“You may have seen the future,
But I have seen the past!” — Miriam Goldberg
Miriam Goldberg and I have been dear friends since 1990. We met due to our common interest in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks television series. Another item of mutual interest was Michael Crichton’s novel that was published the same year, Jurassic Park. Perhaps the plot was the precursor of her quote, as well as her essay, “A Fragile Species.”
November 4, 2010, was the second anniversary of the death of Michael Crichton, who would have been 68 had he survived lymphoma. At the time of his death he was working on two more novels. One, Pirate Latitudes, has been published posthumously and the other (a techno-thriller) is being completed by another writer and currently has no publication date.
Crichton and I first crossed trails in a small dark theater when my date and I saw The Andromeda Strain in 1971. I was a freshman in college then and studying diligently to maintain my student deferment. The thought of dying in a rice paddy in Southeast Asia was both a frightening nightmare and a motivator for doing well in school. The Terminal Man was published in 1972 and was the first of Crichton’s works that I read — and I was hooked. But life got in the way and it wasn’t until 1990 when I read Jurassic Park that the desire to read everything Crichton wrote drove my reading habits.
Crichton was born in Chicago on October 23, 1943 and grew up on Long Island in New York. He apparently inherited his interest in writing from his father who was a journalist. He studied literature at Harvard until a famous incident with a professor led to his decision to change majors. After earning a degree in anthropology (summa cum laude) and being a visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge (UK), he entered Harvard Medical School. He received his M.D. from Harvard in 1969 three years after his first published work.
Odds On (1966) was written under one of several pen names he used based on his height (6’9”): John Lange (lange = long in German) and Jeffery Hudson, which paid homage to a famous 17th century dwarf. He often used the devices of paradox and irony, as would be later noted in Disclosure when we wrote of sexual harassment from a different point of view.
My two favorite works by Crichton are Travels and State of Fear. Travels is an autobiographical work based on many adventures undertaken by the author and the lessons he learned about life and himself while on the road. State of Fear, the subject of a recent review of mine, appeals to me because it is a thought-provoking blend of fiction and documented facts. It’s Crichton’s only work of fiction with a bibliography to support his characters’ claims.
Few if any authors have achieved the feat of having the number one book, movie, and television series simultaneously and Michael Crichton was (the?) one. How many authors can claim the influence of Crichton? An April court ruling brought to fruition a request from his book, Next, as gene patents are ruled illegal. Critics considered him a master of his craft and he will be greatly missed by a sizeable fan base — especially Miriam and me.