What If Dune Was Never Written?
I think most people are familiar with the work called "Dune." Especially after the release of the 2021 film Dune many people now know about Dune and its author, the beloved Frank Herbert.
As you know, the story in Dune generally takes place on a planet called Arrakis. On Arrakis, the natives and the sandworms, also known as "Shai-Hulud" in the book and considered to be close friends and even buddies of the locals, are the cornerstone of spice production on Arrakis.
I believe that providing this much information is sufficient for those who have not read the Dune series or watched the movie, and I am now getting to the reason why I am writing this article.
The purpose of this article is to address the thought, "How much of an impact can a work written in 1965 really have?"
The Origin and History of Dune
When Frank Herbert wrote the Dune series, it was the year 1965, long before many things we know today. Frank Herbert published his book knowing or perhaps unknowingly that it would have an impact on the entire world.
We're starting off fast, aren't we? Let's start from the beginning and talk about how the Dune legend actually began.
In 1957, Frank Herbert dedicated his last work to humanity and named it The Dragon in the Sea. The Dragon in the Sea takes place in the near future, where two communities known as West and East have been fighting for over a decade, rapidly depleting the world's resources. They sought after the oil in the oceans as a solution and built submarines for it. However, the crew on the submarines began to go mad over time. John Ramsey, who replaced one of the mad officers, tried to find the cause of their madness.
After the intriguing and exciting work The Dragon in the Sea, Frank Herbert began researching for a new topic. In 1959, since his wife was a copywriter and he had to support himself, Frank Herbert dedicated all his energy and time to his new work. However, he received an offer during this time.
At the time, the Ministry of Agriculture was trying to use grass or rather, turf to stabilize the Oregon Dunes to prevent them from sliding and scattering around. Frank Herbert was asked to write an article on this topic, and he quickly prepared and went to the Oregon Dunes. Frank Herbert had a great hobby of growing mushrooms, which was the real reason for his excitement about this article and work.
Frank Herbert never finished that article. Instead, he left the legacy of Dune to humanity.
Inspired by the Oregon Dunes, Frank Herbert began enthusiastically taking notes, eventually creating hundreds of sections, later mentioned in his work, The Road to Dune. But something was missing. He didn't want to write a simple adventure novel. He wanted to layer his story as much as possible. For Dune, he consulted with his Native American friends, gathering information about superheroes, messiahs, and feudalism. He incorporated some elements of the World Wars into his book. He even drew significant inspiration from a book called The Sabres of Paradise, published in 1960. But his story did not yet have Arrakis or the Spice. Frank Herbert knew something was missing. Ultimately, he succumbed to his love of mushroom cultivation and built Arrakis, Spice, Bene Gesserit, and all the Sandworms according to the life cycle of mushrooms.
Frank Herbert's love for mushroom cultivation is mentioned in Dune as follows:
Spice: The spores of mushrooms.
Time and Space Travel: The hallucinogenic effects created by certain mushrooms.
Fremens: The blue Psilocybe mushrooms.
Bene Gesserit: The stories of Maria Sabina and the secret mushroom cult in Mexico.
Sandworms: The worms that survive by consuming certain mushrooms and are particularly targeted by them.
I know that what I have been describing seems more like "The Rise of the Sandworms" than "The Rise of Dune," but don't worry. Our main topic is sandworms!
So what did Herbert give us by starting with a mushroom and incorporating sandworms into our lives?
Let's talk about that a little bit!
The Role of a Dream in Dozens of Works
Frank Herbert left us with a deep and vast world in his Dune series. However, one thing I am sure of is that Frank Herbert could not have imagined that a single entity in the Dune novel would spread so widely and be used in films or video games. This entity is the Sandworms we are talking about here!
Although Sandworms first appeared in our lives with the Dune series in 1965, they have never been erased. They have inspired video games, movies, TV shows, and other books. While some of the games or movies show Sandworms as "enemies," others use them as a reference to the Dune series.
In every work, story, or universe they have been used, their shape, style, and reason for existence have changed, but their domain has not. They always emerged from the sands and usually greeted the protagonist in the story, and mostly in the desert.
So let's move on to our examples. Let's see where Frank Herbert's and Paul's pet Sandworms have appeared in other works.
Sandworms in Video Games!
I have played, completed, and enjoyed hundreds of games over time. Many of these games feature sandworms either as a reference or as an actual part of the game's universe. Here's a list of some of the games where sandworms appear:
No Man's Sky: The game I want to talk about is No Man's Sky. As you may know, No Man's Sky is a game where you can explore planet after planet, craft various items, and try to survive. The sandworm in the game is called "Shaihuluda" and can usually be found in exotic biomes. If you're familiar with Dune, you may have guessed that the creature's name comes from "Shai-Hulud" in the Dune universe.
Hunter Blade: This PvP-focused MMORPG game, released by JoyChina in 2011, also features a sandworm. In the game, it's usually called the "Death Worm" and its design and artwork resemble the sandworms in Dune. However, the game couldn't gain popularity and bid farewell to the gaming world in 2012.
Rage 2: Developed by ID Software in 2019, Rage 2 also includes a sandworm. It is one of the bosses in the game and can be found in the "Sandworm Invasion" mission. According to the mission, this sandworm must be destroyed, but it's not an easy task. If you haven't played Rage 2 yet or if you're struggling with this mission, I would like to give you a tip. In the main missions, you'll be given a vehicle called "Xerxes III," which can easily kill the sandworm.
Final Fantasy X-2: Final Fantasy serisi belki de bu zamana kadar oynadığım ve en güzel oyun serilerinden bir tanesi. Frank Herbert'in meşhur kum solucanlarından birisi de Final Fantasy X-2 oyununda geçmektedir. Final Fantasy X-2, X oyununun devamıdır ve canımız ciğerimiz Yuna'nın hikayesini anlatır. Hikayede diyar diyar gezerken Bikanel'e yolculuk yaptığınız sırada bu yaratıklar ile karşılaşırsınız. Oyunda basit ama güçlü bir yaratık olarak geçer. Dört formu da bulunmaktadır. Sand worm, Abyss Worm, Land Worm, Earth Worm. Bu arada belirtmeliyim ki Land Worm ve Abyss Worm Final Fantasy X oyununda da bulunmaktadır.
Icarus: I really love survival games, but unfortunately, Icarus wasn't the "perfect game" for me. It didn't meet my expectations. However, I must say that there are sandworms in this game as well. There are two types of creatures, Sandworm and Caveworm. These creatures are strong at the beginning of the game but can be easily killed in later levels. They are creatures that are killed for gathering materials.
ARK: Survival Evolved: We've come to one of the best examples on the list. Ark is one of my favorite games that I've spent more than 250 hours playing. Sandworms appear in this game as "Deathworm." They can be found on Scorched Earth, Ragnarok, and Lost Island, but the quickest place you can encounter them is on the Scorched Earth map. It's a challenging creature in the early, middle, and even later stages of the game. It yields some materials and recipes, but killing it is truly torture.
New World: New World, introduced to our lives by Amazon Game Studios in 2021, is an MMORPG-style game. Although it had a large and popular community in the early days, we can't say that it's currently loved very much. It's generally a nice game, but it's lacking in some aspects. There's also a sandworm in New World, but it's only present visually. It can appear while you're wandering around the Brimstone map. Sandworm models have also been found in New World files by different game developers, and they were considered as an Arena Boss. Currently, it doesn't have any function.
Dark Souls 3: If you're a hardcore Souls player, I don't think I need to mention which creature it is. However, I still want to inform those who don't know. There is a mini-boss in Dark Souls 3, called Carthus, which is a sandworm. It guards the entrance to the Old Demon King area. It's difficult to kill and unattractive, but its design resembles "Shai-Hulud."
Star Citizen: Star Citizen, with millions of players and a high cost to play, is trying to host a sandworm. They had announced in a promotional video in 2016 that there would be a sandworm in the game, but unfortunately, it has not happened in the last seven years. In an update they claimed to have released on April 1, 2022, they said, "sandworms are here, but we decided to keep them underground!" However, it turned out to be an April Fool's joke. Later, they announced that a sandworm called Valakkar would be added to the game and that the creature would be found in the Leir III system. Unfortunately, the development of the Leir system was halted, and even the most ardent Star Citizen players have given up on this idea.
Borderlands: Borderlands, one of my favorite series by Gearbox and 2K Games, also hosts sandworms. In fact, the game continues to carefully host this creature in all of its series. These creatures, called Threshers, are actually a reference to a movie called Tremors. After completing Borderlands 2, a difficulty mode called "Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode" is unlocked, and when you play this mode, the name of the Thresher creatures changes to Tremor Threshers. The Borderlands game thus references the movie Tremors, which was inspired by the "Shai-Hulud" in Dune.
Terraria: In 2011, the Re-Logic company developed their first game, Terraria, and I don't think they expected it to become as big as it has. Terraria, which has won the title of "the fourth most played and most player game on Steam!" in recent years, hosts all kinds of worms in the game. There are many types of worms that you can encounter in every biome. However, with the 220.127.116.11 update in 2016, Re-Logic did not forget to add an enemy called Dune Splicer to the game. This enemy can only be encountered in the desert and at the Hardmode difficulty level and, as the name suggests, is a reference to Dune.
The Influence of Dune and Sandworms in Movies!
When Frank Herbert completed his initial work on Dune and published "Dune World" in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, he had already set the stage for the future of the film industry. In fact, he laid the foundation for cult films like Star Wars.
Alejandro Jodorowsky, a well-known writer and director of films such as El Topo, The Rainbow Thief, and The Holy Mountain, was the first to express interest in adapting Dune for the big screen.
When Frank Herbert wrote Dune World and Alejandro Jodorowsky sought to adapt it into a film, the fate of the film industry was forever changed. The impact was so profound that movies like Alien, The Fifth Element, Tremors, and Star Wars owe their existence, in part, to their influence.
In this article, we'll first discuss the impact of the Dune franchise on movies, and then explore which films feature sandworms.
As previously mentioned, Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to adapt the book Dune into a film. He created notes, designs, and storyboards for this project, but unfortunately, the film was never made. However, many of Jodorowsky's ideas and designs found their way into other science fiction films.
Jodorowsky presented his storyboard for the film, which was essentially a visualized story, to various film studios and companies. He had discussions with these companies to receive any feedback. At that time, he was working with the famous artist HR Giger. However, Giger was not well-known during those times, and it was his work on the Alien movie that made him famous. The drawings in Alien were mainly inspired by Jodorowsky's Dune film. Giger's unique style was so popular that he was asked to create similar works, and thus, the Alien movie was created. The physical characteristics of the Alien creature were said to have come from sandworms, which was Jodorowsky's original idea.
Jodorowsky also collaborated with Jean "Mœbius" Giraud, who was consulting for Jodorowsky's Dune movie. Jodorowsky introduced him to other people, and Mœbius's famous drawings for the Blueberry series were gaining popularity. Later on, this popularity would bring us the movies Tron, The Fifth Element, and The Abyss.
Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune movie was never realized, and in my opinion, it's a good thing it didn't happen because Jodorowsky wanted to change the book from beginning to end. He wanted to take Dune from Herbert and create a completely new world. However, Jodorowsky's unrealized ideas and inspiration were a significant influence on other films that were inspired by Dune.
As I mentioned in the first sentences of the title, Star Wars has taken many things from Dune. The planet Tatooine resembles Arrakis. Luke found himself and the essence of his journey on Tatooine, just as Paul found himself on Arrakis. We should also not forget the Exogorth in The Empire Strikes Back, which is a space worm.
Speaking of sandworms, this is actually one of the main purposes of the article. I assume you know the movie Beetlejuice, so I don't feel the need to explain it, but when Barbara and Adam leave their house after they die, they find themselves in a desert. In this desert, we also see sandworms. In fact, Barbara riding a sandworm is a clear reference to the film Dune and the Fremen.
Now let's talk about the famous Borderlands game and the Tremors movie I mentioned when discussing it. The logic of the 1990 Tremors movie was as follows: "What if there was a species that only allowed us to live in rocky areas?" This idea was not a spontaneously arising idea. It was an idea that Herbert instilled in people and would lead to it not being forgotten for years. There were 7 Tremors movies and a 13-episode spin-off series made.
At the end of the article, I also want to mention that my original intention was to write an article about "sandworms." I wanted to talk about where sandworms appeared in films or games and what they inspired. However, as a result of my research on Frank Herbert's Dune before writing the article, this topic emerged.
But what I'm curious about is exactly as in the title:
"What if Dune had never been written? Would these movies and games still exist in our lives? And what about sandworms? Could this creature, which appears in more than 20 games that I didn't mention to extend the article, enter our lives?"
Background Song; The Kiffness x Nooran Sisters - Tung Tung Baje
Author: Ahmet T. Mengeş
Science fiction and fantasy enthusiast. Game addict. Guardian of vampire mythology. Weird and equally arrogant. Amateur game developer. Very amateur.