Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Writer and Director Michael Crichton Passes On

Writer and director Michael Crichton passed yesterday at the age of 66. The cause was cancer.

Crichton was born On October 23, 1942 in Chicago. He grew up in Rosalyn, New York. Crichton attended Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusett. He was at the University of Cambridge as a Henry Russell Shaw Travelling Fellow from 1964 to 1965. In 1969 he graduated from Harvard Medical School with a doctorate in Medicine. He did post graduate work at the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, from 1969 to 1970.

Crichton sold his first novel, Odds On, in 1966 under the pen name John Lange. He sold several more novels under the pseudonym by 1969. That same year he published his first novel, The Andromeda Strain, that same year. Over the next several years Crichton would publish several different novels, including The Terminal Man (1971), Eaters of the Dead (1986), Congo (1980), Jurassic Park (1990), Prey (2002), and Next (2006). Crichtn also wrote five non fiction books, including Five Patients, Electronic Life, and Travels.

Many of Crichton's novels would be adapted to the big screen, including The Andromeda Screen, The Terminal Man, Jurassic Park, The 13th Warrior (based on Eaters of the Dead), and Timeline. Crichton also directed films, the first being Westworld, released in 1973. He also directed Coma, The First Great Train Robbery, Looker, Runaway, and Physical Evidence.

Michael Crichton was also involved in television. He directed the TV film Pursuit, first aired in 1972. He also created the TV series ER and was that series' executive producer. This year A&E aired a TV movie based on The Andromeda Strain.

Many discovered Michael Crichton with the movie Jurassic Park. Myself, I discovered Crichton with the movie The Andromeda Strain back in the Seventies. My brother and I watched the film on The ABC Sunday Night Movie. Both of us were hooked. Naturally I would watch The Terminal Man and Westworld. I would also start reading Crichton's books. Over the years I have read The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Eaters of the Dead, and many others. He has always been one of my favourite writers.

Although he was generally not classed as such, I have always thought of Michael Crichton as a science fiction writer. Indeed, both his novels and movies often centred on the idea of scientific advancements gone haywire, including Westworld, Jurassic Park, and many others. Not only did Crichton's works deal largely with science gone awry, but they generally had a fairly firm scientific basis, even including actual scientific documents. This gave his books a realism often lacking in many works of science fiction. This realism was aided by the fact that Crichton wrote many of his books as fictional documents. The Andromeda Strain is largely such a document, while Eaters of the Dead is a fictionalised account of Ahmad ibn Fadlan's account of the Rus from the 10th century CE. Many authors would not be able to succeed using techniques, but Crichton was a best selling writer from early on. Not only were his novel grounded in science, bu they were also very entertaining and very well written. It is sad to think that he gone, having died relatively young.


Jim Marquis said...

He was a great popular novelist. I always loved the fact you could learn so much from his books.

The only thing I ever had against him was his global warming denier novel...

Terence Towles Canote said...

Yes, I always had a problem with Crichton's denial of global warming. I never quite understood that.