An Interview with Brian Herbert, Navigator of Dune


Author Brian Herbert and cover detail from Navigators of Dune.

Being the son of a science fiction master cannot be easy.

Brian Herbert has always handled it with utmost respect and grace, carrying on his father Frank’s legacy into a new century.

I first met Brian Herbert in 1999 when he and Kevin J. Anderson launched their first book, Dune: House Atreides, at a University Bookstore event in Seattle, WA. Frank Herbert, the bestselling author of the science fiction masterpiece Dune, had attended the University of Washington—even meeting his wife there—and the bookstore was the perfect place to launch the first new Dune novel in fourteen years.

Dune: House Atreides hit the New York Times list, a testament to the strength of the Dune universe after a fourteen year gap between books. Best of all though, Dune experienced a resurgence of sales again, a new generation reading the masterpiece that has always been the cornerstone of science fiction.

Now, seventeen years later, Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have published Navigators of Dune, their fourteenth co-written Dune novel. It is the final book in the Great Schools of Dune trilogy, set 10,000 years before Dune and revealing the history of the space-folding Navigators.

Below is an interview with Herbert concerning the new book, fanaticism, and maintaining his father’s legacy.


UNBOUND WORLDS: Navigators of Dune is in bookstores this week. It is the final book in the Great School’s set of books. What made you want to tell the history of the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats, the Navigators, etc.?

BRIAN HERBERT: Even though my father’s Dune-series novels are very detailed, we realized that much more could be written about the formation of the Great Schools of Dune, including the Bene Gesserit (which we wrote about in Sisterhood of Dune), the Mentats (Mentats of Dune) and the Spacing Guild (Navigators of Dune). In these three novels we have included the formation of two additional great schools, the Swordmasters and the Suk doctors. These schools were formed in a legendary, formational time in the Dune universe, 10,000 years before the setting of Frank Herbert’s classic novel. He left so many tantalizing clues that it has been fascinating to delve deeper and see where the stories might have gone, if he had written them himself. We have tried very hard to remain true to Frank Herbert’s vision, and to write stories that are all tied together, in a cohesive Dune canon.

UW: When delving into the history set 10,000 years before Dune, what was the hardest thing for you to achieve overall in the new novels?

BH: It is always difficult to write new novels when the fans already know how the big events in history will end. The fans already know the big picture – i.e. that machines enslaved humans, until humans fought back in a jihad and won — but the readers don’t have the details, the characterizations and human events that we include in new novels. It is our challenge to make these novels interesting and realistic, so that they not only fit into the established history, but they are also good stories in their own right.

UW: Fanaticism has always played a role in the Dune universe, especially from Dune Messiah onward. It also exists in Navigators of Dune. Do you think this is an aspect of the human race that will always be present? If so, what do you consider the best way to combat it?

BH: History shows that fanaticism tends to develop and thrive under certain conditions, until a more powerful authority puts it down. With respect to modern fanaticism, the extremists are using modern technology – especially the internet — to spread their anger and hatred. This is not only limited to Islamic terrorists; there are other groups who receive less publicity. Inevitably, many government authorities will seek to curtail the internet activities of extremists, so that they cannot communicate so easily – but when the concerted effort is made to stop the spread of extremist ideology, it might be too late to avert a huge disaster.

UW: There have been rumors that Navigators of Dune will be the last Dune novel. Is this true? If not, where would you like to explore next in the Dune universe?

BH: Navigators of Dune is the last novel we have under contract, but we recently completed a new short story, “Dune: The Red Plague,” which should be available for fans to read this month. We also have another short story in mind, for inclusion in a science fiction anthology.

UW: Dune is beloved by millions. When it comes to its legacy, what are you most proud of as the son of Frank Herbert?

BH: We are pleased to have been able to continue Frank Herbert’s vision after his death, writing new novels and short stories in his brilliantly-conceived, remarkable series. We have worked hard to maintain the integrity of the series, and the fan reaction has been tremendous, making our first novel, Dune: House Atreides, a runaway best seller. Our new novels have reawakened interest in the series, and as a result many people are reading Frank Herbert’s Dune and his 5 sequels for the first time. I also wrote in detail about the life of Frank Herbert in my biography of him, Dreamer of Dune, which was a Hugo Award finalist. My father was the most fascinating, complex man I have ever met, and his fans have told me that they appreciate this very personal story that I wrote about him. The biography includes the love story of my parents, Beverly and Frank Herbert, the origins of Dune, and my effort to understand a man I did not think I liked – until I saw heroic and loving dimensions of him when I was a young adult, and he became my best friend.


Navigators of Dune by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson is in fine bookstores now!