Archive for Frank Herbert

The Hellstrom Hoax

Posted in Science Fiction with tags , , , on September, 2012 by melendwyr

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.


The Purpose of Power is Power

Posted in Doom, GIGO, Politics and Society, Useful Aphorisms with tags , , , , on September, 2009 by melendwyr

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating, and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price for maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic.

– from “Muad’Dib, The Religious Issues” by the Princess Irulan

– Frank Herbert, “Dune”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of power. What it’s good for, what its limits are.

It’s increasingly clear to me that power, used in ways that are not compatible with the maintenance and continued existence of that power, tends to expend itself. Power that persists usually concerns itself with itself and its perpetuation. But there are inherent trade-offs that cannot be avoided.

Wealth is a tool of freedom, but the pursuit of wealth is the path to slavery.

– Frank Herbert

What is power to be used for? What goal is the end to which power is the means? Those who have purposes for their power will sometimes find that purpose in conflict with the perpetuation and increase of the power itself, and so must choose. Those whose purposes include the use of power in a certain way will face even more conflicts and more choices. But those who seek power only for the purpose of possessing and exercising power will not be conflicted, and will be forced to no difficult choices.

Maintaining a democratic system and keeping it functionally in touch with reality is an example of having standards for the use of power. Demagogues and popular tyrants – the most obvious threats to any democracy – are examples of seeking power for power’s sake.

I don’t think this is a conflict we can win.