Monday, October 18, 2021

The fact that Dune is such a great story is a significant contrast to the legacy of Frank Herbert.

My relationship with Frank Herbert is complicated. Can we separate the artist from the art? Or more appropriately, can I separate the writer from their great ideas and their book? None of what I do is logical. I am not Vulcan, and I suppose having said that, my open-eyed approach to enjoying the arts lends itself to hypocrisy. On one hand, I cannot bring myself to read Orson Scott Card for his obvious controversies with homosexuality. On the other hand, maybe because I learned of Frank Herbert's terrible views of homosexuals at a different period of my life, I can just dismiss the man as a bigot and think nothing of it, and then consume the products of his late estate and revel in his genius.

If you didn't know, Brian Herbert wrote about the strained relationship that his father, Frank, had with his brother Bruce. He even writes in Dreamer of Dune that when Beverly Herbert was on her deathbed, Frank discouraged Bruce from coming to see his own mother. Brian says, "Bruce had wanted to come afterward, but dad was delaying in giving him a time that would be convenient. My brother wondered, but did not say so to dad, if this had anything to do with his homosexuality, which our father never accepted."

There are also several first-hand accounts from people who knew Bruce, and they remembered him saying that he didn't speak with his father, because his father didn't like that he was gay. If memory serves, Bruce ended up dying of AIDS in the nineties. And (of course) there is other stuff you can find out if you dig (which I did). None of it made an unapologetic liberal and gay person like myself very happy. 

For example, Brian Herbert has written in as many words that his father wasn't just a Republican voter, but he was a Republican operative. While in his 30's, Frank worked for four Republican candidates. His most important employer was the US senator from Oregon, Guy Cordon, who was a bastion of hardline conservatism in a state that was tilting left. Cordon was pro-logging, pro-business, pro-military, anti-labor, anti-regulation, and a supporter of Joseph McCarthy. Herbert came to regret McCarthy's tactics, but Cordon was a "strong influence" on him.

So knowing all of that, I'm getting ready (like much of America) to watch the first half of Denis Villeneuve's Dune that is coming out at the end of the week. I'm looking forward to it, and I think it will be a beautiful adaptation of Frank's novel. However, I suppose that there is a wish inside of me that a better man had written it. Of course, there are people who love the man that he was. Those people are not my tribe, and just highlights how far apart many of us are on what we think being good and moral actually means.

Anyone else planning on watching Dune this weekend?


  1. I'm probably not going to watch it for a while and this doesn't really encourage me. As so many famous people have been cancelled, you really do have to separate art and artist. Otherwise you would drive yourself nuts trying to decide if you can watch, read, or listen to something.

  2. I'm having a hard time reconciling this myself. (Although, not with Dune as it hasn't really been on my radar.) I think of Harry Potter and the stuff that's lately come out about JK Rowling. I'm so disappointed. But I still have a soft spot for Harry Potter. Sigh.