“A roundtable discussion leading up to the publication of Dune: House Crappito ” (April 2001):
Publisher: Welcome gentlemen. So we've read the draft for the fifth novel in your Prelude to Dune series, and we'd like—
Anderson: Third actually.
Publisher: Excuse me?
Herbert: It's the third in the series.
Marketer: I believe they're right.
Publisher: God, it certainly felt longer. Anyway, the third book you've written building on your father's classic work.
Editor: Will this be the last?
Herbert: The last in the series, but we plan on writing these books past our deaths. In fact, we have diagrams for the next 96 books in the series. We're planning on a conclusion, a pre-prequel, a series from the perspective of the sandworms, a series entirely made out of—
Publisher: That's enough. We're talking about House Crappito today. So how do you boys feel about it?
Anderson: It's my magnum opus.
Herbert: A wonderful tribute to my father's legacy. If only he were here to witness this historic moment.
Marketer: Yes. Well, we've had some complaints about the first two novels in the series, and while sales were generally positive, we're a little concerned that they're only going to get worse with this one.
Editor: And the next one, and the next...
Marketer: Indeed. Some fans of Dune are concerned that you are capitalizing on your father's legacy.
Publisher: Not that there is anything wrong with a little capitalism.
Anderson: I admit I am, but that's what I do. You see, I'm hired to take stuff other people have created, Star Wars, The X-Files and then--
Editor: Not to mention it's a horrible read. I mean, come on, you have no character development, no depth, no—
Anderson: There's depth. Sandworms are deep, man. Like hundreds of yards beneath the surface of Arrakis.
Herbert: Yeah! High five, buddy. And there's Ix. That place is deep. A city underground, we're so brilliant for coming up with that one.
Editor: What about a little symbolism or something? Nothing too heavy, I mean you are selling a sci-fi adventure here. But just something that paints the picture a little.
Anderson: We'll add a spider.
Herbert: And then Shaddam crushes it!
Anderson: Yeah, high five, man. And a lizard!
Herbert: What's the lizard do?
Anderson: I don't know yet, but it'll be awesome.
Marketer: What matters is sales. As long as it's selling, we're not going to interfere. But I'm really afraid they're going to slip even more with this one. I mean, you've got a story, but readers want DUNE. You understand what I'm saying?
Anderson: Yeah, I do. We've got a story.
Herbert: It's a great story.
Anderson: It is. I love what you've done with it, man. Like that scene when the heighliner folds space and ends up in the middle of nowhere.
Herbert: Yeah, and that scene you came up with where there's a swordfight to defend the castle 20,000 years in the future. Classic.
Anderson: That happens in every other chapter.
Herbert: That's because it's so damned good.
Publisher: Boys. That's great. Good story. What about the rest of it?
Herbert: Like what?
Editor: Characters for starters.
Herbert: Oh, they're great characters. My father, God bless him, came up with most of them.
Editor: But in these prequels, they're, well, flat.
Anderson: They're not flat. Baron Harkonnen is actually quite round.
Herbert: I think he means figuratively.
Anderson: Oh, right.
Marketer: They are a bit—similar.
Herbert: Leto is a loved leader. Shaddam a hated ruler.
Anderson: And Harkonnen has sex with smooth skinned little boys.
Editor: Yes, but you couldn't tell those things based on any of their actions. It's only because you tell us those things about them.
Marketer: It would be nice to see these differences in character through the eyes of your characters.
Herbert: You want us to show the Barron have sex with lots of little children?
Anderson: I'm on it!
Editor: Just make it so that I could pick up a line of dialogue and know who said it.
Anderson: It does do that. After each line there's an attribution. 'Leto said,' 'Jessica said,' and so forth.
Herbert: I think he means they should speak in different languages.
Anderson: That's stupid. There aren't different languages throughout all these planets in the universe, just secret languages we like to tell the readers about. Everyone has a secret language. That's fun.
Marketer: How come we never actually hear these secret languages?
Herbert: Because it would confuse the reader.
Anderson: Yeah, the reader is dumb.
Herbert: That's why we continually have to remind the reader what they read in the previous chapter.
Editor: Exactly! How many times must we be reminded that the Baron likes little boys?
Editor: How many times must the reader be reminded that Jessica is carrying a boy to make up for Victor? Or that Tleilaxu technology is inferior? Or that the artificial spice was created under the direction of Shaddam and blah blah blah? It's tedious.
Herbert: But if we don't remind the reader, how will he remember?
Editor: It just happened! Ten pages earlier. And fifteen before that. And eight before that! In the book before that one. How many reminders does the reader need?
Publisher: I think we need to step back here and—
Editor: Oh, I plan on stepping back alright. I can't do this anymore. I can't take it.
Publisher: Now, now. Will House Crappito sell enough to warrant it's publication?
Marketer: I believe it will, sir. Our reports show nerds will buy about anything we tell them to.
Publisher: Good. That's what I want to hear. Now boys, you're gonna take these concerns we've shared with you in the next batch of novels you write, right?
Editor: No, no more. No more! I can't take it.
Anderson: Brian, we should replace the editor with a facedancer.
Herbert: Great idea, KJ.
Anderson: Thank you, I know it is.
Herbert: Speaking of great ideas, I had an idea about our seventh series. What if we make the books take place in the present day, but all the paths lead to Dune?
Anderson: It would be like a prequel 20,000 years in the past. Awesome!
Herbert: Think of all the series we could fill in between them.
Anderson: Exactly. When do we start?
Herbert: Next week's out for me, I'll be watching a Star Wars marathon.
Anderson: What about the weekend?
Herbert: Yeah, we should be able to crank it out in twelve hours.
Anderson: Will there be a character in the book who likes little boys?
Herbert: Of course there will be, KJ. Of course there will