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Michael Crichton, dead at age 66
November 5, 2008 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Michael Crichton, dead at age 66.
posted by nitsuj (197 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can't we extract his DNA and clone him?
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2008 [18 favorites]


Wow, I didn't know he was that old.
posted by NoMich at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2008


He died because Obama won, I'm sure of it.
posted by fusinski at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Shit. Say what you will about his work, the man was incredibly intelligent and a compelling writer. I remember watching the Andromeda Strain with my dad and being blown away by it, which led to me reading several of his books.

I'm so, so sorry that he is gone; State of Fear wasn't great, but the man obviously knew was he was doing. I'm in shock. Cancer, too. Terrible way to go.

.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:10 AM on November 5, 2008


Seriously, though:

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Yeah, he wrote some clunkers, but he singlehandedly launched velociraptors into the highest echelon of popular dinosaurs, and that's pretty cool.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:10 AM on November 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


That's too bad. I liked his fiction.

Not so much is fiction that pretended to be non-fiction, but yeah, his fiction fiction was fun.

His books were all about how we should fear science.

We should, really. It's powerful stuff that can get us in to trouble as well as get us out.
posted by namespan at 10:12 AM on November 5, 2008


the velociraptors wept.

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posted by Sailormom at 10:13 AM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm happy because he got to see Obama elected...and would have wanted anti-science McCain.
posted by DU at 10:13 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


His books were all about how we should fear science. Fuck him in the face.

Good storyteller, mediocre writer, and if you think that his books are about "fearing science" then the person who taught you reading comprehension at the special school really should have been fired.
posted by dhammond at 10:13 AM on November 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yeah, he wrote some clunkers, but he singlehandedly launched velociraptors into the highest echelon of popular dinosaurs, and that's pretty cool.

Except that the velociraptors presented in his books weren't actual velociraptors, as real velociraptors were roughly the size of small dogs.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 10:14 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


That said, there is no denying his contribution to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
posted by DU at 10:15 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by ceri richard at 10:15 AM on November 5, 2008


No Great Loss.

I enjoyed his early books and I don't necessarily have a problem with warnings about the unintended consequences science and technology can often bring about, but all of this is outweighed by Crichton's idiotic global-warming-is-a-lie-and-environmentalists-are-out-to-get-you BS. State of Fear is still waved in my face by my father (and yes, I did get the book for Christmas one year, sigh).

Other people think that Crichton hyped the SCIENCE IS DANGEROUS-meme way too much in his work, btw.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:18 AM on November 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Loved reading his books in High School. Didn't like him so much after that, but I'll always be fond of his older work even he went off the rails in later years.

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posted by josher71 at 10:19 AM on November 5, 2008


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He got just about everything wrong (chaos theory will be the end of us! the japanese will be the end of us! environmentalists will be the end of us!), but he occasionally did it in an engaging, pulpy way. I'll always get a kick out of Andromeda Strain (extraterrestrial microbes will be the end of us!) for its relentless nerdiness.
posted by condour75 at 10:19 AM on November 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


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posted by mitzyjalapeno at 10:20 AM on November 5, 2008


The One Velociraptor Per Child post yesterday must have had something to do with it.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 10:22 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


He was instrumental in helping make science cool for kids of a certain age growing up at a certain time. For that he should be celebrated and remembered.
But single link obit filter is still lame.
posted by arcanecrowbar at 10:22 AM on November 5, 2008


Michael Crichton's Climate Changes At Age 66 -
Detractors Suspect There May Be Severe Warming In His Immediate Future
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:22 AM on November 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Some of his books were solid, pulpy stuff, and I was madly in love with Jurassic Park when I first read it in 4th grade (I can't remember the exact number of times I re-read it over the next two or three years, but it was absurd).

It's a pity that global warming drove him insane.

RIP, Crazy Author Guy.
posted by sparkletone at 10:22 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by owtytrof at 10:23 AM on November 5, 2008


I've give him a dot: .

Not that I appreciated the anti-science woo, mind you, but maybe he was abused by an electron microscope as a child or something.
posted by Donnie VandenBos at 10:23 AM on November 5, 2008


Did you just say .... Can't we extract his DNA ... ?

The Daily News is reporting that the Enquirer has been holding onto the baby's stinky diaper hoping to get some of Edwards' DNA for a match... edwards-fate-hangs-on-poopy-diaper ...
posted by R. Mutt at 10:24 AM on November 5, 2008


This is the dude who, after a reviewer thoroughly debunked his anti-global warming arguments, inserted a character with the reviewer's name in his next book. Said character was a serial child molester- not important to the plot, a total throwaway reference.

So yeah, don't mourn him. He wrote a series of popular books whose overarching theme was "science will kill you." Humanity is not lessened by his passing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:25 AM on November 5, 2008 [19 favorites]


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posted by cashman at 10:25 AM on November 5, 2008


My favorite dinosaur as a child was Deinonychus, which is a lot more like the popular perception of velociraptors than actual velociraptors are. A part of me has never forgiven Chrichton for stealing the thunder of my dinosaurs.

Still, I liked his books. Haven't read them since my early teens, and from what everyone says, I'd rather not reread them and risk finding out that they suck. The Terminal Man was good, and The Andromeda Strain was the best.
posted by echo target at 10:27 AM on November 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


The One Velociraptor Per Child post yesterday must have had something to do with it.

I am not responsible for this. That said, I know Michael is riding a Velo in the great Jurassic hereafter right now, with a smile on his face.

.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2008


Crichton is dead, Bush will be out of the White House soon, Chinese Democracy and Duke Nukem Forever are going to be released in the next months.

Looks like the nineties are finally over.
posted by darkripper at 10:28 AM on November 5, 2008 [50 favorites]


I think all of us, of any religion, sect or creed, can all come together to agree that no-one who'd write a book as bad as Sphere will be allowed into heaven.
posted by mhoye at 10:29 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


.

Timeline will always be a pretty damn cool premise.

Jurassic Park was a joy ride.
posted by ageispolis at 10:29 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that's over. I read a bunch of his books after overhearing my friends at CTY talking about some Jurassic book with modern-day dinosaurs. But eventually they all started blending in together. I give him credit for the Andromeda Strain (the bit about the simple error where BURTON DIDN'T AUTOPSY THE DECOAGULATED RATS!* was a pretty humanizing depiction of scientists), especially for the subversive ending (it mutates to something harmless before a cure can be found! Nature 1, Scientists 0!). Jurassic Park was good, Sphere and Congo not so much. Disclosure? Ugh. He had a talent for sensationalizing science, for better or worse. But I'm not sad to see him go.

*ISTR he printed this twice in the text, to highlight its importance.
posted by Eideteker at 10:29 AM on November 5, 2008


Thank you for turning the dream I had as a child about one day seeing dinosaurs into a reality.

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posted by Samuel Farrow at 10:29 AM on November 5, 2008


Duke Nukem Forever [is] going to be released in the next months

HAHAHAHAH you had me going there for a minute!
posted by Justinian at 10:29 AM on November 5, 2008


.

A lot of his work, especially the later stuff, was duff (and in many cases frankly bonkers) but Jurassic Park was one of the best thrillers I've ever read that film, spectacular though it look, oversimplified. Only this morning I was recommending it to a friend.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:30 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Personally, I really enjoyed Travels.
posted by nitsuj at 10:30 AM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, I enjoyed some of his earlier novels, especially 'Andromeda Strain' and 'Jurassic Park'. 'Prey', about an intelligent swarm of nano-particles was so bad that I never forgave him for it.

Oh well. Sorry to see people die.

.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 10:30 AM on November 5, 2008


I thought, here's the perfect human being. Six foot six, hunky, intelligent, geeky, successful author, reasonably successful director. Then I saw an interview with him. He was vacuous. I realized his success was a reflection of the shallowness of pop culture, the Urkle of the literary world.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is the dude who, after a reviewer thoroughly debunked his anti-global warming arguments, inserted a character with the reviewer's name in his next book. Said character was a serial child molester- not important to the plot, a total throwaway reference.

Oof. I'd forgotten about that. Yeah, that takes some of the shine off. But still, dinosaurs!!! /Inner eight-year-old
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I read The Andromeda Strain from the school library when I was in high school. They also had shedloads of classic science fiction from the 1930s onwards, and he seemed kinda lame in comparison. The imagination on display in one short story by Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford D. Simak, Ray Bradbury or Cordwainer Smith puts Crichton's entire career to shame.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


I read a lot of his books and, despite their many failings, often enjoyed them. Andromeda Strain is an entertaining book and the first film version was as close as I have seen to science being put on the screen, rather than technology. (My father, himself a scientist, particularly liked the film when I was young, and would call us down to watch it when it was on television; incidentally, it has a great soundtrack.)

I know he turned into something of a crank in the last few years, but so do a lot of people I like. He gave us cavemen fighting vikings, though, and I can't complain about that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:33 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ditto on "The Andromeda Strain" I caught part of it on TV as a child, but a thunderstorm knocked out our power, so I only saw a fraction of the film. I went out and got the book as soon as I could and fell in love with it. That book helped steer me towards biology.

His books were all about how we should fear science. Science by its very definition removes fear from our lives by explaining the unknown. Thanks to science and critical thinking we don't have to fear that lighting is being thrown at us by some angry god who we forgot to honor with a sacrifice. What we do have to fear is the application of scientific knowledge and technology by evil men, like when I finish my lightning throwing machine and start using it on people who forget to honor me with gifts of cash.
posted by Science! at 10:33 AM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


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Ditto on reading (and re-reading) him when I was young. For better or for worse, he and Tom Clancy were the two first 'adult' authors I read. Both of their politics are fairly repellent, but I don't really give a damn. I'll always have a weird kind of sentimentality about his work.
posted by Football Bat at 10:33 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I did enjoy some of his work through the 90s. Without him, there wouldn't be Jurassic Park, which was indeed a cautionary tale regarding science and technology, but it was a darn good one.

Weirdo global warming beliefs aside, .
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:33 AM on November 5, 2008


I thought, here's the perfect human being. Six foot six, hunky, intelligent, geeky, successful author

Lesson: Don't judge an author by his cover.
posted by DU at 10:33 AM on November 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


A shame. I've had a love hate relationship with his work for a long time. Jurassic Park and his earlier stuff was great. I also love Sphere, although I couldn't for the life of me tell you why. The later stuff was pretty lame, "Prey" is laughable, and "Next" has some great ideas without any narrative cohesion. Still, his books were usually a good ride, and I'll miss his pseudo scientific style.
posted by yellowbinder at 10:34 AM on November 5, 2008


I enjoyed a few of his books, but not his anti-science stance, nor his climate change insanity.
.
(for the velociraptors)
posted by bashos_frog at 10:35 AM on November 5, 2008


Jurassic Park...was a darn good one.

Did we see the same movie or read the same book? He got the math, paleontology, computer science AND biology wrong and that isn't even counting the redonkulous scene where a human child is merely thrown clear, without injury, from an electrified fence that's supposed to stop a T. Rex. Oh and don't forget the sequels.

But yeah, pretty good SFX.
posted by DU at 10:37 AM on November 5, 2008


My first reaction: No way!

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posted by grouse at 10:37 AM on November 5, 2008


So yeah, don't mourn him.

Shove it, pal. I'll mourn him. When I was young, Sphere was the best thing that ever happened to me, followed closely by Jurassic Park. A group of friends and I basically got hooked on reading because of him. I loved those books then.

Therefore, shove it.
posted by ORthey at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


YES HE DID
YES HE DID
YES HE DID
posted by Damn That Television at 10:39 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


My current reading book is "Eaters of the Dead".
posted by collocation at 10:40 AM on November 5, 2008


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posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:42 AM on November 5, 2008


"Andromeda Strain" was cool, no doubt. But the general anti-science tone of his books, coupled with his global warming insanity and the whole "you debunked my lies so I'll write you into a book as a child molester" kinda killed my love of Crichton.

As far as his writing goes, I will give him that, unlike some crazy writers I could name *cough*OrsonScottCard*cough* he had more than one story to tell. Unfortunately his later works were rather too obviously screenplays that had been novelized. But some of his early stuff was good.

Still, overall, no dot. Oh, and put me in the "damn, he was that old?!" category, I thought he was in his early fifties for some reason.
posted by sotonohito at 10:42 AM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Here's to The Andromeda Strain and Eaters of the Dead:
.

On this day in history, I can forgive Crichton's politics.
posted by Loudmax at 10:45 AM on November 5, 2008


You guys deriding his beliefs on climate change missed his point entirely, and that climate science is incredibly complex science, and it's likely that no one has it 100 percent wrapped up (urban heat islands?), so before we all run off gallivanting about this, that and the other thing, let's, like, you know, actually do the science.

We're not exactly trying to prove how gravity works, where we can just throw rocks out of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and measure their fall time with a stopwatch.

The Great Train Robbery was an underrated gem with a great cast.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:46 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by Joey Michaels at 10:47 AM on November 5, 2008


Jurassic Park rocked my world as a ten year old, here's to those innocent times...
posted by nfg at 10:47 AM on November 5, 2008


Holy crap yeah! The Great Train Robbery was amazing, I had to read it for summer reading one year in high school. I ended up reading it twice that summer and many many more times the next year.
posted by Science! at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just finished listening to his TTBOOK interview where he's talking about one of the worst things to happen to Genetic Science since its inception is Genetic Patents and how they have stiffled research.

So all ya'll who think he's anti-science. Piss off. He is a genuinely good and smart human being when he's not writing sci-fi. Which, btw, had the reoccurring theme of "science with moral consideration" not "science will kill us!".

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posted by Severian at 10:48 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


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posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:50 AM on November 5, 2008


He died because Obama won, I'm sure of it.

I absolutely loved his books when I was eleven, and ER's pretty great, so, yeah, I'm a bit sad.

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posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 AM on November 5, 2008


All his novels made me cringe at the science, and his editorials made me cringe more.

That being said, you can do a lot worse in this world than writing entertaining potboilers.
posted by benzenedream at 10:52 AM on November 5, 2008


I enjoyed his books. Sorry to see it end this way for him....

And, for those of you who love to come into an obit thread just to shit on it ... Do you go to funerals for people you don't like just to tell the family what a jerk you thought the deceased was? It is asshattish behavior that no-one is interested in experiencing...Next time, try walking on by instead....
posted by HuronBob at 10:52 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


He was just my speed back when I read Andromeda Strain. I must have been 10 or 11 and I loved all the sciencey stuff in it.
posted by pracowity at 10:52 AM on November 5, 2008


...it's likely that no one has it 100 percent wrapped up...

Lack of 100% complete knowledge requires us to keep the status quo? By this argument, we should never have started using fossil fuels in the first place because we didn't know what the consequences would be. But maybe your logic only works when it saves $$$ for megacorporations?

The Great Train Robbery was an underrated gem with a great cast.

Agreed. And the book was good too.
posted by DU at 10:52 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Erm, ignore that italicised bit, I decided not to make my Prop 8 / Orson Scott Card joke..
posted by Sys Rq at 10:53 AM on November 5, 2008


I read so many of his books in 7th and 8th grade and loved them. Can't tell you why now, but they're all still on my bookshelf just the same. I read Jurassic Park so many times that the book actually started to fall apart. I'm feeling inspired to go home tonight and watch the movie. Or, even better, maybe I'll reread the book. It's been awhile...
posted by whatideserve at 10:54 AM on November 5, 2008


Aw, dang. Don't forget, Crichton also wrote (and directed) Looker (1981) and Runaway (1984). Looker is actually a pretty good film, technologically prescient in that Crichton-way, plus it has Albert Finney and Susan Dey.
posted by steef at 10:57 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager, around the time the movie version of "Jurassic Park" came out, I got hooked on Crichton's novels. I must have read and re-read Sphere, Congo, and The Andromeda Strain a dozen times each. I was also reading other, more "respectable" sci-fi authors (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein), but Crichton's thriller-diller style was the one that made the possibilities of science seem really cool to me.

My old paperback copies of these novels are still sitting on the shelves in my old room at my parents' house. When I was home for the holidays a few years back, I picked up Congo and tried re-reading a random chapter. It wasn't nearly as compelling as my twelve-year-old self remembered it to be. But back then, his novels were big part of what got me hooked on science fiction and, by extension, science; and for that I doff my hat to him today.
posted by Johnny Assay at 10:59 AM on November 5, 2008


Rest in Peace Mr. (What has science done! Science gone wrong. Don't mess with nature.
Robots will kill you. I'll keep writing the same plot over and over with different titles.) Crichton.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:01 AM on November 5, 2008


You haters need to re-visit The Andromeda Strain. Outstanding book.

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posted by jbickers at 11:03 AM on November 5, 2008


Crichton became a willing shill for the Bush administration's unwillingness to confront global warming and all that the subject entails - alternative energy sources, reworking our communities, transit plans and whatnot. On a personal level, he could be sheer evil - witness the critic / child molester incident above. Both are pretty unfortunate things to base a legacy around.

For someone who wrote about science, he seemed to have a consistent unwillingness to really explore things and let "truth" be heard. He started with, and seemed to maintain, a bias. There was a sort of Dark Ages, anti-knowledge bent to his work. And it's a little appalling that in his family's statement, there's a section about how he "challenged" scientists. To do what, exactly? Try to make real science heard over the din of a fake-science mess of right-wing propaganda he helped create? To waste their time disputing popular fallacies like the size of velociraptors?

I read some of his books when I wasn't very competent in English. Occasionally, the stories were engaging (though some - like "Eaters Of The Dead" - were just plain awful), and I still enjoy "ER," but it was obvious even to a language-challenged girl that he wasn't a particularly good writer, and that his ideas and grasp of science were weak ("convincing" enough, though, that many Americans bought his ideas without due investigation.) I applaud his mainstream pop achievements for whatever they're worth, and I am saddened by the pain his passing will cause his family, friends and admirers. Given his fame and power, I wish that in life, he would have acted more like one of the heroes in one of his stories. But I'm always looking for heroes.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 11:05 AM on November 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


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Good night, you crazy anti-environmentalist, grudge-holding lunatic.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:06 AM on November 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


In the days before TV's on airplanes, and laptops under my control, Michale Crichton got me through many flights with a minimum of pain. Compelling and smart enough to keep reading, no real substance to get in the way of just plowing through. Thanks Mr. Crichton.

And ER too. Do they still play ER theater on Saturday nights in New York, on channel 11? Channel 9? God, I used to love to come home on Saturday night, all bent, and watch ER theater through one eye while eating a bacon egg and cheese on a roll from God Bless Deli...
posted by dirtdirt at 11:08 AM on November 5, 2008


Would anybody here be mad at me if I admitted that I kinda liked Rising Sun?

I just like to think of it as a novel from an alternate universe where the Japanese are really trying to take over America, as opposed to our own universe.
posted by Avenger at 11:11 AM on November 5, 2008


This is the man who made Yul Brynner into a killer robot. That's cool enough in my book for a dot.
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posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:11 AM on November 5, 2008


I thought that The Big Lebowski was much more effective than Sphere in conveying a totally pointless exercise in storytelling.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I started with Jurassic Park when I was in second grade. Say what you will about his writing, but his books read like movies and were always interesting and entertaining. And they definitely appealed to the imaginative science nerd in me. He will be missed.

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posted by phunniemee at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Would anybody here be mad at me if I admitted that I kinda liked Rising Sun?

Oh yeah, I forgot that he was racist besides.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well on the one hand, he wrote some entertaining books; on the other hand, he was responsible for ER.

I note his passing thus:

,
posted by Mister_A at 11:13 AM on November 5, 2008


But maybe your logic only works when it saves $$$ for megacorporations?

Awesome strawman. Nicely played.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:16 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


i enjoyed many of his earlier works (jurassic park of course, and congo, and sphere). almost all of the movie adaptations were complete shit, but the books were enjoyable. i have travels, and state of fear, and the train robbery one on my bookshelf to read and i hope to enjoy them.

i don't think his works (of the ones i've read, including next, which i thought was okay) were "omg science is evil, let's be cavemen." i thought they were more cautionary tales about not doing x cool thing just because you can without thinking about the consequences. and also that even though we're capable of bringing dinosaurs to life, we're maybe not quite so smart as we think we are.

i don't know anything about his politics and i'm only a little bit aware of his crazy climate change thing that you guys are talking about, but i don't think i have to know everything about an author and his beliefs and his politics and his background to be able to enjoy some of his writing.

he was a guy who wrote some books that a lot of people read and enjoyed, and maybe he had some outlandish views, and maybe his science wasn't 100% perfect in his books, but he still gave us some cool stories.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:17 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed "Eaters of the Dead", an interesting iteration of Beowulf. I enjoyed "Jurassic Park", "Andromeda", and "Airframe". Yeah, he turned toward the crank side, but:

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posted by everichon at 11:17 AM on November 5, 2008


At first, I thought that solid, pulpy stuff would be contradictory. But then I thought about pumpkin innards, and realized this could be a valid parallel to his books. In my youth, I read Sphere and Congo, intrigued and a bit creeped out by the scenes he painted. I'd still recommend them to someone looking for engaging, lighter reading.

I mourn the man who lead to the naming of Crichtonsaurus, and shake my head at the fact that he was included in the International Leadership Forum.

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posted by filthy light thief at 11:18 AM on November 5, 2008


When I was young, Sphere was the best thing that ever happened to me

Let me guess: you're from Salusa Secundus?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:18 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I liked Jurassic Park the movie better than Jurassic Park the book, and even cite it as a counter-example when someone asserts that a film based on the book is always worse than the book it was adapted from.

Here's why: In the movie, you have the two kids: Timmy, who's a dinosoaur geek, and Lex, a bit older than Timmy, who's the computer whiz. Both sympathetic characters.

In the book, Timmy is the same age he is in the movie, but he's the dinosaur geek and the computer whiz. All the computer stuff that Lex does in the movie is done by Timmy in the book. Instead, Lex in the book is younger than Timmy, and is just a whiny little brat who does nothing useful. By the time I was a third of the way through the book, I was rooting for the dinosaurs to eat Lex just so she would shut up.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:19 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


He's done a lot of damage with his global warming skepticism. I'm sad he died because it would have been powerful for him to change his position, which was just a matter of time.
posted by stbalbach at 11:20 AM on November 5, 2008


Note to self: insufficiently pure political orthodoxy will see your death ridiculed, and in some cases cheered.

This prevailing view of Michael Crichton as anti-science is bewildering. Not only because he was a medical doctor (a real life scientist!), but also because Crichton's books are filled with the wonder and beauty of science, and the limitless potential of what science might achieve. It is never science that leads to man's downfall, but man's typically greedy, thoughtless application of it. The protagonist is always a scientist, usually altruistic, and uses his or her mind and knowledge to save the day. Crichton's oeurve has more PhDs as hero than any other collected work I can think of. I know the world needs more hard-bodied kung-fu master slash ex-Delta Force slash professional athletes as protagonist, but Michael Crichton gave us academics. How disappointing.

Was he provocative? Sure. Art is supposed to be provocative.

I would be slightly ashamed to have to preface my sadness over a writer's death by declaring my own political credentials. Does everything have to be about politics?
posted by dbgrady at 11:20 AM on November 5, 2008 [15 favorites]


No love for Terminal Man? I don't think I've read it since I was eight, so maybe it's actually lousy, but at the time it was mind-blowing, and seems in retrospect a sort of dark satire in the strain of Infinite Jest. But maybe that's just me.

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posted by shakespeherian at 11:24 AM on November 5, 2008


medical doctor (a real life scientist!)

No, most doctors are not scientists. They treat people based on scientific knowledge, but applying scientific knowledge is not the same as creating scientific knowledge, which is what a scientist does.

But I agree with your larger point that Crichton was not anti-science.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:25 AM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Art is supposed to be provocative.

QFDL (quoted fo' da lulz)
posted by Mister_A at 11:27 AM on November 5, 2008


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I am a scientist, and I credit him with getting me interested in science as a career (I was 15 when Jurassic Park was published and read it again). The fact that he himself had some weird anti-science ideas doesn't negate the fact the he made it kind of awe-inspiring.
posted by gaspode at 11:28 AM on November 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


As with a couple of folks above, I figure that for his influence on pop culture, he deserves the dot.

My own Crichton book story:

In 1992 I spent the better part of the year working on a farm in the Negev in Israel. On a kibbutz there is plenty of stuff to do -- swimming pools, movie nights, dances, (and these days, wi-fi connections, I suppose). On a moshav, there is a squat named diddly. I worked seven days a week, and after work there was nothing to do but read until you went to sleep. I had two books with me: Let's Go:Europe and Jurassic Park. Reading a travel guide just made my feet itchy, so I read JP about nine times.

My favourite part -- the chaos theorist (played by Jeff Goldblum in the flick a year later) was Dr. Ian Malcolm, which had been the name of my family doctor while I was growing up. I was mildly alarmed at the scenes describing kindly old Dr. Malcolm (no doubt in his white lab coat, with his salt-and-pepper moustache, and his omnipresent stethoscope) evading T. Rexes and velociraptors. So my thanks to Crichton for conjuring up images I would never have imagined otherwise.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:29 AM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by aerotive at 11:34 AM on November 5, 2008


As a kid (11), I read Jurassic Park after seeing the movie and I thought it was WAY better.

The movie didnt have the waterfall scene, the river ride, sneaking passed the sleeping t. rex, the aviary! Some of these elements made their way into the movie sequels.

I would agree that Lex was sort of a useless character, but meh, I didn't mind.


After that I read everything of his I could find. The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Congo, Travels, Eaters of the Dead, The Lost World, Five Patients, The Rising Sun, The Terminal Man and later, Airframe. The bulk of this was from grades 4 - 8.

In basically every case, the movie was inferior to the book by far. I remember being especially disappointed that the movies of Rising Sun, Sphere and Congo. :/

Travels and Five Patients were some of my favorites, despite being completely different from his sci fi, or sci fi-esque novels.

I have had no interest in reading anything of his since then, sparing re-reads of JP, but I am sad to see him go.
posted by utsutsu at 11:37 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whaa? I seriously had no idea he was in his sixties.

Thanks for reminding me of my childhood dinosaurs. We had good times in Jurassic Park.

.
posted by rand at 11:49 AM on November 5, 2008


The brain eater got him before cancer did, but . anyway.
posted by Artw at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I would be slightly ashamed to have to preface my sadness over a writer's death by declaring my own political credentials. Does everything have to be about politics?

Metafilter: BEATERS OF THE DEAD.
posted by resurrexit at 12:02 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Toronto Raptors. I blame him.
posted by srboisvert at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


You should blame him. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bring the Raptors up. I still find it funny that our basketball team was named by Americans voting in movie theatres.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:14 PM on November 5, 2008


I loved Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man when I was a kid.

I used to see him around the local market and at the gym. He was really tall.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

.

/apolitical mode
posted by dontoine at 12:15 PM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2008


God, Congo was just awful in both manifestations, but I had a good time with Jurassic Park and--yes--Sphere.
posted by malaprohibita at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2008


Michael Crichton was not a great writer, he was not even a good writer most days, but he gave Spielberg inspiration for one of his better films, a new reason for germaphobes to worry, and George Clooney's career a shot in the arm. For that:

.
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 12:17 PM on November 5, 2008


He was an awesome writer of infectious pulp fiction. the kind you read on an airplane or when you have the flu. And that is enough. I'm sad he didn't live long enough to realize the errors of his thinking when it comes to Global Warming. But nevertheless I'll miss him.

.
posted by tkchrist at 12:24 PM on November 5, 2008


Congo the film was hilarious.
posted by Mister_A at 12:24 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Somehow, I'd like to think he was eaten by dinosaurs and the family is covering it up to avoid panicking the general populace.

Here's your dot, dude: .
posted by Mcable at 12:26 PM on November 5, 2008


Seconded.
posted by Artw at 12:26 PM on November 5, 2008


Also, now Randall Monroe can breath a little easier....
posted by Pope Gustafson I at 12:27 PM on November 5, 2008


dbgrady Its hardly about political orthodoxy, more about being generally anti-science. As for the tone of his books, I doubt we'll come to agreement. I saw, and continue to see, his main theme as one of "ZOMG scientists will kill us!", you obviously disagree and for the life of me I can't see where you're coming from.

The global warming denial, in particular, is as pernicious a denial of and attack on science as Creationism. I do not castigate the man for being ideologically impure, but for advancing and promoting ideas which are slanderous, false, and dangerous. I find his claims that 99% of climatologists are liars, frauds, and members of a dark conspiracy worthy of contempt.

If he'd left it at that I probably wouldn't have taken the time to comment here. The fact that he was so irrationally, rabidly, attached to his own anti-science conspiracy theory nonsense WRT global warming that Crichton depicted the man who debunked his lies as a child molester pushed me to comment. Its one thing to be a nutbar, its another to fictionally accuse your opponents of child rape. For that alone Crichton doesn't deserve a dot.
posted by sotonohito at 12:28 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Crichton didn't exactly invent "ZOMG scientists will kill us!", and it's a fine hook for many a story.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on November 5, 2008


For those who wish to profit from tragedy (it's the American Way!), Easton Press still has a few leather-bound copies of 'Andromeda Strain' available. Acid-free paper, fine binding, 22k gold embossing, archival-quality, signed by Crichton. Seeing as he won't be signing any more, I imagine those will go up in value, for those who are interested.
posted by jamstigator at 12:34 PM on November 5, 2008


Well, I liked ER. And the raptors.

.
posted by lunit at 12:35 PM on November 5, 2008


ER had raptors? That how the doctor lost his arm?
posted by cjorgensen at 12:39 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Artw I never said he invented it, merely that he used it, and that I find it to be distasteful and harmful. His books were fun betimes, as I said I liked Andromeda Strain. He wrote a fun, potboiler, type thriller. I found what I perceived as the anti-science bent in his books to be annoying, but nothing special or unique. Sometimes the book could rise above its problems (Andromeda Strain), other times not.

If I can make a comparison, I rather enjoy John D. MacDonald's books, especially the Travis McGee series. Sometimes the misogyny and sexism of his books overrides my enjoyment (A Purple Place For Dying, for example), but overall I find that, for me personally, his writing is generally fun enough to let me ignore my deep ideological disagreement with the author.

With Crichton that was not usually the case, his writing was generally not fun enough (for me) to overcome the anti-science tone. But, as I said, that isn't why I commented here. I was motivated entirely by his critic cast as child rapist bit.
posted by sotonohito at 12:44 PM on November 5, 2008


He graduated from Harvard (medical school), taught at the Salk Institute, wrote and directed some great movies (West World, The Great Train Robbery, Andromeda Strain, Runaway, Looker, Jurassic Park, etc.), and wrote best-selling novels that inspired a generation of future scientists.

But more than that, Crichton's non-fiction Travels is what first inspired me to venture out into the world and find my own adventures.

Sorry, I just can't find it in myself to hate the guy.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:45 PM on November 5, 2008


I was wondering how they were planning on bringing Dr. Green back to ER. Since he's like, you know, dead. Now I get it. They've cloned him. Only this time, he's a raptor. Which might be the only thing that could get me to watch ER again.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:45 PM on November 5, 2008


What? No love for his book on selling pot? Dealing or The Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues was the book he wrote with his brother under a pseudonym. And at least it didn't have evil science in it.

I, for one, will not miss Mr. Crichton. I too loved The Andromeda Strain when I was a kid, but State of Fear is simply unforgivable and the ignorance it spread may have serious consequences.
posted by Toekneesan at 12:48 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"ZOMG scientists will kill us!" is a dreadfully alarmist and poorly thought out notion to ascribe to Crichton. There is a current of "reckless science has serious consequences" in a lot of his writing, but science gone horribly wrong makes for much more interesting plots than a novel about the actual scientific process would. To say that Michael Crichton was anti-science is absolutely ridiculous. He was a post-doc at the Salk Institute, for Science's sake. Dude was a scientist. Furthermore, I know Jurassic Park introduced an awful lot of people my age to the concept of cloning, and genetics in general.

Popular sci-fi that encourages people to investigate the actual findings behind the fantasy is an important cultural phenomenon, and a great way to get kids excited about science.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:48 PM on November 5, 2008


Why would anyone ever go to that ER hospital? It's horrible! It's like an abbatoir, only the food is not as good.
posted by Mister_A at 12:51 PM on November 5, 2008


.

Say what you will, the man wrote some good books.
posted by SilverTail at 12:55 PM on November 5, 2008


You'll go for the malpractice. You'll stay for the lime Jell-O.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:56 PM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:03 PM on November 5, 2008


Gets a

.

but not much else. No sympathy for his creepy anti-science worldview.
posted by stvspl at 1:08 PM on November 5, 2008


I really enjoyed most of his work and am sad that there won't be any more of it to look forward to.

RIP.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:10 PM on November 5, 2008


I just listened to an interview with him today on Public Radio that I streamed over iTunes. I thought he sounded kinda.... off.

.
posted by chillmost at 1:25 PM on November 5, 2008


I enjoyed his books as a kid, I remember reading Jurassic park in 4 days in 6th grade.

On the other hand, the global warming denial movement has lost one of it's best spokespersons. It was hard to like him after the nonsense he'd been spouting lately.
posted by delmoi at 1:33 PM on November 5, 2008


.

Used to like him, and haven't really thought of him for a decade...now I know I didn't miss anything.
posted by schyler523 at 1:33 PM on November 5, 2008


I realize he could be a bit of a dick, but come on people WEST WORLD.
posted by boubelium at 1:39 PM on November 5, 2008


medical doctor (a real life scientist!)

Biologists and medical researchers are scientists. Doctors are mostly engineers (which is no slight against doctors; I'm happy to have people devote their time and energy to keeping my meat-machine going).

Does everything have to be about politics?

If you're an explicitly political writer - and State of Fear, where he portrayed environmentalists as terrorists, or Rising Sun, which was a piece of "Yellow Peril" writing that would have been more at home during World War II - then people will, naturally, respond to you based on your politics. I'd be dissapointed if someone responded politically to, I dunno, Stephen King, because King's a pretty apolitical writer. But Crichton? He was, through and through, a political writer.

And, I might add, his overtly political work was usually his worst, because his narrative suffered for his politics.

Was he provocative? Sure. Art is supposed to be provocative.

Come on. You can't cry about people being provoked by work and, at the same time, praise someone for being provocative.

All that said, some of his stuff was bloody enjoyable (Eaters of the Dead, Jurassic Park, et al), and when he wasn't being a nutty conspiracy theorist, I enjoyed his fun, pulpy novels, and some of the movies they inspired (13th Warrior anyone?).
posted by rodgerd at 1:50 PM on November 5, 2008


Unicorn on the cob writes "Shit. Say what you will about his work, the man was incredibly intelligent and a compelling writer. I remember watching the Andromeda Strain with my dad and being blown away by it, which led to me reading several of his books."

Eh ... well, thing about Crichton, once you've read one book, you have the plot for the rest. And he's not so great on the science, either. He's a pretty good storyteller, but he lacks depth. I enjoyed reading some of his stuff on airplanes and while in the hospital ... so, you know, there's that.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:51 PM on November 5, 2008


Seems plenty of people read Sphere when they were 10-12.

Count me in!

posted by ersatz at 1:52 PM on November 5, 2008


Perhaps he would have served humanity better if he had practiced medicine instead of wasting that education.
posted by Cranberry at 2:17 PM on November 5, 2008


I'd be dissapointed if someone responded politically to, I dunno, Stephen King, because King's a pretty apolitical writer.

Stephen King would beg to differ.
posted by xmutex at 2:17 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


When I think of Michael Crichton, the first thing I think of is Jurassic Park.

When I think of Jurassic Park, the music from the movie starts playing in my head.

And when I think of the Jurassic Park soundtrack, I think of Tonya Harding skating to the soundtrack in Lillehammer with a busted skate lace.

Thank you, Michael Crichton, for being indirectly related to that moment. Thank you, also, for setting the events in motion that led to the invention of the term "dino damage."

Also, you taught me about fractals, and those are cool.

My thoughts go out to his family.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:38 PM on November 5, 2008


My favorite dinosaur as a child was Deinonychus, which is a lot more like the popular perception of velociraptors than actual velociraptors are. A part of me has never forgiven Chrichton for stealing the thunder of my dinosaurs.

Ha! Exact same story for me. /dino-nerd

I'm not a big fan of his work these days, but when I was in junior high? Hoo boy! I ate that stuff up. I think I can credit Chrichton with inspiring me to start writing (for better or worse), so...

.
posted by brundlefly at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by limeonaire at 2:59 PM on November 5, 2008


I ate up The Andromeda Strain and Terminal Man at a young age, but kind of lost interest in his later work, especially as he got on the "there is no global warming" bandwagon. And I still don't watch ER because I work in a hospital and leave to get away from that stuff each day. The one thing I still need to know is: how do you pronounce his frickin' name!

. (for whiling away many summer hours as a boy)
posted by TedW at 3:03 PM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by kjh at 3:23 PM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by Mitheral at 3:28 PM on November 5, 2008


And, for those of you who love to come into an obit thread just to shit on it ... Do you go to funerals for people you don't like just to tell the family what a jerk you thought the deceased was? It is asshattish behavior that no-one is interested in experiencing...Next time, try walking on by instead....

Absolutely right: the amount of misplaced bile in this thread is just a little bit dumb. Like relatively few others, Crichton managed to seed popular culture from a variety of angles (writer, producer, director) and certainly inspired work of a genuinely special nature (the movie adaptations of The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man). Even if you think his Jurassic Park sucks, or is a lame retread of Westworld or whatever, Spielberg's movie helped kickstart an entire CG industry and with it a myriad of jobs and dreams. Okay, he might've fallen off the tracks toward the end - plenty do - but in this instance, I'd say the positives rather outweighed the minuses. And several of his projects (The Great Train Robbery, Coma, Runaway, The 13th Warrior) directly or indirectly led to some delightful film scores by Jerry Goldsmith (and one - Rising Sun - by the similarly much-missed Toru Takemitsu).
posted by specialbrew at 3:39 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


And, for those of you who love to come into an obit thread just to shit on it

You seem to have mistaken this thread for a memorial service. It is not.

Do you go to funerals for people you don't like just to tell the family what a jerk you thought the deceased was?

No, because that's not what funerals are for. This thread is not a funeral, and in any case it's highly unlikely that Crichton's family is reading this.

I generally liked Crichton's fiction, so this is not an attack on him, but I despise the "ooh, we must all be quiet and respectful in obituary threads" attitude. This thread is not a memorial service, and it's appropriate to discuss the man's life candidly here.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:57 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, I forgot that he was racist besides.
...
Rising Sun, which was a piece of "Yellow Peril" writing that would have been more at home during World War II

Such utter horseshit. Did either of you even read it? Or did you just watch 20 minutes of the film adaptation and base the rest of your opinion on knee-jerk reactionism?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:01 PM on November 5, 2008


I read Jurassic Park when I was in Grade 5, and I think I can almost completely credit it with steering me toward environmentalism. Ian Malcolm's "Life finds a way" mantra really appealed to my 10 year old sense of wonder and drama, and I really wanted to believe that the Earth could kick all our asses. Crichton would be so pissed.

I've read it at least 13 more times (....yeah), usually doing a new reading after learning something new or changing my world view slightly. I kind of saw Jurassic Park as my...benchmark, I think. Something like that. The way I understood the ideas in a different way each reading made me understand more clearly where I was, intellectually, at that moment in time.

I was pretty bummed out when I learned about his stance on environmentalism (and when I read his whacked speech to the Common Wealth club), but now when I re-read JP I see Ian Malcolm as Crichton's talking head, in bad-ass rockstar mathematician form.
posted by 1UP at 4:03 PM on November 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


the amount of misplaced bile in this thread is just a little bit dumb

Well, take Jurassic Park.

The viewpoint espoused by characters that seem to represent Crichton's authorial voice (mostly Malcolm) is that a zoo is INHERENTLY uncontrollable and that science CAN'T deal with it because THERE'S NO DISCIPLINE.

But the problems in the story have fuck-all to do with that. The problems happen because for no obvious reason InGen decides to have unprecedented, staggeringly high levels of automation in the park instead of just hiring Costa Ricans to work for cheap.

But it has to be massively automated. Without massive automation, Nedry can't fuck everything up.

And without Nedry fucking absolutely everything up all at once, there's no story at all. The gates stay closed, the powered shit stays powered, etc.

And even then, we're supposed to believe that they hired zoo designers who have never heard of technological advances such as "moats" and "walls"? That a corporation intending to serve the very rich and therefore potentially dangerously litigious would not default to "design an enclosure that can contain any physiologically possible lifeform with these approximate dimensions, and then double the width and depth of the moat. We'll see if we can't make them smaller in our second park, and on renovation."

The story, through the apparent mouthpieces of the author, is supposed to be about THE DANGERS OF UNCONTROLLED SCIENCE!!!, but that doesn't even hold up within the story itself.

Which gets annoying. I still generally enjoy Crichton books and movies, but it's definitely in spite of some elements.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:12 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


The story, through the apparent mouthpieces of the author, is supposed to be about THE DANGERS OF UNCONTROLLED SCIENCE!!!

See, this is just a disagreement in interpretation. Because my interpretation was, "nature is far more complex than you think it is, and your understanding of it is comically, tragically, dangerously limited." Hence the following quotes from the book:

"(T)he history of evolution is that life escapes all barriers. Life breaks free. Life expands to new territories. Painfully, perhaps even dangerously. But life finds a way."

This "life finds a way" line was repeated in the film.

And...

"But we have soothed ourselves into imagining sudden change as something that happens outside the normal order of things. An accident, like a car crash. Or beyond our control, like a fatal illness. We do not conceive of sudden, radical, irrational change as built into the very fabric of existence. Yet it is."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:28 PM on November 5, 2008


I will give him a sciencyishsemicolon ; The Andromeda Strain was one of the books that began a lifelong love of science fiction writing. I read it when I was pretty young, and it left an impression.
posted by exlotuseater at 4:30 PM on November 5, 2008


The story, through the apparent mouthpieces of the author, is supposed to be about THE DANGERS OF UNCONTROLLED SCIENCE!

No, the story is about being stuck on an island with a bunch of dinosaurs running around loose trying to kill all the inhabitants.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:43 PM on November 5, 2008


.
posted by nickyskye at 4:47 PM on November 5, 2008


Because my interpretation was, "nature is far more complex than you think it is, and your understanding of it is comically, tragically, dangerously limited."

But nothing central to the plot happens because their understanding of nature is tragically limited. Instead, the plot happens (almost?) entirely because the park is hugely overautomated, for no better reason than so that one single actor can disable everything all at once through his malfeasance.

It's also still dumb in ways unreflected in the book. Dig a big fucking ditch around life, and it does not break free. Put big fucking walls around life, and it does not escape that barrier. And building ditches wide and deep enough, or walls high and stout enough, that no physiologically possible animal could possibly cross those barriers seems a trivial exercise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:53 PM on November 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


the story is about being stuck on an island with a bunch of dinosaurs running around loose trying to kill all the inhabitants

That part I was down with 100%. That part was awesome.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:53 PM on November 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I read Jurassic Park in 7th grade and wanted to be a paleontologist for a couple years afterward. Despite any anti-science agenda, the only effect his books ever had on me was to make me more interested in science and its possibilities.

And for that, I owe him my thanks.

.
posted by digitaldraco at 4:55 PM on November 5, 2008


I guess the main lesson of Crichton is that any complex automated process not constantly tweaked by human intervention will find a way to fuck you over… which seems about right.
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


/goes to store to buy groceries, uses self checkout, is blinded by laser, slips on spilled milk and attacked by tiny dinosaurs while lying helpless on the floor.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on November 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


But nothing central to the plot happens because their understanding of nature is tragically limited. Instead, the plot happens (almost?) entirely because the park is hugely overautomated, for no better reason than so that one single actor can disable everything all at once through his malfeasance.

Outside of the chaos and human death that happened in the main plot of the book, there were events that happened--before the visitors arrived, and before Nedry screwed everything up--that reflected that point he was making about nature finding a way to break away from the Crazy Science Wackiness imposed on it.

For example, there was the fact that some of the dinosaurs had somehow changed their physical sex and started breeding. And that apparently the raptors had found a way to frequently escape and survive despite their lysine (maybe?) dependency.

/nerdbomber.
posted by 1UP at 5:08 PM on November 5, 2008


But nothing central to the plot happens because their understanding of nature is tragically limited.

So, I guess you missed the parts in the book where the ...

* ... velociraptors were smarter, more violent and more physically dangerous than anyone had anticipated, which is pretty much the book's central MacGuffin.

* ... dilophosaurus spits poison, which the scientists didn't know they could do because fossil records don't include soft tissues (which was Crichton taking a plausible creative license). This actually starts the book's real plot, because Nedry is killed before he's supposed to turn the park's security back on.

* ... female-only dinosaurs start breeding, because they've mixed frog DNA into the recovered DNA, and some breeds of frogs switch genders in the wild.

* ... lysine-dependent dinosaurs escape the island and then start deliberately looking for, and finding, lysine-rich foods, which means the park's ultimate failsafe measure is worthless.

* ... botanist character points out that some of the recovered prehistoric plants in the hotel are poisonous.

* ... park's founder is killed by a pack of the park's smallest dinosaurs, which turn out to be deadly in groups.

Did you, like, read this book?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:13 PM on November 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


M.C., for some reason, as a kid of the 90s I felt obligated to read everything you wrote. I remember almost all the plots, but the only actual words I recall from any of your novels are these: "Watch your gestures. The Japanese find big arm movements threatening." I obsessed over that concept. In my imagination, a man waving his arms around like a wacky wavy inflatable tube man on the island of Japan was granted the power of Gozilla. My friends and I used to giggle at the thought of all those staid and suited businessmen running before our wild arm gestures.

Yes, 11 year old me was an idiot. But to be fair, so was grown-up Michael Crichton sometimes. It's alright. Rest in peace, man. I enjoyed your ephemeral novels as much as anyone really could. Which, to be honest, was quite a bit. Maybe I'll re-read one soon. As innocently as I can.
posted by dosterm at 5:34 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


* ... velociraptors were smarter, more violent and more physically dangerous than anyone had anticipated, which is pretty much the book's central MacGuffin.

But... so what? If Nedry doesn't turn all of the safety systems off all at once, who cares? There is only a plot about velociraptors if there are loose velociraptors.

* ... dilophosaurus spits poison... This actually starts the book's real plot, because Nedry is killed before he's supposed to turn the park's security back on.

This only starts the plot rolling because only Nedry can turn off his intrusion without crashing the entire system. If not absolutely everything is hooked into Nedry's system, the safety systems stay up and the dinos don't get loose. What starts the plot rolling isn't "Nedry is killed by dinosaur," it's "InGen hires Nedry to build impractical computer system to control everything so that they don't have to hire cheap labor."

* ... female-only dinosaurs start breeding, because they've mixed frog DNA into the recovered DNA, and some breeds of frogs switch genders in the wild.

This is the one absurd thing I'll buy. It's vanishingly unlikely that the velociraptors would be missing exactly those genome sequences that allow frogs to do this, and it's also vanishingly unlikely that the proteins and hormones created by this sequence would cause a female dinosaur to become male instead of just, say, killing it. But I'll buy (vanishingly unlikely)^2 in this case, since it's just a matter of being statistically improbable.

I don't mean to piss on the guy's grave, and, again, I generally enjoy his books and the films made therefrom.

I just get what people don't like about it, is all. The things that people dislike are not without justification. It's not even that bad science parts that I don't like, it's the very high levels of inexplicable, motivationless stupidity that are required by the plot.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:47 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Actually, let me be stronger than that. JP is one of my favoritest comfort books, a great ripping yarn with lots of good images and dino-sours running amok.

It's just got these occasional but gaping plot holes that annoy me, at the same time. The science-is-dangerous stuff that people are saying in the book doesn't make sense even within the context of the book itself.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:56 PM on November 5, 2008


I'm sad about this.

Like many above, Crichton was a favourite for beach and train reading in my school years. My favourite parts of his books were the digressions where he'd go into professorial mode for a few pages, and you'd learn something interesting about biology, computers, culture, mythology, history, etc.

I reviewed The Lost World for my university newspaper (good way to get free books). His books starting with Timeline in 1996 got pretty bad, in fact I hardly finished any of them despite having copies of them all. Here's how I'd rank his earlier books:

1. Sphere (movie was shit)
2. Jurassic Park (movie was great)
3. The Great Train Robbery (never saw it... Crichton directed it)
4. Travels
5. Terminal Man (decent movie if a bit 70s slowish)
6. The Andromeda Strain (awesome flick, shitty remake watch the original)
7. The Lost World (movie not so great but not bad with remote in hand)
8. Congo (book MUCH better than movie)
9. Eaters of the Dead (13th Warrior, good movie if you like neutered vikings and decapitations)

Can't remember any others before 1996 besides Disclosure and Rising Sun, neither of which did much for me.
posted by autodidact at 6:02 PM on November 5, 2008


Timeline will always be a pretty damn cool premise.

Um, yeah, I agree. An interesting premise. The execution...not so much. A book and movie with about equal parts of god awful.

But I loved Jurassic Park, and I think the movie is still one of Spielberg's bests.
posted by zardoz at 6:06 PM on November 5, 2008


What starts the plot rolling isn't "Nedry is killed by dinosaur"

I'm pretty convinced you've only seen the movie. In the book, Nedry is supposed to turn the security off for only 15 minutes so he can return to his desk and pretend that it was all just a temporary glitch, and the dinosaur embryos will have been stolen without anyone knowing. But a) there's a storm and b) he's killed before he gets back, and all hell breaks loose.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:09 PM on November 5, 2008


In what way is Sphere about "ZOMG Science will kill us?"

I'm lucky to have pretty much ignored both his later works and also his apparent anti-global-warming stuff.

So I really am pretty sad to see him go.

.
posted by agress at 6:24 PM on November 5, 2008


[Spoiler alert]


Eaters of the Dead was fantastic because I totally fell for his non-fiction set-up in the opening chapters. I thought I was reading a historical work until I read the epilogue. I'll admit to being gullible, but it allowed me to enjoy the book 100x more than I probably would have otherwise.
posted by BinGregory at 6:26 PM on November 5, 2008


I someone wrangled an early copy of "Jurassic Park" before it hit the shelves, and was pretty blown away, telling my American Pop Lit prof to keep an eye out for it -- it might be kinda big.

I'm still haunted by that one early image -- the lady walking in and seeing the dinos gathered around a baby's bassinet, as if they were feeding from a communal trough. When I heard that Spielberg was gonna film it, I recall thinking that this would be the first scene he'd cut (Yeah, I know -- can't really blame him. Family movie, blah-blah.) Still, I can't help wondering what it would have been like if he had included it. Woulda set an entirely different tone. Probably wouldn't have been so many sequels or Burger King tie-ins.

And yeah -- Crichton wasn't a very strong writer, per se. But was a fantastic storyteller (as others here have noted). You could say the same about Asimov, his fiction was always written in a clunky 2-dimensional style, but the underlying stories were mind-blowing.

And yeah (again) Crichton had many views I found downright embarassing. I attribute some of it to lazy writing, but it's (of course) undeniable that he was injecting clunky personal propaganda into most his later stuff. So what? I enjoy a good Clancy novel too.

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posted by RavinDave at 7:25 PM on November 5, 2008


I'm pretty convinced you've only seen the movie.

You are wrong. But thanks for calling me a liar.

In the book, Nedry is supposed to turn the security off for only 15 minutes so he can return to his desk and pretend that it was all just a temporary glitch

In the book, Nedry turns off the security systems he needs to (and is aware of) and goes about this, getting killed.

Then, the only way they can get rid of the resulting problem is to reboot the server, because they don't know his code to restore everything.

It is rebooting the server that causes the problems. Because they have all of the functions tied into the single server, rebooting the server indirectly causes the entire set of systems in the park to crash.*

Again, the problem is not that dinosaurs are bigger or smarter or faster or more poisonous than they thought they would be. The problem was never that life found a way. The problem was that they automated absolutely everything, for no obvious reason at all, and then tied all of the subsystems together in a single, solitary server, again for no obvious reason at all.

*The single, unitary system is set to go to backup power instead of main power on a reboot. Nobody notices this. So when the backup generator runs out of juice, which doesn't take long, the entire park goes offline. This is when the dinosaurs start running amok.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:23 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by Lynsey at 8:28 PM on November 5, 2008


This is a writer I grew up with. I am quite surprised and saddened by his death.
posted by bz at 8:28 PM on November 5, 2008


Like a lot of older people he was part of the problem.
posted by meddeviceengineer at 8:39 PM on November 5, 2008


Like a lot of older people he was part of the problem.

Older people were actually smug, know-nothing, younger people when they created the problem.
posted by b1ff at 10:26 PM on November 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


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Like many others, his novels brought me many hours of enjoyment as a child. For that alone, he gets my respect. The world may not be any worse off without him now, but it is better because he was here.
posted by kyleg at 11:28 PM on November 5, 2008


The story, through the apparent mouthpieces of the author, is supposed to be about THE DANGERS OF UNCONTROLLED SCIENCE!!!

See, in my copy, it's about how greedy, money-hungry businessmen are dangerous, especially when they meddle with complex systems they don't understand, with profit as their only real interest.

Which, I guess, makes State of Fear and Crichton's later status as a (perhaps inadvertant) mouthpiece for Big Oil's interests kind of ironic.

Like a lot of older people he was part of the problem.

See, I understand why Matt wouldn't want to give awards for the stupidest comment of the month, but if there was an award...
posted by rodgerd at 12:46 AM on November 6, 2008


I make it a practice not to express happiness at anyone's death. For his family and friends, no doubt this was a great personal loss.

But it's no literary loss, at least not in the sense that we'll miss his great contributions going forward.

And he was absolutely anti-science in the worst way, not in the good way. He was a dishonest storyteller, passing off poorly-executed potboilers as speculative fiction and fear-mongering as moral lessons. A crypto-misogynist, a 6'5" walking ego-cum-inferiority complex (the very paradigm of Adler's vision). Never accepted in the SF genre because he was too sloppy not just with his science, but with his reasoning. He will doubtless be lauded in death because Americans worship market success. For all I know he was very nice to children and puppies and he seems to have had a head for business. But any literary loss here will largely be in the form of many creative people getting stuck cranking out Crichton pastiche, imitation, and hagiography.

When Stephen King kicks it, I'll speak far more positively (as far as his star may arguably have fallen) if for no other reason than that he so substantially gave back to his craft; I just don't see that from Crichton.
posted by lodurr at 2:13 AM on November 6, 2008


RUO_Xenophobe: The single, unitary system is set to go to backup power instead of main power on a reboot. Nobody notices this.

This is really, really, really, really sloppy fucking story-telling.

Seriously, it's just massively implausible that the "geniuses" at Jurassic Park could be so brilliant about re-assembling DNA and not spot such a basic flaw in systems design. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

It's a fantastic example of why I regard Crichton as a deeply dishonest story-teller. He manipulates people through dishonest narrative reasoning, and for his ethical crimes gets hailed as a visionary.
posted by lodurr at 2:21 AM on November 6, 2008


This is really, really, really, really sloppy fucking story-telling.

Wouldn't that make it great, like really really really sloppy fucking can be great?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:57 AM on November 6, 2008


Alas, IMO that's not what makes it great. (The book, not the fucking.)

What makes it great is the linear energy of the story. hat kills the fun in sloppy storytelling just like in sloppy fucking is when you get a chance to think about what's going on. So for me, the whole thing goes off the rails as soon as Malcolm starts spouting his bizarro version of chaos theory or we start getting lectures on how 'life will find a way.' Without those, the sloppiness could make it great.
posted by lodurr at 7:20 AM on November 6, 2008


"hat kills the fun" => "what kills the fun"

No aspersions were meant to be cast on either languagehat or hat_maui
posted by lodurr at 7:21 AM on November 6, 2008


Seriously, it's just massively implausible that the "geniuses" at Jurassic Park could be so brilliant about re-assembling DNA and not spot such a basic flaw in systems design. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

One night in 1961, Strategic Air Command lost all communications with its early-warning bases in Greenland, England, and Alaska. There were two possibilities: either the Soviets had taken out these bases in preparation for a massive strike, or the supposedly redundant communications lines had all simultaneously failed. The B-52s at U.S. bases fired up their engines and were ready to take off for a retaliatory strike. However, before World War Three could start, SAC managed to contact a plane on patrol near Thule, who in turn radioed the early-warning base and confirmed that no attack had taken place.

So why had the "redundant" systems all failed? The failure was eventually traced to a relay station in Colorado, which all the lines ran through; a motor had overheated there, thereby interrupting all the lines. There were an awful lot of "geniuses" working on these communications systems too, and yet they managed to short-circuit the redundancy they had built into the system, nearly reducing the Earth to a radioactive wasteland in the process. As massively implausible as you find the failures of the systems in Jurassic Park, these kinds of things can and do happen.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:25 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


it's just massively implausible that the "geniuses" at Jurassic Park could be so brilliant about re-assembling DNA and not spot such a basic flaw in systems design

As a DNA researcher myself, nowhere I've ever worked has asked for my input into the design of their physical plant or computing infrastructure.
posted by grouse at 7:34 AM on November 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Seriously, it's just massively implausible that the "geniuses" at Jurassic Park could be so brilliant about re-assembling DNA and not spot such a basic flaw in systems design. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

You've obviously never worked in a biotech company with a shitty IT department.
posted by minifigs at 8:31 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by alby at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2008


lodurr writes "Seriously, it's just massively implausible that the 'geniuses' at Jurassic Park could be so brilliant about re-assembling DNA and not spot such a basic flaw in systems design."

Hee Hee. Read the risks digest archive. Stuff like this happens even in real life. All. The. Time. Just from the current issue: A simple traffic accident that takes out a power pole fries the towns sewage treatment plant computerized system. As a bonus the computer system that was fried by the surge is responsible for turning on the backup generators. Generators put in place to keep things running if, I don't know, let's say the power pole out front gets hit by a car. Guess what didn't happen automatically?

Now in this case workers were able to assume control manually. That's good design. However it wouldn't surprise me in the least if a similiar plant somewhere in the US is running short staffed because of economic downturn. Someplace that has experienced massive depopulation like say Detroit.

Or how about the 999 (IE:911) system that terminates calls, automatically, if no one speaks clearly in a limited time. What could possibly go wrong? What the heck happens if someone calls choking or is mute?

Some of these systems are very complex. Vulnerablities which in hind sight of a diaster are glaringly obvious routinely exist.
posted by Mitheral at 9:22 AM on November 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Honestly, you guys are full of shit. The chain of stupid mistakes that have to be made for the plot of JP to move forward is far more ridiculous than any of the examples you've cited, and more to the point: That's not supposed to be the point.

If that were the point (people will make systems design mistakes), it would be a different book. But the clear High Moral Point of that book is 'you should never do anything big and dangerous, because everything big and dangerous is doomed to failure.'

It's actually a really badly plotted book. But it's badly plotted in a "sloppy sex", McDonald's cheeseburger kind of way, as RUO_Xenophobe alludes, so people cut it a break. I read it, I enjoyed it (even as it really bugged the shit out of me at philosophical and critical levels), and I enjoyed the movie (which shares all the book's key flaws). Crichton had a talent for creating strong little character moments (think "Clever girl!", "I'm always on the lookout for the next ex-Mrs. Malcolm", and a crabby paleontologist scaring the shit out of a bored little rich kid to get rid of him), and action that would drag you along even as you started to feel like the ebb-and-flow was a little too predictable (JP is where I, too, started to feel as though he was writing screenplays first, then novelizing them).

At the end of the day, though, I want more from books these days than sloppy sex, and if I want the literary equivalent of sloppy sex, I can find a book that I don't mind talking to after we're done. (OK, that might be pushing the metaphor a bit far, but I like it.) For example, I have complained long and often about Neal Stephenson, but I don't feel like he's trying to manipulate me (except maybe sometimes to make elaborate and perhaps ill-advised in-jokes). Part of that is because Stephenson respects my intelligence as a reader. I haven't felt that Crichton has for a very long time.
posted by lodurr at 10:26 AM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


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posted by zanni at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2008


the amount of misplaced bile in this thread is just a little bit dumb

Well, take Jurassic Park...


I think you're missing my point here. The fact is, good project or bad, Crichton generated a big fat framework that has provided a paradigm for people to receive direct creative employment, be inspired to enter a featured field (i.e. cybernetics, paleontology, even working in ER, maybe, who knows) or has inspired technology - however unwittingly - that has pushed culture forward. Westworld, as anyone who has read this far will probably know, begat Futureworld, which provided a showcase for Ed Catmull to provide the first genuine demonstration of 3D CG for the film industry (a virtual representation of his own left hand). In turn, Catmull ultimately begat a good deal of the rendering technology that enabled Spielberg's Jurassic Park dinosaurs to thrive and so on. It's wheels in wheels.

For those who post 'no great loss' and all that kind of crap, well, it is: Crichton did stuff and via his energy he enabled other things to happen.
posted by specialbrew at 2:30 PM on November 6, 2008


I was, in fact, missing your point there.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:09 PM on November 6, 2008


That's a nice comment to make. I simply felt slightly dispirited by the initial run of fairly negative posts and maybe I didn't really explain my perspective particularly well.
posted by specialbrew at 4:43 PM on November 6, 2008


No, I just read the comment I felt like reading instead of the one you wrote.

Crichton's tendency to Do That Stuff still bugs me. But it bugs me because I buy the books and read them and wish they were that little bit better.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:47 PM on November 6, 2008


lodurr writes "The chain of stupid mistakes that have to be made for the plot of JP to move forward is far more ridiculous"

Ah, it's a chain of ridiculous events you're after. How about this:
The falling ladder problem [A ladder fell against a "break glass in emergancy" protected switch, then flipped the switch. Said switch switched the comptuer system over to UPS power which turned out not to be able to handle the load. M] reminded me of something that happened at a facility I was working at in Texas a number of years ago. Disaster planning was taken very seriously and the facility had an emergency diesel generator *and* backup battery supplies to hold the data center up in case the diesel was hard to start.

Except for the dump truck that lost control while descending a rise, left the road and slammed into the adjacent power pole.

The pole broke off at the base and fell onto the generator building, doing grievous damage to the generator. The broken engine cooling & fuel lines added to broken water mains to flood the battery room with a noxious mess (the engine bay had a fuel loss containment system but it was not designed to cope with a water main). Along the way, the fire control system triggered adding to the mayhem.

Needless to say, the data center lost power rather suddenly
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posted by Mitheral at 7:40 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


My theory is that the swarm from "Next" replaced him prior to his writing "State of Fear."

His books were all about how we should fear science.

I would have said that the running theme in Creighton is that elaborate theories and plans fall apart in the face of the unexpected. Only people who can learn on the fly and jury-rig solutions can save the day. It's a theme that carries over as far as "The Great Train Robbery." I suppose he was the anti-Asimov.

That theme does not amount to science hatred. In Jurassic Park, Malcolm is right and the park designers are wrong precisely because Malcolm is a better scientist, successfully predicting the failure of their rigid planning on abstract theoretical grounds.

The evil men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones...

Here's to the author of The Andromeda Strain, Sphere, Jurassic Park, The Great Train Robbery, Terminal Man, Eaters of the Dead and more.
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posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 10:20 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I learned something from even his bad books. At least most of them. The story was usually Scientific Stuff Will Kill Us All, but you could see the wonder at all of it inside. I'll mourn him for the Victorian science I'll never see again, the modern aircraft technology that I'd never thought about, the Neanderthals, the dinosaurs, the gorillas with stone fucking paddles. And I'll always wonder why he went through medical school if he was only going to use it for research.

Here's a . for Dr. Crichton.

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posted by faceonmars at 11:39 PM on November 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Michael Crichton got my son hooked on reading
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:56 AM on November 7, 2008


Coded Koch curves in my spare time in university and ended up doing my research project on complexity analysis solely because I read Jurassic Park some ten years before.

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posted by the cydonian at 2:42 AM on November 7, 2008


"Crichton fans are writing in and complaining that I'm cruel to his memory. In a word, no. And in a lot of words, you don't understand yet, but you will. Okay: the guy was a pretty good screenwriter. Also, there have been worse novels than some of his. Especially the novels that aren't paranoid tracts about atmospheric science. But Crichton's one with the ages -- and the judgment of history will be harsh for him. He truly blotted his copybook. His legacy as a writer, thinker and public figure is shameful. Someone needs to say it now, because someday everyone will. Get used to it.

If you can't bring yourself to believe that yet, ask again in ten years."

posted by longdaysjourney at 10:45 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


"...Someone needs to say it now, because someday everyone will. Get used to it. If you can't bring yourself to believe that yet, ask again in ten years."

That's actually not how history works. Nobody cares that Tolstoy cheated on his wife and wrote about it and then forced his wife to read about it. For example. I mean, that's some scandalous shit right there, but history has largely forgotten about that. The only thing people will be talking about in 10 years with regards to Michael Crichton is that he wrote Jurassic Park and "some other things."

Which is good, because as a person I hear he was kind of an egotistical ass. I'm sure at least four of his five wives would probably agree. But his books dabbled on the brink of science and fiction in a wonderful, new way. I would call him the H.G. Wells of our generation.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:07 AM on November 7, 2008


Or possibly he'll end up more of a Heinlein, equally remembered for popular works and later descent into weirdness and polemicism.
posted by Artw at 9:25 PM on November 7, 2008


That's odd... links to Sterlings blog seemed to have disapeared from Wired.com - I wonder if there is a link?
posted by Artw at 11:10 PM on November 9, 2008


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