Chairdogs of Dune

(a little story I wrote way back in 2006. Completely forgot about it. Yeah I called myself Coconut Ent.)

Chairdogs of Dune

“Stil , why are there no chairdogs on Dune ?” Little Leto’ s voice was a bit lispy from the soft palate and still imperfect control of his tongue .

Stilgar muttered something and stalked out of the room , into the main hall of Sietch Tabr .

“What’ s with him ?” Little Ghanima Atreides sat up on her spice -fluff cushion. “And what ‘ s this about chairdogs ?”

“Oh , nothing much Ghani . Just something strange I was told.”

“Told ? By whom …. ohhhh… yes… chairdogs …” Ghanima blinked , listening in to her own ancestral whispers. “Decadent things. Hmmm … the Fenrings used to have a few in Arrakeen , according to Granny -in – my-mind . She thought they were posh.”

“Posh . Now that’ s an old word. Wonder why Stilgar went off like that?”

“Do you really want to know, Leto ? Ghani ?” Alia- of -the- Knife , the Womb of Heaven swished the curtain aside and entered the chamber.

“Hullo Aunty Alia,” Leto was a bit wary around his Aunt … there was something rather wicked, witch -like about her . “You know, swishing curtains aside unannounced is a good way to get knifed in a sietch .”

Ghanima , while cautious, also knew that with the correct prodding Aunty Alia could be the most outrageous gossip. Leto could never quite manage it . It was a girl thing. “Oooh , please Aunty , do tell !”

Both children felt something , or rather someone, shifting inside their skulls . If it had to be described, it was as if the ancestors in their heads ( Paul , Chani , Jessica , her Duke , even the Baron ) decided to sit down for the tale and make themselves comfortable . Leto could almost hear Paul Muad ‘ Dib chuckling. Muad ‘ Dib had been there .
Alia plumped down on a cushion. “Well , it was like this .”

/ / =========

Stilgar had only seen chairdogs briefly , when he ‘ d followed Duncan to Arrakeen before the joint Harkonnen -Sardaukar attack . He was both repulsed by the idea and intrigued by it . A chair that was a specially bred living creature!
Now, in the days following their Great Victory … there had been a few hectic months and he , doughtiest of the Fremen of Sietch Tabr , was fairly run off his feet . You can ‘ t ride worms in a city . Plus, this new Palace Muad ‘ Dib was still building nearby was simply HUGE , it could swallow a few cities when complete , and Stilgar had to walk from end to end a few times to oversee security .

Alia had scandalised him by suggesting that he relax by having a hot bath , in a tub .

Right now , he was seriously contemplating the sheer sacrilege of soaking his feet in hot water. Gods below!

He had climbed to the top of Arrakeen Palace, having come straight from the new , unfinished mega -palace to enquire about the practicality of plasteel roofing in a baking desert, only to find Muad ‘ Dib had flown off .

I need to sit down , he thought .
Looking for a seat he rambled through a chamber. There was a pool , a pool of water set in the floor , a fountain playing in the centre . Stilgar breathed in the moisture – rich air.

A curious whuffle made him turn and look . It was a chairdog , and it was trembling .

Kul Wahad , thought Stilgar. What decadent temptation ! Slowly he approached the sessile creature. Gingerly he lowered himself into it . The chairdog molded itself to accommodate the weary Fremen.

/ / ========

Alia had a giggling fit . The children waited patiently , even though their ancestors – withing could have told the story . Leto felt that his Father -within was laughing his head off , leaning on Chani -within for support .

Father, he thought , don ‘ t ruin the ending .

/ / ===========


“Oh dear “, said Paul .

“Usul , what is it ?” Paul held his arm out , blocking Chani .

“Trouble.” Paul had a wicked little smile.

“Trouble? Usul? What do you see ?”

They were then treated to the sight of Stilgar, soaking wet , storming down the corridor in squelchy desert boots .

Gods below! Paul had been at the Cave of Birds when he’d had a vision, and had ‘thoptered like a Coriolis wind to get back . And just in time!

It seems that chairdogs are a bit sensitive to unseemly odours. A Fremen, clad in a stillsuit to reclaim water from perpiration and bodily waste , and to whom baths are unknown, can be charitably described as aromatic . When Stilgar had just settled in , the chairdog concluded that it had been seriously contaminated and needed a really good clean .

Desperately .

Even before Stilgar had sat down , his odour has thoroughly alarmed the creature. Hence the trembling .
Well , the nearest source of water was the fountain in the room , into which the chairdog jumped .

“Usul, don’t, or he’ll kill us !” Chani had her hand clamped on Paul ‘ s mouth . She was giggling, biting her lip to contain her mirth. The danger only made it funnier . “We must get away from here!”

They staggered away holding each other up, to find somewhere a little more private.

The Shadout had just finished mopping the floor , and had put up a “CAUTION ! WET FLOOR ” sign.
Paul pointed at it .

“C – C – CAUTION ! …. WET FREMEN !” he stuttered before collapsing with Chani in a heap , rolling and howling with laughter.

The Star Crystal

Be an Interplanetary Spy!


“The Star Crystal” was an eye opener for me. I was maybe nine, when my brother borrowed it from a friend. The logic puzzles were fun (and still are), but it also introduced strange and exciting ideas.

It was my first encounter with the Moebius Strip. There was this ship called the Moebius Express where the action takes place, and yes it was shaped like a Moebius Strip! Not only was it my first encounter with the fabulous mathematical object (that I can make with paper! And therefore a project well within reach of kids), it was also my first encounter with unusual spaceship design.

When you’re nine, you think all spaceships look like ye olde rocket ships. The Moebius Express broke that mould. I realized that ships could look like anything, needles, saucers, rubber bands. Suddenly Soyuz capsules didn’t seem ugly. Other Interplanetary Spy books had ships looking like three-domed greenhouses, rolling pods, ships that looked like flying houses.

But the Moebius Express was unforgettable!

In later years I accepted the ship designs of Babylon 5 without batting an eyelid. All those exposed struts, unaerodynamic EarthForce ships, organic Vorlon and Minbari designs, and frankly Soviet-looking Narn ships. Some viewers hated it, it didn’t correspond to what they think ships look like.

It was Moebius Express that primed me for unusual ship designs.

It was a first encounter with aliens with different biological requirements and who saw the world differently. There were aquatic aliens with an underwater habitat. And while nine-year-old me was still grasping the idea that not all aliens breathed air, it turns out that, having eyes at the side of the head, the aliens saw the world differently as well. One of them transmitted a telepathic image of a corridor as he would see it and the reader had to interpret it according to how humans would see it.

Aquatic telepathic aliens with a very different view of the world due to different body shape! Mind blown! I’d like to think that it made me more tolerant of different points of view. Someone who grew up in a different environment might see things a little differently, express the same thing in different words, or use the same words to mean different things.

Also, don’t judge an alien just because you don’t understand what he’s saying.

There were optical illusions galore because a sculptor on board uses a… Warp Chisel! One “bad ending” has the sculptor accidentally using the chisel on you with picturesque results. My first introduction to optical illusions.

The robot designs were simultaneously interesting and simple enough that I would try to draw them (they’re boxes and spheres stuck together). It helped me to draw people later on when I realized that artists used figures like those robots to start with. It also made me realize that robots didn’t have to be symmetrical.

It was also my introduction to the multi-path adventure books that were so popular in the 1980s: Choose Your Own Adventure, Fighting Fantasy, GrailQuest, Lone Wolf, Ninja!

Choose Your Own Adventure seemed a bit limited and I soon left it. The other books, especially the GrailQuest series had me rolling dice for hours.

Unfortunately the Interplanetary Spy series is out of print, and I had to find some scan-pdf for my nostalgia strip. Indeed the whole multi-path adventure book genre seems to have petered out. Had to cheat one of the puzzles, it involved folding the corner of one page and joining the illustrations of one page with another. How am I supposed to do that with a pdf on my phone?

The Star Crystal is a favourite among old Interplanetary Spies and widely regarded as the best of the books. (On the opposite side, Robot Rebellion was pretty bad). And to my pleasure, upon finding an online copy, it’s just as good 30 years on as it was then.

Not all childhood revisits are happy. I watched The Flight of Dragons and The Last Unicorn and they were actually quite awful. Whoever wrote dialog like that? Re-reading Treasure Island? How stupid were those pirates once they got on the Island! But the Interplanetary Spy series seems to be just as fresh as it was 30 years ago.

Well, apart from some blocky drawings meant to imitate computer graphics in some of the books. Computer games really were blocky back then and it made the book seem cutting edge and computer-ish. Now it’s just silly.