March 5, 2024
Melinda Head

We can all thank Mary Shelley for “Dune: Part Two”

But who is she?

Londoner Mary Shelley is widely considered to have established science fiction, with the publication of “Frankenstein” in 1818 when she was only 20 years old. Fearing scandal, she published the first run of 500 copies anonymously.

Sci-fi describes the impact of actual or imagined science and technology upon humankind. It can be thrilling, even horrifying; most science fiction stories also include elements from other genres, such as mystery or romance. Some consider science fiction to be part of a larger genre known as speculative fiction. Think of sci-fi as fiction based on asking: “What if … ?”. “Frankenstein” certainly fits that bill, as does “Dune” and now “Dune: Part Two”.

Mary Shelley was the author of “Frankenstein”, the first sci-fi novel ever to be published … way back in 1818

“Frankenstein” was conceived when Mary was stuck inside during a long, dreary, cold summer and she, along with other literary houseguests, took it upon themselves to see who could write the best ghost story. Her goal was “to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood and quicken the beatings of the heart”. Inspired by difficult circumstances and theoretical discussions about galvanism, the tale of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who brings a humanoid to life, emerged from the darkness of a miserable summer.

“It’s a book that’s relentlessly questioning about where the limits are and how far to push, and what the implications are of what we do in the world.” (Gita Manaktala, MIT Press)

Mary Shelley, a slow-paced but nevertheless interesting biographical drama about the author, thwarted commercial success, only grossing $1.8 million USD worldwide. In 2021, an extremely rare first edition of “Frankenstein” fetched $1.17 million, becoming the most expensive printed edition by a woman ever sold at auction. More than 40,000 copies of this sci-fi classic are still sold every year.

These 3 first edition volumes of “Frankenstein” sold for $1.17 million in 2021

Fast forward almost 150 years later to “Dune”, an epic science fiction novel by American Frank Herbert, that was originally published as a 3-part serial (“Dune World”) by the monthly magazine “Analog” from December 1963 to February 1964, then published as a 5-part serial (“The Prophet of Dune”) in January-May 1965 issues.

“Dune” first started as a magazine serial. “Analog” has been home to many of science fiction’s foremost writers and stories since 1930

As is often the case, many book publishers rejected “Dune”. A publisher known for automotive repair manuals, Chilton, believed that “Dune” might help the Company branch into fiction.  More than 20 million copies have since been sold.

“Dune” was followed by 5 sequels: “Dune Messiah” (1969), “Children of Dune” (1976), “God Emperor of Dune” (1981), “Heretics of Dune” (1984) and “Chapterhouse: Dune” (1985), before the untimely death of the author due to complications from pancreatic cancer surgery.

No one wanted to publish “Dune” except a car repair manual company, Chilton

Denis Villeneuve’s contribution to the continued success of “Dune” is unrivaled. Other filmmakers, including David Lynch, have tried to bring Herbert’s “Dune” saga to the screen, but mostly failed.

“Dune” was supposed to be released in 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It finally premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2021 and became a box office success, grossing almost $435 million on a $165 million budget. The film won 6 Academy Awards, among many other accolades.

French-Canadian Denis Villeneuve directed “Dune” and its sequel, “Dune: Part Two”. A third installment is already in the works based on “Dune Messiah” (1969)

Building on its initial success, funding for “Dune: Part Two” was secured. Released on Thursday, “Dune: Part Two” sold an estimated $81.5 million worth of movie tickets in the US. and Canada over the weekend – the biggest opening for a Hollywood film since “Barbie” – with another $93 million coming in from overseas. So far, that’s $174.5 million against a spend of $190 million – an almost break even in just 4 days. Yes, a ton of additional money was spent on the film’s marketing campaign; however, that’s a cost of doing business these days. The movie had originally been scheduled to be released in November, but the actors' strike changed the Studio's plans. Described as “jaw-on-the-floor spectacular”, this second installment of Frank Herbert’s interstellar feudal conflict saga will quicken the beatings of the hearts of sci-fi fans.

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About the Author

A serial entrepreneur, Melinda is a sociologist and statistician who believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge

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