Sometimes, a Short Story is Just What’s Needed

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune is one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time and rapidly established itself as a classic in the field. It certainly influenced me. The ornithopters used to flit about the surface of Arrakis influenced the ornithopters I used in my steampunk fiction. I used to pour over the glossary in the novel, fascinated by all the words and phrases Herbert invented. They led me to create planets with names like Rd’dyggia and Sufiro and weapons like heplers. As time went by, my wife and I collected all of Herbert’s original Dune novels in hard cover. I was even fortunate enough to pick up a signed copy of Heretics of Dune soon after release. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet Frank Herbert. I hadn’t realized he was in town at my local bookstore until I arrived about an hour after he left.

Over the years of going to science fiction conventions, I have been fortunate enough to get to know Kevin J. Anderson. We both have stories in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop. What’s more, Anderson has been collaborating with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, on numerous novels in the expanded Dune universe. I’ve long been intrigued by the expanded universe, but I was never quite sure where to begin. Right after I saw Kevin J. Anderson at MileHiCon, I came across the collection Tales of Dune, published by Anderson’s WordFire press. This volume contains eight standalone short stories from the expanded Dune universe written by Anderson and Brian Herbert.

Since I had only read Frank Herbert’s original Dune, I wasn’t certain how well I would follow the stories in this collection, but decided to take a chance. As noted in the introduction, some of these stories had been published in magazines and others had been published in standalone booklets to entice readers to explore the expanded universe. In light of that, I thought it was worth a try. As it turns out, the stories did indeed stand alone. Each story introduced its characters and situations well and resolved them in the space of the story. As noted in the introduction, “Sometimes a short story is exactly what you need” and this collection was just what I needed to get a taste of the expanded Dune universe.

It probably did help that I was familiar with the first novel in the series. Because of that, I knew about such factions as House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Navigators Guild and the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. I also knew about the Butlerian Jihad where humanity had overthrown the oppression of artificial intelligence, or thinking machines as they’re known in the world of Dune. The stories in this collection range much of Dune’s future history. The first stories are set during the Butlerian Jihad. Later stories are set around the time of the novel Dune, then the collection finishes with stories set concurrent or just after the last of Frank Herbert’s original novels. The book even includes a timeline to help you know when the stories take place relative to the other novels of the series. Overall, I found Tales of Dune an enjoyable, quick read and I now want to sample the novels in the expanded universe. You can learn more about Tales of Dune here: https://wordfirepress.com/books/tales-dune-expanded-edition/

Not only have Kevin J. Anderson and I had short stories that have appeared side-by-side in an anthology, but Kevin’s WordFire Press is the publisher of the anthology Maximum Velocity that I co-edited with Carol Hightshoe, Dayton Ward, Jennifer Brozek, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It contains 18 fun, high-octane science fiction stories featuring everything from pirates to marines, horrors and battles all in space. Sometimes, when you’re looking for a great read, a short story is just what you need. You can learn more about Maximum Velocity here: https://wordfirepress.com/books/maximum-velocity/