The Hellstrom Hoax
I recently came across an old hardcover copy of Frank Herbert’s Hellstrom’s Hive – not his best work, but interesting in its own rights. Especially since it served as the primary inspiration for the character of Sheng-ji Yang, and his faction the Human Hive, in Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which is one of the best strategy games ever. Many of the in-game quotations from Yang are slightly rewritten quotes from HH.
Out of curiosity, I thought I would see what else this book had inspired or was derived from, so I set out to do some research. Less than ten seconds in, Wikipedia had informed me of Herbert’s inspiration: a 1971 documentary using revolutionary microscopic and telescopic cameras called “The Hellstrom Chronicle”. Narrated by a fictitious entomologist by the name of Dr. Nils Hellstrom, this prize-winning movie suggests that insects will eventually dominate humanity due to their ability to adapt and our excessive individualism.
It seems Herbert was so taken with this tongue-in-cheek documentary that he not only appropriated the concept but the character. The most significant perspective in HH is a Dr. Nils Hellstrom, whose film production company has created several films about insects with narration espousing their evolutionary superiority – projects that help fund a centuries-old experiment in patterning a human society after hive structures.
I found this all rather droll.