“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
- [Image courtesy: Otras musicas]
Frank Herbert was born on this day in Tacoma, Washington, USA in 1920. Today is the 92nd anniversary of his birth.
Frank’s mother came from a large Irish Catholic family (10 girls; 3 boys) (his invention of the Ben Gesserit for the Dune universe was likely an off shoot of the deep influence this gaggle of Aunts had on young Herbert’s life.) Frank’s father was a bus driver, security guard, salesman, motorcycle patrolman and farmer. The family did a lot of traveling around before they settled on the farm.
Young Frank knew what he wanted be early in life.
On the morning of his eighth birthday Frank Junior famously announced to his family: “I wanna be a author.” (sic.) That day he wrote his first short story, which he called “Adventures in Darkest Africa.” [Frank Herbert: The Works]
He was an explorer who thought nothing of paddling solo around Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands and back (200 miles) when he was ten or swimming across the Tacoma Narrows. He was also a great reader. “By the age of 12 he had, incredibly, already read the complete works of Shakespeare and discovered Ezra Pound.” [Frank Herbert: The Works]
Both Herbert’s parents were alcoholics and their drinking worsened as Frank entered his teen years. His sister, Patricia, was born when Frank was 13 and he took on parenting duties. By 1935 his parents were on the verge of a divorce. During high school he worked at his writing. He wrote short stories — he even wrote novel, a boilerplate western, that he published under a pen name. He got a part-time job at the Tacoma Ledger. But by November of 1938 the situation at home had become too much. He left home with his baby sister and went to live with an aunt and uncle in Salem, Oregon. He graduated from North Salem High School and became a newspaper journalist. After a stint as a Photographer in the US Navy during WWII (he received a medical discharge because of a cranial blood clot he developed after a fall) he returned to Oregon and worked as a copy editor for the Oregon Journal in Portland. He worked for a number of west coast newspapers in a variety of cities for next two decades.
Besides his work in journalism: he lectured at University of Washington; he was a social and ecological consultant in Vietnam and Pakistan; and he wrote, directed and produced the documentary “The Tillers” based on the work of Roy Posterman.
- [Image courtesy: Poor William’s Almanack]
Success on the fiction front was more difficult to come by. He had short stories published — his first was “The Survival of the Cunning,” a war story published in Esquire magazine. In 1952 Herbert published his first science fiction story, “Looking For Something,” in Startling Stories. It is about a stage hypnotist who discovers that the entire world is under alien hypnosis. Other short stories followed, but no publishers seemed interested when Herbert showed them Dune.
- The Dragon in the Sea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In 1956 Herbert’s first novel, The Dragon in the Sea was published. It had been serialized in Astounding Magazine as”Under Pressure“.
“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 it was not a major commercial one.” [Biblio.com]
While working on an article about sand dunes for the US Department of Agriculture in Florence, Oregon he got the idea of a sand dune so big that it could swallow up whole cities. In 1965, Dune was finished, a labor of love more than six years in the making. It was serialized in the magazine Analog then largely revised and expanded into book form. It was rejected 20 times before little Chilton Books — an auto repair manual publisher — took a chance on it.
- Dune cover art [Image courtesy: Book Wit]
Dune won the very first Nebula Award and was the co-winner of the Hugo Award. Published in 1965 it sets the scene for the Dune Series that follows — a series that is often considered the Lord of the Rings of Science Fiction. “Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family–and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.” [Amazon.com review]
” Dune was the first ecological science fiction novel, containing a multitude of big, inter-relating themes and multiple character viewpoints, a method which ran through all Herbert’s mature work. ” [Biblio.com]
Dune Messiah hit stores in 1969. Children of Dune (1976) was the first hardcover science fiction book to reach best-seller status. It was nominated for a Hugo Award. And the spice kept flowing… God Emperor of Dune, came out in 1981, followed by Heretics of Dune in 1984 and Chapterhouse: Dune in 1985.
Frank Herbert died of pancreatic cancer in 1986. But the Dune series lives on…Using Frank Herbert’s notes his son Brian Herbert has co-authored additional Dune sequels with Kevin J. Anderson.
- Frank Herbert Books (Photo credit: cobalt123)