Michael Crichton

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Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton at Harvard University on April 18 2002.
Born October 23, 1942(1942-10-23)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Died November 4, 2008 (aged 66)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Pen name John Lange,
Jeffery Hudson,
Michael Douglas
Occupation author, film producer, film director, screenwriter, television producer, medical doctor
Nationality American
Education Harvard College
Harvard Medical School
Genres Action, Science fiction,
Notable award(s) 1969 Edgar Award
Official website

John Michael Crichton, M.D. pronounced /ˈkraɪtən/ [1], (October 23, 1942 – November 4, 2008[2][3]) was an American author, producer, director, screenwriter, and physician, best known for his work in the science fiction, medical fiction, and thriller genres. His books have sold over 150 million copies worldwide, and many have been adapted into films. In 1994 he became the only creative artist to ever have works simultaneously charting at #1 in television, as creator of ER; and in film, with the adaptation of Jurassic Park; and in book sales, with The Lost World.[4]

His literary works were usually based on the action genre and heavily feature technology. His novels epitomised the techno-thriller genre of literature, often exploring technology and failures of human interaction with it, especially resulting in catastrophes with biotechnology. Many of his future history novels have medical or scientific underpinnings, reflecting his medical training and science background. He was the author of The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Disclosure, Rising Sun, Sphere, Timeline, State of Fear, Airframe, Prey, Next (the final book published before his death), and another project set for release some time in 2009.


[edit] Early life and education

John Michael Crichton was born in Chicago,[5] Illinois, to John Henderson Crichton, a journalist and Zula Miller Crichton on October 23 1942. He was raised in Long Island, in Roslyn, New York.[1], and had three siblings, two sisters, Kimberly and Catherine, and a younger brother, Douglas. Crichton showed a keen interest in writing from a young age and at the age of just 14 had a column related to travel published in the New York Times. [4]Crichton had always planned on becoming a writer and commenced his studies at Harvard College in 1960.[4] During his undergraduate study in literature, Crichton conducted an experiment to catch off guard a professor who he believed was giving him abnormally low marks and criticising his own literary style. Informing another professor of his suspicions, Crichton plagiarized a work by George Orwell and submitted it as his own. Unaware, the paper was received by his professor with a mark of "B−". [6] His issues with the English Department led Crichton to switch his course to biological anthropology as an undergraduate, obtaining his bachelor's degree summa cum laude in 1964.[7] Crichton was also initiated into the Phi Beta Kappa Society. He went on to become the Henry Russell Shaw Traveling Fellow from 1964 to 1965 and Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom in 1965.

Crichton later enrolled at Harvard Medical School when he began publishing work. By this time Crichton had become unusually tall. According to his own words, he was approximately 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 meters) tall in 1997.[8] [9]In reference to his height, while in medical school, he began writing novels under the pen names John Lange and Jeffery Hudson. Lange is a surname in Germany, meaning "long" and Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a famous 17th century dwarf in the court of Queen Consort Henrietta Maria of England. A Case of Need, written under the Hudson pseudonym, won him his first Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1969. He also co-authored Dealing with his younger brother Douglas under the shared pen name Michael Douglas. The back cover of that book contains a picture of Michael and Douglas at a very young age taken by their mother.

Crichton graduated from Harvard, obtaining an M.D. in 1969, and undertook a post-doctoral fellowship study at the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, from 1969 to 1970. In 1988, he was a Visiting Writer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

[edit] Writing career

[edit] Fiction

Odds On was Michael Crichton's first published novel. It was released in 1966 under the pseudonym of John Lange. It is a short 215-page paperback novel which describes an attempt of robbery in an isolated hotel on Costa Brava. The robbery is planned scientifically with the help of a Critical Path Analysis computer program, but unforeseen events get in the way. The following year he published Scratch One. The novel relates the story of Roger Carr, a handsome, charming and privileged man who practices law, more as a means to support his playboy lifestyle than a career. Carr is sent to Nice, France where he has notable political connections, but is mistaken for an assassin and finds his life in jeopardy, implicated in the world of terrorism. In 1968 he published two novels, Easy Go and A Case of Need, the second of which was re-published in 1993 under his real name. Easy Go relates the story of Harold Barnaby, a brilliant Egyptologist who discovers a concealed message while translating hieroglyphics, informing him of an unnamed Pharaoh whose tomb is yet to be discovered. A Case of Need, on the other hand was a medical thriller in which a Boston pathologist, Dr. John Berry, investigates an apparent illegal abortion conducted by an obstretrician friend which caused the early demise of a young woman. The novel would prove a turning point in Crichton's future novels, in which technology is important in the subject matter, although this novel was as much about medical practice. The novel garnered him an Edgar Award in 1969.

In 1969 Crichton published three novels. The first, Zero Cool, dealt with an American radiologist on vacation in Spain who becomes caught in a murderous crossfire between rival gangs seeking a precious artifact. The second, The Andromeda Strain, would prove to be the important novel in his career which established him as a best selling author. The novel documenting the efforts of a team of scientists investigating a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism that fatally clots human blood, infecting the sufferer and causing death within two minutes. The microbe, code named "Andromeda", mutates with each growth cycle, changing its biologic properties. The novel became an instant success, and it was only two years before the novel was sought after by film producers and turned into the eponymous 1971 film under the directorship of Robert Wise and featuring Arthur Hill, James Olson, Kate Reid as Leavitt, and David Wayne. In September 2004, the Sci Fi Channel would announced a production of a miniseries, executive-produced by Ridley Scott, Tony Scott and Frank Darabont, premiering on May 26 2008. Crichton's third novel of 1969, The Venom Business relates the story of a smuggler who uses his exceptional skill as a snake handler to his advantage by smuggling snakes out of Mexico under the guise of medical research to be used by drug companies and universities for research. The snakes are simply a ruse to hide the identity of rare Mexican artifacts. In 1969 Crichton also wrote a review for the New Republic (as J. Michael Crichton), critiquing Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

In 1970 Crichton again published three novels: Drug of Choice, Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues and Grave Descend. Grave Descend earned him an Edgar Award nomination the following year.[10]

In 1972 Crichton published two novels. The first, Binary relates the story of a villainous middle-class businessman who attempts to assassinate the President of the United States by stealing an army shipment of the two precursor chemicals that form a deadly nerve agent. The second, The Terminal Man is about a psychomotor epileptic sufferer, Harry Benson, who in regularly suffering seizures followed by blackouts, conducts himself inappropriately during seizures, waking up hours later with no knowledge of what he has done. Believed to be psychotic, he is investigated, electrodes are implanted in his brain, continuing the trend in Crichton's novels with machine-human interaction and technology. The novel was adapted into a film directed by Mike Hodges and starring George Segal, Joan Hackett, Richard A. Dysart and Donald Moffat, released in June 1974. However neither the novel nor the film were well received by critics.

In 1975, Crichton ventured into the nineteenth century with his historical novel The Great Train Robbery which would become a bestseller. The novel related a mild re-representation of the Great Gold Robbery of 1855, a massive gold heist, which takes place on a train traveling through Victorian era England. A considerable proportion of the book was set in London. The novel was later made into a 1979 film directed by Crichton himself, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland. The film would go on to be nominated for Best Cinematography Award by the British Society of Cinematographers, also garnering a nomination for Best Motion Picture by the Edgar Allan Poe award by the Mystery Writers Association of America.

In 1976 Crichton published Eaters of the Dead, a novel about a 10th century Muslim who travels with a group of Vikings to their settlement. Eaters of the Dead is narrated as a scientific commentary on an old manuscript and was inspired by two sources. The first three chapters retelling Ahmad ibn Fadlan's personal account of his actual journey north and his experiences in encountering the Rus', the early Russian peoples, whilst the remainder is based upon the story of Beowulf, culminating in battles with the 'mist-monsters', or 'wendol', a relict group of Neanderthals. The novel was adapted into film as The 13th Warrior, initially directed by John McTiernan, who was later fired with Crichton himself taking over direction.

In 1980 Crichton published the novel Congo, which centers on an expedition searching for diamonds in the tropical rain forest of Congo. An expedition, searching for deposits of valuable diamonds, discover the legendary lost city of Zinj and an unusual race of barbarous gorillas. The novel was adapted into a film loosely based on the novel in 1995, starring Laura Linney, Tim Curry, and Ernie Hudson. Seven years later, Crichton published Sphere, a novel which relates the story of psychologist Norman Johnson, who is required by the U.S. Navy to join a team of scientists assembled by the U.S. Government to examine an enormous alien spacecraft discovered on the bed of the Pacific Ocean, believed to have been there for over 300 years. The novel begins as a science fiction story, but rapidly transforms into a psychological thriller, ultimately exploring the nature of the human imagination. The novel was adapted into the film Sphere in 1998, directed by Barry Levinson, with a cast including Dustin Hoffman as Norman Johnson, (renamed Norman Goodman), Samuel L. Jackson, Liev Schreiber and Sharon Stone.

Crichton's novel Jurassic Park and its sequel made into films would become a part of popular culture, with related parks established in places as far-afield as Kletno, Poland

In 1990, Crichton published the novel Jurassic Park. Crichton utilized the presentation of "fiction as fact", used in his previous novels, Eaters of the Dead and The Andromeda Strain, in conjunction the mathematical concept of chaos theory and its philosophical implications to explain the collapse of an amusement park showcasing certain genetically recreated dinosaur species in a "biological preserve" on Isla Nublar, an island that is 120 miles west of Costa Rica. Paleontologist Alan Grant along with his paleobotanist graduate student, Ellie Sattler, are brought by the billionaire John Hammond, founder and chief executive officer of International Genetic Technologies, or InGen to investigate. Upon arrival, the park is revealed to contain cloned dinosaurs, 15 different species, including species such as Dilophosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex which have been recreated using damaged dinosaur DNA, found in mosquitoes that sucked Saurian blood and were then trapped and preserved in amber).

Crichton had originally conceived a screenplay about a graduate student who recreates a dinosaur; but decided to explore his fascination with dinosaurs and cloning until he began writing the novel.[11] Spielberg learned of the novel in October 1989 while he and Crichton were discussing a screenplay that would become the television series ER. Before the book was published, Crichton demanded a non-negotiable fee of $1.5 million as well as a substantial percentage of the gross. Warner Brothers and Tim Burton, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Richard Donner, and 20th Century Fox and Joe Dante bid for the rights,[12] but Universal eventually acquired them in May 1990 for Spielberg.[13] Universal paid Crichton a further $500,000 to adapt his own novel,[14] which he had completed by the time Spielberg was filming Hook. Crichton noted that because the book was "fairly long" his script only had about 10–20 percent of the novel's content, resulting in scenes from the novel being dropped for budgetary and practical reasons.[15]The film, directed by Spielberg was eventually released in 1993, starring Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcolm (the chaos theorist) and Richard Attenborough as billionaire CEO of InGen. The film would become highest grossing film ever in film history at the time, grossing $914 million worldwide.

A mosquito preserved in amber. A specimen of this sort was the source of dinosaur DNA in Jurassic Park.

In 1992, Crichton published the novel Rising Sun, an international best-selling crime thriller about a murder in the Los Angeles headquarters of Nakamoto, a fictional Japanese corporation. The book was instantly adapted into a film, released the same year of the movie adaption of Jurassic Park in 1993 and starring Sean Connery, Wesley Snipes, Tia Carrere and Harvey Keitel. Crichton would continue with the subject matter of a high tech corporation in his next novel, Disclosure, published in 1994. The novel again revolves around a fictional high tech company, but specifically addresses the theme of sexual harassment which had been explored in previous novels such as 1972's Binary. Unlike that novel however, Crichton centers on sexual politics in the workplace, emphasising an array of paradoxes in traditional gender functions, by featuring a male protagonist who is being sexually harassed by a female executive. As a result, the book has been harshly criticized by feminist commentators and accused of anti-feminism. Crichton, anticipating this response, offered a rebuttal at the close of the novel which states that a "role-reversal" story uncovers aspects of the subject that would not be as easily seen with a female protagonist. The novel was made into a film the same year under the helm of Barry Levinson, and starring Michael Douglas, Demi Moore and Donald Sutherland.

Crichton then published The Lost World in 1995 as the sequel to Jurassic Park. It was made into a film sequel two years later in 1997, again directed by Spielberg and starring Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn and Pete Postlethwaite. Then, in 1996, Crichton published Airframe, an aero-techno-thriller which relates the story of a quality assurance vice-president at the fictional aerospace manufacturer Norton Aircraft, as she investigates an in-flight accident aboard a Norton-manufactured airliner that leaves three passengers dead and fifty-six injured. Like many of his other novels, Crichton uses the false document literary device, presenting numerous technical documents to create a sense of authenticity. In the novel, Crichton draws from real life accidents to increase its sensation of realism, including American Airlines Flight 191 and Aeroflot Flight 593 which flew from Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) and crashed at Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport in 1994. Air safety procedures are a central theme in the novel. Crichton challenges public perception of air safety and somewhat relates an element of investigative journalism, and the consequences of exaggerated media reports to sell the story. The book also continues Crichton's overall theme of the failure of humans in human-machine interaction, given that plane itself worked perfectly, and had the pilot known how to react properly, the accident would not have occurred within it.

Then in 1999, Crichton published Timeline, a science fiction novel which tells the story of a team of historians and archaeologists studying at site in the Dordogne region of France where the medieval towns of Castelgard and La Roque stood who travel back to the 1357 to uncover some startling truths. The novel which continues Crichton's long history of combining technical details and action in his books, addresses quantum physics and time travel directly. The novel quickly spawned Timeline Computer Entertainment, a computer game developer that created the Timeline PC game published by Eidos Interactive in 2000. A film based on the book was released in 2003 by Paramount Pictures, with a screen adaptation by Jeff Maguire and George Nolfi, under the directorship of Richard Donner. The film stars Paul Walker, Gerard Butler and Frances O'Connor.

In 2002, Crichton published Prey, a cautionary tale about developments in science and technology; specifically nanotechnology. The novel explores relatively recent phenonomen in the scientific community, such as artificial life, emergence (and by extension, complexity), genetic algorithms, and agent-based computing. Reiterating components in many of his other novels, Crichton once again brings fictional companies to the readers attention, this time Xymos, a nanorobotics company which is claimed to be on the verge of perfecting a revolutionary new medical imaging technology based on nanotechnology and a rival company, MediaTronics. Elements of the novel were utilized in the 2008 film The Day the Earth Stood Still,[citation needed] in which a swarm of nanobots escape from a secure military facility. Then in 2004, Crichton published State of Fear, a novel concerning eco-terrorists who attempt mass murder to support their views. Global warming and climate change serve as a central theme to the novel, and in Appendix I of the book, Crichton warns both sides of the global warming debate against the politicization of science. [16]He provides two examples of the disastrous combination of pseudo-science and politics, the early 20th-century idea of eugenics, which he directly links to be one of the theories that allowed for the Holocaust and Lysenkoism. The novel had an initial print run of 1.5 million copies and reached the #1 bestseller position at Amazon.com and #2 on the New York Times Best Seller list for one week in January 2005. [17][18][19].

His final novel, published while he was still living was Next, printed in 2006. The novel follows many characters, including transgenic animals, in the quest to survive in a world dominated by genetic research, corporate greed, and legal interventions where government and private investors spend billions of dollars every year on genetic research. In his novel, Crichton introduces a minor character named "Mick Crowley" who is portrayed by Crichton as a child molester with a small penis.[20] There is a real person named Michael Crowley, who is also a Yale graduate, and a senior editor of The New Republic, a left-leaning Washington D.C.-based political magazine who had written an article strongly critical of Crichton for his stance on global warming in his novel, State of Fear, earlier in March 2006.[21]

His last novel was originally scheduled for a release date of December 2, 2008 [22]. It was postponed and will now be published on November 24, 2009. It's entitled Pirate Latitudes. Additionally, an unfinished, untitled novel is tentatively scheduled for publication in the fall of 2010. [23].

[edit] Non-fiction

Crichtons first published book of non-fiction, Five Patients recounts his experiences of practices in the late 1960s at Massachusetts General Hospital and the issues of costs and politics within the American Healthcare Service.

Aside from fiction, Crichton wrote several other books based on medical or scientific themes, often based upon his own observations in his field of expertise. In 1970 he published Five Patients, a book which recounts his experiences of hospital practices in the late 1960s at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. The book follows each of five patients through their hospital experience and the context of their treatment, revealing inadequacies in the hospital institution at the time. The book relates the experiences of Ralph Orlando, a construction worker seriously injured in a scaffold collapse, John O'Connor, a middle aged dispatcher suffering from fever that has reduced him to a delirious wreck, Peter Luchesi, a young man who severs his hand in an accident, Sylvia Thompson, an airline passenger who suffers chest pains, and Edith Murphy, a mother of three who is diagnosed with a life threatening disease. in Five Patients, Crichton examines a brief history of medicine up to 1969 to help place hospital culture and practice into context, and addresses the costs and politics of the national healthcare service. As a personal friend to the artist Jasper Johns, Crichton compiled many of his works in a coffee table book, published as Jasper Johns. It was originally published in the 1970 by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art and again in January 1977, with a second revised edition published in 1994.

In 1983, Crichton authored Electronic Life, a book that introduces BASIC programming to its readers. The book, written like a glossary, with entries such as "Afraid of Computers (everybody is)," "Buying a Computer," and "Computer Crime", was intended to introduce the idea of personal computers to a reader who might be faced with the hardship of using them at work or at home for the first time. It defined basic computer jargon and assured readers that they could master the machine when it inevitably arrived. In his words, being able to program a computer is liberation; "In my experience, you assert control over a computer—show it who's the boss—by making it do something unique. That means programming it....If you devote a couple of hours to programming a new machine, you'll feel better about it ever afterwards".[24]In the book, Crichton predicts a number of events in the history of computer development, that computer networks would increase in importance as a matter of convenience, including the sharing of information and pictures that we see online today which the telephone never could. He also makes predictions for computer games, dismissing them as "the hula hoops of the '80s", and saying "already there are indications that the mania for twitch games may be fading." In a section of the book called "Microprocessors, or how I flunked biostatistics at Harvard," Crichton again seeks his revenge on the medical school teacher who had given him abnormally low grades in college. Within the book, Crichton included many self-written demonstrative Applesoft (for Apple II) and BASICA (for IBM PC compatibles) programs. He once considered updating it, but the project was canceled.

Then in 1988 he published Travels, which also contains autobiographical episodes covered in a similar fashion to his 1970 book Five Patients.

[edit] Literary techniques

Crichton's novels, including Jurassic Park have been described by The Guardian as "harking back to the fantasy adventure fiction of Conan Doyle, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edgar Wallace, but with a contemporary spin, assisted by cutting-edge technology references made accessible for the general reader". [25] According to the Guardian, "Michael Crichton wasn't really interested in characters, but his innate talent for storytelling enabled him to breathe new life into the science fiction thriller".[25]Like The Guardian, the New York Times has also noted the boys adventure quality to his novels interfused with modern technology and science. According to the New York Times,

All the Crichton books depend to a certain extent on a little frisson of fear and suspense: that’s what kept you turning the pages. But a deeper source of their appeal was the author’s extravagant care in working out the clockwork mechanics of his experiments — the DNA replication in Jurassic Park, the time travel in Timeline, the submarine technology in Sphere. The novels have embedded in them little lectures or mini-seminars on, say, the Bernoulli principle, voice-recognition software or medieval jousting etiquette....

The best of the Crichton novels have about them a boys’ adventure quality. They owe something to the Saturday-afternoon movie serials that Mr. Crichton watched as a boy and to the adventure novels of Arthur Conan Doyle (from whom Mr. Crichton borrowed the title The Lost World and whose example showed that a novel could never have too many dinosaurs). These books thrive on yarn spinning, but they also take immense delight in the inner workings of things (as opposed to people, women especially), and they make the world — or the made-up world, anyway — seem boundlessly interesting. Readers come away entertained and also with the belief, not entirely illusory, that they have actually learned something"

The New York Times on the works of Michael Crichton [26]

Crichton's works were frequently cautionary; his plots often portrayed scientific advancements going awry, commonly resulting in worst-case scenarios. A notable recurring theme in Crichton's plots is the pathological failure of complex systems and their safeguards, whether biological (Jurassic Park), military/organizational (The Andromeda Strain), technical (Airframe) or cybernetic (Westworld). This theme of the inevitable breakdown of "perfect" systems and the failure of "fail-safe measures" can be seen strongly in the poster for Westworld (slogan: "Where nothing can possibly go worng .." (sic) ) and in the discussion of chaos theory in Jurassic Park.

The use of author surrogate was a feature of Crichton's writings from the beginning of his career. In A Case of Need, one of his pseudonymous whodunit stories, Crichton used first-person narrative to portray the hero, a Bostonian pathologist, who is running against the clock to clear a friend's name from medical malpractice in a girl's death from a hack-job abortion.

Some of Crichton's fiction used a literary technique called false document. For example, Eaters of the Dead is a fabricated recreation of the Old English epic Beowulf in the form of a scholarly translation of Ahmad ibn Fadlan's 10th century manuscript. Other novels, such as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park, incorporated fictionalized scientific documents in the form of diagrams, computer output, DNA sequences, footnotes and bibliography. Some of his novels included authentic published scientific works to illustrate his point, such as in The Terminal Man and State of Fear.

At the prose level, one of Crichton's trademarks was the single word paragraph: a dramatic question answered by a single-word sitting on its own as a paragraph.

[edit] As a film director and screenwriter

Crichton has written or directed in several motion pictures or TV series. In the 1970s in particular he was intent on being a successful filmmaker. His first film, Pursuit (1972) was a TV movie both written and directed by Crichton that is based on his novel Binary.

Westworld was the first feature film that used 2D computer-generated imagery (CGI) and the first use of 3D CGI was in its sequel, Futureworld (1976), which featured a computer-generated hand and face created by then University of Utah graduate students Edwin Catmull and Fred Parke.

Crichton directed the film Coma, adapted from a Robin Cook novel. There are other similarities in terms of genre and the fact that both Cook and Crichton were physicians, were of similar age, and wrote about similar subjects.

He wrote the screenplay for the movies Extreme Close Up (1973) and Twister (1996) (the latter co-written with Anne-Marie Martin, his wife at the time). Although Jurassic Park and The Lost World were both based on Crichton's novels, Jurassic Park III was not.

Crichton was also the creator and executive producer of the television drama ER. ER was originally slated to be a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg. However, during the early stages of pre-production, Spielberg asked Michael Crichton what his current project was. Crichton said he was working on a novel about dinosaurs and DNA. Spielberg subsequently dropped what he was doing to film this project. Afterwards, he returned to ER and helped develop the show, serving as a producer on season one and offering advice (he insisted on Julianna Margulies becoming a regular, for example). It was also through Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment that John Wells was contacted to be the show's executive producer. In December 1994, he achieved the unique distinction of having the #1 movie (Jurassic Park), the #1 TV show (ER), and the #1 book (Disclosure, atop the paperback list). Crichton wrote only three episodes of ER:

  • Episode 1-1: "24 Hours"
  • Episode 1-2: "Day One"
  • Episode 1-3: "Going Home"

[edit] Computer games

Amazon is a graphical text adventure game created by Michael Crichton and produced by John Wells under Trillium Corp. Amazon was released in the United States in 1984 and it runs on Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and the DOS systems. Amazon was considered by some to be a breakthrough in the way it updated text adventure games by adding music.[citation needed] It sold more than 100,000 copies, making it a significant commercial success at the time. It featured plot elements similar to those later used in Congo.[27]

In 1999, Crichton founded Timeline Computer Entertainment with David Smith. Despite signing a multi-title publishing deal with Eidos Interactive, only one game was ever published, Timeline. Released on 8 December 2000 for the PC, the game received poor reviews and sold poorly.

[edit] Speeches

Crichton conducted a number of notable speeches in his lifetime.

[edit] Aliens Cause Global Warming

In 2003 he gave a lecture at Caltech entitled "Aliens Cause Global Warming"[28] in which he expressed his views of the danger of "consensus science" — especially with regard to what he regarded as popular but disputed theories such as nuclear winter, the dangers of second-hand smoke, and the global warming controversy. Crichton was critical of widespread belief in ETs and UFOs, citing the fact that there is no conclusive proof of their existence. Crichton stated that "The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion." Crichton commented that belief in purported scientific theories without a factual basis is more akin to faith than science.

[edit] Environmentalism as a religion

In a related speech given to the Commonwealth Club of California in 2003, called "Environmentalism as a religion"[29][30] (see Radical environmentalism), Crichton described what he saw as similarities between the structure of various religious views (particularly Judeo-Christian beliefs) and the beliefs of many modern urban atheists who he asserted have romantic ideas about Nature and our past, who he suggested believe in the initial "paradise", the human "sins", and the "judgment day". He also articulated his belief that it is the tendency of modern environmentalists to cling stubbornly to elements of their faith in spite of evidence to the contrary. Crichton cited alleged misconceptions about DDT, passive smoking, and global warming as examples.

[edit] Complexity Theory and Environmental Management

In a 2005 speech given at the Washington Center for Complexity and Public Policy, titled "Complexity Theory and Environmental Management"[31], Crichton challenges the notion that humanity is prepared or even able to manage anything as complex as the environment, drawing strongly on the century of relentless errors in attempting to manage the much more limited ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park. He also argued that the nonlinearity of environmental interactions, where small things can have large, unexpected consequences strongly constricts our current ability to alter or "tweak" anything to do with the environment in a reliable manner, or with sufficient assuredness as to have desirable consequences.

[edit] Widespread speculation in the media

In a speech entitled "Why Speculate?",[32] delivered in 2002 to the International Leadership Forum, Crichton criticized the media for engaging in what he saw as pointless speculation rather than the delivery of facts. As an example, he pointed to a front-page article of the March 6 New York Times that speculated about the possible effects of U.S. President George W. Bush's decision to impose tariffs on imported steel. Crichton also singled out Susan Faludi's book Backlash for criticism, saying that it "presented hundreds of pages of quasi-statistical assertions based on a premise that was never demonstrated and that was almost certainly false." He referred to what he calls the "Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect" to describe the public's tendency to discount one story in a newspaper they may know to be false because of their knowledge of the subject, but believe the same paper on subjects with which they are unfamiliar. Crichton used the Latin expression falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which he translated as "untruthful in one part, untruthful in all," to describe what he thought should be a more appropriate reaction. The speech also made several references to Crichton's skepticism of environmentalists' assertions about the possible future ramifications of human activity on the Earth's environment.

[edit] Role of science in environmental policy-making

In September 2005 Crichton testified at a Congressional hearing on climate change, having been called by global warming skeptic Senator James Inhofe[33] to advise the Environment and Public Works Committee. Crichton spoke on issues such as the role of science in policy making, criticisms of climate-change researcher Michael E. Mann and what Crichton claimed was the deliberate obstruction of research into the subject by some in the scientific community.[34]

[edit] Reception

[edit] Criticism

Many of Crichton's publicly expressed views, particularly on subjects like the global warming controversy, have caused heated debate. An example is meteorologist Jeffrey Masters' review of State of Fear:

Flawed or misleading presentations of Global Warming science exist in the book, including those on Arctic sea ice thinning, correction of land-based temperature measurements for the urban heat island effect, and satellite vs. ground-based measurements of Earth's warming. I will spare the reader additional details. On the positive side, Crichton does emphasize the little-appreciated fact that while most of the world has been warming the past few decades, most of Antarctica has seen a cooling trend. The Antarctic ice sheet is actually expected to increase in mass over the next 100 years due to increased precipitation, according to the IPCC."[35]

Peter Doran, author of the paper in the January 2002 issue of Nature which reported the finding referred to above, that some areas of Antarctica had cooled between 1986 and 2000, wrote an opinion piece in the July 27, 2006 New York Times in which he stated "Our results have been misused as 'evidence' against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel State of Fear."[36] Crichton himself states in the book that though he uses a number of studies to support his stance, the authors of these studies do not necessarily agree with his interpretations. Additionally, some of the characters in the novel caution that they do not necessarily claim that global warming is not an issue, but only that more research is necessary before we make any definitive conclusions.

Al Gore said on March 21, 2007 before a US House committee: "The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor [...] if your doctor tells you you need to intervene here, you don't say 'Well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it's not a problem'." This has been recognized by several commentators as a reference to State of Fear.[37][38][39].

[edit] Michael Crowley

In his 2006 novel Next (released November 28 of that year), Crichton introduced a character named "Mick Crowley" who is a Yale graduate and a Washington D.C.-based political columnist. "Crowley" was portrayed by Crichton as a child molester with a small penis. The character is a minor one who does not appear elsewhere in the book.[40]

A real person named Michael Crowley is also a Yale graduate, and a senior editor of The New Republic, a left-leaning Washington D.C.-based political magazine. In March 2006, the real Crowley had written an article strongly critical of Crichton for his stance on global warming in State of Fear. [41]

[edit] Awards

[edit] Personal life and death

As an adolescent, Crichton felt isolated with regard to his height (at 6'9") and different to others. As an adult, he was acutely aware of his intellect which also left him often feeling alienated from people around him. During the 1970s and 1980s he consulted psychics and enlightenment gurus to make him feel more socially acceptable and to improve his karma. As a result of these experiences, Crichton practised meditation throughout much of his life. Crichton was a workaholic. When drafting a novel which would typically take him six or seven weeks, Crichton withdrew completely and ritualistically to follow what he called "a structured approach". As he approached writing the end of each book, he would rise increasingly earlier each day, to the extent that on nearing completion he would sleep for less than 4 hours, by going to bed at 10pm and awaking at 2am. [4]

In 1992 Crichton was ranked among People magazine's 50 most beautiful people. Crichton was married five times, four of the marriages ending in divorce. He was married to Suzanna Childs, Joan Radam (1965 – 1970), Kathy St. Johns (1978 – 1980) and actress Anne-Marie Martin (1987 - 2003), the mother of his only child, daughter Taylor Anne (born 1989). At the time of his death, Crichton was married to Sherri Alexander, who was six months pregnant with his son. John Michael Todd Crichton was born on February 12, 2009.

Given the private way in which Crichton lived his life, his battle with throat cancer was not made public until his death. A smoker,[43] he died unexpectedly of throat cancer on November 4, 2008.[2][44][45]

Michael’s talent outscaled even his own dinosaurs of ‘Jurassic Park.’ He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the earth. In the early days, Michael had just sold ‘The Andromeda Strain’ to Robert Wise at Universal and I had recently signed on as a contract TV director there. My first assignment was to show Michael Crichton around the Universal lot. We became friends and professionally ‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘ER,’ and ‘Twister’ followed. Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place.[46]

Steven Spielberg on Michael Crichton's death

[edit] Works

[edit] Fiction

Year Title Notes
1966 Odds On as John Lange
1967 Scratch One as John Lange
1968 Easy Go as John Lange
A Case of Need as Jeffery Hudson (re-released as Crichton in 1993)
1969 Zero Cool as John Lange
The Andromeda Strain
The Venom Business as John Lange
1970 Drug of Choice as John Lange
Dealing as Michael Douglas (with brother Douglas Crichton)
Grave Descend as John Lange
1972 Binary as John Lange
The Terminal Man
1975 The Great Train Robbery
1976 Eaters of the Dead
1980 Congo
1987 Sphere
1990 Jurassic Park
1992 Rising Sun
1994 Disclosure
1995 The Lost World
1996 Airframe
1999 Timeline
2002 Prey
2004 State of Fear
2006 Next
2009 Pirate Latitudes posthumous publication
2010 Title not yet revealed posthumous publication

[edit] Non-fiction

Year Title Notes
1970 Five Patients
1977 Jasper Johns
1983 Electronic Life
1988 Travels

[edit] Film and television

[edit] Novels adapted into films
Year Title Filmmaker/Director
1971 The Andromeda Strain Robert Wise
1972 Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues Paul Williams
1972 The Carey Treatment (A Case of Need) Blake Edwards
1974 The Terminal Man Mike Hodges
1993 Jurassic Park Steven Spielberg
1993 Rising Sun Philip Kaufman
1994 Disclosure Barry Levinson
1995 Congo Frank Marshall
1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park Steven Spielberg
1998 Sphere Barry Levinson
1999 The 13th Warrior (Eaters of the Dead) John McTiernan
2003 Timeline Richard Donner
2008 The Andromeda Strain (TV miniseries) Mikael Salomon

[edit] As a screenwriter and/or director
Year Title Notes
1972 Pursuit (TV Movie) Co-Writer/Director
1973 Westworld Writer/Director
1978 Coma Writer/Director
1979 The First Great Train Robbery Writer/Director
1981 Looker Writer/Director
1984 Runaway Writer/Director
1989 Physical Evidence Director
1993 Jurassic Park Co-Writer
1994 ER (TV Series) Creator/Writer/Executive Producer
1996 Twister Co-Writer

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b - Crichton, Michael. "For Younger Readers", michaelcrichton.com, 2005. Retrieved 11 December 2005.
  2. ^ a b "Best-Selling Author Michael Crichton Dies". CBS News. 2008-11-05. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/05/print/main4575403.shtml. 
  3. ^ "'Jurassic' author, 'ER' creator Crichton dies". CNN. 2008-11-05. http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/11/05/obit.crichton/index.html. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Michael Crichton:Novelist and screenwriter responsible for 'Jurassic Park', 'Westworld' and the TV series 'ER'". The Telegraph. November 10, 2008. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/3387711/MichaelCrichton.html. Retrieved on December 18 2008. 
  5. ^ "Michael Crichton’s Mark on the Science Fiction World"; "Michael Crichton"; [1]; Profile by IGN; see the IMDB entry here
  6. ^ King of the techno-thriller, The Observer, December 3, 2006
  7. ^ http://www.crichton-official.com/aboutmichaelcrichton-biography.html
  8. ^ "Michael Crichton". The Oprah Winfrey Show. http://web.archive.org/web/20050325012031/http://www.adara-interactive.com/crichton/ow_transcripts2.htm. Retrieved on 2008-11-05. 
  9. ^ Mean Body Weight, Height, and Body Mass Index 1960–2002
  10. ^ "Edgar Award: Best Paperback Original". Archived from the original on 2008-12-16. http://www.webcitation.org/5cCX5j8Vj. Retrieved on 2008-12-16. 
  11. ^ Michael Crichton. Michael Crichton on the Jurassic Park Phenomenon [DVD]. Universal.
  12. ^ Joseph McBride (1997). Steven Spielberg. Faber and Faber, 416–9. ISBN 0-571-19177-0
  13. ^ DVD Production Notes
  14. ^ "Leaping Lizards". Entertainment Weekly. 1990-12-07. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,318785,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-02-17. 
  15. ^ Steve Biodrowski. Cinefantastique Magazine, Vol. 24, No.2, pg. 12, "Jurassic Park: Michael Crichton"
  16. ^ NATURE| VOL 433 |20 JANUARY 2005
  17. ^ Cold, Hard Facts - New York Times
  18. ^ Michael Crichton’s “Scientific Method” James Hansen
  19. ^ Union of Concerned Scientists Crichton's Thriller State of Fear: Separating Fact from Fiction
  20. ^ Lee, Felicia (December 14, 2006). "Columnist Accuses Crichton of ‘Literary Hit-and-Run’". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/14/books/14cric.html. 
  21. ^ Cock and Bull Crowley, Michael The New Republic December 2006
  22. ^ http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=6190315
  23. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/books/06crichton.html?_r=2&ref=arts
  24. ^ Crichton, Michael. Electronic Life, Knopf, 1983, p. 44. ISBN 0-394-53406-9
  25. ^ a b Wootton, Adrian (6 November 2008). "How Michael Crichton struck fear into the bestseller list". http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2008/nov/06/sciencefictionfantasyandhorror. Retrieved on December 18 2008. 
  26. ^ McGrath, Charles (November 5, 2008). "Builder of Windup Realms That Thrillingly Run Amok". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/books/06appr.html. Retrieved on December 18. 
  27. ^ Amazon at Home of the Underdogs
  28. ^ www.crichton-official.com
  29. ^ Crichton, Michael (September 15, 2003). "Environmentalism as Religion". Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. http://cdfe.org/religion.htm. Retrieved on 2007-10-13. 
  30. ^ "Environmentalism as Religion". Michaelchriton.com. 2003-09-15. http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-environmentalismaseligion.html. Retrieved on 2008-11-08. 
  31. ^ Crichton, Michael (November 6, 2005). "Complexity Theory and Environmental Management". Michaelchriton.com. http://www.michaelcrichton.com/speech-complexity.html. Retrieved on 2008-11-10. 
  32. ^ www.crichton-official.com
  33. ^ Inhofe's senate page
  34. ^ U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works Hearing Statements September 2005
  35. ^ Masters, Jeffery M.. "Review of Michael Crichton's State of Fear". Weather Underground. http://www.wunderground.com/education/stateoffear.asp. Retrieved on 2007-10-14. 
  36. ^ Cold, Hard Facts Doran, Peter The New York Times July 2006
  37. ^ Ansible 237, April 2007
  38. ^ Climate of fear, The Boston Globe, 1 April 2007
  39. ^ More from 'Inconvenient Gore', Alaska Report, 22 March 2007
  40. ^ Lee, Felicia (December 14, 2006). "Columnist Accuses Crichton of ‘Literary Hit-and-Run’". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/14/books/14cric.html. 
  41. ^ Cock and Bull Crowley, Michael The New Republic December 2006
  42. ^ Michael Crichton Official Site
  43. ^ "Adventures In Popular Fiction". Yahoo. January 27, 2009. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ibd/20090127/bs_ibd_ibd/20090127lands/print. Retrieved on 2009-01-30. 
  44. ^ Harvard Crimson
  45. ^ "'Jurassic Park' author, 'ER' creator Crichton dies". CNN. November 5, 2008. http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/books/11/05/obit.crichton/index.html. Retrieved on 2008-11-05. 
  46. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (November 5, 2008). "Michael Crichton Dies". The New York Times. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/05/michael-crichton-dies/. Retrieved on December 18. 

[edit] Bibliography

  • Trembley, Elizabeth A. Michael Crichton: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Press, 1996, ISBN 0313294143

[edit] External links

NAME Crichton, Michael
ALTERNATIVE NAMES Crichton, John Michael; Lange, John; Hudson, Jeffery
SHORT DESCRIPTION American novelist
DATE OF BIRTH October 23, 1942
PLACE OF BIRTH Chicago, Illinois
DATE OF DEATH November 4, 2008
PLACE OF DEATH Los Angeles, California
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