Rising Above the Sands of Time

Scott Timberg’s latest article about sf for the LA Times traces the origins of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune.

The novel was sparked when, in the late 1950s, Herbert flew to Florence, Ore., in a small chartered plane to write about a U.S. Department of Agriculture effort to stabilize sand dunes with European beach grasses. The author was struck by the way dunes could move, over time, like living things — swallowing rivers, clogging lakes, burying forests. “These waves can be every bit as devastating as a tidal wave . . . they’ve even caused deaths,” he wrote his agent, beginning an article, “They Stopped the Moving Sands,” that was never published.

Timberg has a fresh quote from Kim Stanley Robinson, too, whom he praises saying, “Many consider Robinson’s trilogy about the terra-forming of Mars the best-realized exercise in the form since Herbert’s.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Why Philip K. Dick Defected to Orange County

Scott Timberg has been working his way through the firmament of great SF writers in a series of articles for the Los Angeles Times. His latest contribution is an especially engaging profile of Philip K. Dick that draws on interviews with Tim Powers, Dick’s ex-wife Tessa, and his daughter Isa.

One thing he tries to make sense of is why a man of Dick’s sensibilities moved to Orange County:

Dick was a Bay Area fixture until November 1971, when he returned to his house in San Rafael to discover his doors and windows blown out, water and asbestos shards on the floor and his stereo and papers gone.

He would blame the Black Panthers, the KGB, neo-Nazis. But regardless of the perpetrators, he wanted out. When an offer came to appear at a sci-fi convention in Vancouver, Canada, Dick set out for British Columbia, and a month later had not returned. Eventually, he wrote to Willis McNelly, a professor at Cal State Fullerton, to ask whether that community might suit him.

“You must realize of course,” McNelly wrote back, “that Fullerton is in the heart of darkest Orange County. . . . O.C. is also the place where Nixon’s representative in Congress is a card-carrying member of the Birch Society.”