Michael Crichton, famous author of Science Fiction thrillers and creator of ER, has passed. His battle with Cancer was widely unknown to the American public, and even those who knew about it were surprised, labeling his death “unexpected”. My mother was on the computer last night when she saw the headline, and knowing how big of a fan I was alerted me to this unfortunate event.
I particularly enjoy Crichton’s work because as a kid, I really wanted to be a doctor; and when that went away, I wanted to become a writer. Throughout the course of whatever ambition I had, I’d always keep reading his work. I first picked up a Crichton book in third grade. It was 1993, and Jurassic Park was reissued in paperback as a movie tie in. For the first time in my life I was introduced to the concept of cloning, and this coupled with the concept of a dinosaur theme park was all I needed to beg my mother to purchase a paperback copy at K-Mart. I’ll admit, I never finished the book. Even for me, the high tech concepts in the book were a little too advanced. But I still loved the concept, and I still had a new boyhood hero to admire.
As a young man himself, Crichton wrote plays, wrote for newspapers, and eventually went on to be a medical resident in his college years. Eventually, under pseudonyms, he would begin to ply his trade in order to pay for medical school. Under various names, Jeffrey Hudson being one of them, he started writing medical thrillers and high tech heists, before switching to his actual name with his book “The Andromeda Strain”. Not satisfied to stay put, he’d go on to direct and write several films, pen several non fiction books, and eventually create television’s long running medical drama “ER”. His writing was popular with Hollywood, having several books already made into films, and others still under option with major studios. He enjoyed all the toys science would allow him to dream up and play with, he’d obsessively research the subject he would be writing on, and he’d eat nothing but one particular meal for lunch during the writing of each book.
The best part about his writing was that no matter what the subject, he could get you interested. He mixed action setpieces and thrilling events with scientific know how and technobabble. He took something as complex as genetics or nanotechnology, and he broke it down for the common reader. He didn't dumb it down terribly much, just enough so you'd have to pay attention or else you'd miss something. He bridged the gap between the common man and Einstein in terms of scientific understanding, which one could argue came from a work ethic that dictated science didn't have to be just for the PhD candidates.
He leaves behind a wife and child, and my sincerest condolences go out to them. His final book, still untitled, is scheduled to be released next Spring, after being prolonged due to his failing health. I will, as always, be picking up a copy as soon as it hits the shelves. Here’s to Michael Crichton…master of imagination and technogeekery. It’s a shame we had to say goodbye to you so soon.
(Note: This isn’t the original recording by John Williams, but it’s still pretty damn good.)