February 2001 interview

Willis E. McNelly answers questions for FED2k's Mahdi.


Q) There are rumours going around that the Dune Encyclopeadia is going to be re-printed in electronic form on the internet. Do you know if this is true or not? And if it is, will be be free to read, or will you have to pay to dowload it?

A) I have conversations underway with two publishers concerning a reprint of the DE. Because I feel strongly about the 4th amendment and the sanctity of copyright as well as the fact that I like money, I do not envision that I will ever authorize the DE to be posted electronically without assurance of payment of some royalty to me. My attorney/agent agrees with me on this. See what has happened to Napster recently.


Q) What was your opinion of the new Dune miniseries, and how do you think it compared to the David Lynch Film?

A) I taped the new miniseries but have not yet had the opportunity to see it.


Q) Which version did you prefer, the miniseries or the movie?

A) See above.


Q) Were you angry or surprised in anyway when you found out that Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson had just made a million dollar contract to write a Butlerian Jihad trilogy, after you had sent the first chapter of your proposed Butlerian Jihad novel to Brian and he never replied?

A) As to my feelings about the proposed Butlerian Jihad trilogy: Instead of saying "envy" or "disappointment" or "anger" or any of many other feelings, rather I would simply like the DE to be recognized for what it is: a literary work of unique distinction about the Duniverse. It would have been so simple for Brian Herbert to purchase all rights to the DE from me for a very modest figure, and this entire problem would have never arisen. If they owned all the rights, I would not care. As it is now . .


Q) Is it possible for you to send us the first chapter of your Butlerian Jihad novel?

A) NO, I will not publish the first chapter of my proposed Butlerian Jihad novel. I have directed that it be placed among my science fiction papers and manuscripts at the Cal. State Fullerton Special Collections library eventually. I can tell you this: it would have followed the outline of the story as told in the DE, with Jehanne Butler as hero together with her husband.


Q) What is your opinion of the new Dune prequel novels? Do you think they stand up to Frank Herberts original novels?

A) I have not read any of the post FH novels.


Q) Have you read House Corrinno, and if so, what can you tell us about it?

A) See above.


Q) As the original creator of House Ordos, did WestWood or EA contact you when designing the Ordos for there Dune games?

A) I know nothing about any Dune game. Am I given some sort of credit in its creation?


Q) Is the WestWood version of House Ordos anything like you had pictured them?

A) See above.


Q) Have you played any of WestWoods dune games (dune 2, dune2000, emperor: battle for dune) and if so, what did you think of them?

A) See above.


Q) Many people have pointed out simularities between Star Wars and Dune, some have even went so far to claim that Star Wars is a dumbed down rip-off of Dune (Paul, writer for science fiction weekly), what is your opinion on this?

A) Isn't it obvious that some things in Star Wars were derived from Dune? But it is also true that both works owe much to classic myths and stories. As a relatively modern example, rent the film "Billy Jack" some time and note the similarities to Dune. FH was a student of myth and the works of C. G. Jung so he was well aware of all of this. He and I discussed this in the oft printed and oft posted longish interview we had back in 1968. He and I also discussed the overall, but not specific, similarities of Dune to Joseph Conrad's great novel, Nostromo, as well as indicate similarities to even some of the early Oz books.


Q) This question has absolutly nothing to do with anything but my own personal curiosity. What kind of doctor are you?

A) My Ph.D. is from Northwestern University where I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the works of James Joyce under the direction of the late great Joyce and Yeats scholar Richard Ellmann. I elaborate on this background in a piece of writing that will shortly be posted - if it has not already been done - about "Science Fiction and the Works of James Joyce." It is a talk I gave about a year ago when I was named "Curator" of the Science Fiction collection at California State University, Fullerton where I taught English for over 30 years.


Q) Is there anything you want to say to the general Dune community?

A) I have made a few comments to the Dune community from time to time, and I will continue to do so. But remember, it's only fiction, no matter how real, so enjoy . . .