Frank Herbert

When a wise man does not understand, he says: "I do not understand." The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.

Frank Herbert (8 October 192011 February 1986) was an American science-fiction writer, most famous for his Dune novels.

QuotesEdit

Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson. ~ Princess Irulan in Dune

General sourcesEdit

  • Briefly, the scientists working the Oregon coast found that sand could be controlled only by the use of one type of grass (European beach grass) and by a system of follow-up plantings with other growth. The grass sets up a beachhead by holding down the sand in an intricate lacing of roots. This permits certain other plants to gain a foothold. The beach grass is extremely difficult to grow in nursuries, and part of the solution to the dune problem involved working out a system for propagating and handling the grass.
    • From "They Stopped the Moving Sands", part of a July 11th, 1957 letter by Frank Herbert to his agent Lurton Blassingame, outlining an article on how the USDA was using poverty grasses to protect Florence, Oregon from harmful sand dunes. The article was never published, but did develop several of the ideas that led to "Dune". Quoted in The Road to Dune (2005), p. 266.
  • This group is composed of those for whom belief in saucers is tantamount to religion...They believe men from outer space will step in on Earth "before it's too late," put a stop to the atomic bomb threat "by their superior powers," and enforce perpetual peace "for the good of the universe"...
    • On UFO cultists. In "Flying Saucers: Fact or Farce?", San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, "People" supplement, October 20, 1963. Reprinted in The Maker of Dune: Insights of a Master of Science Fiction, edited by Tim O'Reilly. Berkley Books, 1987.
  • It's rooted in the fears to which all men are heir and, thus, deserves sympathy, not censure or laughter. The dream may be out of touch with history, but it's a good dream, and it doesn't appear to have been used to bilk gullible widows out of their savings. Never mind that we have a consistent record of slaughtering our messiahs. Look beyond the wacky arguments to the motivation — that sense of brotherhood which is all that has ever saved mankind from going over the brink.
    • On belief in UFOs, in In "Flying Saucers: Fact or Farce?", San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, "People" supplement, (20 October 1963); reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly
  • The thing we must do intensely is be human together. People are more important than things. We must get together. The best thing humans can have going for them is each other. We have each other. We must reject everything which humiliates us. Humans are not objects of consumption.
    We must develop an absolute priority of humans ahead of profit — any humans ahead of any profit. Then we will survive. …
    Together.
    • "Introduction" to New World or No World (1970), an anthology of environmental writing.
  • There are no uncharted isles here where we can run away to sunshine and sparkling white beaches. We have just this one

world, and on these pages we're beginning to get a feeling for the gigantic physical project confronting us. Our awakening is touched with dismay; we must come to terms with this world or it will terminate us. When we speak of defending the environment, we are speaking of defending our own lives.

    • "Introduction" to New World or No World (1970)
  • Ecology is a dirty seven-letter word to many people. They are like heavy sleepers refusing to be aroused. "Leave me alone! It's not time to get up yet!"
    • "Introduction" to New World or No World (1970)
  • When I was quite young... I began to suspect there must be flaws in my sense of reality. It seemed to my dim sense of confusion that things often blended one into another, and the Law of Excluded Middle merely opened up a void wherein anything was possible. But I had been produced to focus on objects (things) and not on systems (processes).
    • "Doll Factory, Gun Factory" (1973), essay reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly.
  • If we define Futurism as an exploration beyond accepted limits, then the nature of limiting systems becomes the first object of exploration.
    • "Doll Factory, Gun Factory".
  • The current utopian ideal being touted by people as politically diverse (on the surface, but not underneath) as President Richard M. Nixon and Senator Edward M. Kennedy goes as follows — no deeds of passion allowed, no geniuses, no criminals, no imaginative creators of the new. Satisfaction may be gained only in carefully limited social interactions, in living off the great works of the past. There must be limits to any excitement. Drug yourself into a placid "norm." Moderation is the key word
    • "Science Fiction and a World in Crisis" in Science Fiction: Today and Tomorrow (1974) edited by Reginald Bretnor.
  • By the time we awaken faintly to the awareness that we have been socially conditioned, we find ourselves so indoctrinated that it's difficult, if not impossible, to break the old patterns...Survival pressures demanding that we evolve, grow, and change, however, continue to proliferate. We don't want to change, but the floodgates open abruptly and we are overwhelmed.
    Crisis!
    • "Science Fiction and a World in Crisis".
  • Science fiction, because it ventures into no man's lands, tends to meet some of the requirements posed by Jung in his explorations of archetypes, myth structures and self-understanding. It may be that the primary attraction of science fiction is that it helps us understand what it means to be human.
    • "Men on other planets", essay in The Craft of Science Fiction, (1976), edited by Reginald Bretnor.
  • If you ask "Should we be in space?" you ask a nonsense question. We are in space. We will be in space.
    • "Man's Future in Space", (1981), essay reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly.
  • The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action in mind.
    • "The Plowboy Interview: Frank Herbert", in Mother Earth News 69, May/June 1981.


  • We are questioning more than the philosophy behind our dependence upon limited and limiting systems. We question the power structures that have grown up around such systems.
    • Without Me, You're Nothing: The Essential Guide to Home Computers (1981), co-written with Max Barnard
  • Technology is both a tool for helping humans and for destroying them. This is the paradox of our times which we're compelled to face.
    • "Conversations in Port Townsend",

interview with Tim O'Reilly, 1983. Reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly.

  • What I'm saying in my books boils down to this: Mine religion for what is good and avoid what is deleterious. Don't condemn people who need it. Be very careful when that need becomes fanatical.
    • "Conversations in Port Townsend", interview

with Tim O'Reilly, 1983. Reprinted in The Maker of Dune : Insights of a Master of Science Fiction (1987), edited by Tim O'Reilly.


  • A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating. You're there now doing the thing on paper. You're not killing the goose, you're just producing an egg. So I don't worry about inspiration, or anything like that. It's a matter of just sitting down and working. I have never had the problem of a writing block. I've heard about it. I've felt reluctant to write on some days, for whole weeks, or sometimes even longer. I'd much rather go fishing. for example. or go sharpen pencils, or go swimming, or what not. But, later, coming back and reading what I have produced, I am unable to detect the difference between what came easily and when I had to sit down and say, 'Well, now it's writing time and now I'll write.' There's no difference on paper between the two.
    • As quoted in Shoptalk: learning to write with writers edited by Donald Morison Murray, Cook Publishers, 1990.

Dune (1965)Edit

These are just a couple sample quotes, for more quotes from this novel see Dune
  • I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
    • Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
  • Muad'Dib learned rapidly because his first training was in how to learn. And the first lesson of all was the basic trust that he could learn. It's shocking to find how many people do not believe they can learn, and how many more believe learning to be difficult. Muad'Dib knew that every experience carries its lesson.
    • Princess Irulan in The Humanity of Muad'Dib

The Green Brain (1966)Edit

  • Without coming fully awake, Rhin felt his presence beside her, experienced a primitive demand for his protective masculinity. She nestled against him, murmured, "its so hot. Doesn’t it ever cool off?"
  • "I only believe in certain kinds of hell," she said, and again she was looking at him, the green eyes steady.
    "To each his own, eh?"
    "You said it; I didn’t."
  • It wasn’t the kind of answer he'd expected — too subtly penetrating and leaving too much uncommitted. He reminded himself that it was difficult to control uncommitted people. Once a man had invested his energies, he could be twisted and turned at will... but if the man held back, conserved those energies...
  • A person cries out against life because it's lonely, and because life's broken off from whatever created it. But no matter how much you hate life, you love it, too. It's like a caldron boiling with everything you have to have — but very painful to the lips.
  • Is it possible this triviality is a code of some sort? the Brain wondered. But how could it be ... unless there's more to these emotional inconsequentials and this talk of a God than appears on the surface?
    The Brain had begun its career in logics as a pragmatic atheist. Now doubts began to creep into its computations, and it classified doubt as an emotion.
  • "A slave is one who must produce wealth for another," the Brain said. "There is only one true wealth in all the universe. I have given you some of it. I have given your father and your mate some of it. And your friends. This wealth is living time. Time. Are we slaves because we have given you more time to live?"

The Santaroga Barrier (1968)Edit

  • " Life exists immersed in a sea of unconsciousness", he reminded himself.
    "In the drug, these people gain a view of that sea".
    • Chapter Ten.
  • We sift reality through screens composed of ideas. (And such ideas have their roots in older ideas.) Such idea systems are necessarily limited by language, by the ways we can describe them. That is to say: language cuts the grooves in which our thoughts move. If we seek new validity forms (other laws and other orders) we must step outside language.
    • Chapter Ten.

The Godmakers (1972)Edit

A novel expanding four short stories, first published in serial form between May 1958 and February 1960
  • When a wise man does not understand, he says: "I do not understand." The fool and the uncultured are ashamed of their ignorance. They remain silent when a question could bring them wisdom.

Dune Genesis (1980)Edit

No matter how finely you subdivide time and space, each tiny division contains infinity...
The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.
"Dune Genesis", an essay in Omni, Vol. 2, No. 2 (July 1980), p. 72
  • Don't give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero's facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero. And sometimes you run into another problem.
    It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced — in a word, insane. … Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.
    It is the systems themselves that I see as dangerous.
  • No matter how finely you subdivide time and space, each tiny division contains infinity.
    But this could imply that you can cut across linear time, open it like a ripe fruit, and see consequential connections. You could be prescient, predict accurately. Predestination and paradox once more.
    The flaw must lie in our methods of description, in languages, in social networks of meaning, in moral structures, and in philosophies and religions — all of which convey implicit limits where no limits exist. Paul Muad'Dib, after all, says this time after time throughout Dune.
  • Do you want an absolute prediction? Then you want only today, and you reject tomorrow. You are the ultimate conservative. You are trying to hold back movement in an infinitely changing universe. The verb to be does make idiots of us all.
  • In the beginning I was just as ready as anyone to fall into step, to seek out the guilty and to punish the sinners, even to become a leader. Nothing, I felt, would give me more gratification than riding the steed of yellow journalism into crusade, doing the book that would right the old wrongs.
    Reevaluation raised haunting questions.I now believe that evolution, or deevolution, never ends short of death, that no society has ever achieved an absolute pinnacle, that all humans are not created equal. In fact, I believe attempts to create some abstract equalization create a morass of injustices that rebound on the equalizers. Equal justice and equal opportunity are ideals we should seek, but we should recognize that humans administer the ideals and that humans do not have equal ability.
  • Reevaluation taught me caution. I approached the problem with trepidation. Certainly, by the loosest of our standards there were plenty of visible targets, a plethora of blind fanaticism and guilty opportunism at which to aim painful barbs.
    But how did we get this way? What makes a Nixon? What part do the meek play in creating the powerful? If a leader cannot admit mistakes, these mistakes will be hidden. Who says our leaders must be perfect? Where do they learn this?
  • The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.

The Bureau of Sabotage seriesEdit

Whipping Star (1969)Edit

  • Where is the weapon with which I enforce your bondage? You give it to me every time you open your mouth.
    • "Laclac Riddle"; p. 68
  • You can say things which cannot be done. This is elementary. The trick is to keep attention focused on what is said and not on what can be done.
    • "BuSab [Bureau of Sabotage] Manual"; p. 87
  • Learning a language represents training in the delusions of that language.
    • "Gowachin Aphorism"; p. 111
  • Providence and Manifest Destiny are synonyms often invoked to support arguments based on wishful thinking.
    • "From The Wreave Commentary"; p. 136

The Dosadi Experiment (1977)Edit

  • That is one of the Law's purposes, of course: to test the qualities of those who choose to employ it.
    • Gowachin Aritch to Jorj X. McKie; p. 68
  • Does a population have informed consent when a ruling minority acts in secret to ignite a war, doing this to justify the existence of the minority's forces? […] failure to provide full information for informed consent on such an issue represents an ultimate crime.
    • "From The Trial of Trials", p. 246
  • Does a population have informed consent when that population is not taught the inner workings of its monetary system, and then is drawn, all unknowing, into economic adventures?
    • "From The Trial of Trials", p. 252
  • Governments always commit their entire populations when the demands grow heavy enough. By their passive acceptance, these populations become accessories to whatever is done in their name.
    • Gowachin Mrreg to Jorj X. McKie; p. 297

Quotes about HerbertEdit

  • There is a tirelessness about the man and his works. Part guru, part Ancient Mariner, Frank Herbert showed us how to make SF think.
    • John Clute, Science Fiction : A Visual Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley, 1995 (p. 164).

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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Last modified on 23 April 2014, at 01:21