That is to say, after 9/11. In The Guardian:
Every fantasy reflects the place and time that produced it. If The Lord of the Rings is about the rise of fascism and the trauma of the second world war, and Game of Thrones, with its cynical realpolitik and cast of precarious, entrepreneurial characters is a fairytale of neoliberalism, then Dune is the paradigmatic fantasy of the Age of Aquarius. Its concerns – environmental stress, human potential, altered states of consciousness and the developing countries’ revolution against imperialism – are blended together into an era-defining vision of personal and cosmic transformation.Books read differently as the world reforms itself around them, and the Dune of 2015 has geopolitical echoes that it didn’t in 1965, before the oil crisis and 9/11. Remember that European beach grass binding together those shifting dunes? Paul Atreides is a young white man who fulfils a persistent colonial fantasy, that of becoming a God-king to a tribal people. Herbert’s portrayal of the “Fremen” (the clue’s in the name) owes much to TE Lawrence and Wilfred Thesiger’s enthusiastic portrayals of the Bedouin of Arabia’s Empty Quarter. Fremen culture is described in words liberally cribbed from Arabic. They go on “razzia” raids, wear “aba” and “bourka” robes, fear a devil called “Shaitan” and so on. They are tough, proud and relatively egalitarian. The harshness of their environment has given them an ethic of fellowship and mutual aid. They are what Kipling would have termed “one of the martial races”: absolutely to be admired, possessing none of the negative “oriental” traits – deviousness, laziness and the like. They are, however, not carbon-copy Bedouin: Herbert freely mixes elements of Zen into their belief system, and also, intriguingly, suggests that their messianic eschatology – the sense in which they were “waiting” for Paul – may have been seeded in previous millennia by the Bene Gesserit order as part of its murky eugenic plans. Herbert, whose female characters are consistently strong and active, has also ditched the strict sexual divisions of actually existing Bedouin culture. Thus Fremen women do their share of fighting and fearlessly contradict their menfolk, though there is still a fair amount of child-bearing and housework to be done while the men are off riding worms.
Star Wars copped a lot of its stuff from Dune:
Actually, the great Dune film did get made. Its name is Star Wars. In early drafts, this story of a desert planet, an evil emperor, and a boy with a galactic destiny also included warring noble houses and a princess guarding a shipment of something called “aura spice”. All manner of borrowings from Dune litter the Star Wars universe, from the Bene Gesserit-like mental powers of the Jedi to the mining and “moisture farming” on Tattooine. Herbert knew he’d been ripped off, and thought he saw the ideas of other SF writers in Lucas’s money-spinning franchise. He and a number of colleagues formed a joke organisation called the We’re Too Big to Sue George Lucas Society.