The blogger John Rogers once noted that there are two novels that can shape the lives of bookish 14-year-olds: “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Lord of the Rings.” One of these novels, he asserted, is a childish fantasy that can leave you emotionally stunted; the other involves orcs.
Well, I was a bookish 14-year-old, but my touchstones were two different novels: Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” and Frank Herbert’s “Dune.”
Many social scientists, it turns out, are science fiction readers. For example, quite a few experts on international relations who I know are fanatics about the TV version of “The Expanse.” I think it’s because good science fiction involves building imaginary worlds that are different from the world we know, but in interesting ways that relate to the attempt to understand why society is the way it is.
Anyway, that’s my excuse for devoting today’s newsletter not to the latest scary developments in politics and economics but to a much happier event: the U.S. release of a wonderful, satisfying film version of “Dune” — the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since the pandemic began.