1) Do you believe living around such a creatively gifted family as yours has proven to be, has been an influence on your own writing skills and styles?
Byron: I hope so! I spent many summers with my grandfather (Frank Herbert) before he passed away. He often read stories that I'd written and had given me pointers on characterizations, plots and prose. I talk to Brian Herbert (my uncle) frequently, too. He always asks me what I'm working on and gives me ideas and support. So, yes, it has influenced me tremendously.
2) What were your first impressions of your grandfather, Frank Herbert's Dune novels when you first read them?
Byron: Mind blowing. It was unlike anything I'd ever read before. Reading Dune truly changed the way I looked at literature. I looked back at some of the previous novels I'd read and laughed at them after I'd finished reading Dune. It set the bar incredibly high for the science fiction genre (and the literary world in general). There are few novels that do this — less than a dozen, I think — and I'm proud to say that Dune is one of them.
3) What were your first impressions of your uncle, Brian Herbert's Dune prequels when you first read them?
Byron: I was so pleased about the first prequel (Dune: House Atreides) that I couldn't sleep the night before it was released! I read it in two days straight and loved it. Of course, it doesn't have the prose that Frank Herbert had, but that was to be expected. I've read all of the prequels and have enjoyed every one of them. Not as much as the original Dune (because Dune stands on a pedestal all its own), but they were fun reads.
4) What were your first opinions on the Dune Encyclopedia by Dr. McNelly? Though the Dune Encyclopedia could fit well in the original Dune series of novels, the prequels removed much of it's base in the Dune universe, what are your thoughts on this?
Byron: The Dune Encyclpedia was never meant to be the defining book on the Dune universe. It's a good reference book for Dune and Dune enthusiasts (and remains so to this day). When Brian and Kevin set out to write the prequels, they didn't want the influence of the Dune Encyclopedia looming over them, impeding their ideas. So they didn't let it. They wrote the stories that they wanted and got them out to the public. If the prequels removed some of the base of the Dune Encyclopedia, so what. These are fiction books! Not nonfiction. That's an important item to remember.
5) Did you perhaps have any contact with Dr. McNelly before or after the publication of the Dune Encyclopedia?
6) Do you hold confidence in the success of the new Butlerian Jihad series of novels and the possibility of a continuation of the original Dune series?
Byron: Most definitely. This new series has opened up Brian and Kevin's imaginations. In the first three prequels (The House series), they were constrained by what happens immediately after their stories ended — that being the original Dune material by Frank Herbert. So they had to tread veeeery carefully . But with this new series, they've gone back nearly 10,000 years to a time that my grandfather only hinted about. They've got a lot of leeway to play around with (in fiction writing terms). I think that the SF fan-base will really enjoy this new series. And to prove that point, Dune: The Machine Crusade is poised to hike up the best-seller lists higher than any prequel Dune novel to date.
7) The new Butlerian Jihad and Dune Prequel novels have created two camps as most would suggest, one loving them while the other strongly dislikes them. Would you have originally anticipated such a divided reaction?
Byron: Yes I would. When people love something as much and as long as they've loved the Dune novels, it's not surprising that some of them would think that what Brian and Kevin are doing is tantamount to heresy. Those who dislike the prequel books have the option to not read them. And those that like them, can read them. It's pretty simple. Some might call that an overly-simplistic approach. But it's still true. What I WOULD like to say to those who think that the prequels are "evil" is that these new novels are introducing the next generation of readers to the original Dune novels. So all is not bad and wicked within the new Dune books (yes, I'm a ‘my glass is half full' kinda guy).
8) What involvement, if any, have you had in the new Dune novels?
Byron: None. I talk to Brian often (we're actually pretty close for an uncle and nephew). He and Kevin are the minds behind the books. I don't put anything into them. What I have done is to support Brian and Kevin. Every year I've been out at their book signings, cheering them on and giving Brian the occasional ride from one signing to the next — he's happy to ride with me since Kevin drives like a maniac!
9) In a previous email with me, you suggested that you were advocating the creation of a series of young adult books set in the Dune universe, is this correct?
Byron: Many Dune ideas are being flung around. Most of them are currently that: just ideas. Brian and I talk about lots of things Dune related, and the Herbert Partnership is contemplating plenty of ideas. We'll have to see what comes to fruition, though.
10) Do you have any stance on the future of the Young Paul series of novels?
Byron: I've had only brief discussions with Brian about this, so I can't comment on them at this time.
11) Would you perhaps advocate the renewed production of Dune action figures and game boards?
Byron: I'm not sure I would. We (the family) don't want Dune to be another Star Wars-style monopoly. We want Dune to set new standards, not hash over old ones. But anything is possible. We look at each proposal carefully to see if it meets the standards for the Dune universe.
12) Have you had an opportunity to use any of the official Dune games for time enough to form an opinion on them? If so, would you perhaps advocate the construction of more such games?
Byron: I can't comment on these at this time.
13) What were your first impressions and later thoughts regarding the recent and past Dune film projects?
Byron: I've published a differentiation of the two Dune features (the theatrical release of Dune and the miniseries) at the scifidimensions.com website. You can view ‘Dune vs. Dune' at: http://www.scifidimensions.com/May02/dunevsdune.htm. As far as the Children of Dune Miniseries goes, I was extremely pleased with the quality of the production and acting. The SciFi Channel did a superb job. I think it was even better than the two previous Dune films. It recently won an Emmy award, too.
14) How would you describe your position with Herbert Limited?
Byron: Prone. But seriously, I'm an active member in the partnership. It's a fun – and sometimes daunting – task.
15) As an author and skilled writer yourself, has the desire or option to write or co-write a new Dune novel ever come to you?
Byron: The desire to do a Dune novel comes to me on occasion. Brian and I have discussed (only discussed) options for he and I to co-write some Dune items. We're kicking around some ideas and hopefully one will pop up for us. We don't want to force an idea out. We want it to be fresh and fun. So we're in no hurry to do so. I'm in no hurry, especially. I think that when (or if) the time comes for me to write something Dune related, that I'll take so much care it'll feel a bit painstaking. I have written and gotten published elsewhere. At www.zone-sf.com (http://www.zone-sf.com/frankherbert.html) and at scifidimensions.com (http://www.scifidimensions.com/May02/dunevsdune.htm) on the web. I've also been the featured author in Australia at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine in July (‘Father Figure'). That story was voted best of the month via an internet poll. Although none of my fiction writing has been in the Dune universe, I do enjoy writing science fiction. Mainly humorous SF. ‘Monte-Ray Gunn', a short story I wrote for an anthology book entitled ‘Monterey Shorts', is an example of my intergalactic witticism. But Dune lurks in the recess of my mind still . . .
Copyright 2003, Byron Merritt