Yes… the Frank Herbert, no other than the author of DUNE, The Green Brain, etc. Of course, at the time I didn’t have a clue as to who he was, only that Mr. Reynolds and a couple of other students seemed pretty excited at getting to hear him lecture about writing Science Fiction.
You need to remember, up to this point I had nothing to do with fiction, science or otherwise, the only reading material I was into was ‘How things work’ sort of books. That and biographies. (I really wanted to be an astronaut, a curse of being born in the early 60’s and watching Armstrong and the others bounce around on the Moon, I guess.)
Needless to say, I’m setting there in this packed lecture room, it’s standing room only… and I’m wondering just who this guy was that everyone seemed so excited to meet and hear. Minutes pass, then in walks this guy wearing a brown sports jacket, jeans and this little French Beanie. I’m thinking, Hey, if this guy can walk around wearing a little French hat, then he has to be worth listening to.
So I listened… for the next hour or so.
By the end of his Q & A session, I was hooked. All I wanted to do with my life is what this guy was doing… write, write, and write some more! To me this was it, it couldn’t get much better. (Of course, this was before the dreaded Rejection Slip realization.)
At the end of his Q & A Mr. Herbert held a book signing session. People were jumping up and carrying around stacks of this Dune book of his, which oddly enough, I hadn’t even heard of as of yet but was going to check out at my earliest opportunity… As for our little group, the only book of Mr. Herberts we had was a dogeared copy of The Green Brain… and everyone was way too nervous to go up and get it signed. So what did I do? Me, mister shy, mister wallflower, I volunteered as quickly as possible and literally sprinted down to the stage to beat everyone. Mr. Herbert must have seen just how quickly I had arrived because he sort of smiled, took the book I offered, and said hello. I stammered and stuttered for a few minutes, he nodded politely the entire time, commenting on how old and worn out the book was I’d given him, mentioned that they still sell newer versions, then looked up and asked me the most earth-shattering question you can imagine… “Have you ever considered writing yourself?”
I remember looking at him sort of dumbfounded and shaking my head yes, oh yeah, I was smiling that smile too- you know the kind, like I needed to be brought back to the facility before dinner for my next round of electro-shock therapy… anyway, with that and a quick but firm handshake, I walked away… knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that come hell or high water, that if it was the last thing I ever did, I was going to be a writer.
I’m still trying.