The Unsurprising Psychedelic Inspiration for Dune

I'm currently reading Paul Stamets Mycelium Running, a book about how mushrooms can be used to clean our environment, repel insects, and cure diseases. I tripped over this interesting bit of lore in Chapter 9:
Frank Herbert, the well-known author of the Dune books, told me his technique for using [mushroom] spores. When I met him in the early 1980s, Frank enjoyed collecting mushrooms on his property near Port Townsend, Washington. ... Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune–the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Fremen (the cerulean blue of the Psilocybe mushroom), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico)—came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through the experience with the use of the magic mushroom.
For what it's worth, most of Mycelium Running has little to do with psychedelic mushrooms—not that there would be anything wrong with that—but instead focuses more on the technical details about the growth cycle and practical uses of a wide array of fungi. Image: Nunavut
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8 Responses to The Unsurprising Psychedelic Inspiration for Dune

  1. VagabondAstronomer says:

    Puts a whole new slant on Highliner… I meant Heighliner…

  2. sharkcellar says:

    Wow. This is cool as hell. About a year ago I was a big flag bearer for Stamets and his fungus books. I would go on and on to my friends about how amazing his books were. I think I just sounded like a nerd. Then I read Miyazaki’s ‘Nausicaa’ manga for the first time, while I was reading the Stamets’ books. I always wondered if Miyazaki was influenced by Stamets also. Dune is one of my most read books. I’ve probably reread it about six or seven times.

  3. noen says:

    I didn’t particularly care for Dune. It’s well written and imaginative, but I thought it was tiresome, reactionary and the only women were concubines, whores and witches. Gee thanks Herbert. It would also be nice if SF authors imagined a future that doesn’t have 10,000 years of autocratic rule presented as if it is the best political system ever.

  4. El Mariachi says:

    It would also be nice if SF authors imagined a future that doesn’t have 10,000 years of autocratic rule presented as if it is the best political system ever.

    Huh? It would be nice, what, hypothetically?

    1) There are thousands of SF authors who have imagined futures without “millennia of autocratic rule.” At least one of them co-runs Boing Boing.

    2) Herbert hardly presents his future universe as “the best political system ever.” His protagonists are revolutionaries against the established corrupt imperial system. You may as well criticize Star Wars for deifying Emperor Palpatine. Even so, it never even occurred to me to read Fremen culture as some sort of utopian ideal.

    3) [T]he only women were concubines, whores and witches[…] And the only men were messiahs, warriors, cowards, and antigravity Dick Cheney or his pervert relatives. Aside from attempting to lump “concubines, whores, and witches” into one spuriously derogatory aggregate, what’s your point? Since when is it a necessary function of speculative fiction to empower every contemporary shat-upon demographic? Why aren’t you slamming Ursula LeGuin for not heroically representing, I dunno, space rednecks?

  5. mdhatter says:

    Ahhhhhh, so spice is fungus spores. That makes the whole story make just a little more sense. Granted, just a little.

  6. markmarkmark says:

    The whole story made sense before, but only in the context of its sequels and whatnot, but, as a long time fan of Dune, and a dude who honestly feels that Herbert’s writings are among the most influential as to my personal beliefs, and who has recently for the first time ingested psylocybin mushrooms…
    This all makes a lot of sense.
    I’ve seen the tachyon net, and understood the past lives idea. Weird.
    I am now the Kwisatch Haderach, the shortening of the path – the base of the pillar, the kangaroo mouse.

    Man I’m a nerd.

  7. cayton says:

    I really, really liked Dune. It’s neat to hear his inspiration.

  8. Takuan says:


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