The Folio Society has been publishing premium illustrated editions of classic works since 1947, including many iconic science fiction and fantasy titles. They’ve just released a beautiful edition of Frank Herbert’s Dune with art by Sam Weber, and that’s a reason for both fans of Dune and fans of great art to rejoice. This 50th anniversary edition contains eleven full color illustrations, black and white spot illustrations, as well as a gorgeous slipcase featuring the desert landscape of Arrakis.
Sam Weber is no stranger to our pages—Tor.com readers may recognize him from his short fiction art, as well as covers to some of our most beloved novels such as Ender’s Game and Mistborn (to name only two). I asked The Folio Society’s art director, Sheri Gee, why she chose Sam for this project. She explained:
Sam is amazing at painting a plausible alternative reality. We’d been so impressed with his previous commissions for us, but even more so by Sam’s wider portfolio which showed a clear love of all things strange. I thought it would make for a really interesting commission. In all, he was the perfect choice for Dune, and we were blown away when he not only said he’d love to work on it for us, but that it is also his favorite book.
Tackling Dune is no small feat. So many iconic images already exist, most notably from John Schoenherr but also from giants in the field like Moebius and H. R. Giger. Add to that just how beloved the book is all over the world, and this kind of undertaking can become a huge weight on an artist’s shoulder.
I asked Sam what went through his mind when he was first approached with the project, and he replied:
Getting asked to illustrate Dune was something I’d dreamed about for a long time. With that said, it was honestly a pretty intimidating prospect, especially at the outset. It’s been envisioned so well in the past, and has occupied such a prominent place in my psyche, I think once the initial thrill passed I became really nervous about doing the project justice. At some point I just had to reconcile within myself that I’d be bringing my own take to the text and that an artist’s shortcomings are a part of what makes one’s work interesting and unique.
Sadly, it’s rare for adult books to be so lavishly illustrated in today’s market. The Folio Society has kept the tradition alive and has garnered a dedicated following of readers and collectors for their efforts. I asked Sam if this project presented any particular challenges, and he responded:
Most of the work I make these days is stand-alone imagery—book covers and things like that. Creating images that function well on the inside of a book, as opposed to those that wrap around the outside, was a real challenge. Figuring out how to challenge myself while at the same time taking advantage of what I’m good at was difficult. In the end, I think I’m most proud of the pictures that allowed me to try something new.
Having spent so much time in one world, especially one as rich as Dune, I was curious to know if the book resonated with Sam differently after having gone through the process of illustrating Herbert’s work, and he shared some thoughts on the overall experience:
Yes, although I’d be hard pressed to describe exactly how. One of the funny things about illustrating a story you love is that, inevitably, some of the images fall short of how you truly envisioned the scene or characters. So there’s a weird discrepancy between how I remember the book and what I’ve actually created to accompany it. The opposite is also true, however, which is really a thrilling thing to experience: when a picture you create ends up feeling more true or real than what you initially imagined. This is the longest project I’ve ever worked on, so that alone is meaningful to me. I’ll probably never be able to really separate Herbert’s text from my own experiences now; in many ways the book has become more special. I really hope people get some enjoyment out of what I made—that really would be the ultimate reward for this whole endeavor.
Congratulations to Sam and The Folio Society on creating a stunning, evocative new take on one of science fiction’s greatest novels. They have joined forces with great success in the past—Sam also created the artwork for The Folio Society’s Fahrenheit 451 and Lord of the Flies—and each project seems to turn out even more beautifully than the last. Let’s hope there’s much more to come!
Guild ships over the basin:
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. Sam Weber: “I wanted to show him as he’s presented in the text and tried as best I could to avoid Lynch’s depiction. Powerful and terrifying, in spite of his obesity.”
Dr. Yueh about to implant the poison tooth into a drugged and immobile Duke Leto:
The Padisha Emperor presented with a slave concubine:
Alia holding her Gom Jabar:
Thufir Hawat. Sam Weber: “Bonus points if you recognize the famous illustrator who modeled for this painting.”