Dune | Study Guide

Frank Herbert

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Frank Herbert | Biography


Early Life

American science fiction author Frank Herbert was born October 8, 1920, in Tacoma, Washington. As a child he was a book lover and an aspiring writer. He was seldom seen without a sack full of books, including works by science fiction authors Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age eight Herbert declared his desire to be a writer, to the amusement of his family, and 10 years late—in 1938—he left home to live with relatives in Salem, Oregon and work at a newspaper while he completed high school. During World War II he served as a photographer for the U.S. Navy, although he received a medical discharge after only six months. In the early 1940s he married Flora Parkinson. The couple had a daughter but divorced in 1945.

Writing Career

Herbert entered the University of Washington after the war. There he met Beverly Ann Stuart, whom he married in 1946. After neglecting to finish his university degree because he resisted taking classes on topics that did not interest him, Herbert tried to cobble together a living as a writer. He worked as a journalist and as the editor of a magazine, while also beginning to dabble in science fiction. He wrote short stories for publication in science fiction magazines and finally published his first novel, The Dragon in the Sea, in 1955. He began conceiving Dune just a few years later in 1959. Herbert traces the inspiration for Dune to an article he was working on at the time regarding an effort to use grasses to limit erosion of sand dunes. He was observing these vast sand dunes and considering how people were using plants to control a natural process such as erosion. He never published the article, but the idea blossomed into Dune. After being rejected by 20 publishers, the novel was published in 1965. It quickly became popular, despite—or perhaps because of—its complexity. It won the 1965 Nebula Award and tied for the 1966 Hugo Award—the two most prestigious honors in science fiction.

Herbert died on February 11, 1986, but remains one of the most influential and widely read science fiction writers of the latter half of the 20th century. Dune particularly remains one of the most popular science fiction novels of all time, having sold over 12 million copies in 14 languages. It was made into a feature film by director David Lynch in 1984 and adapted as a television miniseries for the Sci Fi channel in 2000. It spawned numerous sequels by the author as well as a series of prequels by his son Brian, in collaboration with author Kevin Anderson.
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