Gateway Essentials: Frank Herbert

Frank Patrick Herbert was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1920, and educated at the University of Washington, Seattle. worked as a reporter and editor on a number of West Coast newspapers before becoming a full-time writer. He lived in Washington State until his death in 1986.

According to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction:

He began publishing sf with “Looking for Something?” for Startling Stories in April 1952, and during the next decade was an infrequent contributor to the sf magazines, producing fewer than twenty short stories (which nevertheless constituted a majority of his short fiction; he never made a significant impact with work below novel length); much of this material was assembled in various collections, including The Book of Frank Herbert (coll 1973) and The Best of Frank Herbert (coll 1975). At this time he also wrote one novel, The Dragon in the Sea (November 1955-January 1956 Astounding as “Under Pressure”; 1956; vt 21st Century Sub 1956; vt Under Pressure 1974), a much praised sf thriller concerning complex psychological investigations aboard a submarine of the Near Future whose Cold War mission is to steal oil from America’s foes. His emergence as a writer of major stature commenced with the publication in Analog from December 1963 to February 1964 of “Dune World”, the first part of his Dune series. It was followed by “The Prophet of Dune” (January-May 1965 Analog); the two were amalgamated into Dune (rev as fixup 1965), which won the first Nebula for Best Novel, shared the Hugo, and became one of the most famous of all sf novels.

For many people, of course, his biography is much simpler: ‘Frank Herbert wrote Dune’.

SF Masterworks hardback | SF Gateway eBook


As concise explanations go, that’s pretty hard to argue with, and it’s true that Dune and its five sequels represent the best place to start if you want to read Frank Herbert:


These are esential books if you want to understand Herbert’s contribution to the field, but they’re not the only shows in town. You could, for instance, try Hellstrom’s Hive, a very different take on Herbert’s thinking on ecology and human power structures.

SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook


And, of course, there’s always his Cold War thriller, The Dragon in the Sea or his novel of AI run amok on an alien colony, The Jesus Incident – both of which are published in our Gateway Essentials programme:


As ever, you can find more of Frank Herbert’s work via his Author page on the Gateway website and read about him in his entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.