Frank Herbert's Dune is a sweeping epic, one filled with complex world-building, family drama, religions, economic systems, and space travel. And yet, one science-fiction fan wonders if Dune's multi-layered success has ruined the science fiction novels that came after.

A user on LibraryThing posting under the name bookmonkey00k has set forth the theory that Dune ruined science fiction novels. It's not that Dune is a bad book — quite the contrary, the poster admits he quite enjoyed Dune and the rich universe it portrayed. His issue is that he suspects Dune's success is behind the increasing girth of science fiction novels after 1965:

Basically, people looked at it and instead of saying, "Wow – you can have this kind of massive family drama/economic intrigue/war story/mystical journey all in the context of SF", they said, "Dune must be awesome because it's really long."

So after 1965 all SF started to get really, REALLY, BIG. I mean, when I've lined up my copy of Dune with three SF books that had been written in the previous decade (Double Star and Starship Troopers by Heinlein, and Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement), all of them award winners, all of them critically acclaimed, and all of them barely adding up to the page count that is DUNE.


Gone are the days of the 200 page book, which could be devoured in a couple of days. Instead, he says science fiction novels are less interested in telling interesting stories with novel ideas than in cramming in every detail until the book is better as a doorstop than a form of entertainment. Moreover, reading these tomes can take weeks, turning what should be a simple pleasure into an onerous commitment. The poster implores Herbert-loving science fiction writers to take their cue from William Faulkner (when rewriting, "kill your darlings"), and trim the fat from their books, leaving a trimmer, more engaging story behind.

But other posters in the forum suggest some other reasons why novels started getting longer after 1965: Like, for example, the fact that novels were no longer being serialized in magazines before coming out in book form (and magazines had tended to have less space for longer books). Or the fact that fantasy books, influenced by Lord Of The Rings, were going longer and more epic, and this bled over into SF. And then there's the simplest explanation: "People like thick books. It makes them feel like they get more for their money."


Things I've noticed: Dune really wrecked Science Fiction [LibraryThing]