Herbert was a quintessential product of the libertarian culture of the Pacific coast, self-reliant and distrustful of centralised authority, yet with a mile-wide streak of utopian futurism and a concomitant willingness to experiment. He was also chronically broke. During the period he wrote Dune, his wife Beverly Ann was the main bread-winner, her own writing career sidelined by a job producing advertising copy for department stores.
… The prevailing publishing wisdom of the time had it that SF readers liked their stories short. Dune (400 pages in its first hardcover edition, almost 900 in the paperback on my desk) was rejected by more than 20 houses before being accepted by Chilton, a Philadelphia operation known for trade and hobby magazines such as Motor Age, Jewelers’ Circular and the no-doubt-diverting Dry Goods Economist.
“By rights,” Hari Kunzru writes, “Dune ought to have become a big movie. An attempt by the visionary Chilean film maker Alejandro Jodorowsky to bring it to the screen became one of the great “what if” stories of SF cinema…. But Jodorowsky’s prog-tastic project was strangled in the crib by risk-averse Hollywood producers.”
But the story actually did make it to the big screen–as the movie Star Wars. “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.”