Biography of Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert was an American science fiction novelist, short-story writer, lecturer, and journalist. He is best known for the Dune saga, a series of six novels set in the distant future and taking place over millennia. Dune (1965), the first novel in the saga, is one of the best-selling science fiction novels of all time.

Born in Tacoma, Washington in 1920, Herbert had a brilliant but troubled upbringing, including running away from home, lying about his age to write for a newspaper, and never officially graduating from university because he refused to study things that didn’t interest him. He had three marriages and three children, including the author Brian Herbert. He met his second wife, Beverly, in a creative writing class at the University of Washington. In their marriage of 37 years, Beverly was the primary breadwinner, giving up her own creative writing career to support Herbert’s. They were a writing team; Beverly discussed every aspect of Herbert’s ideas with him and edited his writing.

Herbert was always interested in becoming an author, and the inspiration for Dune came from a combination of research on the Oregon Dunes and Herbert’s hobby of cultivating psilocybin mushrooms. Dune was not an immediate success, and Herbert’s writing was rejected multiple times. As his works gained fame in the 1970s and onward, they inspired an expansion of the science fiction genre, as well as popularizing ideas of ecology and environmentalism.

Herbert gained broader fame with the rest of the Dune saga and ended up writing nearly 30 novels and short story collections. His works often engage with complex themes (such as the intersection of survival, religion, politics, and economics) and are critical of governments and those who are attracted to power. Herbert died in 1986 of a pulmonary embolism. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006, and the franchise started by the Dune saga now includes over 20 novels (some set to be published in the coming years), multiple movie adaptations, video games, board games, and an enormous fanbase inspired by the world Herbert created.

Study Guides on Works by Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert’s Dune is a science fiction novel about Paul Atreides, the 15-year-old son of Duke Leto who travels to the desert planet Arrakis. After House Atreides is overthrown, Paul becomes a messiah-like figure to the native people of Arrakis,...

Frank Herbert is among the most widely read and celebrated science fiction authors ever. In 1965's Dune, Herbert wrote one of the most enduring science fiction novels ever. The follow-up to that novel is entitled Dune Messiah and was published in...