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!