It’s been fifty years since one of the most popular and revered of all science fiction novels was published—Frank Herbert’s Dune. In addition to being a rip-roaring epic of galactic empire and Machievellian politics, Dune was a clarion call to pay attention to the ecology of the planet that the human race occupies. In its riveting portrayal of the desert planet Arrakis, we got to see a reflection of our treatment of Earth.
I pretty much only read SF in those days and I caught up with Dune five years after its publication. It was a terrific yarn and an exercise in world-building second only to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I was so engrossed, I read its huge bulk in about two days—and I’m a pretty slow reader. Amazingly, Herbert’s manuscript was rejected by dozens of New York publishers. The book was ultimately published by Chilton, which had never before issued a novel because Chilton specialized in auto repair manuals.
In 1977, when I was the Editor of the Twin Cities Reader, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. Frank Herbert was coming to town on a book tour and I assigned myself the interview. I spent four hours with him on a cold, rainy March afternoon—lunch in the old North Star Room, the interview in his hotel room, and a walk in the rain. He was a gregarious, funny, ferociously smart man and I enjoyed every minute of our little encounter. The published interview and the raw interview are both in my book Four Science Fiction Masters. You can read the opening in the sample on its Amazon page. The picture of Herbert above was taken during the interview.
There’s been some good coverage of Dune and Herbert in the press lately. Here are three articles worth checking out: