Has anyone, to your knowledge, yet found the connection between the two works Norstrilia and Dune?

The life of Mohammed, perhaps (with which I am almost completely ignorant)?

That they were both written at or about the same time suggests a common precursor (or something in the air?).

Whenever someone touts Dune, I always refer them to the superior (forgive me, Frank Herbert) Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith.

This email came to me from Harry Buerkett, in 2002. No, I’m not that slow at answering emails… I’m recycling some old ezine material into this blog. I encouraged Harry to expand on his thoughts, and he wrote:

I’ve found yet another parallel: Both Lavinia and Chani bear twins (Ted & Rich at the end of NORSTRILIA (or THE UNDERPEOPLE; Leto II and Ghanima at the end of the “third half” of DUNE, DUNE MESSIAH). The more I look, the more I find. I’m fairly well-versed in SF, and ornithopters are not common in the literature (authors preferring flying cars, jets, rockets, etc.), yet both your father and Frank Herbert use “ornithopters” in each novel.

I forwarded Harry’s email to Alan C. Elms, and here is part of Alan’s reply:

Thanks to Rosana for passing your question along to me and thank you for your enthusiastic assessment of “Norstrilia,” with which I agree.

Your question is an interesting one, which I can’t answer definitively because I never asked it of either Paul Linebarger or Frank Herbert. (I never met Linebarger; I could have asked Herbert at one convention or another, but didn’t think to do so.)

I’m pretty sure neither book was a direct influence on the other, since they were both written over several years’ time and were published at about the same time (or in the case of the second half of “Norstrilia,” a couple of years later), and Linebarger and Herbert did not correspond with each other.

A “common precursor” also seems unlikely in any specific sense. Herbert may have had the life of Mohammed in mind, but Linebarger did not; as I’ve discussed in my introduction to the NESFA edition of “Norstrilia,” that novel is based instead on the Chinese classic “A Journey to the West.”

I would not be surprised, though, if Herbert had gained some inspiration for such aspects of “Dune” as the role of the drug “spice” by reading Linebarger’s earlier stories, several of which alluded to the similar drug “stroon.”

Both Herbert and Linebarger were very familiar with the whole of golden-age SF; both were very interested in psychological theory and psychotherapy; both had strong interests in religion, in international [translated into intergalactic] politics, and in basic philosophical questions about what makes an individual (of any physical form) human. So it’s not surprising that they wrote novels with certain striking similarities at about the same time.

Readers, please add your own thoughts.