What have you Dune to me, Frank Herbert?

I decided to take up Audible on their 30-day trial the other day and chose, as my inaugural audio-book, Dune by Frank Herbert. I’m ashamed to say I never read it, despite being a self-professed science fiction freak. I know, I know, how could I not have read Dune, one of the greatest sci-fi book to ever grace the shelves of nerds and geeks alike? It just never happened but no time like the present, right? It also didn’t hurt that Dune was one of the more expensive books available on Audible and I wanted to make sure I was getting the most for my free book credit during my free trial (which, since it was free, meant I hadn’t actually paid anything). But mainly I chose Dune because I’d heard the book was fantastic.

Welllll, fantastic doesn’t do it justice. I just started Book II and am absolutely in awe of Herbert’s writing. It’s incredibly detailed, beautifully written, and wonderfully paced… a real page-turner. (Wait, what would be the audio-book version of ‘It’s a real page-turner’? Hmmm…. But I digress…)

Herbert’s writing was so fantastic it brought tears to my eyes.  Seriously, I started crying. Not because it was so good, but because my own writing was so bad by comparison. As I listened to his words all I could think about was how perfect his metaphors were, and how crude my own seemed. I began to hate Herbert and his stupid Dune for showing my writing for the hideous monster that it was.

And then I did a little research on this Herbert fellow and found out that he had a hard time getting his book published. In fact, he got rejected. Frequently. When he finally found a publisher, it was Chilton. As in the Chilton that specializes in automotive maintenance manuals.

The first edition of Dune was published by the same company that puts out car manuals. For some reason that made me feel better. I know it’s counter-intuitive; the logical conclusion should be: Oh my God, if the incredibly-written Dune got rejected nearly twenty times, what hope does my little novel ever have of being published? But I don’t see it that way. In my opinion, the real take-home message is Don’t ever give up. You KNOW Chilton had to be low on his list of potential book publishers; they print car part manuals for goodness sake. But Herbert didn’t give up when he got to their name on the list. He sent his manuscript off anyway, automotive manuals and target audiences be damned. And the effort paid off.

So thank you Frank Herbert for not giving up. Your words are brilliant and I stand humbled and inspired by them. I admit that next to your books I feel like a child coloring in a paint-by-number while a Monet or Picasso hangs over my head. But I suspect your first draft wasn’t much prettier in the very beginning. You stuck it out, polished it up, didn’t take no for an answer, and now I have Dune on my iPhone whispering in my ear as I do laundry. Thank you, Frank Herbert, for showing me how it’s done.

BB

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