Simon Vance and Scott Brick have narrated thousands of audiobooks, including the Dune series. They tell us about their contributions to the Dune universe.
Simon Vance and Scott Brick have one of the coolest jobs in the world
if you’re a giant book nerd: professional audiobook narrators. Between the two of them, they’ve narrated thousands of books, many of them in the science fiction genre, and they’re by no means done. In fact, Brick has a new audiobook out right now: Dune: The Duke of Caladan, the latest in Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s series of Dune books that expand on the original sci-fi classics by Frank Herbert.
We talked to both Vance and Brick about their careers, Dune, sci-fi, and more. Watch our discussion below, and then we’ll hit the highlights!
Scott Brick is “a pillar of the Dune universe”
Vance and Brick worked together on several of Frank Herbert’s original six Dune books, but for the prequels and sequels, Brick has flown pretty much solo, becoming the go-to guy whenever Macmillan Audio wants to record another installment of the saga.
And Brick sounds just fine with that, considering that Dune is one of his favorite series of all time. And his connections to it go deep. He told us about how he got in touch with Frank Herbert’s son Brian early in the process, and how they “just hit it off.” Over time, he even created the Dune phonetic glossary, an index of all the made-up words in the series and how to pronounce them correctly.
“We started with the 500 words in the original volume,” Brick explained. “[Brian Herbert] had recordings that his father had made…We used those as a guide.” They’re up to about 1,900 now. The glossary has been so useful that Brian told Brick that he was “a pillar of the Dune universe,” a compliment if there ever was one.
On David Lycnh’s Dune
Dune has been around since the ’60s, but the only big screen version to actually make it to theaters was David Lynch’s 1984 version, with Kyle MacLachlan as Dune. Lynch himself has basically disowned this feature, and Brick and Vance can see where he’s coming from. “They took it out of his hands and they cut it, and they did the worst thing possible, which is that voiceover stuff,” Vance said.
“I think if we could’ve seen David Lynch’s version, it would have been marvelous,” Brick said. But he was getting signals that it wasn’t going to turn out well early on, from a PA who was working on the movie back when Brick had a job as a waiter. Apparently, Lynch’s ideal version was over four hours, but the PA had bad news about that:
“It’s three hours and 20 minutes right now, and they think that’s too long, so they’re probably gonna cut it.” They cut it down to, like, two hours and 20 minutes. If he thought it was too short at three hours and 20 minutes…I think it was doomed from the start. There are parts of it that I love.
That said, both men like things about the movie. Brick may take issue with the pronunciations of names like “Harkonnen” and “Shaddam,” but he does love José Ferrer’s performance as the Emperor of the Known Universe.
Touchingly, Brick also remembered a special screening of the movie given to benefit the hospital where Frank Herbert’s wife Beverley was being treated when she died. She did not make it to see it complete, and when Frank got on stage to introduce it, he burst into tears. “This is for Bev,” he said.
Finally, Vance advised that it may be the kind of thing you just had to be there for: “It was the mid-80s. It was the year of orange BMWs and shoulder pads…It fitted in in a strange way, so I really enjoyed it, but history has not been kind to it.”
Dune: The Duke of Caladan
The latest Dune book, The Duke of Caladan, explores the period before the Duke Leto Atreides took his family to the desert planet of Dune. Caladan is a much lusher, wetter world than Arrakis, but there are still dangers and plots aplenty.
There’s also a more personal dimension to it. “Brian didn’t get to spend much time with his parents,” Brick said. “They died far too young. And I think in many ways this was wish fulfillment for him as well, imagining a world where Paul and Leto were together more often.”