Frank Herbert

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Part of the series on
Frank Herbert's
Dune novels


Dune Messiah
Children of Dune
God Emperor of Dune
Heretics of Dune
Chapterhouse Dune

Major groups
and organizations

House Corrino
House Atreides
House Harkonnen
Bene Gesserit
Bene Tleilax
Spacing Guild

Important places

Giedi Prime
Salusa Secundus

Major characters

Paul Atreides
Jessica Atreides
Shaddam IV Corrino
Irulan Corrino
Vladimir Harkonnen
Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen
Alia Atreides
Leto II Atreides
Ghanima Atreides
Farad'n Corrino

Frank Patrick Herbert (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was a critically and commercially successful American science fiction author. He is best known for the novel Dune, and the five other novels in the series that followed it. The Dune saga dealt with themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics, and power, and is considered to be one of the greatest science fiction tales ever written, and as a classic of literature in general.


Frank Herbert was born in 1920 in Tacoma, Washington. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be a writer, and in 1939 he lied about his age in order to get his first newspaper job on the Glendale Star.

There was a temporary hiatus to his writing career as he served in the United States Navy as a photographer during World War II. He married Flora Parkinson in 1941, but divorced her in 1945 after fathering a daughter.

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, and Stuart had sold a story to Modern Romance magazine. They married in Seattle, Washington on June 20, 1946. Their first son, Brian Herbert, was born in 1947. Frank Herbert did not graduate from college, according to Brian, because he only wanted to study what interested him and so didn't complete the required courses.

After 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.

Herbert began reading science fiction in the forties and in the 1950s began to write it, with short stories appearing in Startling Stories and other magazines. During the next decade he published nearly 20 short stories.

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 sixties. 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 Florence, Oregon, but he got too involved in it and ended up with far more raw material than needed for a single article. The article was never written, but it did serve as the seed for the ideas that led to Dune.

After six years of research and writing, Dune was completed by 1965. Far longer than commercial science fiction of the time was supposed to be, it was serialized in Analog magazine in two separate parts, 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. But Chilton, a minor publishing house in Philadelphia, gave Herbert a $7500 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 ecological science fiction novel, containing a multitude of big, inter-relating themes and multiple character viewpoints, a method that ran through all Herbert's mature work.

The book was not an instant best seller. By 1968 Herbert had made $20,000 from it, far more than most science-fiction novels of the time were generating, but this was 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 and interdisciplinary studies at the University of Washington (1970–2). 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.

Template:QuoteSidebar By 1972 he was able to become a full-time writer and during the 1970s and 1980s he enjoyed considerable commercial success as an author. He lived between Hawaii and Washington state. 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.

But his change in fortune was shaded by tragedy. In 1974, Beverly underwent an operation for cancer that gave her ten more years of life, but adversely affected her health. She died on February 7, 1984. In his afterword to Chapterhouse Dune, Herbert wrote a moving eulogy for his wife.

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. The same year Herbert published the fifth book in the Dune saga, Heretics of Dune. Finally, following the death of Beverly, Herbert married Theresa Shackelford later in the year.

In 1986 Herbert published Chapterhouse: Dune, which tied up many of the saga's story threads. This was to be Herbert's final single work — he died of pancreatic cancer on February 11, 1986, in Madison, Wisconsin, at the age of 65.

Continuation of the series

In recent years, Brian Herbert (Frank's son) and Kevin J. Anderson have begun adding to the Dune universe, using notes left behind by Frank Herbert on both the history of the Dune universe before the events of Dune and the novel he had planned to follow Chapterhouse: Dune. They are now preparing two post-Chapterhouse novels (Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune) based on the "Dune 7" outline Frank Herbert left behind at his death. See also 'Controversies' below.

Ideas and themes

Template:QuoteSidebar 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 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 a guru. Indeed such was the devotion of some of his readers that Frank Herbert was at times accused of trying to create a cult.

There are a number of key themes in Herbert's work:

Frank Herbert carefully refrained from offering his readers firm answers to many of the questions he explored.

Status and impact in science fiction

Dune is the best-selling science fiction novel, and the Dune saga is the best-selling science fiction series, ever. In addition, Dune has received widespread critical acclaim, winning the Nebula Award in 1965 and sharing the Hugo Award in 1966. 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 Robert Heinlein's 1961 Stranger in a Strange Land, Herbert's 1963 Dune represented a move toward a more literary approach to the science fiction novel. Before this period, it was often said that all a SF 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 SF novel. Frank Herbert was a great populariser 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 subgenre 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.
  • Finally 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 — lovingly including glossaries, quotes, documents and histories — to bring his universe alive to his readers, and no science fiction novel before it had such a deeply realized reality.

Herbert wrote over twenty novels after Dune that some regard as being of variable quality. Books like The Green Brain, The Santaroga Barrier and Hellstrom's Hive 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 sub-par.

Herbert never equalled the critical acclaim he received from Dune. Neither his sequels to Dune nor any of his other books won a Hugo or Nebula, 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, and that The Dosadi Experiment lacked an epic quality fans had come to expect.

To conclude, 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]."


Since his death the main controversy among his fans is whether the new Dune books by Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson should be considered canonical. Critics opine that these books do not have the quality of the original series, and lack the articulation of complex ideas about human life that were such a concern of Frank Herbert. Brian Herbert claims that his father had asked him to write further Dune novels (particularly the story of the Butlerian Jihad). Some interpret this to mean that the new books follow Frank's wishes and intent, but others disagree. Some fans doubt that Brian Herbert and Anderson even have the notes and outlines they claim to have found left behind by Frank Herbert - they cite the descrepancies in the writing and how conveniently these notes surfaced just as the project to write the new books began.

Film adaptations

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.

Dune was made into a TV mini-series by the Sci Fi Channel (United States) in 2000. This was commercially successful and the Sci-Fi channel continued the Dune saga with a further mini-series in 2003 entitled Children of Dune, which merges the plots of the novels Dune Messiah and Children of Dune




  • The Dragon in the Sea: Serial publication: Astounding, November 1955 – January 1956 First edition: New York: Doubleday, 1956, under the title The Dragon in the Sea. Also titled Under Pressure.
  • 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
  • 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: Berkley, 1966 revised in 1978
  • The Eyes of Heisenberg: Serial publication: Galaxy, June – August 1966, as "Heisenberg's Eyes."First edition: New York: Berkley, 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: Berkley, 1968
  • Dune Messiah: serial publication: Galaxy, July – November 1969. First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1970.
  • Whipping Star: Serial publication: Worlds of If, January – April 1970. First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1970.
  • Soul Catcher: Serial publication: none First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1972.
  • The Godmakers: Serial publication: Astounding, May 1958, "You Take the High Road," Astounding, May 1959 "Operation Haystack," and Fantastic, February 1960, "The Priests of Psi." 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.
  • Children of Dune: Serial publication: Analog, January – April 1976, "Children of Dune" First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976.
  • 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.
  • God Emperor of Dune: Serial publication: none First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1981.
  • The White Plague: First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1982.
  • The Lazarus Effect (with Bill Ransom): First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1983.
  • Heretics of Dune: First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1984.
  • Chapterhouse: Dune: First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1985.
  • Man of Two Worlds (with Brian Herbert): First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1986.
  • The Ascension Factor (with Bill Ransom): First edition: New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1988.

Short fiction collections

  • The Worlds of Frank Herbert: First edition: New York: Ace, 1971
    • Contains: "The Tactful Saboteur," "By the Book," "Committee of the Whole," "Mating Call," "Escape Felicity," "The GM Effect," "The Featherbedders," "Old Rambling House," and "A-W-F Unlimited."
  • The Book of Frank Herbert: First edition: New York: DAW Books, 1973 (paper)
    • Contains: "Seed Stock," "The Nothing," "Rat Race," "Gambling Device," " Looking for Something," "The Gone Dogs," "Passage for Piano," "Encounter in a Lonely Place," "Operation Syndrome," and "Occupation Force."
  • The Best of Frank Herbert, also published as:The Best of Frank Herbert 1952 - 1964 and The Best of Frank Herbert 1965 - 1970
    • Contains: "Looking for something?," "Nightmare Blues," "Dragon in the Sea (extract)," "Cease Fire," ""Egg and Ashes," "Marie Celeste Move."
    • "Committee of the Whole," "Dune (extract)," "By the book," "The Primitives," "The Heaven Makers (extract)," "Seed Stock."
  • The Priests of Psi
    • Contains: "Try to Remember," "Old Rambling House," "Murder Will In," "Mindfield," "The Priests of Psi."
  • Eye, (Jim Burns (Illustrator)): First edition: New York: Berkley, 1985.
    • Contains: "Rat Race," "Dragon in the Sea," "Cease Fire," "A Matter of Traces," "Try to Remember," 'The Tactful Saboteur," "The Road to Dune," "By the Book," Seed Stock," Murder Will In," "Passage for Piano," "Death of a City," and "Frogs and Scientists."

Short fiction

  • 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: Berkley, 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 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 by Keith Laumer, Poul Anderson, Frank Herbert, Gordon Dickson and Harlan Ellson. New York: Doubleday, 1970
  • Encounter in a Lonely Place in The Book of Frank Herbert New York: DAW Books, 1973.
  • Gambling Device in The Book of Frank Herbert New York: DAW Books, 1973.
  • Passage for Piano in The Book of Frank Herbert New York: DAW Books, 1973.
  • The Death of a City in 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.
  • Feathered Pigs Destinies, Oct/Dec 1979.
  • The Road to Dune in Eye New York: Berkley 1985
  • Frogs and Scientists in Eye New York: Berkley 1985


Non Fiction Books:

  • New World or No World (editor) First edition: New York: Ace Books, 1970 (paper)
  • Threshold: The Blue Angels Experience First edition: New York: Ballantine, 1973 (paper) (companion to documentary of same name about Blue Angels flight team)
  • Without Me, You're Nothing (with Max Barnard) First edition: New York: Pocket Books, 1981 (trade paper)

Essays and introductions

  • Introduction to Saving Worlds, by Roger Elwood and Virginia Kidd. New York: Doubleday, 1973 (reissed by Bantam Books under the title The Wounded Planet)
  • Introduction: Tomorrow's Alternatives? in Frontiers 1: Tomorrow's Alterntives, 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, pg. 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 in 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 pg. 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)

Other publications


  • Carthage: Reflections of a Martian, in Mars, We Love You, ed. Jane Hipolito and Willis E, McNelly. New York: Doubleday, 1971.

Some Audio Recordings

  • Dune: The Banquet Scene New York: Caedmon Records, 1977.
  • Sandworms of Dune New York: Caedmon Records, 1978.


Books about Frank Herbert and Dune

  • Frank Herbert, by Timothy O'Reilly Serial publication: none First edition: New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980.
  • The Dune Encyclopedia, compiled and edited by Dr. Willis E, McNelly Serial publication: none First edition: New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1984 (trade paper).
  • The Maker of Dune, edited by Timothy O'Reilly Serial publication: none First edition: New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1987 (trade paper).
  • Frank Herbert, by William Touponce Serial publication: none First edition: Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988 ISBN 0-8057-7514-5.
  • Dreamer of Dune : The Biography of Frank Herbert, by Brian Herbert Serial publication: none First edition: New York: Tor Books, 2003.