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Florence celebrates its ties to DUNE novel and movie

Sand dunes in Oregon
Bonnie Moreland
Sand dunes in Oregon

This week, the latest cinematic adaptation of DUNE opens in theaters. And Oregon’s coastal city of Florence is celebrating its connection to the novel and movie franchise.

In the 1950s, Frank Herbert was a journalist and writer, who came to Florence on assignment. While there, he saw the area’s vast expanse of sand, which planted the seed of inspiration for one of the most influential science fiction novels of all time.

(Dune Movie Clip: “You have proven you can rule yourself, now you must prove you can rule others…something your ancestors failed to do…” (FADE OUT))

Jared Anderson is education director at City Lights Cinemas, which will feature the new film’s premiere Thursday night, with an exclusive filmed intro featuring someone close to the project.

"Byron Merritt, Frank Herbert’s grandson, talks a wide variety of issues, from DUNE and its connection to Florence, how the book has resonated with people across the globe over the years, what the future of DUNE will look like, both with new books and new films, television series.”

The city of Florence is holding a number of screenings, discussions, and other commemorative events all month and into November.

The science fiction epic, DUNE, is tightly associated with the coastal Oregon city of Florence. While reporting on a story about how the sand dunes were overtaking the area in the 1950s, Frank Herbert was struck by their majesty.

Locals then planted European beach grass to control the dunes’ expansion into town.

U.S. Forest Service truck navigating the Oregon Dunes, 1979.
U.S. Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service truck navigating the Oregon Dunes, 1979.

Jared Anderson, who’s organized events around the new DUNE movie’s premiere, says the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative will talk Saturday.

“When Frank Herbert came in, and they were looking at planting the beach grass, that seemed a good idea at the time," said Anderson. "But over the years, the beach grass has kinda overtaken the dunes, and has threatened them. So there’s some folks who are working to save the dunes, and they’ve spent countless hours going out into the parks and removing the grass, and it’s a really amazing grass roots effort.”

No pun intended, says Anderson.

The DUNE events are being held throughout October and into November, organized by City Lights Cinemas and the Siuslaw Public Library.

Copyright 2021, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.