat derailed the discussion from its original question, but it does seem at least somewhat relevant in the sense that the question asked, about why the Spacing Guild doesn't take over the universe, is probably not the most urgent question raised by this novel.

When we consider what terrorists are actually doing in the real world, it is difficult to believe that any possible threats of retaliation would prevent at least some deranged terrorists from using the readily available laser/force field device to create catastrophic explosions. This technology, which in the Dune series gets used only once, is vastly more dangerous than what Herbert depicts.

In fact, this is typical of the way Dune was written, in the sense that Herbert threw in any idea that seemed amusingly bizarre or could be used to generate dramatic tension. He didn't care very much if any of these ideas were plausible. The only reason why the novel was successful despite all this implausibility is that Herbert was able to present such a complex picture that it is extremely difficult to understand it well enough to be able to figure out why it doesn't actually make sense. It's a very mysterious novel, one which presents more questions than answers.

The idea proposed by Slap*Happy that sandworms use their teeth to attack rival sandworms does seem to be the most logical explanation, although we do not actually see or hear about any fights between sandworms, in this lengthy series of novels. Also, the vibrations caused by a person walking on the surface of the sand would not resemble those of a giant sandworm tunneling through the sand - but again, your explanation is probably the best we can do. I think Herbert was just sloppy.
posted by grizzled at 1:46 PM on August 31, 2010


MuChau is all this in the prequels?

I refused to read them b/c they seemed to be like the Star Wars (and most other) prequels in that they try to wrap things up too neatly and feel the need to explain every little thing, sucking all of the interest and imagination out of the originals.

Plus, I dislike the writing styles of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
posted by reddot at 3:48 PM on August 31, 2010


It's a novel, aka fiction. It doesn't have to make sense in all its detail.

But it is still frustrating me, though I too have refused to read more than a few of the prequels, sequels and moneyspinners that followed the original, the writing just turned me off.
posted by GeeEmm at 4:35 PM on August 31, 2010


I spent some more time thinking about this. I think your answer, or as close to it as you are going to get, is not in Dune or the sequels or the prequels or anything else. What you are looking for is in The Godmakers.

Somewhere in the middle part of what is a very short novel, Herbert discusses what he calls "the hoe and the handle:"
"Perhaps not ignore it," Orne said. "But we'll do something close to that. We have no choice. It's time we learned about the hoe and the handle."

"The what?" Spencer blared.

"It's right there in the I-A curriculum," Orne said. "Primitive societies discovered this way out of the constant temptation toward lethal violence. One village would make the head of the hoe, the next village down the line would make only the handles. Neither would think of invading the other's special area of manufacture."
Orne later says, "This is a check and balance system. You cut the pie, we get first choice on which pieces to take. One group makes the head of the hoe, another makes the handle. We assemble it together."

Then, skip back to an earlier part of the novel, where Orne formulates his thoughts as "the peace-keeping function of the marketplace, the deliberate despecialization of manufacture with one village making the head of the hoe and the next village making the handle, the psychological security of guilds [emphasis mine] and castes ..."

There you have it: the Spacing Guild is deliberately self-limited, as are the rest of the organizations, as a system of checks and balances. This system is stable and war is not.

It is a common theme throughout Herbert's empire-spanning novels. The same dead author, explaining that concept in a different milieu/universe is as close to a justification of the explanation of behavior for fictitious organizations as you're likely to get.
posted by adipocere at 8:19 AM on September 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Most of the ineptitude of which I made mention is spelled out in more detail in one of the appendices of the novel 'Dune' itself... Give it a read if you feel like it; it's the last appendix before the roll of characters.

And, yes reddot, much more detail into those particular three individuals is from the three hardback 'House' novels (Corrino, Atreides, and Harkonnen, I beilieve) and the Butlerian Jihad novel as well. Norma, by various names, shows up in most of the novels in both small and large ways.

I agree that the style and turn of phrase are different, but they contain scads of data about why things are as they are in the time of Duke Paul Muad'dib. This, in and of itself, made it worth the mental shift required to make it 'fit' in with Herbert's original universe.
posted by MuChao at 4:03 PM on September 1, 2010


I think you can make an interesting comparison between the Spacing Guild, who would SEEM able to wield absolute power, but would fail if they tried to do so, and the Peace Patrol in Heinlein's Solution Unsatisfactory, who really do have absolute power, at least for the time being.

Also see Vinge's The Peace War.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:06 AM on September 2, 2010


I don't have references, but I don't think the water used for terraforming was contained in the atmosphere at all. The Fremen used that technology to extract what little they could to survive, and if there was lots of it there, they would have known about it. The water Leto II was the water that was trapped up by the sand trout, the larval form of the sand worm. The would take the water and sequester it below the surface, but since Leto II had a telepathic connection with both forms he could also get them to bring it back to the surface.

I don't think you give Herbert enough credit.
posted by betaray at 4:04 PM on September 2, 2010


BTW, here's a link to the Dune Encyclopedia [pfd link]...
posted by reddot at 10:27 AM on September 3, 2010


I'm slightly surprised to find this discussion still continuing. betaray thinks I don't give Herbert enough credit. So you think that the species of the sand worm, to which water is toxic, can nonetheless in its immature form as sand trout enter into a perfect symbiosis with human beings, organisms which are drenched in water, and with whom they have absolutely no shared evolutionary history from which a symbiosis might have evolved? This is reasonable to you?

The idea of recovering water from underground sequestered regions where is was placed by sand trout is interesting, however, that's not what I found in the novel. I would also ask how sand worms, who are poisoned by water and who certainly do not have anything like waterproof plastic containers in which to transport water, whether in adult or larval form, would have been able to transport water anywhere, whether to sequester it below ground or to bring it back to the surface at the request of Leto II. I would also question whether sand worms would willingly cooperate in the transformation of their home planet from an endless desert in which they can live safely, to a planet that has only a few remaining desert reservations and is mostly a well watered world where human beings can conveniently live and grow food. Why would the worms want to do this? Is that all it takes, Leto II asks them so they do it? What do they even get in return? As an added implausibility I find it unbelievable that anyone would even WANT to get rid of the deserts of Arrakis, deserts in which spice is produced, which is by far the most useful substance in the Dune universe, a magical drug which extends the human lifespan, confers psychic ability, and even enables the Spacing Guild to navigate during faster than light travel. A most amazing drug indeed, again, particularly so since there is no shared human evolutionary history between humans and sand worms, and therefore no apparent reason why the biochemistry of the sand worm should have any relevance, much less an overwhelming relevance, to human biochemistry. So, I don't give Herbert enough credit? It's actually much worse than I originally said, I just didn't want to go into all the grisly details.
posted by grizzled at 9:45 AM on September 7, 2010


I would also question whether sand worms would willingly cooperate in the transformation of their home planet from an endless desert in which they can live safely, to a planet that has only a few remaining desert reservations and is mostly a well watered world where human beings can conveniently live and grow food. Why would the worms want to do this? Is that all it takes, Leto II asks them so they do it? What do they even get in return?

Herbert makes it clear that pre-Leto sand worms were not sentient but that post-Leto ones would be, each containing a "pearl" of Leto II's consciousness, making them harder to find & more aggressively protective of the Spice, making Spice even rarer & more difficult to obtain than it had been before. At least until artificial Spice was invented.

As an added implausibility I find it unbelievable that anyone would even WANT to get rid of the deserts of Arrakis, deserts in which spice is produced, which is by far the most useful substance in the Dune universe, a magical drug which extends the human lifespan, confers psychic ability, and even enables the Spacing Guild to navigate during faster than light travel.

Not to be snarky but you've apparently missed the central point of the entire series, which is that prescience is a trap, that perfect prediction means the elimination of free will & ultimately the extinction of the human race. The Golden Path was meant to be a way out of that trap; Leto II's 3500 year reign would create the ultimate Tyrant, instilling the lesson on all humanity that free will is a prize worth any price, eventually leading to the invention of No-Globes & a genetic line in the Atreides that was immune to detection by prescience. Only then could humanity spread throughout the Galaxy without the threat of being traced & tracked by prescient hunters.
posted by scalefree at 3:19 PM on September 7, 2010


scalefree, your explanation is very glib, but Herbert was just making it all up as he went. When the original novel was written as a serial in Analog magazine in 1963, there was no thought of extending it into a series. You can tell by reading the immediate sequel, Dune Messiah, that there was no planning involved; it was a terrible novel that was written just to cash in on the unexpected popularity of the original. Now you think that there is an actual point to the entire series, which I have somehow missed. However, prescience is not a trap. Predicting the future does not destroy free will and it would be very useful to be able to do so. And the idea that Leto II would create a horrible tyrannical reign lasing 3500 years just to teach humanity a lesson is ridiculous in the extreme. How long did it take Hitler to teach us that a Nazi form of government is not healthy? And even Hitler only planned a thousand year Reich, not the 3500 year reign of Leto II. Herbert does all sorts of weird things in these novels simply because they are weird. For example, the Honored Matres. Do you really believe that they can kick so rapidly and powerfully that they can defeat the greatest sword experts (previously, the Fish Speakers, who were better than the Fremen who were better than the Saudarkar who were better than the nobility except for Paul who was better than everyone...more implausibility)? They have an auxilliary brain in their pelvis that gives them faster relexes, right. So how does the auxilliary brain know when to kick? Only by communicating with the main brain would it know anything (the Honored Matres did not have auxilliary eyes in their pelvises), and thereby, it would lose the supposed edge in speed. Excuse me, I have to check with the head office. Ah yes, time to kick. Take that! Herbert just threw in one oddity after another, to keep us amazed. But he was generally a very good writer (with the exception of Dune Messiah) and it was all in good fun. But it doesn't make sense and it doesn't really have a point.

Furthermore, to get rid of spice in order to get rid of prescience also gets rid of the Spacing Guild and human life extension, which I hardly think that the galactic empire would want to do. None of it really makes sense. You just get hypnotized by the sheer complexity of Herbert's invention.
posted by grizzled at 4:03 PM on September 7, 2010


I am going to add a few more observations. REgarding the Honored Matres, they are even more implausible than my previous comment indicates; given the superhumanly fast speed of their kicks they would in theory not even be able to penetrate personal force fields - without which combat would be dominated by guns, as it is now in the 21st century. No matter how fast you can kick, you can be shot before you get within kicking range. So presumably the force fields are still in use.

Even at the very beginning of the series we run into serious trouble. The still suits worn by the Fremen to capture all the water released by their bodies either in the form of perspiration or exhalation, also serve to defeat the mechanisms by which the body rids itself of excess heat. Unless you were wearing your still suit in a very cold environment, you would inevitably die of heat prostration.

Although you (scalefree) have concluded because of my criticism of the plausibility of the Dune series that I simply failed to understand the point of the series, you have not addressed several of the most grave implausibilities that I have previously mentioned, such as the fact that sand is not nutritious (and there is no apparent reason why it would be, even to a highly alien metabolism) yet it is the sole food of the sandworms, and the even more bizarre fact that sandworms, a species to which water is toxic, and which have no shared evolutionary background with human beings, are nonetheless capable of forming a perfect symbiosis with a human being (even though it seems to have happened only once). The water content of a human would presumably poison any sandworm or sandtrout attempting such a symbiosis.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the implausibilities of the Dune series, but it is certainly enough to conclude that the series does not make sense. It's fun, though. As senseless works of SF go, it is quite entertaining. I am somewhat reminded of the writing style of an earlier author, A.E. Van Vogt, who also liked to throw in a constant barrage of weird and implausible ideas and whose work was very exciting. Of the two, Herbert was the more skillful writer. But neither are believable.

The relevant aspect of all these comments is that we now have a question (which has, of course, been answered) about why the Spacing Guild hasn't taken over the universe, as if this is a particularly difficult point of plot logic in this series, when there are vastly greater difficulties of plot logic.
posted by grizzled at 5:02 AM on September 8, 2010


You don't like Herbert, you don't like my comment & you don't think much of the question that started this off. Thanks for stopping by!
posted by scalefree at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2010


Actually I do like Herbert and I mentioned that in my comment:

It's fun, though. As senseless works of SF go, it is quite entertaining.

As for your comment, you are free to disagree with me but you didn't really have reason to accuse me of having missed the point of the series.

And as for the question, it did provide a reason to discuss Dune, even if there are other more urgent questions that can be asked about that series. And I actually did answer the question that was asked. I approach these things with a helpful attitude.
posted by grizzled at 2:08 PM on September 8, 2010


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