AskDefine | Define melange

Dictionary Definition

melange n : a motley assortment of things [syn: odds and ends, oddments, farrago, ragbag, hodgepodge, mishmash, mingle-mangle, hotchpotch, omnium-gatherum]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Alternative forms

Noun

  1. A collection containing a variety of miscellaneous things
    The room was a melange of comic books and posters.
  2. A Viennese coffee speciality, half steamed milk and half coffee.
  3. A fictional drug in Frank Herbert's science-fiction Dune series, used to lengthen life, flavor food, heighten awareness, probe the memories of one's ancestors, and induce prescience.

Synonyms

Translations

A collection containing a variety of miscellaneous things
Viennese coffee speciality
  • German: Melange

Extensive Definition

Melange is the name of the fictional drug (also known as [the] spice) central to the Dune series of science fiction novels by Frank Herbert, and derivative works.
The most essential and valuable commodity in the universe, melange is a geriatric drug that gives the user a longer lifespan, greater vitality, and heightened awareness; it can also unlock prescience in some subjects, depending upon the dosage and the consumer's physiology. This prescience-enhancing property makes interstellar travel possible. Melange comes with a steep price however: it is addictive, and withdrawal is a fatal process.

Description

Herbert is vague in describing the appearance of the spice. However, he hints at its color in Dune Messiah when he notes that Guild Navigator Edric "swam in a container of orange gas ... His tank's vents emitted a pale orange cloud rich with the smell of the geriatric spice, melange." Herbert also indicates fluorescence in God Emperor of Dune when the character Moneo notes, "Great bins of melange lay all around in a gigantic room cut from native rock and illuminated by glowglobes of an ancient design with arabesques of metal scrollwork upon them. The spice had glowed radiant blue in the dim silver light. And the smell — bitter cinnamon, unmistakable." Herbert writes repeatedly, starting in Dune, that melange possesses the odor of cinnamon.
In Dune, Lady Jessica notes that her first taste of spice "tasted like cinnamon." Dr. Yueh adds that the flavor is "never twice the same .. It's like life — it presents a different face each time you take it. Some hold that the spice produces a learned-flavor reaction. The body, learning a thing is good for it, interprets the flavor as pleasurable — slightly euphoric. And, like life, never to be truly synthesized." the "half-plant-half-animal deep-sand vector of the Arrakis sandworm." Gases are produced which result in "a characteristic 'blow,' exchanging the material from deep underground for the matter on the surface above it."
Collecting the melange is hazardous in the extreme, since rhythmic activity on the desert surface of Arrakis attracts the worms, which are four hundred meters in length on average, and very dangerous, capable of swallowing a mining crawler whole. Thus, the mining operation essentially consists of vacuuming it off the surface with a harvesting machine until a worm comes, at which time a carry-all aircraft lifts the mining vehicle to safety. The Fremen, who have learned to co-exist with the sandworms in the desert, harvest the spice manually for their own use and for smuggling off-planet.
Later in the series, an artificial method of producing the spice is discovered by the Bene Tleilax, who develop in secret the technology to produce melange in axlotl tanks. Still, the technology is not fully successful in pushing natural melange out of the marketplace.

Use

Spice is in general use all over the universe, and is a sign of wealth; in Dune, Duke Leto Atreides notes that of every valuable commodity known to mankind, "all fades before melange. A handful of spice will buy a home on Tupile." which is something of a source of pride amongst the Fremen and a symbol of their tribal bond. Paul Atreides, the main character in the original Dune novel, initially has green eyes, but after several years on Arrakis his eyes begin to take on the deep, uniform blue of the Fremen. On other planets, the addicted often use tinted contact lenses to hide this discoloration. In Dune, Paul sees two Guildsmen and notes: The taller of the two, though, held a hand to his left eye. As the Emperor watched, someone jostled the Guildsman's arm, the hand moved, and the eye was revealed. The man had lost one of his masking contact lenses, and the eye stared out a total blue so dark as to be almost black.
In both the 1984 film and 2000 miniseries versions of Dune, the eyes of spice users are shown as a luminous bright blue, with iris still distinct from sclera.
When aerosolized and used as an inhalant in extremely high dosages — the standard practice for Guild Navigators — the drug acts as a mutagen. In the first chapter of Dune Messiah, Guild Navigator Edric is described in his tank of spice gas as "an elongated figure, vaguely humanoid with finned feet and hugely fanned membranous hands — a fish in a strange sea."

References and notes

melange in Spanish: Melange
melange in French: Épice gériatrique
melange in Italian: Melange (Dune)
melange in Polish: Melanż
melange in Russian: Спайс

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

all sorts, assemblage, assortment, broad spectrum, conglomeration, gallimaufry, hash, hodgepodge, hotchpot, hotchpotch, jumble, magpie, mash, medley, mess, mingle-mangle, miscellany, mishmash, mix, mixed bag, odds and ends, olio, olla podrida, omnium-gatherum, pasticcio, pastiche, patchwork, potpourri, salad, salmagundi, sauce, scramble, stew, what you will
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