F is for Frank Herbert


After talking about my favourite music for E, I thought I’d move on to one of my favourite authors.

Frank Herbert was born in Tacoma, Washington on October 8th, 1920. He left home at the age of 18, going to live with his aunt and uncle in Oregon. After graduating from High School, he took on a number of jobs with newspapers including photography. During World War II, he was a photographer in the US Navy but left with a medical discharge.

After the war, Herbert went back to school, enrolling at the University of Washington where he met Beverly Ann Stuart at a creative writing class in 1946. The two were later married and had two sons, Brian and Bruce.

He was introduced by some friends to the work of various people like Freud, Jung and Heidigger and he also learned about the fundamentals of Zen Buddhism. He found more work for various newspapers and kept on writing.

His favourite science fiction authors included HG Wells and Poul Anderson, who wrote another of my favourite novels, Tau Zero. After a number of years reading science fiction, he started writing stories in that genre, publishing several in the early to mid-fifties. Interestingly, he also wrote speeches for a senator.

Frank Herbert began writing Dune in 1959. The research and writing of that book took six years.science fiction was still quite a small market at the time and reviewers such as JG Ballard and others dismissed the book as pure fantasy. Even those who saw the wonderful skill in the writing, thought the subject matter a waste of his ability.

They have all been proven wrong by the massive success that the book eventually earned. People in the millions have read and loved the story of feuding great houses in the far future.  I mean, I loved it so much I even played this awful console version of it, and it was awful. I couldn’t go on past a certain point as it was so bad.

I came to Dune first through David Lynch’s film, which I saw in the late 80s. I was a bit young at that time to appreciate some of the intrigue but, the same way I was with Blake’s 7, I knew that it was great; I just knew I didn’t get it yet. So, when I was about 19 I finally got around to reading the book.

Wow, what a story. I was wrapped up in the fantastic breadth and depth of the Universe that had been created and the host of marvellous characters that inhabited it. I made my way through the entire six book series, finding new things to enjoy in each one. I read two of the prequel trilogies written by Frank’s son and Kevin J Anderson and their two sequels that take place after Frank Herbert’s original six books.

That’s a lot of pages and a lot of time to spend in one Universe. I don’t know of any author’s vision (I’ve nearly read the same number of Anne Rice’s books but not quite) that has taken my attention so completely. As such, Frank Herbert’s world has had an influence on my own writing. The main character in The Crossing, Paul Armstrong, is a young boy plucked out of general obscurity to travel across space to a great destiny. This gives him certain things in common with the young Paul Atreides. The name Paul is also a nod to my father and Armstrong is a call back to one of our most famous space travellers.

I also gave Paul a job on my fictional spacecraft, the X5, supervising the purification of waste water on board.

This gentleman will always be Paul Atreides for me. I do wonder what Denis Villeneuve and Legendary will do with their new film version of my favourite book but one things for sure. They will have a hard task matching the brilliant cast that was assembled for Lynch’s version.

I hope this new film or TV series is given the space to explore fully the vast themes of the books, especially the proliferation of messiah stories and the subject of planetary ecology.  The themes of Herbert’s original book are still so important today.

Outside of the Dune universe, I also enjoyed Frank Herbert’s other works. Two that stand out, probably as a result of my morbid fascination with insects, are The Green Brain and Hellstrom’s Hive. The latter is particularly horrific in places. I’ll just say ‘stumps’ and that’ll be enough for anyone familiar with it to probably become a little queasy.

So, that’s F. I love Frank Herbert’s work and it is a big influence on my own. When I reread Dune last year, I was amazed by the quality of some of the prose that I had not noticed before. That’s the beauty of it for me. I discover new things on each successive experience. I cannot hope to create something on that level, but just reading it makes me want to develop my own ideas fully.

If you’ve enjoyed this, then please check out my other entries in the Blogging from A to Z challenge.

A is for Austin (Blogging from A to Z)

B is for Belize 

C is for Cinema

D is for Dalian

E is for Eagles

Thanks for reading,

All the best


21 thoughts on “F is for Frank Herbert

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