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Friday, March 27, 2015

Kevin J Anderson's Jihad

The author exploring Red Rock Canyon State Park

Author Kevin J Anderson is mad about hiking. In fact, he hikes everyday. Why? Because he writes everyday. And yes, he writes while he's hiking.

Everyday he leaves home with his notes, heads out on a trail into the wilderness, dictates his chapters into recorder, and later transcribes his notes into the computer for editing. This is one sign of his brilliance: he's found a way to fuse two activities he loves to maximize his time.

Many years ago Kevin J. Anderson was hiking through Death Valley, and the desolate surroundings reminded him of Dune by Frank Herbert. Like me, Kevin loved the novel and its sequels, and as Frank Herbert had died, he wondered if Herbert's son Brian might be writing any more in the series. As Kevin had published several novels by this point, he called up Brian, introduced himself, and offered his services as a cowriter. Brian eventually took him up on his offer. So because he was hiking through a desolate place like Death Valley, because he had laid down a foundation of respectability as a writer, and because he had the audacity to call up Brian and make the offer, Kevin J. Anderson became a cowriter of this bestselling series.

My own love affair with Dune began in the early 1980s. One of the first characters Frank Herbert introduced me to was Piter De Vries, a man who takes drugs to aid his fantastic mental abilities. He's been trained as a Mentat, which means his mind has all the associative and computational capabilities of a computer. This makes him a highly skilled man whose services are in great demand. You see, thousands of years in the past, computers gained artificial intelligence that enabled them to think and act for themselves. These computers and their mobile robot counterparts decided that they were better and smarter than humans. So, after many years of subjugation, humanity fought a great war to free themselves from all computers and intelligent robots. This war was called the Butlerian Jihad, and after humanity triumphed, computers and robots were declared illegal. Thus, the necessity of trained people like Piter De Vries to use his computational and associative capabilities to help society keep advancing. 

As the Butlerian Jihad lay in the past, Frank Herbert didn't offer too many details about it. Nevertheless, it was a foundational event in Dune's history, and readers like me who loved Frank Herbert's Dune novels wondered about the Butlerian Jihad, and hungered for more details about it.

In addition to writing novels set after Frank Herbert's six Dune novels, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson delved into the series'  past  One of their prequels was The Butlerian Jihad. After decades of wondering about this key event, I finally got to read all about it. 

Had Kevin not followed his instincts, called up Brian, and offered his services, The Butlerian Jihad might never have been written. Alternatively, Brian might have written The Butlerian Jihad on his own, or with another author. But because Kevin J. Anderson followed his curiosity, and risked rejection, he got to cowrite a book that I very much wanted to read: The Butlerian Jihad! How cool is that?

I've read books by Kevin J. Anderson before he started writing Dune novels, and I've read many of his other novels set in other universes since. But the ones that thrust him into the forefront of my awareness were his Dune novels. Happy Birthday Kevin J. Anderson. Thanks for cowriting The Butlerian Jihad, and so many other entertaining books. Without your impact on my life, my bookshelves wouldn't be nearly so full. Imagine how terrible that would that be. Talk about a dystopian future!

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
A short video in which Kevin discusses his Dune novels
Watch Part 1 of the "Frank Herbert's Dune" TV miniseries

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