Saturday, November 9, 2013
Michael Crichton: “What I Have Learned from Reactions to My Books”
This is a publication of a speech that Michael Crichton made on May 21, 2007 at the "Who Owns Your Body?" symposium at the Kent School of Law in Chicago. It was published in the Chicago-Kent Law Review in 2009 and has recently been made available through Law Commons.
Monday, November 4, 2013
(I apologize for not posting something on what would have been Michael Crichton’s 71st birthday on October 23. It could not be helped, as my health has not been good lately. Mea maxima culpa, Michael, and to all my Musings readers.)
Five years ago today, we lost Michael Crichton. I still find it difficult to accept. I feel he is still a part of the universe somehow. Anything else would be unthinkable.
Here’s a comment I posted in the New York Times story about his death:
Michael Crichton was far more than a novelist. He was a brilliant philosopher who explored ideas and issues through fiction. On a wide range of important topics, he ignited analysis and debate among readers around the world as few writers have ever done. Crichton’s strength was not in the answers he provided, but in the questions he provoked. His death is a tragic loss, but his books will continue to entertain and educate readers.I just went back to the article and found some other comments that illustrate how Michael Crichton will continue to live through his work. Many future readers will have their minds illuminated through his words.
I was an extra in the movie version of “Coma” which Crichton directed back in 1977. (It was filmed in and around Boston.) I remember being shocked the first time I saw him on the set – he was 6 ft. 7 and I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone that tall before! My memory of him as a director is that he was low key and in control, everything went smoothly during the production. It is so sad to hear of his untimely death.— laurel
Michael was unassuming, good natured, and a friend, though we were separated by years and distance. We often breakfasted together on Saturday mornings on Kauai after the farmer’s market when we both lived there. He told me he always considered himself more of an anthropologists and each novel, a paper for class. He had a wonderful sense of humor. I miss him.— Myles Ludwig
Michael Crichton is to a large degree responsible for at least one professional biologist – upon reading The Andromeda Strain as a small boy (and I still have that copy), I became enthralled with molecular biology. His writing launched me on my scientific career path thought MIT and Harvard, and I have read all of his subsequent books. Thank you so much , Dr. Crichton, and rest in peace. My life would have been much different without you. I see a last book was scheduled for publication in early December – was it near enough to completion to be finished and released?John Greene, Ph.D.
A big lost for the literature world! Today I’m a researcher, thanks to the Crichton’s works, not because I’m influenced, but because his books kept the paleontology “flames” burning inside me. And then I choosed paleontology as work. His books also had told us that we must never accept the obvious without think deeper about it, as most scientist do… Official mourning decreed…— Henrique (Brazil)
I have never read a Michael Crichton book, but I am still a big fan of his. By the time my daughter Alice turned 12, she had read eight of Crichton’s books. I took her to see him at a book signing for the novel Prey. At the time, Alice was a shy girl, and she fretted about what to say to someone she looked up to so much. Mr. Crichton immediately made her feel at ease and was wonderfully kind to her, asking her questions about her favorites. Alice and I both left that meeting as enthusiastic fans of Michael Crichton.— Maggie
I read all his books in high school, and still count Sphere as a top 5 book – always fascinating and engaging stuff – but his non-fiction book ‘Travels’ really changed the way I saw the world, made me very curious about things I’d never thought about. I have huge respect for him. His legacy for me and hopefully a lot of others is to let laziness and incuriousness be damned.— Chris
after admiring him for many years, i met mr. crichton at a fundraising talk he gave for a community center. i was working the sound system for him. he was so incredibly gracious and appreciative toward me, the lowly sound guy. after it was over, he sought me out and thanked me for my work. he was not only a brilliant thinker and gifted storyteller. He was a genuinely kind & caring person. to his family, i’m so sorry for your loss.— peter c
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
The New Republic has given us a very special treat: online publication of Michael Crichton's 1969 book review of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Crichton wrote a number of book reviews in the 1960s, but most are not available on the web. I've had to scrounge around university libraries and wrestle with microfilm to find many of them.
From the review:
We live in an age of great seriousness. We are accustomed to getting our art in heavy, pretentious doses. Anything funny is suspect, and anything simple is doubly suspect. Here we come to the second difficulty with Kurt Vonnegut. His style is effortless, naive, almost childlike. There are no big words and no complicated sentences. It is an extraordinarily difficult style, but that fact is lost on anyone who has never tried to write that way.
Monday, September 2, 2013
According to Variety, HBO has given the go for the production of a pilot of a series remake of Westworld. Michael Crichton wrote and directed the 1973 film. Jonathan Nolan, who has written the films The Prestige and The Dark Knight Rises, plus the TV series Person of Interest, will be writing and directed the remake.
The HBO rendition of “Westworld” is described as “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.” The pilot production commitment is a big one by HBO’s standards, indicated the depth of the pay cabler’s interest in the project.
While you’re waiting, check out Michael Crichton in “The Making of Westworld”:
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Ask and ye shall receive.
When the digital publication of Michael Crichton’s pseudonym novels was announced, many people said they wished they could get print editions. Most of the titles were out of print and the second hand copies were often quite expensive.
Especially Odds On, Drug of Choice, and The Venom Business.
Hard Case Crime, which republished Grave Descend in 2006 and Zero Cool in 2008, will be publishing the eight novels Crichton wrote under the name “John Lange” in October/November 2013.
Charles Ardai, the owner and publisher of Hard Case Crime, worked with Crichton in getting two of the books republished—Crichton even wrote two extra chapters for Zero Cool—but he was unable to persuade “John Lange” to reveal his true identity. In a recent interview, Ardai said:
Working with Michael (even if we had to keep it secret) was one of the great pleasures and privileges of my career, and ever since, I've wished we could have completed what we began. I've also wondered whether Michael might eventually have given in to temptation and written a whole new Lange novel for us -- no less persuasive a figure than Stephen King was encouraging him to do so! Alas, a new Lange novel will never be…but we’re very pleased to announce that five years later we finally will get to finish what we started. We’re going to be bringing all eight John Lange novels back to bookstores for the first time in more than four decades – and with the blessing of Michael’s family, the first time ever under the his real name.
I work in a bookstore and I remember telling several Michael Crichton fans about the John Lange novels we had for sale. Most were very surprised, having had no idea that Crichton had written under a pseudonym.
Odds On (1966)
Scratch One (1967)
Easy Go (1968)
Zero Cool (1969)
The Venom Business (1970)
Drug of Choice (1970)
Grave Descend (1970)
Unfortunately, Dealing or The Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1970) by Michael Douglas is still available only in digital or out-of-print editions.
A Case of Need (1968) by Jeffery Hudson was out of print but was republished in 1993 with Crichton’s name on the cover. It’s available in paperback and has been for years. There’s an interesting story behind that. (Coming Soon: “A Special Case of Need”)
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
This video, made in 2001, contains an extensive interview with Michael Crichton. It’s included in The Andromeda Strain (1971) DVD. Crichton talks about his writing during the Med School Years, and explains how he chose the pseudonyms “John Lange” and “Jeffery Hudson”.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Eight of the ten pseudonym novels by Michael Crichton were released in digital format on July 23. Ebook releases of Grave Descend and Zero Cool have been pushed back to August 27, 2013. No explanation has been given, but the other books will provide plenty of reading for now.
I have print copies of all the titles. My favorites are Binary, Easy Go (aka The Last Tomb), Drug of Choice, and Scratch One. But all are fascinating reads, not only for what they reveal about Crichton as a writer, but in their own right.
The ebooks contain a special treat for Michael Crichton’s fans—nine photos from the Crichton archives:
• A photo of Michael Crichton with his brother Douglas when they were boys. This photo was taken by their mother and appeared on the hardcover dust jacket of Dealing.
• A telegram informing Crichton of his acceptance to Harvard
• Crichton’s Harvard yearbook photo in 1961. He was in Lowell House. (I have a 1964 Harvard yearbook which shows Crichton in his senior year.)
• A photo of Crichton as an anthropology student at Harvard. He’s measuring some statues that I believe are the Elgin Marbles.
• Cover page for a paper Crichton published with the Peabody Museum
• 1969 Harvard Crimson article about Michael Crichton. As I documented in an earlier post, Crichton also wrote a number of articles for the Crimson.
• A photo of Crichton as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute in 1969
• A photo of Crichton scuba diving, which was taken for his autobiography Travels
• A photo of Crichton “hiking while doing research for his novel Micro”. This choked me up a bit. As you know, Crichton died before he could finish the novel. Micro was published in November 2011 after Richard Preston completed the novel based on Crichton’s drafts and notes.