by Michael Brown, staff writer
Happy birthday to the late Frank Herbert, who would have been 94 today. The man whose name would become synonymous with epic science-fiction was born October 8, 1920, in Tacoma, Washington. After a brief stint as a journalist, he joined the United States Navy’s Seabees for six months as a photographer before being medically discharged. He then went on to attend the University of Washington, studying Creative Writing. He didn’t graduate because he wanted to only to take the curriculum that interested him, and so he returned to journalism, working at the Seattle Star, the Oregon Statesman, and finally becoming writer and editor of the venerable San Francisco Examiner.
In 1959, Herbert threw himself into researching a novel he called Dune, a sci-fi tale that came about after a failed article on Oregon sand dunes that gave him a nearly inexhaustible supply of material. Six years of work later, Herbert submitted his finished product to several different magazines, all of which but one rejected him. Chilton Book Publishers took it, and their editor had commented, “I might be making the mistake of the decade, but …”
That “mistake” would go on to be a critical success, earning the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. Herbert would eventually quit newspaper writing to focus on his new career as a science-fiction writer. Throughout the 1980s, he wrote his sweeping Dune saga, and even helped launch Terry Brooks into stardom with Brooks’ first novel, Sword of Shannara. The year 1984 saw the release of the film version of Dune. While it was received poorly in the U.S., it was an instant hit in Europe and Japan. A later Sci-Fi Channel remake in 2000 titled Frank Herbert’s Dune met with more success. A sequel miniseries titled Children of Dune, based on the novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, followed. Both received Emmy awards and generated the highest ratings ever seen on the network up to that time.
In 1985, after his wife’s death, Herbert finished what would be his last single work, Chapterhouse Dune, which tied up many of the saga’s story threads.
Frank Herbert died February 11, 1986, in Madison, Wisconsin of a massive pulmonary embolism while recovering from surgery for pancreatic cancer.
In recent years, Frank Herbert’s son Brian Herbert and author Kevin J. Anderson have added to Herbert’s Dune universe, after finding notes left behind by Frank Herbert and discovered over a decade after his death. Brian Herbert and Anderson have written two prequel trilogies, Preludes of 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, titled Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune, that complete the original series based on Frank Herbert’s own Dune 7 outline.
SCIFI.radio fondly remembers Frank Herbert today, and we are thankful for his epic, tour de force, classic science-fiction juggernaut.
Michael Brown is a comics nerd and a father who lives in small town Tennessee. When he’s not making his players mad in his “Shadowrun” RPG or experimenting with new and inventive uses of duct tape on his children, you can find him checking out the latest comics and movies for SCIFI.radio!