Vonda McIntyre: The Frank Herbert Memorial Sunset Watch

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Vonda McIntyre: The Frank Herbert Memorial Sunset Watch

Postby SandRider » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:11 pm

The Frank Herbert Memorial Sunset Watch by Vonda N McIntyre
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Some years ago, Frank Herbert and Dave Hartwell and I planned to go out for sushi in Seattle. But the sushi restaurant faces south, and as we got together it became obvious that the sunset was going to be spectacular. We changed plans in midstride and went out along the ship canal, past the Ballard Locks to a row of west-facing restaurants at Shilshole.

I don't remember why we chose the aggressively mediocre restaurant instead of one of the really good restaurants along that stretch (Anthony's is my favorite), but at least they were perfectly willing to let us sit at the window table for a couple of hours, talking and laughing and gossiping and drinking wine and watching the amazing sunset of orange and purple and red and fluorescent yellow.

I didn't know that I'd never see Frank again. Later that year he was diagnosed with cancer. I didn't believe it would take him -- he thought he would beat it, and Frank had an amazing energy and drive and humor that usually led him right to what he wanted. (He always said that the company that made Dune had filmed enough footage for a really good fifteen-hour miniseries; and I believe if he'd lived, he'd've persuaded them to re-edit it to that form.)

But the disease did take him. A year later Hartwell was in town again, and suggested that we go out to Shilshole for a Frank Herbert Memorial Sunset Watch. So we did.

But the sky was clear, and as sunset approached it looked like the sun would disappear quietly. Disappointed but philosophical, we drank a glass of wine in Frank's honor.

Just before the sun touched the peaks of the Olympics, a whole bunch of little clouds appeared right in front of the sun, and nowhere else.

They caught the evening light and fragmented it into flames of orange and purple and red and fluorescent yellow.

The sun vanished; the sky turned indigo; the clouds disappeared.

We lifted our glasses and bid Frank goodbye.
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Re: Vonda McIntyre: The Frank Herbert Memorial Sunset Watch

Postby SandRider » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:12 pm

Science Fiction Studies
#40 = Volume 13, Part 3 = November 1986
NOTES AND CORRESPONDENCE


Frank Herbert, 1920-86

Last week's clear sky in Seattle gave little promise of repeating the incredible sunset a friend and I observed in the company of Frank Herbert last summer. Nevertheless, we returned to the Ballard locks on the western edge of Seattle to conduct a Frank Herbert Memorial sunset watch.

But toward dusk, a few small clouds appeared over the Olympic mountains and settled over the dark peaks. They hovered over the face of the Sun, creating a brilliant sunset. We toasted Frank with champagne as the Sun's edge vanished behind the mountains. As soon as the last pink pastel grays faded to dark blue, the clouds drifted east and left
the western sky clear again.

Somehow I wasn't surprised, because Frank Herbert was like that.

Frank never seemed to get depressed or angry. He always had some new project, or a new idea to benefit one of his chosen causes. The increasing wealth and fame of his last 15 years never changed him, as such events change so many other people. He never became pompous or suspicious or greedy. It was always a delight to see him enjoy his success and use it to benefit people. Whether the subject was a book, or one of the numerous projects to film Dune, or a new computer, or his hexagonal chicken coop, or World Without War, he brought his own unique spirit and sense of humor to the discussion.

Bev Herbert's death two years ago was difficult enough to accept, though she had been in precarious health for some time. Frank's death was even more of a shock because it came so quickly. The last time I saw him he was with Teresa Shackleford. They both looked happy and healthy, and I was glad to know that he had found another good person—Bev was wonderful, and a hard act to follow—with whom to share his life. When I heard that he was ill but determined to regain his health, I never doubted that he would succeed until a reporter called early one morning and announced without preliminaries that Frank Herbert had died. At the time I could not talk about how I felt, and it's still hard. His presence was so powerful that I haven't got used to the fact that he won't turn up at a convention, he won't stop by to say hello, he won't be at home the next time I visit Port Townsend. I don't know if I'll ever get used to it.

Frank Herbert was like that.

Vonda N. McIntyre
Seattle,WA
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