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Frank Herbert

On October 8, 1920, the world of science fiction took a turn for the better.  That's the day that sci-fi author Frank Herbert was born in Tacoma, Washington.  From that day on, the strange and fanciful world of Sci-Fi took off.

Herbert was an inquisitive child who couldn't learn enough about the world around him.  From early on, he was a voracious reader and carried around a Boy Scout pack filled with books.  He loved to read about the Rover Boys adventures, as well as the stories of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and the science fiction of Edgar Rice Burroughs. On his eighth birthday, Herbert stood on top of the breakfast table at his family home and announced,"I want to be an author."

His maternal grandfather, John McCarthy, said of the boy, "It's frightening.  A kid that small shouldn't be so smart."  When Herbert enrolled in college only to learn that he had to take several required courses instead of those that he was interested in, he dropped out.  He went to work as a professional photographer, a television cameraman, a radio news commentator, an oyster diver, a jungle survival instructor, a newspaper reporter, and an editor.

He was an early member of the environmentalist movement before there was any organization, and he was interested in both ecology and the management of earth resources.  After working as a reporter, writing about those topics for years, a new idea struck him.  If he were a science-fiction novelist, he could warn people about the dangers of pollution without being restricted by facts.

He set about writing his first novel, and he completed The Dragon in the Sea (1956), which was moderately successful.  He took the idea for a new novel while he was writing a magazine story on government experiments to control the shifting sands in the coastal town of Florence, Oregon.  What better setting for an alternate world, he thought.  So, for the next six years, he set about researching and writing it.  Finally, in 1965, he published Dune (1965), his masterpiece about a desert planet where people survive only because they have learned to conserve and recycle every possible trace of moisture.

Dune was one of the first sci-fi novels to imagine an entirely different world completely different from Earth.  It boasted different flora and fauna, geographical features, social classes, and religious beliefs.  It became a cult novel on college campuses around the country and went on to sell about 12 million copies in 14 languages.

Herbert, recognizing a good thing when he wrote it, wrote five Dune sequels, including Dune Messiah, Children of Dune, God Emperor of Dune, Heretics of Dune, and Chapterhouse: Dune.  All were international bestsellers, as were a number of his other science fiction novels, including The White Plauge and The Dosadi Experiment.  He spent much of the money that he made from his writing inventing various solar and wind cooling systems for his home.  He also served as a consultant in ecological studies to various foundations, as well as to the countries of South Vietnam and Pakistan.

Herbert, who once said, "I refuse to be put in the position of telling my grandchildren: 'Sorry, there's no more world for you.  We used it all up,'" died on February 11, 1986, of pancreatic cancer.

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