How Futurists Envisioned the Future in the 1920s: Moving Walkways, Personal Helicopters, Glass-Domed Cities, Dream Recorders & More

Many of us now in adult­hood first came to know the nine­teen-twen­ties as the decade our grand­par­ents were born. It may thus give us pause to con­sid­er that it began over a cen­tu­ry ago — and even more pause to con­sid­er the ques­tion of why its visions of the future seem more excit­ing than our own. You can behold a vari­ety of such visions in the videos above and below, which come from The 1920s Chan­nel on Youtube. Using a col­lec­tion of print-media clip­pings, it offers an expe­ri­ence of the “futur­ism” of the nine­teen-twen­ties, which has now inspired a dis­tinct type of “retro-futur­ism,” between the “steam­punk” of the Vic­to­ri­an era and the “atom­punk” of Amer­i­ca after the Sec­ond World War.

“Being in the mod­ern age, futur­ism of the nine­teen-twen­ties leans more towards atom­punk,” says the video’s nar­ra­tor. But it also has a some­what dieselpunk fla­vor,” the lat­ter being a kind of futur­ism from the nine­teen-for­ties. “In Amer­i­ca, the nine­teen-twen­ties were sim­i­lar to the nine­teen-fifties, in that they took place in the imme­di­ate after­math of a mas­sive, destruc­tive war, and both car­ried an opti­mism for the future. The only dif­fer­ence was that sci­ence fic­tion was not as main­stream in the twen­ties as it was in the fifties, so it did­n’t quite ful­ly devel­op a unique look that per­me­at­ed soci­ety.” This gave twen­ties futur­ism a look and feel all its own — as well as a pre­pon­der­ance of diri­gi­bles.

Apart from those heli­um-filled air­ships, which “only rose to promi­nence after the Vic­to­ri­an era, and their pop­u­lar­i­ty end­ed in the nine­teen-thir­ties,” its oth­er ele­ments of sci­ence fic­tion and (even­tu­al) fact include mov­ing walk­ways, per­son­al heli­copters, cities enclosed by glass domes and webbed by sky bridges, high­ways stacked ten lev­els deep, zero-grav­i­ty cham­bers, dream recorders, theremins, “light-beam pianos,” a tun­nel under the Eng­lish Chan­nel, “aer­i­al mail tor­pe­does,” and a curi­ous tech­nol­o­gy called tele­vi­sion. Long­time Open Cul­ture read­ers may also spot the Iso­la­tor, a dis­trac­tion-elim­i­nat­ing hel­met invent­ed by sci-fi pub­lish­er Hugo Gerns­back — whose own mag­a­zine Sci­ence and Inven­tion, the nar­ra­tor notes, orig­i­nal­ly ran many of these images. Per­haps what our own decade lacks isn’t excit­ing visions of the future, but a Gerns­back to com­mis­sion them.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Iso­la­tor: A 1925 Hel­met Designed to Elim­i­nate Dis­trac­tions & Increase Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty (Cre­at­ed by Sci­Fi Pio­neer Hugo Gerns­back)

The Word “Robot” Orig­i­nat­ed in a Czech Play in 1921: Dis­cov­er Karel Čapek’s Sci-Fi Play R.U.R. (a.k.a. Rossum’s Uni­ver­sal Robots)

Futur­ist Makes Weird­ly Accu­rate Pre­dic­tions in 1922 About What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wire­less Tele­phones, 8‑Hour Flights to Europe & More

In 1922, a Nov­el­ist Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wire­less Tele­phones, 8‑Hour Flights to Europe & More

Sci-Fi Pio­neer Hugo Gerns­back Pre­dicts Telemed­i­cine in 1925

In 1926, Niko­la Tes­la Pre­dicts the World of 2026

“When We All Have Pock­et Tele­phones”: A 1920s Com­ic Accu­rate­ly Pre­dicts Our Cell­phone-Dom­i­nat­ed Lives

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Revisit Vintage Issues of Astounding Stories, the 1930s Magazine that Gave Rise to Science Fiction as We Know It

Hav­ing been putting out issues for 92 years now, Ana­log Sci­ence Fic­tion and Fact stands as the longest con­tin­u­ous­ly pub­lished mag­a­zine of its genre. It also lays claim to hav­ing devel­oped or at least pop­u­lar­ized that genre in the form we know it today. When it orig­i­nal­ly launched in Decem­ber of 1929, it did so under the much more whiz-bang title of Astound­ing Sto­ries of Super-Sci­ence. But only three years lat­er, after a change of own­er­ship and the instal­la­tion as edi­tor of F. Orlin Tremaine, did the mag­a­zine begin pub­lish­ing work by writ­ers remem­bered today as the defin­ing minds of sci­ence fic­tion.

Under Tremaine’s edi­tor­ship, Astound­ing Sto­ries pulled itself above its pulp-fic­tion ori­gins with sto­ries like Jack Williamson’s “Legion of Space” and John W. Camp­bel­l’s “Twi­light.” The lat­ter inspired the strik­ing illus­tra­tion above by artist Elliott Dold. “Dold’s work was deeply influ­enced by Art Deco, which lends its geo­met­ric forms to the city of machines in ‘Twi­light,’ ” writes the New York Times’ Alec Nevala-Lee, which “inau­gu­rat­ed the mod­ern era of sci­ence fic­tion.”

In the case of a gold­en-age sci­ence-fic­tion mag­a­zine like Astound­ing Sto­ries, Nevala-Lee argues“its most imme­di­ate impact came through its illus­tra­tions,” which “may turn out to be the genre’s most last­ing con­tri­bu­tion to our col­lec­tive vision of the future.”

None of the imagery print­ed inside Astound­ing Sto­ries was as strik­ing as its cov­ers, full-col­or pro­duc­tions on which “artists could let their imag­i­na­tions run wild.” Some­times they adhered close­ly to the visu­al descrip­tions in a sto­ry’s text — per­haps too close­ly, in the case the June 1936’s issue with H. P. Love­craft’s “The Shad­ow Out of Time” — and some­times they depart­ed from and even com­pet­ed with the mag­a­zine’s actu­al con­tent. But after Camp­bell took over as edi­tor in 1937, that con­tent became even stronger: fea­tured writ­ers includ­ed Robert Hein­lein, A. E. van Vogt, and Isaac Asi­mov.

Now, here in the once sci­ence-fic­tion­al-sound­ing twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, you can not only behold the cov­ers but read the pages of hun­dreds of issues of Astound­ing Sto­ries from the thir­ties, for­ties, and fifties online. The ear­li­est vol­umes are avail­able to down­load at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­ni­a’s web site, by way of Project Guten­berg, and there are even more of them free to read at the Inter­net Archive. Though it may not always have faith­ful­ly reflect­ed the mate­r­i­al with­in, Astound­ing Sto­ries’ cov­er imagery did rep­re­sent the pub­li­ca­tion as a whole. It could be thought-pro­vok­ing and haunt­ing, but it also deliv­ered no small amount of cheap thrills — and the gold­en age of sci­ence fic­tion still shows us how thin a line real­ly sep­a­rates the two.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Enter a Huge Archive of Amaz­ing Sto­ries, the World’s First Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine, Launched in 1926

Free: 355 Issues of Galaxy, the Ground­break­ing 1950s Sci­ence Fic­tion Mag­a­zine

Down­load Issues of Weird Tales (1923–1954): The Pio­neer­ing Pulp Hor­ror Mag­a­zine Fea­tures Orig­i­nal Sto­ries by Love­craft, Brad­bury & Many More

Enter the Pulp Mag­a­zine Archive, Fea­tur­ing Over 11,000 Dig­i­tized Issues of Clas­sic Sci-Fi, Fan­ta­sy & Detec­tive Fic­tion

The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion: 17,500 Entries on All Things Sci-Fi Are Now Free Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke Spent Years Debating How to Depict the Aliens in 2001: A Space Odyssey; Carl Sagan Provided the Answer: Don’t Depict Them at All

The statute of lim­i­ta­tions has sure­ly expired for Con­tact, the 1997 Robert Zemeck­is adap­ta­tion of Carl Sagan’s epony­mous nov­el. The film sug­gests ear­ly on that Earth has been receiv­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions from out­er space, but for most of its two and a half hours keeps its audi­ence in sus­pense as to the nature of the extrater­res­tri­als send­ing them. When Jodie Fos­ter’s astronomer pro­tag­o­nist final­ly gets some one-on-one time with an alien, it takes the form of her own long-dead father, who inspired her choice of career. This end­ing quick­ly became fod­der for South Park jokes, but time seems to have vin­di­cat­ed it; any look back at the CGI aliens in oth­er movies of the mid-nine­teen-nineties con­firms that the right choice was made.

Con­tact was not a straight­for­ward book-to-film adap­ta­tion. Rather, Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan intend­ed the project as a film first, and even wrote a detailed script treat­ment before pub­lish­ing the sto­ry as a nov­el. About three decades ear­li­er, 2001: A Space Odyssey had emerged out of a sim­i­lar­ly uncon­ven­tion­al process. Rather than adapt­ing an exist­ing book, as he’d done before with Loli­ta and Dr. Strangelove, Stan­ley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke decid­ed to work togeth­er on the ideas that would shape both a film direct­ed by the for­mer and a nov­el writ­ten by the lat­ter. The col­lab­o­ra­tion had its dif­fi­cul­ties, not least when it came time to bring their vision of mankind’s future to a sat­is­fy­ing close.

Enter Sagan, already on his way to becom­ing a well-known thinker about the uni­verse and man’s place with­in it. “My friend Arthur C. Clarke had a prob­lem,” he remem­bers in his book The Cos­mic Con­nec­tion. “He was writ­ing a major motion pic­ture with Stan­ley Kubrick” (then called Jour­ney Beyond the Stars) on which “a small cri­sis in the sto­ry devel­op­ment had arisen.” In the film a space­craft’s crew “was to make con­tact with extrater­res­tri­als. Yes, but how to por­tray the extrater­res­tri­als?” Kubrick had ideas about going the tra­di­tion­al route, cre­at­ing aliens “not pro­found­ly dif­fer­ent from human beings” and thus por­trayable by humans in suits, much like the apes at the mono­lith

Sagan opposed this, as “the num­ber of indi­vid­u­al­ly unlike­ly events in the evo­lu­tion­ary his­to­ry of Man was so great that noth­ing like us is ever like­ly to evolve again any­where else in the uni­verse. I sug­gest­ed that any explic­it rep­re­sen­ta­tion of an advanced extrater­res­tri­al being was bound to have at least an ele­ment of false­ness about it, and that the best solu­tion would be to sug­gest, rather than explic­it­ly to dis­play, the extrater­res­tri­als.” Kubrick ulti­mate­ly did choose that artis­tic path, result­ing in such haunt­ing, alien-free scenes as the end­ing where­in David Bow­man encoun­ters his aged self in an eigh­teenth-cen­tu­ry bed­room. Whether or not that was quite what he had in mind, Sagan did cred­it Kubrick­’s 2001 with “expand­ing the aver­age per­son­’s aware­ness of the cos­mic per­spec­tive” — which was more than he could say a decade lat­er about Star Wars.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Let­ter Between Stan­ley Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke That Sparked the Great­est Sci-Fi Film Ever Made (1964)

What’s the Dif­fer­ence Between Stan­ley Kubrick’s & Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (A Side-by-Side Com­par­i­son)

Stan­ley Kubrick Explains the Mys­te­ri­ous End­ing of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a New­ly Unearthed Inter­view

Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawk­ing & Arthur C. Clarke Dis­cuss God, the Uni­verse, and Every­thing Else

An Ani­mat­ed Carl Sagan Talks with Studs Terkel About Find­ing Extrater­res­tri­al Life (1985)

Carl Sagan Tells John­ny Car­son What’s Wrong with Star Wars: “They’re All White” & There’s a “Large Amount of Human Chau­vin­ism in It” (1978)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

In 1968, Stanley Kubrick Makes Predictions for 2001: Humanity Will Conquer Old Age, Watch 3D TV & Learn German in 20 Minutes


Image by Moody Man, via Flickr Com­mons

1968. Rev­o­lu­tion was in the air and the future seemed bright. That year, Stan­ley Kubrick released his mas­ter­piece 2001: A Space Odyssey – a big-bud­get, exper­i­men­tal rumi­na­tion on the evo­lu­tion of mankind. The film was a huge box office hit when it came out; its mind-bend­ing meta­physics res­onat­ed with the culture’s new­found inter­est in chem­i­cal­ly altered states and in spir­i­tu­al­i­ty.

In the Sep­tem­ber issue from that year, Play­boy mag­a­zine pub­lished a lengthy inter­view with Kubrick. Even at a time when pub­lic fig­ures were sup­posed to sound like intel­lec­tu­als (boy, times have changed), Kubrick comes across as insane­ly well read. Dur­ing the course of the inter­view, he quotes from the likes of media crit­ic Mar­shall McLuhan, Win­ston Churchill, and 19th Cen­tu­ry poet Matthew Arnold along with a hand­ful of promi­nent aca­d­e­mics.

Kubrick is char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly cagey about offer­ing any expla­na­tions of his enig­mat­ic movie but he does read­i­ly expound on philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions about God, the mean­ing of life (or lack there­of) and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of extrater­res­tri­al life. But per­haps the most inter­est­ing part of the 17-page inter­view is his vision of what 2001 might look like. It’s fas­ci­nat­ing to see what he got right, what might be right a bit fur­ther into the future, and what’s com­plete­ly wrong. Check them out below:

“With­in ten years, in fact, I believe that freez­ing of the dead will be a major indus­try in the Unit­ed States and through­out the world; I would rec­om­mend it as a field of invest­ment for imag­i­na­tive spec­u­la­tors.”

“Per­haps the great­est break­through we may have made by 2001 is the pos­si­bil­i­ty that man may be able to elim­i­nate old age.”

“I’m sure we’ll have sophis­ti­cat­ed 3‑D holo­graph­ic tele­vi­sion and films, and it’s pos­si­ble that com­plete­ly new forms of enter­tain­ment and edu­ca­tion will be devised.”

“You might have a machine that taps the brain and ush­ers you into a vivid dream expe­ri­ence in which you are the pro­tag­o­nist in a romance or an adven­ture. On a more seri­ous lev­el, a sim­i­lar machine could direct­ly pro­gram you with knowl­edge: in this way, you might, for exam­ple, eas­i­ly be able to learn flu­ent Ger­man in 20 min­utes.”

“I believe by 2001 we will have devised chem­i­cals with no adverse phys­i­cal, men­tal or genet­ic results that can give wings to the mind and enlarge per­cep­tion beyond its present evo­lu­tion­ary capacities…there should be fas­ci­nat­ing drugs avail­able by 2001; what use we make of them will be the cru­cial ques­tion.”

“The so-called sex­u­al rev­o­lu­tion, mid-wifed by the pill, will be extend­ed. Through drugs, or per­haps via the sharp­en­ing or even mechan­i­cal ampli­fi­ca­tion of latent ESP func­tions, it may be pos­si­ble for each part­ner to simul­ta­ne­ous­ly expe­ri­ence the sen­sa­tions of the oth­er; or we may even­tu­al­ly emerge into poly­mor­phous sex­u­al beings, with male and female com­po­nents blur­ring, merg­ing and inter­chang­ing. The poten­tial­i­ties for explor­ing new areas of sex­u­al expe­ri­ence are vir­tu­al­ly bound­less.”

“Look­ing into the dis­tant future, I sup­pose it’s not incon­ceiv­able that a semi­sen­tient robot-com­put­er sub­cul­ture could evolve that might one day decide it no longer need­ed man.”

For such a famous­ly pes­simistic film­mak­er, Kubrick’s vision of the future is remark­ably groovy – lots of sex, drugs and holo­graph­ic tele­vi­sion. He wasn’t, of course, the only one out there who thought about the future. You can see more bold pre­dic­tions below:

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts in 1964 What the World Will Look Like Today — in 2014

Arthur C. Clarke Pre­dicts the Future in 1964 … And Kind of Nails It

Wal­ter Cronkite Imag­ines the Home of the 21st Cen­tu­ry … Back in 1967

The Inter­net Imag­ined in 1969

Mar­shall McLuhan Announces That The World is a Glob­al Vil­lage

Note: Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in Novem­ber 2014.

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

The First Work of Science Fiction: Read Lucian’s 2nd-Century Space Travelogue A True Story

Late in life, Kings­ley Amis declared that he would hence­forth read only nov­els open­ing with the sen­tence “A shot rang out.” On one lev­el, this would have sound­ed bizarre com­ing from one of Britain’s most promi­nent men of let­ters. But on anoth­er it aligned with his long-demon­strat­ed appre­ci­a­tion of genre fic­tion, includ­ing not just sto­ries of crime but also of high tech­nol­o­gy and space explo­ration. His life­long inter­est in the lat­ter inspired the Chris­t­ian Gauss Lec­tures he deliv­ered at Prince­ton in 1958, pub­lished soon there­after as New Maps of Hell: A Sur­vey of Sci­ence Fic­tion, a book that sees him trace the his­to­ry of the genre well back beyond his own boy­hood — about eigh­teen cen­turies beyond it.

“His­to­ries of sci­ence fic­tion, as opposed to ‘imag­i­na­tive lit­er­a­ture,’ usu­al­ly begin, not with Pla­to or The Birds of Aristo­phanes or the Odyssey, but with a work of the late Greek prose romancer Lucian of Samosa­ta,” Amis writes. He refers to what schol­ars now know as A True Sto­ry (Ἀληθῆ διηγήματα), a novel­la-length fic­tion of the sec­ond cen­tu­ry that has every­thing from space trav­el to inter­plan­e­tary war to tech­nol­o­gy so advanced — as no less a sci-fi lumi­nary than Arthur C. Clarke would put it much lat­er — as to be indis­tin­guish­able from mag­ic. At its core a work of fan­tas­ti­cal satire, A True Sto­ry “delib­er­ate­ly piles extrav­a­gance upon extrav­a­gance for com­ic effect” in a rather un-sci­ence-fic­tion-like man­ner.

“Leav­ing aside the ques­tion whether there was enough sci­ence around in the sec­ond cen­tu­ry to make sci­ence fic­tion fea­si­ble,” Amis writes, “I will mere­ly remark that the spright­li­ness and sophis­ti­ca­tion of the True His­to­ry” — as he knew the work — “make it read like a joke at the expense of near­ly all ear­ly-mod­ern sci­ence fic­tion, that writ­ten between, say, 1910 and 1940,” which he him­self would have grown up read­ing.

In the video by at the top of the post, film­mak­er Gre­go­ry Austin McConnell sum­ma­rizes Lucian’s entire trav­el­ogue, not neglect­ing to men­tion the riv­er of wine, the tree-shaped women, the cities on the moon, the army of the sun, the bat­tle­field-spin­ning space spi­ders, the dogs who ride on winged acorns, the float­ing sen­tient lamps, and the 187 and ½ mile-long whale.

This clear­ly isn’t what we’d now call “hard” sci­ence fic­tion. So how, exact­ly, to label it? Such argu­ments erupt over every major work of genre fic­tion, even from antiq­ui­ty. A True Sto­ry con­tains ele­ments of what would become com­e­dy sci-fi, mil­i­tary sci-fi, and even the fan­ta­sy-and-sci-fi-hybridiz­ing “space opera” most pop­u­lar­ly exem­pli­fied by Star Wars and its many sequels. Cat­e­go­riza­tion quib­bles aside, what mat­ters about any work in the broad­er tra­di­tion of “spec­u­la­tive fic­tion” is whether it fires up the read­er’s imag­i­na­tion, and Lucian’s work has done it for not just ancients but mod­erns like the 19th-cen­tu­ry artists William Strang and Aubrey Beard­s­ley, whose illus­tra­tions from 1894 edi­tions of A True Sto­ry appear above. Now that “sci­ence fic­tion rules the cin­e­mat­ic land­scape,” as McConnell puts it, who will adapt it for us post­mod­erns?

Relat­ed con­tent:

When Astronomer Johannes Kepler Wrote the First Work of Sci­ence Fic­tion, The Dream (1609)

Mythos: An Ani­ma­tion Retells Time­less Greek Myths with Abstract Mod­ern Designs

The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion: 17,500 Entries on All Things Sci-Fi Are Now Free Online

Every Pos­si­ble Kind of Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ry: An Exhaus­tive List Cre­at­ed by Pio­neer­ing 1920s Sci­Fi Writer Clare Winger Har­ris (1931)

Isaac Asi­mov Recalls the Gold­en Age of Sci­ence Fic­tion (1937–1950)

Free Sci­ence Fic­tion Clas­sics Avail­able on the Web

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Dune Encyclopedia: The Controversial, Definitive Guide to the World of Frank Herbert’s Sci-Fi Masterpiece (1984)

When David Lynch’s Hol­ly­wood ver­sion of Dune opened in the­aters in 1984, Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios dis­trib­uted a print­ed a glos­sary to keep its audi­ences from get­ting con­fused. They got con­fused any­way, in part because of the film’s hav­ing been hol­lowed out in edit­ing, and in part because the sheer elab­o­rate­ness of Frank Her­bert’s alter­nate real­i­ty pos­es poten­tial­ly insur­mount­able chal­lenges to faith­ful adap­ta­tion. Even many of the orig­i­nal Dune nov­els’ read­ers need­ed more help than a cou­ple pages of def­i­n­i­tions could offer. Luck­i­ly for them, the same year that saw the release of Lynch’s Dune also saw the pub­li­ca­tion of The Dune Ency­clo­pe­dia, autho­rized by Her­bert him­self.

“Here is a rich back­ground (and fore­ground) for the Dune Chron­i­cles, includ­ing schol­ar­ly bypaths and amus­ing side­lights,” Her­bert writes in the book’s intro­duc­tion. “Some of the con­tri­bu­tions are sure to arouse con­tro­ver­sy, based as they are on ques­tion­able sources.” He could­n’t have known how right he was. Today The Dune Ency­clo­pe­dia stands as what Inverse’s Ryan Britt calls “the most con­tro­ver­sial Dune book ever”; long out of print, it may well also be the most expen­sive, with a cur­rent Ama­zon price of $1,300 in hard­cov­er and $833 in paper­back. (You can also find it online, at the Inter­net Archive.)

Still, The Dune Ency­clo­pe­dia has its appre­ci­a­tors, not least the direc­tor of the lat­est (and most suc­cess­ful) cin­e­mat­ic attempt to real­ize Her­bert’s vision. As Brit tells it, “an anony­mous (though pre­vi­ous­ly reli­able) source stat­ed that Denis Vil­leneuve is a big fan of The Dune Ency­clo­pe­dia. But when he tried to plant ref­er­ences to the book in the new film, his ‘hand was slapped by the estate.’ ” The rea­son seems to involve the Ency­clo­pe­dia’s con­flicts with the nov­els: not those writ­ten by Her­bert him­self but, accord­ing to the Dune Wiki, “the lat­er two pre­quel trilo­gies and sequel duol­o­gy writ­ten after Frank Her­bert’s death by Bri­an Her­bert (Frank Her­bert’s son) and Kevin J. Ander­son, which they state com­plete the orig­i­nal series.”

Though co-signed by the The Dune Ency­clo­pe­dia’s main author, lit­er­ary schol­ar Willis E. McNel­ly, Bri­an Her­bert and Kevin J. Ander­son­’s let­ter declar­ing the work’s de-can­on­iza­tion omits the fact “that the Ency­clo­pe­dia is and always was a fal­li­ble in-uni­verse doc­u­ment that open­ly mis­rep­re­sents known his­to­ry and adds his­tor­i­cal embell­ish­ments.” It is, in oth­er words, a book about Dune as well as a part of Dune. Not every book in our real­i­ty offers a per­fect­ly true account of his­to­ry, of course, and the same holds for the real­i­ty Frank Her­bert cre­at­ed. This form implies the con­tin­u­ing pos­si­bil­i­ty of expand­ing Dune’s lit­er­ary uni­verse by writ­ing the books that exist with­in it, not just ency­clo­pe­dias and scrip­ture but, say epic sci-fi nov­els as well. What fan, after all, would­n’t want to read the Dune of Dune?

Relat­ed con­tent:

Why You Should Read Dune: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Frank Herbert’s Eco­log­i­cal, Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci-Fi Epic

Rare Book Fea­tur­ing the Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune Goes Up for Auc­tion (1975)

The Dune Graph­ic Nov­el: Expe­ri­ence Frank Herbert’s Epic Sci-fi Saga as You’ve Nev­er Seen It Before

The Glos­sary Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios Gave Out to the First Audi­ences of David Lynch’s Dune (1984)

The Dune Col­or­ing & Activ­i­ty Books: When David Lynch’s 1984 Film Cre­at­ed Count­less Hours of Pecu­liar Fun for Kids

The Ency­clo­pe­dia of Sci­ence Fic­tion: 17,500 Entries on All Things Sci-Fi Are Now Free Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Matrix Regurgitated — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #113

In light of the release of The Matrix Res­ur­rec­tions, we talk through the fran­chise as a whole. What made the first one remark­able, and does that a bar that any sequel can reach? We talk through the choic­es that fed into the new film, why peo­ple don’t seem to care about their matrix fam­i­lies, the end­less fight scenes, and more. Who will choose the blue pill?

This very spe­cial hol­i­day episode of Pret­ty Much Pop reunites the full sea­son one pan­el: Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Bri­an Hirt and Eri­ca Spyres, and fea­tures the pod­cast­ing debut of Mark’s son Abe Lin­sen­may­er.

Some arti­cles we con­sid­ered includ­ed:

This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion you can access by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at or by choos­ing a paid sub­scrip­tion through Apple Pod­casts. This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

Rare Book Featuring the Concept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune Goes Up for Auction (1975)

Denis Vil­leneu­ve’s new adap­ta­tion of Frank Her­bert’s Dune has made a decent­ly promis­ing start to what looks set to shape up into an epic series of films. But how­ev­er many install­ments it final­ly com­pris­es, it’s unlike­ly to run any­where near as long as Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky’s ver­sion — had Jodor­owsky actu­al­ly made his ver­sion, that is. Pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, that project promised to unite the tal­ents of not just the cre­ator of the Dune uni­verse and the direc­tor of The Holy Moun­tain, but those of Mœbius, H.R. Giger, Sal­vador Dalí, Pink Floyd, Orson Welles, and Mick Jag­ger. Even David Lynch’s Dune, for all its large-scale weird­ness, would sure­ly play like My Din­ner with Andre by com­par­i­son.

Alas, none of us will ever get to see Jodor­owsky’s Dune, now one of the most sto­ried of all unmade films. But one of us — one of the deep-pock­et­ed among us, at least — now has a chance to own the book. Not Her­bert’s nov­el: the book assem­bled cir­ca 1985 as a pitch­ing aid, meant to show stu­dios the exten­sive pre-pro­duc­tion work Jodor­owsky, pro­duc­er Michel Sey­doux, and their col­lab­o­ra­tors had done.

“Filled with the script, sto­ry­boards, con­cept art, and more, the book is basi­cal­ly as close as any­one can get to see­ing Jodorowsky’s ver­sion of Dune,” writes io9’s Ger­main Lussier.But, of course, the direc­tor and his team only cre­at­ed a hand­ful of copies and this was decades ago. This isn’t a book you can just get on Ama­zon.”

But you can get it at Christie’s, on whose auc­tion block it’s expect­ed to go for between €25,000 and €35,000 (around USD $30,000–40,000). Reck­on­ing that only ten to twen­ty copies were ever print­ed, the house­’s list­ing describes the book as “an extra­or­di­nary arti­fact” from “a doomed project which inspired legions of film-mak­ers and movie­go­ers alike.” Despite all of Hol­ly­wood ulti­mate­ly pass­ing on this enor­mous­ly ambi­tious adap­ta­tion, “all of this was not in vain.” Jodor­owsky him­self claims that, though unre­al­ized, his Dune set a prece­dent for “a larg­er-than-life sci­ence fic­tion movie, out­side of the sci­en­tif­ic rig­or of 2001: A Space Odyssey.” Its influ­ence, accord­ing to Christie’s, is present in 1970s films like Star Wars and Alien. Would it be too much to sense a trace of the Jodor­owskyan in Vil­leneu­ve’s Dune as well?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The 14-Hour Epic Film, Dune, That Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, Pink Floyd, Sal­vador Dalí, Moe­bius, Orson Welles & Mick Jag­ger Nev­er Made

Mœbius’ Sto­ry­boards & Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Mas­ter­piece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tan­ta­liz­ing Ani­ma­tion

The Dune Graph­ic Nov­el: Expe­ri­ence Frank Herbert’s Epic Sci-Fi Saga as You’ve Nev­er Seen It Before

Ale­jan­dro Jodorowsky’s 82 Com­mand­ments For Liv­ing

Watch the First Trail­er for Dune, Denis Villeneuve’s Adap­ta­tion of Frank Herbert’s Clas­sic Sci-Fi Nov­el

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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