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Oregon Coast Town Was Inspiration Behind Herbert's 'Dune:' Celebrations Ensue

Published 10/11/21 at 4:26 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Town Was Inspiration Behind Herbert's Dune: Celebrations Ensue

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(Florence, Oregon) – Did you know that the seminal sci-fi book series (and now two movies) were influenced by a central Oregon coast town? (Photo courtesy Flickr / Sheila Sund)

History can be one trippy storyteller – and so was author Frank Herbert, who penned the Dune anthology series. The universe he created around the planet Arrakis and the mind-bending intrigue that took place there and in space influenced at least three generations and created legions of obsessed fans.

It turns out, Herbert was visiting the Oregon National Dunes Recreation Area and Florence back in 1957, studying the movement of the dunes and the beachgrass of the area, and that planted a seed in his mind. A few years later, it culminated in being much of the inspiration behind his book series, with the first Dune book getting published in 1965.

Herbert's connection to the Oregon coast and Florence will be celebrated in a large way in town, starting October 12 and going through November 4. The celebrations will include screenings of both the 1984 David Lynch movie and the new film debuting on October 22.

City Lights Cinemas and the Siuslaw Public Library will present a series of screenings and discussions during the “Frank Herbert Dune Celebration,” honoring the historical ties between the Florence dunes and the seminal science fiction classic that influenced a generation of books, music, and films.

Herbert traveled to Florence, Oregon, to write a magazine article on the Oregon Dunes. Fascinated by the struggle between nature and humanity, he wrote to his agent, “Sand dunes have been known to swallow whole cities, lakes, rivers, highways.”

“The article never materialized, but the awe of the Oregon dunes became the inspiration for “Dune,” said Meg Spencer, executive director for the Siuslaw Public Library. “Visitors to the library and City Lights Cinemas will be able to see rare items from the Frank Herbert collection including books, film memorabilia, and art, all of which were donated to the library by Herbert's family.”

Herbert was born in Tacoma, Washington, and spent some time in Portland after living in Salem for many years, graduating from North Salem High School.

“The article never materialized, but the awe of the Oregon dunes became the inspiration for “Dune,” said Meg Spencer, executive director for the Siuslaw Public Library. “Visitors to the library and City Lights Cinemas will be able to see rare items from the Frank Herbert collection including books, film memorabilia, and art, all of which were donated to the library by Herbert's family.”

Michael Falter, proprietor of City Lights Cinemas, said the book made quite an impact.

“Herbert's fantasy world came to life in a series of landmark books, movies, and graphic novels that formed some of the most influential fiction, music, art, and film of all time while shaping culture, science, and politics,” Falter said.

Event organizer Jared Anderson said that even the plains of Saturn's moon, Titan, are named after the book, as well as a crater on Earth's moon, adding, “Because of Herbert's work, and that of his family, friends, and all those who love great writing, the inspiration of the Florence dunes has spread into the stars.”

“We are so excited to invite the science fiction-loving public to Florence for this series of special events,” said Bettina Hannigan, president/CEO of the Florence Chamber of Commerce. “Florence will proudly embrace its place in the saga's history over the next several weeks at City Lights Cinema, the Oregon Coast's leading arts film theater, and at our amazing library's ‘Dune Room', with special screenings, lectures, and discussions.”

Visitors can see both the 1984 Universal picture directed by David Lynch, and the greatly anticipated 2021 Warner Brothers adaptation directed by Denis Villeneuve, while learning the rich history behind Dune and the Oregon coast.

Here is the schedule of events:

October 12 (3:30 and 6:30 p.m.) A special screening of the 1984 “Dune” with an informative presentation by the inspired and knowledgeable film experts at City Lights Cinemas. Discover the tumultuous journey to bring “Dune” to cinemas along with its ties to some of the biggest sci-fi hits in cinema history. A special standalone film plays at 12:30 p.m. without a presentation.

October 21 & 22 (7:00 p.m.) A premier screening of the brand new “Dune” movie and an exclusive filmed intro with Byron Merritt, Frank Herbert's grandson, who will talk about the legacy of Dune and its connections to Florence. Merritt was a consultant on the new Dune film.

October 23 (3:30 p.m.) “Dune” (2021) and presentation by Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative. Learn more about Herbert's history with Florence's dunes and the effort to restore them.

October 24 (3:30 p.m.) “Dune” (2021) with an intriguing in-theater book club event contrasting the book and film from page to screen presented by the Siuslaw Public Library director Meg Spencer. Both the novel and the new graphic novel are available at the library and City Lights Cinemas.

November 4 (10:30 a.m.) Online book club with the Siuslaw Public Library discussing the themes and meanings of the book. Get details at ref@siuslawlibrary.org or call 541-997-3132.

Tickets on sale now at https://www.citylightscinemas.com/dune-celebration/, or in person at City Lights Cinemas, 1930 Highway 101, Florence, OR.

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