Cryo’s Dune: Unlikely Inspirations

I think nearly every writer can point to a single book, film, comic or somesuch and say “that’s why I’m a writer”. It might not be the only cause, but it’s a primary cause. The blame falls mostly at its feet. Most writers seem to point to classics in their genre, be it Lord of the Rings for fantasy writers, Star Wars for science fiction writers, or anything by Stephen King for horror writers. I must come clean, though; my major inspiration is rather unusual.

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a masterpiece of science fiction, a piece of work that you can return to again and again and find something new each time. Dune packs in the power and danger of religion, the role of the figurehead, the influence we have on our environment and vice versa, undermines the hero’s journey as he takes it, and much more. It’s an epic book and it’s been hugely influential; without it we probably wouldn’t have Star Wars. It’s been a huge literary influence on me and I think everything I write, no matter how unrelated, probably contains in it a nod to Dune.

The truth is, though, that my inspiration lies not with the book, but with a lacklustre spin-off: Cryo’s Dune. An adventure/real-time-strategy video game that would make a PS3 owner gag (check out this short video to see the early 90s cutting edge graphics!), it’s based loosely on the novel but fails to encompass the themes, the drama, even the distinctive authorial voice. The gameplay is linear and the player simply clicks what the game tells him to click when it tells him to click it. It is, in short, not a good game. But it managed to incorporate the magic of Dune and I encountered it before the novel, so the faces and voices are what I see and hear when I read it.

Cryo’s Dune is my guilty pleasure and I replay it on a regular basis. I’m also a little embarrassed to say that I own the game soundtrack and listen to it even more regularly.

But as much as you may judge me for that, the truth is it led me directly to the book, which in turn led me to the greater world of science fiction and genre fiction as a whole. And so I owe it a debt for every SF book I’ve read, every fantasy film I’ve seen and pretty much every story I’ve ever written. Cryo’s Dune is the cause for it all.

Do you have an unlikely inspiration for your writing? Let me know in the comments. Don’t be shy; I’m sure it’s not as odd as mine!

4 thoughts on “Cryo’s Dune: Unlikely Inspirations

  1. Lysana

    While I am one of the many who would point more to Tolkien than anyone else, at least for the fantasy bent that my writing took starting in middle school, Ultima: Quest of the Avatar, in all its 8-bit, NES glory, remains my favorite video game ever. Something about bringing all those diverse characters together to become a bright and shining example to the world captured my imagination. Somehow, though, over the course of various stages of school, a job, marriage, and kids, I had managed to forget about it. Thank you for refreshing my memory!

    1. James

      Hi, Lysana, thank you for the comment and you’re quite welcome for the memory refresh! I’ve heard of Ultima but never played any. I had to look it up after your comment; I don’t think I’ve come across a game that required you to be a hero by being a good person rather than killing a bad guy! Would you recommend getting a copy?

  2. Lysana

    Heh, you did catch the “8-bit” part, right? Unless you still play the original NES a lot, no, I probably wouldn’t recommend it. But it had an intriguing story, simple enough that you could have a lot of fun filling in the blanks. I probably got more writing inspiration from a text-based MUD I played in late high school/early college, but even that only resulted in character sketches.

    I have to tell you, though, this post, and the thinking I’ve done with it, made something “click” in my mind. I’ve been trying to figure out the right story for some characters I’ve had in mind for years, and I may just have it, now. So, thanks!

    1. James

      You’re welcome! I’m glad my little blog post could help you. I’d love to read the story when it’s done.

      Although I still play quite a few old games I’ve got rid of a lot of old consoles so no NES for me. Perhaps I’ll give it a miss. Or wait for my big lottery win; it seems copies of the game are quite expensive. I hope you kept yours!


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