Today we welcome Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson who are here to tell us about a newly published 700 page collection of Frank Herbert‘s stories. One commenter will win a hardback copy of this beautiful book which would make a great gift for any science fiction lover on your list.

A Journey Into the Universes of Frank Herbert

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews
by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

A reviewer for The New York Times once quipped that Frank Herbert’s head was so overloaded with ideas that it was likely to fall off. He was a repository of incredible, wondrous information, and a writer of fabulous stories — both at novel length and in shorter forms. His words captivated millions of people all over the world.

The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert is the largest volume of Frank Herbert’s short fiction that has been published to date — 697 pages of material. We are very pleased that Tor has published this collection, and we know it will make a fine Holiday gift for the legions of Frank Herbert’s fans.

While Frank Herbert is best known as a novelist, particularly for Dune, The Dragon in the Sea, Hellstrom’s Hive, Destination Void, and The White Plague, his short fiction appeared in numerous genre magazines for decades. Many of the stories were “test runs” for ideas he eventually developed into full novels.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsOne of the notable stories in this volume — “The Daddy Box” — is the only previously unpublished piece in the book. “The Daddy Box” is a touching tale about the relationship between a boy and his father, a relationship that does not start out well, until a paranormal creature called a “ferosslk” adds a surprising twist. In reading that story from the archives, Brian is reminded of his own relationship with his father, which was rocky at times in Brian’s childhood, but evolved to the point where the two of them became the best of friends as adults. (Brian described that relationship in detail in Dreamer of Dune, the biography of Frank Herbert. Dreamer of Dune, also published by Tor, includes background information on many of the short stories in this collection.

The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert showcases the wide range of Frank Herbert’s talent and imagination, and includes many stories that bear an interesting relationship to his magnum opus, Dune. The short story “Greenslaves” (1965) is an ecological thriller and an extrapolation of a future in which insects use a powerful from of artificial intelligence to avoid being eradicated by insecticides, such as DDT. Frank Herbert expanded this story into The Green Brain, his first novel written after Dune, which continued the serious ecological extrapolations. 

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsOther short fiction in the collection carries on the ecological theme, especially crises caused by finite resources. The short story “Seed Stock” (1970) describes a world with a purple ocean, where the primary food source is a creature like a shrimp. Frank Herbert liked to think in terms of important resources that were critical to the survival of humankind, and how political despots could use those resources to hold onto power. He sometimes spoke of “hydraulic despotism” in history, in which powerful leaders in the Middle East controlled water sources, and thereby controlled the people who needed that water. In Dune, of course, the finite resources are water and the valuable spice melange on the desert planet; in his first novel, The Dragon in the Sea, that vital resource is oil during wartime.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe collection also includes the story “Pack Rat Planet” (1954), in which Frank Herbert extrapolated his experiences in the Library of Congress, where he once researched speeches he wrote for a U.S. Senator from Oregon, Guy Cordon. The story describes a huge, underground Galactic Library that fills nearly the entire subsurface of the Earth. All inhabitants of the planet work in some fashion for the library, “pack rats” tending vast storehouses of useless information. This story was later expanded into the novel Direct Descent (1980). Also, in his last two novels in the DUNE Chronicles, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune, he writes of an incredible Bene Gesserit library on the planet Lampadas, which is destroyed in war, similar to the library at Alexandria.

Dune’s Bene Gesserit have a genetic memory — a concept based largely on the writings and teachings of Carl Gustav Jung, who spoke of a “collective unconscious,” an inborn set of “contents and modes of behavior” possessed by all human beings. Frank Herbert also explored that idea in his story “The GM Effect” (1965), in which access to such memories reveal unsavory information about heroic historical figures, including Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ. “Come to the Party” (1978, with F.M. Busby) deals with long-dormant technical abilities revealed when ancient racial memories are brought to the surface.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsIn “Committee of the Whole” (1965) Frank Herbert describes a homemade laser weapon, the secrets of which are released to the public by a madman: “One man could destroy an aerial armada with it, knock down ICBMs before they touched atmosphere, sink a fleet, pulverize a city.” This is a theme also prominent in the novel The White Plague, about the catastrophic consequences of uncontrolled genetic engineering, in which another madman intentionally unleashes a terrible plague upon the women of the world.

The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert is a real door-stopper of a collection (and will require a big piece of Holiday wrapping paper!), but Frank Herbert’s fans will be pleased to learn that there are even more stories than these. At seventeen, he analyzed the western fiction market by reading several boxes of books and magazines he had purchased at a used bookstore. A formula became apparent to him, and he used it to write a western story under a pseudonym. It sold to Street and Smith for $27.50, and at the time he was elated. But in later years he was not particularly proud of that story, and would never reveal to anyone what the title was, or what pseudonym he used. He also sold a couple of adventure stories in the 1940s — “The Jonah and the Jap,” published in Doc Savage (April, 1946), and “Yellow Fire,” published in Alaska Life (June, 1947). In addition, Frank Herbert wrote a number of unpublished short stories, exploring many different genres and markets available to him. Those will be released at a later date.

The stories in this collection cover the breadth of a great writer’s ideas, mapping out a distinguished career in the field of science fiction. He was a brilliant man who had a lot to say about important matters, so it’s always a treat to read something he wrote.

Copyright © 2014 by Herbert Properties LLC and DreamStar, Inc.

One commenter wins a hardback copy of The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert.