Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8 1920 – February 11 1986) was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author. Although also a short story author, he is best known for his novels, most notably Dune and its five sequels. The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, deals with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics and power. Dune itself is the "best-selling science fiction novel of all time," and the series is widely considered to be among the classics in the genre.
Frank Herbert was born October 8 1920
to Frank Patrick Herbert Sr. and Eileen McCarthy Herbert. He graduated from high school in 1938, and in 1939 he lied about his age in order to get his first newspaper
job at the Glendale Star
There was a temporary hiatus in his career as he served in the U.S. Navy's Seabees for six months as a photographer during World War II until he was given a medical discharge. He married Flora Parkinson in San Pedro, California in 1941. They had a daughter, Penny (b. February 16 1942), but divorced in 1945.
After the war he attended the University of Washington, where he met Beverly Ann Stuart at a creative writing class in 1946. They were the only students in the class who had sold any work for publication; Herbert had sold two pulp adventure stories to magazines, the first to Esquire in 1945, and Stuart had sold a story to Modern Romance magazine. They married in Seattle, Washington on June 20 1946. They had two sons, Brian Patrick Herbert (b. June 29 1947, Seattle, Washington), a best-selling novelist, and Bruce Calvin Herbert (b. June 26 1951, Santa Rosa, California), a gay rights activist who died from AIDS-related illness in 1993.
In 1947 Frank Herbert sold his first science fiction story, "Looking for Something", to Startling Stories.
Frank Herbert did not graduate from college, according to his son, Brian, because he wanted to study only what interested him and so did not complete the required courses. After leaving college he returned to journalism and worked at the Seattle Star and the Oregon Statesman; he was also a writer and editor for the San Francisco Examiner's California Living magazine for a decade.
His career as a novelist began with the publication of The Dragon in the Sea in 1955, where he used the environment of a 21st century submarine as a way to explore sanity and madness. The book predicted worldwide conflicts over oil consumption and production. It was a critical success but not a major commercial one.
Herbert began researching Dune in 1959 and was able to devote himself more wholeheartedly to his writing career because his wife returned to work full time as an advertising writer for department stores, becoming the main breadwinner during the 1960s. Herbert later related in an interview with Willis E. McNeilly that the novel originated when he was supposed to do a magazine article on sand dunes in the Oregon Dunes near Florence, Oregon, but he became too involved in it and ended up with far more raw material than needed for a single article. The article, entitled "They Stopped the Moving Sands," was never written, but it did serve as the seed for the ideas that led to Dune.
Dune took six years of research and writing to complete. Far longer than commercial science fiction of the time was supposed to be, it was serialized in Analog magazine in two separate parts ("Dune World" and "Prophet of Dune"), in 1963 and 1965. It was then rejected by nearly twenty book publishers before finally being accepted. One editor prophetically wrote back "I might be making the mistake of the decade, but..." before rejecting the manuscript.
Chilton, a minor publishing house in Philadelphia known mainly for its auto-repair manuals, gave Herbert a $7,500 advance, and Dune was soon a critical success. It won the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1965 and shared the Hugo Award in 1966. Dune was the first major ecological science fiction novel, containing a multitude of sweeping, inter-relating themes and multiple character viewpoints, a method that ran through all Herbert's mature work.
The book was not an instant bestseller. By 1968 Herbert had made $20,000 from it, far more than most science fiction novels of the time were generating, but not enough to let him take up full-time writing. However, the publication of Dune did open doors for him. He was the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's education writer from 1969 to 1972 and lecturer in general studies and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Washington (1970 – 1972). He worked in Vietnam and Pakistan as social and ecological consultant in 1972. In 1973 he was director-photographer of the television show The Tillers.
By 1972, Herbert retired from writing for newspapers and became a full-time writer. During the 1970s and 1980s, Herbert enjoyed considerable commercial success as an author. He divided his time between homes in Hawaii and Washington's Olympic Peninsula; his home on the peninsula was intended to be an "ecological demonstration project". During this time he wrote numerous books and pushed ecological and philosophical ideas. He continued his Dune saga, following it with Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, and God Emperor of Dune. Other highlights were The Dosadi Experiment, The Godmakers, The White Plague and the books he wrote in partnership with Bill Ransom: The Jesus Incident, The Lazarus Effect, and The Ascension Factor which were sequels to Destination: Void.
Herbert's change in fortune was shaded by tragedy. In 1974, Beverly underwent an operation for cancer. She lived ten more years, but her health was adversely impacted by the surgery. In the midst of this, Herbert was the featured speaker at the Octocon II science fiction convention at the El Rancho Tropicana in Santa Rosa, California in October 1978. Beverly Herbert died on February 7 1984, the same year that Heretics of Dune was published. In his afterword to 1985's Chapterhouse Dune, Frank Herbert wrote a moving eulogy for his wife of 38 years.
1984 was a tumultuous year in Herbert's life. In the same year that his wife died, his career took off with the release of David Lynch's film version of Dune. Despite high expectations, a big-budget production design and an A-list cast, the movie drew mostly poor reviews in the United States. However, despite a disappointing response in the USA, the film was a critical and commercial success in Europe and Japan.
After Beverly's death, Herbert married Theresa Shackleford in 1985, the year he published Chapterhouse Dune, which tied up many of the saga's story threads (though ending on a cliffhanger intended to lead into his planned Dune 7). This would be Herbert's final single work (the anthology Eye was also published that year, and Man of Two Worlds was published in 1986). He died of a massive pulmonary embolism while recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer on February 11 1986 in Madison, Wisconsin age 65.
Ideas and themes
Frank Herbert used his science fiction novels to explore complex ideas involving philosophy, religion, psychology, politics and ecology, which have inspired many of his readers to become interested in these areas. The underlying thrust in Frank Herbert's work was his fascination with the question of human survival and evolution. Frank Herbert has attracted a sometimes fanatical fanbase, many of whom have tried to read everything Frank Herbert has written, fiction or non-fiction, and see Frank Herbert as something of an authority on the subject matters of his books. Indeed such was the devotion of some of his readers that Frank Herbert was at times asked if he was starting a cult, something he was very much against.
There are a number of key themes in Herbert's work:
- A concern with leadership. He especially explored the human tendency to slavishly follow charismatic leaders. He delved deeply into both the flaws and potentials of bureaucracy and government.
- Herbert was probably the first science fiction author to popularize ideas about ecology and systems thinking. He stressed the need for humans to think both systematically and long term.
- The relationship between religion, politics and power.
- Human survival and evolution: Herbert writes of the Fremen, the Sardaukar, and the Dosadi, who are molded by their terrible living conditions into dangerous super-races.
- Human possibilities and potential: Herbert offered Mentats, the Bene Gesserit and the Bene Tleilax as different visions of human possibilities.
- The nature of sanity and madness. Frank Herbert was interested in the work of Thomas Szasz and the anti-psychiatry movement. Often, Herbert questions, "What is sane?", and while there are clearly insane behaviors and psychopathies as evinced by characters (Piter De Vries for instance), it is often suggested that "normal" and "abnormal" are relative terms which humans are sometimes ill-equipped to apply to one another, especially on the basis of statistical regularity.
- The possible effects and consequences of consciousness altering chemicals, such as Spice in the Dune saga.
- How language shapes thought. More specifically, Frank Herbert was influenced by Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics.
- Sociobiology. How our instincts unconsciously influence our behavior and society.
- Learning, teaching and thinking.
Frank Herbert carefully refrained from offering his readers firm answers to many of the questions he explored.
Status and impact in science fiction
and the Dune
saga constitute one of the world's best-selling science fiction series and novels; Dune
in particular has received widespread critical acclaim, winning the Nebula Award
in 1965 and sharing the Hugo Award in 1966, and is frequently considered one of the best science fiction novels ever, if not the best.. According to contemporary Robert A. Heinlein
, Herbert's opus was "powerful, convincing, and most ingenious."
Dune is also considered a landmark novel for a number of reasons:
- Like Heinlein's 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land, Herbert's 1963 novella and 1965 novel, Dune, represented a move toward a more literary approach to the science fiction novel. Before this period, it was often said that all a science fiction novel needed to be successful was a great technological idea. Characterization and great story took a distant second place.
- Dune is a landmark of soft science fiction. Herbert deliberately suppressed technology in his Dune universe so he could address the future of humanity, rather than the future of humanity's technology. Dune considers the way humans and their institutions might change over time.
- Dune was the first major ecological science fiction novel. Frank Herbert was a great popularizer of scientific ideas; many of his fans credit Frank Herbert for introducing them to philosophy and psychology. In Dune he helped popularize the term ecology and some of the field's concepts, vividly imparting a sense of planetary awareness. Gerald Jonas explains in the New York Times Book Review: "So completely did Mr. Herbert work out the interactions of man and beast and geography and climate that Dune became the standard for a new sub-genre of 'ecological' science fiction." As popularity of Dune rose, Herbert embarked on a lecture tour of college campuses, explaining how the environmental concerns of Dune's inhabitants were analogous to our own.
- Dune is considered truly epic world building. The Library Journal reports that "Dune is to science fiction what The Lord of the Rings is to fantasy." Frank Herbert imagined every facet of his creation. He lovingly included glossaries, quotes, documents, and histories, to bring his universe alive to his readers. No science fiction novel before it had such a deeply realized reality.
Herbert wrote more than twenty novels after Dune that are regarded as being of variable quality. Books like The Green Brain, The Santaroga Barrier seemed to hark back to the days before Dune, when a good technological idea was all that was needed to drive a sci-fi novel. And some fans of the Dune saga are critical of the follow-up novels as being subpar.
Herbert never again equalled the critical acclaim he received for Dune. Neither his sequels to Dune nor any of his other books won a Hugo or Nebula Award, although almost all of them were New York Times Bestsellers. Some felt that Children of Dune was almost too literary and too dark to get the recognition it may have deserved; others felt that The Dosadi Experiment lacked an epic quality that fans had come to expect.
Also largely overlooked because of the concentration on "Dune" was Herbert's 1973 novel, Hellstrom's Hive, with its minutely worked-out depiction of a human society modeled on social insects, which could be counted a major utopia/dystopia.
Malcolm Edwards in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction wrote:
Much of Herbert's work makes difficult reading. His ideas were genuinely developed concepts, not merely decorative notions, but they were sometimes embodied in excessively complicated plots and articulated in prose which did not always match the level of thinking ... His best novels, however, were the work of a speculative intellect with few rivals in modern science fiction.
A film of the novel, Dune
, was directed by David Lynch
in 1984. Although panned by many fans and film critics, Frank Herbert was pleased with the movie. It has done well on video and DVD.
The Sci Fi Channel produced a commercially successful 2000 television miniseries called Frank Herbert's Dune. The Dune saga continued with a sequel miniseries in 2003 entitled Frank Herbert's Children of Dune, which combined the novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.
Production is underway at Paramount Pictures for a new film based on Dune, directed by Peter Berg and with the participation of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson. The studio hopes the remake will be a "tentpole film," and potentially lead to a new franchise based on Herbert's series.
Continuation of the Dune series
In recent years, Frank Herbert's son Brian Herbert
and author Kevin J. Anderson
have begun adding to the Dune universe
, in part using notes left behind by Frank Herbert and discovered over a decade after his death. Brian Herbert and Anderson have written two prequel trilogies
(Prelude to Dune
and Legends of Dune
) exploring the history of the Dune
universe before the events within Dune
, as well as two post-Chapterhouse Dune
novels that complete the original series (Hunters of Dune
and Sandworms of Dune
) based on Frank Herbert's own Dune 7
- Dune: Serial publication: Analog, December 1963 – February 1964 (Part I, as "Dune World"), and January – May 1965 (Parts II and III, as "The Prophet of Dune"). First edition: Philadelphia: Chilton Books, 1965.
- Dune Messiah: Serial publication: Galaxy, July – November 1969. First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1970.
- Children of Dune: Serial publication: Analog, January – April 1976, "Children of Dune". First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976.
- God Emperor of Dune, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1981.
- Heretics of Dune, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1984.
- Chapterhouse: Dune, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1985.
- The Dragon in the Sea: Serial publication: Astounding, November 1955 – January 1956. First edition: New York: Doubleday, 1956. Also titled Under Pressure and 21st Century Sub,
- The Green Brain: Serial publication: Amazing, March 1965, under the title "Greenslaves." First edition: New York: Ace, 1966.
- Destination: Void: Serial publication: Galaxy, August 1965, as "Do I Wake or Dream?"First edition: New York: Berkeley, 1966 revised in 1978.
- The Eyes of Heisenberg: Serial publication: Galaxy, June – August 1966, as "Heisenberg's Eyes." First edition: New York: Berkeley, 1966.
- The Heaven Makers: Serial publication: Amazing, April – June 1967. First edition: New York: Avon, 1968
- The Santaroga Barrier: Serial publication: Amazing, October 1967 – February 1968. First edition: New York: Berkeley, 1968
- Whipping Star: Serial publication: Worlds of If, January – April 1970. First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1970.
- Soul Catcher, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.
- The Godmakers: Serial publication: "You Take the High Road", Astounding, May 1958, "Missing Link", Astounding, February 1959, "Operation Haystack", Astounding, May 1959 and "The Priests of Psi" Fantastic, February 1960. First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.
- Hellstrom's Hive: Serial publication: Galaxy, November 1972 – March 1973, "Project 40." First edition: New York: Doubleday, 1973.
- The Dosadi Experiment: Serial publication: Galaxy, May – August 1977 "The Dosadi Experiment". First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1977.
- The Jesus Incident (with Bill Ransom): Serial publication: Analog, February 1979.
- Direct Descent: Serial publication: Astounding, December 1954, "Packrat Planet". First edition: New York: Ace Books, 1980.
- The White Plague, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1982.
- The Lazarus Effect (with Bill Ransom), New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1983.
- Man of Two Worlds (with Brian Herbert), New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1986.
- The Ascension Factor (with Bill Ransom), New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988.
Short fiction collections
- The Worlds of Frank Herbert, London: New English Library, 1970.
- The Book of Frank Herbert, New York: DAW Books, 1973.
- The Best of Frank Herbert, London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1975.
- The Priests of Psi, London: Gollancz Ltd, 1980.
- Eye (Jim Burns, illustrator), New York: Berkeley, 1985.
- "Survival of the Cunning," Esquire, March 1945.
- "Yellow Fire," Alaska Life (Alaska Territorial Magazine), June 1947.
- "Looking for Something?" Startling Stories, April 1952.
- "Operation Syndrome," Astounding, June 1954. also in T.E. Dikty's Best Science Fiction Stories and Novels, 1955 series
- "The Gone Dogs," Amazing, November 1954.
- "Packrat Planet," Astounding, December 1954.
- "Rat Race," Astounding, July 1955.
- "Occupation Force," Fantastic, August 1955.
- "The Nothing," Fantastic Universe, January 1956.
- "Cease Fire," Astounding, January 1956.
- "Old Rambling House," Galaxy, April 1958.
- "You Take the High Road," Astounding, May 1958.
- "A Matter of Traces," Fantastic Universe, November 1958.
- "Missing Link," Astounding, February 1959. also in Author's Choice, ed. Harry Harrison, New York: Berkeley, 1968.
- "Operation Haystack," Astounding, May 1959.
- "The Priests of Psi," Fantastic, February 1960.
- "Egg and Ashes," Worlds of If, November 1960.
- "A-W-F Unlimited," Galaxy, June 1961.
- "Try to Remember," Amazing, October 1961.
- "Mating Call," Galaxy, October 1961.
- "Mindfield," Amazing, March 1962.
- "The Mary Celeste Move," Analog, October 1964.
- "The Tactful Saboteur," Galaxy, October 1964.
- "Greenslaves," Amazing, March 1965.
- "Committee of the Whole," Galaxy, April 1965.
- "The GM Effect," Analog, June 1965.
- "Do I Wake or Dream?" Galaxy, August 1965.
- "The Primitives," Galaxy, April 1966.
- "Escape Felicity," Analog, June 1966.
- "By the Book," Analog, August 1966.
- "The Featherbedders," Analog, August 1967.
- "The Mind Bomb" (aka "The Being Machine"), Worlds of If, October 1969.
- "Seed Stock," Analog, April 1970.
- "Murder Will In," The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1970.
- "Project 40" (three installments), Galaxy, November 1972 – March 1973. also in Five Fates, New York: Doubleday, 1970.
- "Encounter in a Lonely Place," The Book of Frank Herbert, New York: DAW Books, 1973.
- "Gambling Device," The Book of Frank Herbert New York, DAW Books, 1973.
- "Passage for Piano," The Book of Frank Herbert New York, DAW Books, 1973.
- "The Death of a City," Future City, ed. Roger Elwood. Trident Press: New York, 1973.
- "Come to the Party" with F. M. Busby, Analog, December 1978.
- "Songs of a Sentient Flute," Analog, February 1979.
- "Frogs and Scientists," Destinies, Ace Books, August-September 1979.
- "Feathered Pigs," Destinies, Ace Books, October-December 1979.
- "The Road to Dune," Eye, New York: Berkeley 1985.
- New World or No World (editor), New York: Ace Books, 1970 (paper).
- Threshold: The Blue Angels Experience, New York: Ballantine, 1973 (paper). Companion to documentary of same name about Blue Angels flight team.
- Without Me, You're Nothing (with Max Barnard), New York: Pocket Books, 1981 (hardcover).
Essays and introductions
- Introduction to Saving Worlds, by Roger Elwood and Virginia Kidd. New York: Doubleday, 1973. Reissued by Bantam Books as The Wounded Planet.
- "Introduction: Tomorrow's Alternatives?" in Frontiers 1: Tomorrow's Alternatives, ed. Roger Elwood. New York: Macmillan, 1973.
- Introduction to Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Heitz, Herbert, Joor McGee. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973.
- " Listening to the Left Hand", Harper's Magazine, December 1973, pp. 92 – 100.
- "Science Fiction and a World Crisis" in Science Fiction: Today and Tomorrow, ed. Reginald Bretnor. New York: Harper and Row, 1974.
- "Men on Other Planets", The Craft of Science Fiction, ed. Reginald Bretnor. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.
- "The Sky is Going to Fall", in Seriatim: The Journal of Ecotopia, No. 2, Spring 1977, pp. 88 – 89. (slightly different article appeared in The San Francisco Examiner "Overview" column, July 4, 1976.)
- "The ConSentiency and How it Got That Way", Galaxy, May 1977 (may be considered as a fiction story and therefore in the "Original Single Story" section)
- " Dune Genesis", Omni, July 1980.
Significant newspaper articles
- "Flying Saucers: Fact or Farce?", San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, people supplement, October 20, 1963.
- "2068 A.D.", San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, California Living section, July 28, 1968.
- "We're Losing the Smog War" (part 1). San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, California Living section, December 1, 1968.
- "Lying to Ourselves About Air" (part 2). San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, California Living section, December 8, 1968.
- "You Can Go Home Again." San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, California Living section, March 29, 1970. (Refers to some of Herbert's childhood experiences in the Northwest)
- "Carthage: Reflections of a Martian", Mars, We Love You, ed. Jane Hipolito and Willis E. McNelly. New York: Doubleday, 1971.
- Sandworms of Dune, New York: Caedmon Records, 1978.
- Dune: The Banquet Scene, New York: Caedmon Records, 1979.
- The Battles of Dune, New York: Caedmon Records, 1979.
- The Truths of Dune "Fear is the Mindkiller", New York: Caedmon Records, 1979.
Limited bibliography by universe
Destination: Void universe
Books about Frank Herbert and Dune
- Cliffs Notes on Herbert's Dune & Other Works, by L David Allen, Lincoln, NE: Cliffs Notes, 1975, ISBN 0-8220-1231-6
- Frank Herbert, by Timothy O'Reilly Serial publication: none First edition: New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980. Online version of this out-of-print book
- Starmont Reader's Guide 5: Frank Herbert, by David M Miller, Mercer Island, WA: Starmont, 1980, ISBN 0-916732-16-9
- The Dune Encyclopedia, compiled and edited by Dr. Willis E. McNelly, New York: Berkeley Publishing Group, 1984 (trade paper), ISBN 0-425-06813-7 (US edition).
- The Maker of Dune, edited by Timothy O'Reilly, New York: Berkeley Publishing Group, 1987 (trade paper).
- Dune Master: A Frank Herbert Bibliography, by Daniel JH Levack and Mark Willard, Westport, CT: Meckler, 1988, ISBN 0-88736-099-8
- SparkNotes: Dune, Frank Herbert, by Jason Clarke, New York: Spark Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-58663-510-7
- Dreamer of Dune : The Biography of Frank Herbert, by Brian Herbert, New York: Tor Books, 2003.
- The Science of Dune, by Kevin R. Grazier, PhD, Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2008, ISBN 1933771283