Dune is back! You probably heard the news in late November that Legendary Pictures picked up the rights to Frank Herbert’s vast sci-fi story-universe. Apparently, Denis Villeneuve (who did Arrival, duh) is in talks to direct. Works for me. I don’t care if it’s a Star Wars/Lord of the Rings movie series or a Game of Thrones/Battlestar Galactica type TV series – just please please please use some kind of Smell-O-Vision technology, so we can get a schnoz full o’ spice.
What you may have missed or forgotten about from last year is this:
Which is almost as awesome. Yeah, ok, it’s horrifying, but that’s not gonna stop me. This season I’m gonna bake me a Maker and rule the galaxy! The Spice is Life! *urrp*!
(If you have trouble with that link, try this one or go to Kitchen Overlord and search “sandworm”. If you know your Dune, the recipe is hilarious. If you don’t know your Dune, I’m surprised you clicked on this post. But okay, it’s cool – glad you’re here.)
If you haven’t read Dune in a while (or never?!), check out this short, hilarious, spoiler-filled summary.
Sorry New York, Minnesota and London, England – there is no better place to spend Christmas than the desert planet of Arrakis. This is my third time back, and here’s my report.
Arrakis! Dune. You know about Dune’s bleak oceans of sand, the craggy, wasted hills of rock, the inevitable & unstoppable attacks from giant sandworms – big as battleships, long as freight trains, and always always hungry. You’ve heard tales of the strange, secretive Fremen, the treacherous Harkonnen barony, the noble & doomed Atreides duchy – walking right into a trap! – and is it true that Imperial Sardaukar commandos are en route?? – but O can’t you hear those silver bells jingling!!
Maud’dib has come!
It’s my favorite time of year. The romance just makes my heart burst – kull wahad! Grab your concubine and/or assassin and let’s go – it’s…
Christmas on Arrakis!
Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about Guild travel – no bookstore employee on the planet makes that kinda cash – on account of the fact that I can just slip thru time/space via one of The Last Bookstore’s hidden vortex portal thingys any time I want. So, into the portal I went, and –
– ah the baking sun! the parched air! And just in time for all the fun stuff. First up: trimming the House Atreides palace Christmas tree! Well… there was no actual tree. Arrakis is a desert planet, bereft of most forms of vegetation, but more importantly, no way were we going to use anything containing water as a mere decoration- criminal waste of moisture and very bad politics. We can’t even use that weird terrarium left by House Fenring. It’s tough to even explain the existence of that room to the Fremen – a culture which extracts water from the bodies of dead loved ones just to survive. Misting a fern would blow their minds. Instead, we strung some popcorn and fake cranberries around, lit some spice candles, and put up a traditional Maud’dib crèche. Pretty darn Christmas-y!
Then everyone split up to wrap gifts, which is kind of funny on Arrakis, since everyone gets the same thing. I mean, everyone already has a knife, and you can’t even use a shield, on account of it attracting worms, so everyone gets water. For you off-worlders, it may seem like it’s a half-assed gift, like something that takes no effort or thought – but really, it takes weeks or even months of effort – sweat, tears, urine, literally – to collect enough of your own run-off to cover everyone on your list. Every bottle of your own bodily fluids is like a day or two of life. It’s a much better gift than a shirt or a Playstation, when you really think about it.
As we started getting ready for the big Christmas party, Gurney Halleck shows up with this HUGE stack of crazy Lucky Bums Plastic Saucer Sleds! That was it: sledding! Of course, there’s no snow, but no matter – there are plenty of sand dunes. Sand dunes actually make for excellent sledding AND they’re not cold, so theoretically, you could sled for hours and hours. Gurney started us off in this long line across the top of a dune, all holding hands – ahhh! so beautiful, there we were Atreides, Fremen, and random hangers-on like me – all linked arm-in-arm on plastic disks – and off we went. What mayhem! We got going so fast! And all down the dune slope, there were little sand moguls and whoever hit them went flipping into the air! There were bodies and disks flying every which way – I’ve never laughed so hard! We did it again and again! Then the sandworm came. Apparently, a few Atreides troopers were still not that great at the special non-rhythmic walking, so all that trudging around attracted a huge Maker – from the deep desert, I would think – looking for a holiday snack. Right about the middle of that third scoot down the hill, the hot, toothy maw of a giant spice worm opened up on the left side of the line. We were so drunk on holiday joy, we didn’t notice the worm sign at all. Pretty embarrassing. Heck of a lot of fun, though.
The majority of us survived and made a mad dash to the nearest rock outcropping – where we made a snowman! Out of rocks! Cuz there’s no snow, cuz there’s no water! We dressed him up in a worn-out stillsuit with a little Santa hat. The kids all loved it, except the Fremen children who thought it was the stupidest thing ever. With zero frame of reference – the Rankin-Bass Frosty was a total whiff – who could blame them?
We went back to the palace to finish party prep. I’m not exactly Martha Stewart, so I was tasked with entertaining the kids: ie – keeping them out of everyone’s hair so the work could get done. No prob.
I had an ambitious plan: the kids were gonna put on a show! I decided something short and cute would be best, so we went with Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even St. Alia of the Knife- The Abomination- who is usually awake all hours creeping around the halls doing god-knows-what.
The stillsuits were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes Shai-Hulud soon would be there…
…and so on. The Arrakeen version definitely has a different sensibility from ours, but you know, literature changes over time, and it’s been 20,000 years since the original was written. Anyway, we worked out various actions for each of the parts of the poem, and the kids really got into it.
Suddenly – we were awash in guests, and the party had started! There were games in the parlour, mostly classics like Gom Jabbar, Catch the Hunter-seeker and of course Knife Fight. We even had an Ugly Stillsuit contest. The unanimous winner had a kind of Elf motif – but the elves looked a lot like the Baron Harkonnen! Then we did our gift exchange, no surprises there. The kids put on their show, which was a big, big hit. Then someone had the brilliant idea to go out into the town and do some caroling.
Caroling in House Atreides is led by a duo: one Mentat and one Bene Gesserit. The Mentat knows all the verses to every carol ever, and the Bene Gesserit… well, this part is kinda sneaky, but also kinda fun. You stroll around the hood singing to the neighbors, and when you happen upon folks who’ve obviously been prepping their own holiday party – eg, baking or prepping wassail – the BG will just slip into the Voice and procure a few goodies from them. It might go something like, “…and heAVEN and HEAven and Na-ture-siiiiiinggive us all your snickerdoodles-” and of course, they literally cannot resist. But hey – they get a nice song, and we get some cookies. Some call the Bene Gesserit witches; I call them angels. Cookie angels.
Speaking of which… desert planet? More like dessert planet, because O the spice!! The traditional holiday weight-gain (don’t feel guilty! it’s the holidays!) continued back at the palace. Even after sampling various cakes, pastries & beverages culled from our warbly jaunt around town, we were ready for more. Turns out some rascal had spiked the eggnog with run-off from their stillsuit! That’s a Fremen practical joke for ya – but everyone just laughed. We do not waste fluids on Arrakis – any fluids, ever, including during the holidays – so that kinda commitment to a joke somehow made it work. It all tastes like spice anyway – I mean, everything. Every. Single. Thing. Spice gingerbread, spice fruitcake, spice peanut brittle, spice swedish meatballs – everything. It was awesome.
By far, the best part of the evening was a surprise from Stilgar (who was the absolute life of the party). Being the Naib, he had the authority to do something no one else on Arrakis could do – save maybe Maud’dib himself, of course. He led us into a far, neglected corner of the palace – we had no idea what he was up to – and imagine our surprise when, thru a workroom closet, we stepped thru a secret hidden door, down a long dark hallway, down secret stone steps, thru a tunnel then down more steps – now completely surrounded by rock – we emerged in one of the Fremen underground reservoirs! Most of us had no idea the reservoirs even existed, so that was surprise one, but that there was one directly below the palace – surprise two. The number 3 surprise blew everyone’s mind: they’d frozen the entire pool over so we could ice skate! Ahhhh! So fun and way better than Pershing Square. Picture it: a vast underground cavern, with a frozen lake, lit only by Christmas colored glow globes. Everyone strapped on these crazy crysknife skates and you’ve never seen those grim Fremen look so whimsical! They just glided around like a bunch of drunk penguins, grinning like toddlers in a tickle-fight. The Atreides were able to teach the natives a few skating techniques, and man – holiday magic. It did the heart good.
When we got back, we put the kids to bed, and though we were as exhausted as they were by that point, we retired to that cozy hall with the big windows for bourbon, cigars and toasted marshmallows. Total and complete bliss, all around – and a new level of bonding between the various groups. Fremen and Atreides and townspeople and smugglers and everyone – just watching the night stars and the two moons.
Happy holidays from the most festive and deadly planet in the galaxy.