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Explore ‘Dune’ Author Frank Herbert’s Notes at Cal State Fullerton

The Pollak Library collection dives into how Herbert created the bestselling novel and pop culture phenomenon
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Fans of Frank Herbert’s 1965 best-selling science fiction series “Dune” can recount how Herbert shaped the concept of “Dune” into a bestselling novel, global box office hit and pop culture phenomenon through Cal State Fullerton’s Frank Herbert papers.

Housed within CSUF’s Pollak Library under The Willis E. McNelly Science Fiction Collections, Herbert’s manuscripts, notes and research files show how “Dune” — one of the first ecological science fiction works about power struggles and the impact humans have on planet Earth — and his other works evolved.

Pollak Library’s science fiction collections can show the science fiction genre’s evolution. Lisa Mix, director of Special Collections, compares Herbert’s manuscripts to a low-tech version of “track changes.”

“The manuscript is a working draft, with parts crossed out, and other things written in,” Mix said. “The research files contain Herbert’s notes, writings, and source materials on topics such as religion, ecology, and world building – all of which figured in ‘Dune.’ There is a large file of notes from the late 1950s for an article on the ‘Shifting Sand Dunes’ in Oregon that inspired the landscape of the planet Arrakis.”

Cal State Fullerton acquired the papers from Herbert in the late 1960s thanks to the late Willis E. McNelly, CSUF professor emeritus of English and a renowned science fiction scholar who compiled “The Dune Encyclopedia,” a 1984 companion to Herbert’s “Dune” series.

“He developed a friendship with Herbert and other science fiction writers, and was the driving force behind Cal State Fullerton’s vast science fiction collection which now bears his name,” Mix said. “McNelly’s working relationship with Herbert was especially close. Herbert lectured in McNelly’s science fiction classes, and McNelly edited the critically acclaimed ‘Dune Encyclopedia.’”