Section of Dune Encyclopedia cover illustration. Used without permission.

Plagiarism of the Encyclopedia

One of the highlights of the soundtrack of the 2003 Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune Sci Fi Channel mini-series is the haunting song “Inama Nushif”, sung by Azam Ali. In the soundtrack CD liner notes (and on the soundtrack page on Tyler’s website), Director Greg Yaitanes writes

“Inama Nushif” is sung in Fremen the native language of the people of Dune. Unreal. Brian actually searched through Herbert’s books and deciphered enough of the fictional Fremen language to write this powerful song.

Unfortunately, this is simply not true.

An actual search of the texts of the six Dune books turns up only one or two of the words appearing in Tyler’s Fremen lyrics. So how could Tyler have found them there?

Simply put, he couldn’t have. What he did do was take a translation into slighly modified Egyptian Arabic of a epigraph from Dune (Ch.47), which he discovered in the article “FREMEN LANGUAGE. Atreidean Form” in The Dune Encyclopedia (found on p.237 of the 1984 Berkley Books trade paperback edition), and change a few of the words, leave out a few others, add a few words of apparent gibberish, create an imaginative but completely unrelated English “translation” for the result, and then pass the whole thing off as his own work.

In other words, he plagiarized. And the following table comparing Tyler’s lyrics with the Dune Encyclopedia original proves it. (N.B. red font indicates changed, deleted, or added text; orange, repetition.)

Tyler LyricsDE Passage
FremenTranslationFremenTranslation
Inama nushifShe is eternalInnama nishufThough we deem
Al asir hiy ayishNo malice can touchal-asir mayyit u hiy ayish.the captive dead, yet does she live.
Lia-anniSingular and agelessLianaFor
Zaratha zaratiPerpetually boundzaratha zarati.her seed is my seed
  U gawlha gawli.and her voice is my voice.
Hatt al-hudadThrough the tempestU tishuf hatt al-hududAnd she sees unto the reaches
Al-maahn al-baiidbe it deluge or sandalman albaid.of possibility the farthest.
Ay-yah idareA singular voiceAyway libarrYea, unto the vale
Adamm malumspeaks through the torrentadam almalumof the unknowable
  tishuf liani.does she see because of me.
Hatt al-hudadThrough the tempest
Al-maahn al-baiidbe it deluge or sand
Ay-yah idareA singular voice
Adamm malumspeaks through the torrent
Inama nishuf al a sadarrForever her voice sings
Eann zaratha zaratithrough the ages eternally bound
Kali bakka a tishuf ahattSacrifice is her gift
Al hudad alman dalione that cannot be equaled
Inama nishuf al a sadarrForever her voice sings
Eann zaratha zaratithrough the ages eternally bound
Kali bakka a tishuf ahattSacrifice is her gift
Al hudad alman dali Aliathat Alia will one day equal
Inama nushifShe is eternal
Al asir hiy ayishNo malice can touch
Lia-anniSingular and ageless
Zaratha zaratiPerpetually bound

To date, attempts to contact Tyler (through the “assistant” email address given on his site), his webmaster, and Director Yaitanes for any comment regarding this matter have proven futile. It seems rather implausible that Yaitanes would have come up with the story in his statement all on his own, so the obvious source is Tyler. If Yaitanes misunderstood something Tyler had told him and Tyler was unable to correct the misunderstanding before the CD went into production, he could have issued a correction on his website. But he hasn’t. And even if Tyler mistook The Dune Encyclopedia for a book by Frank Herbert, there’s no excuse for his apparent claims about searching through the books and “deciphering” the language enough to write the song. Even with his changes, the similiaries are undeniable and the true origin of the text obvious.

The exact status of the copyrights to Dune Encyclopedia is unclear at present (at least, publicly), and the passage in question, while part of the original content of the Encyclopedia (it was written by Alan Kaye and John Quijada at the request of Dr. McNelly), is made more problematic in that it is a translation of a passage from Dune. Either way, the McNelly family has been made aware of this matter.

Update: Greg Yaitanes: “I don’t know what I am saying half the time.”

Children of Dune director Greg Yaitanes replied to inquiries directed at his Twitter account in April 2010:

@TheKJAnonFan i love this! you are on a ten year mission!

because honestly i don’t know what i am saying half the time. especially 30 year old me.

just know i deeply respect the dune fans. good luck on your mission.

Initially I was just overjoyed to have received any response from anyone connected in any way with this matter. Half a year on, Yaitanes’ response now seems incredibly disingenuous and not a little self-serving. I cannot say he was lying; just call me skeptical. I guess it just seems strange to me that someone would willingly allow their name to continue to be associated with a lie.

Keep in mind that I finally only got his attention on Twitter by posting this:

Children of #Dune director @GregYaitanes won’t comment about this, either. And HE’s the one quoted telling the lie on Tyler’s site!

Update: Stonewalled by agent and on MySpace and Facebook

Brian Tyler is currently represented by a music talent agency in Burbank, California. On August 8, 2010, I sent the following email to four addresses I had found through searching the web (the email explains why that was necessary):

Please forgive me for this intrusion; your agency unfortunately does not seem to maintain an info@ address or contact form on your website for inquiries such as mine, so I have resorted to the expedient of writing to several addresses which turned up in the search results for your domain. I am hoping to be able to contact the agent who handles composer Brian Tyler. Any assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Again, my apologies for imposing on you in this way.

On August 10, I received the following from one of the people I had emailed:

I am the agent for Brian Tyler.  Is there something I can help you with?

I replied on the same day with this:

Thank you for getting back to me so promptly, and again, sorry for the sudden imposition. I have been trying to reach Mr. Tyler through the contact addresses given on his website for a couple of months now but have yet to receive any replies (other than returned error messages). I have an inquiry about his work on the soundtrack for the 2003 Sci-Fi Channel (Syfy) “Children of Dune” mini-series directed by Greg Yaitanes, specifically concerning the lyrics of the song “Inama Nushif”. I believe there is a slight... discrepancy in the information provided on Mr. Tyler’s website (in the CD liner notes written by Director Yaitanes) and am hoping for a clarification from Mr. Tyler. (I was able to contact Director Yaitanes but he was unable to provide any additional information.)

I realize this is an old issue and am also unsure whether you were Mr. Tyler’s agent at the time. I’m not asking for Mr. Tyler’s email address, only that you might forward my inquiry to him.

I heard nothing further from them, but on September 28 sent this:

I was hoping to have heard something back from you by now regarding my August 10 inquiry. Should I just assume that no response will be forthcoming?

Naturally, that prompted no response as well. I have subsequently sent messages directly to Tyler on MySpace and Facebook, again with no result. On October 14 I decided to try a new approach and sent a message to E! Online. (Message posted on the Hairy Ticks Blog here.) This has also resulted in no response to date.

It is interesting that I am not the first to have noticed the problem with Tyler’s claims about the origin of the lyrics. On the forums on the FILMTRACKS Modern Sountrack Reviews site, I found this comment posted in 2004:

Jessica (In Response to: Derek)
Re: The Official Lyrics by Brian Tyler!!!
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 (3:08 p.m.)

I was really glad when I found these official lyrics, because what the Landsraad had posted originally didn't make sense to me.

But where the heck is he getting all this Fremen? There isn’t enough of the language in the books for him to do this, is there? Someone point me to something more than the glossary at the back of the first book, because I’m not finding half these words in the glossary or the text at large. Right now, I tend to think he’s borrowing from somewhere else.

Ah, well. At least I can sing along.

Unfortunately “Jessica” seems to have been unfamiliar with the Dune Encyclopedia. I have yet to find any evidence of anyone else having pursued the matter further.