From the far-southern United States, the two brightest stars in the night sky stairstep up the south at dawn. The brighter one is Sirius, which is visible from the entire country. The other is Canopus, which is just above the horizon.
Canopus was host to the planet Arrakis in the novel Dune. Its author was born 100 years ago today, in Tacoma, Washington.
Frank Herbert was interested in books from an early age, and in science fiction. And he was a free thinker. He didn’t graduate from college, for example, because he didn’t want to take the required classes to complete a major.
Herbert spent three decades as a journalist. He published his first science-fiction work in 1952. He didn’t make much money, though, so his wife wrote ads for department stores to support them.
Dune was first published in a magazine in the early 1960s. Herbert then rewrote it and shopped it to book publishers. About 20 rejected it before it was picked up by a company that mainly sold auto-repair manuals.
Dune told the story of galactic intrigue. It centered on Arrakis, a desert planet that contained the most valuable commodity in the galaxy: a spice that made interstellar navigation possible. The novel was one of the first to promote the idea of protecting the environment.
Dune became one of the best-selling sci-fi novels in history. Roughly 20 million copies have been sold — all set on a world around the second-brightest star in the night sky.
Script by Damond Benningfield