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The Frank Herbert Memorial Sunset Watch
a feature by Vonda N McIntyre

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.

[You can read more of Vonda's fiction and non-fiction on her home page; and you can find out about her books at Amazon (US) and at the Internet Bookshop (UK).]

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