Is Michael Crichton a dick, or what?

December 14, 2006

Literary revenge is almost as old as literature itself. Evelyn Waugh paid back his first wife’s infidelities by making her the model for the appalling Lady Brenda Last in A Handful of Dust. Ernest Hemingway lampooned his old patron, Gertrude Stein, with one character’s tautlogical dialogue in For Whom the Bell Tolls. My esteem for John Katzenbach increased twelvefold when I learned that a group of imprisoned psychopaths in his serial-killer novel The Traveler were all named after his old editors at the Trenton Times. Reaching the bottom of the barrel, neocon eminence grise Norman Podhoretz devoted an entire book, Ex-Friends, to his tiffs with Norman Mailer, Lillian Hellman and Hannah Arendt, among others.

Even so, there is something tiresome and cheesy about Michael Crichton’s little jab at New Republic writer Michael Crowley, who incurred the author’s wrath with a March 20 cover story that handily demolished Crichton’s ludicrous novel State of Fear — you know, the one about how global warming is a scare story cooked up by a conspiracy of bloodthirsty environmentalists. As a bonus, Crowley charted Crichton’s decline from his early years as an honestly entertaining pop science fiction novelist (the guy writes about marauding dinosaurs and killer germs from outer space, so let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?) to the rather creepy pamphleteer who revived the Yellow Peril in Rising Sun and made sexual harassment out to be the work of predatory women in Disclosure. When President Bush, whose administration is notorious for trying to muzzle honest science on global warming, chose to have a chat on the subject with Crichton, director of not one but two killer-robot movies, it was a match made in hack heaven.

So Crichton tried to get even with Crowley in his new novel, Next, by giving a sound-alike name to a child molester. He seems to have forgotten Benjamin Franklin’s sage advice about not starting an argument with a man who buys ink by the barrel — or, in this case, pixels. All he’s managed to accomplish, it seems, is to remind people of how much fun it was to read Crowley’s old cover story. Shucks, instead of reading Next, I think I’ll pay for a TNR subscription and read Crowley’s piece again.

A man tries to get back at an enemy and ends up kicking himself in the ass. Sounds like a funny idea for a novel. Just don’t expect Michael Crichton to write that book — he’s living it.    

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4 Responses to “Is Michael Crichton a dick, or what?”

  1. Ron Fischer Says:

    I also watched Michael Crichton’s slow-motion fall from sanity with confusion and disgust. It’s unfortunate that the ego which sustained so much creativity will likely keep him from seeing how big a fool he’s become. Of course one can “go against the grain” by writing non-politically correct contrarian fiction. Done cleverly it is enlightening and amusing. But its no longer possible to suspend belief or even find entertainment in MC’s work. Perhaps one way to look at this is that the man is trying to write above his ability. In public comments about ‘State of Fear’ he claimed to be messaging that “science should stay out of politics,” that if it does not it can be used by either side. Fair enough, but insofar as good science supports seeing reality instead of the false propoganda supported by Exxon, “science” can’t remain neutral in a debate. The law of the land is too important to be defined by politicians and corporations in a vacuum.

    By Mike and thanks for all the fish.

  2. Caveat Says:

    Yeah, he’s a dick now, which is a shame.

    I actually got a kick out of State of Fear as a fun piece of fiction. I did like his comments on the media and how they work with governments to promote hysteria – that run true with me.

    Unfortunately though, I think ol’ Mike’s hit a common snag – his fame has gone to his head.

  3. Caveat Says:

    Sorry, ‘rung true’. I think my keyboard is due for retirement.


  4. […] As John Scalzi notes, Crichton’s main mode was alarmism. Space germs gonna gitcha! Guys with hotwired brains gonna gitcha! Genetically engineered dinosaurs gonna gitcha! Nanobugs gonna gitcha! Female executives in power suits gonna gitcha! The Japanese gonna gitcha! Environmentalists gonna gitcha! The irony was that Crichton himself was utterly fearless in tackling new subjects and technology, and he presented his conclusions with the bossy certitude of one of Robert A. Heinlein’s authorial mouthpieces. The flip side of this admirable confidence can be found in the novels Disclosure, Rising Sun and State of Fear — museum-quality demonstrations of how an obviously smart man can believe and write some unbelievably stupid stuff – and a late-blooming tendency toward odious crankery. […]


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