The greatest film never made

Jodorowsky's "Dune" is brought back to life

"Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune: an Exhibition of a Film of a Book that Never Was" has just opened at the Drawing Room Gallery in east London (ends 25 October). Taking the cult Chilean film-maker's unsuccessful 1976 attempt at an adaptation of Frank Herbert's science-fiction novel as its departure point, the show assembles apocalyptic works by the likes of Vidya Gastaldon and Matthew Day Jackson to explore what the curator calls "a parallel cinematic world".

Jodorowsky's Dune has a decent claim to being the greatest film never made. That it aimed to pool the talents of Pink Floyd, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and visual artists including H R Geiger (who later worked on Ridley Scott's Alien), Moebius and Chris Foss would be good enough. That Jodorowsky wanted to cast Salvador Dalí as "Emperor of the Universe", only for Dalí to insist on being paid $100,000 an hour so that he could "earn more than Greta Garbo", tips the balance even further in its favour.

But what about Tarkovsky's never-started film of Hamlet? Or Darren Aronofsky's proposed take on Batman? Or Nick Cave's time-travelling Gladiator sequel? Feel free to suggest your own additions to the canon in the comment box below.

Then take a look at Toby Litt's encomium on science fiction from this week's issue.

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Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage: how fanfiction got me into writing

My fanfiction was almost uniformly awful, like most of the things I did or liked when I was becoming myself.

The source of the noise was clear. Some kind of monster was emerging from the wood.

"Easy, Harry," counselled Hagrid, "Easy.”

Nervously, the bespectacled wizard approached the hulking beast cautiously. What was it? It had red leather skin, like a sofa, was bigger even than Hagrid and had a pair of cruel horns.

You may not recognise the above passage from any of J K Rowling’s seven entries in the Harry Potter series. That’s because it’s not by Rowling at all, but is taken from Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage by awideeyedwanderer, the alias under which I, with the addition and subtraction of a few dashes and underscores depending on the platform, wrote fanfiction from 2000 to 2006.

To deal with the obvious questions, no, it was not about the Labour party, and no, I don’t think anyone ever had sex, except perhaps very briefly towards the end of the story. (As such, it was a fairly accurate reflection on the life of its author during that period.)

Fanfiction often gets a bad rap, in my case deservedly. One former editor of the New Statesman used to say of one of his staffers that he was “the Fred West of prose”, and my fanfiction was not much better. I hacked my way through the universes of Harry Potter, Doctor Who, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Final Fantasy and Star Trek. I also perpetrated my own, highly derivative “original” fiction, featuring a character called Mr Jones who was basically Doctor Who with a gun.

My fanfiction was influenced by whatever novel I was reading and whatever the current state of my politics were, which meant that as the Noughties wore on it became increasingly dominated by thinly-veiled allegories for the excesses of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.

What got me started? Well, it’s all J K Rowling’s fault. I was an early adopter of the Harry Potter books, and though the first three books came out every year, there was a three-year gap between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix. So without a new book, Potter fans had to write their own, of which Harry Potter and the Minotaur’s Rage was one.

At this point in this sort of article, it’s usually customary to defend fanfiction by pointing out that some of it is actually very good, while some of it has made a great deal of money. My fanfiction was neither good nor financially lucrative, but I always think this misses the point a bit. Very few people think they are producing high art when they write fanfic – people are doing it to have a good time, to expand a world they’ve enjoyed.

My fanfiction was almost uniformly awful, like most of the things I did or liked when I was becoming myself. (In its defence, I think my fanfiction has aged better than Evanescence, a band which provided the soundtrack and most of the chapter titles to my fic.) But I had a great time writing it, and if nothing else, it taught me never to begin a sentence with “nervously” and end it with “cautiously”.

This piece is part of our themed Internet Histories week. See the rest of the stories here. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.