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Yearbook 1993, ed. Judith Graham, et.al., New York: The H.W. Wilson Co.,
The Daily Mail, Hagerstown, MD, 27 Feb 1978, "CRICHTON's 'Coma' no film for one facing surgery"
The Los Angeles Times, (date unknown), "CRICHTON Draws Novel's Readers in 'Sphere' of Undersea Terror"
Publication Unknown (date unknown), "Writer Michael CRICHTON Fears Mixture of Commerce, Science," by Daniel Beegan
TV Guide, 10 Dec 1988, "It's Bad Medicine for Doctors"
Parade Magazine, 12 Sep 1993, "Personality Parade"
Time, 10 Jan 1994, "Pop Fiction's Prime Provocateur"
Time, 25 Sep 1995, "Michael CRICHTON Multimedia Star"
The Washington Post, 26 Nov 1999, "King of Catastrophe"
Parade 5 Dec 2004, "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" by Michael CRICHTON
Writer Michael CRICHTON Fears Mixture of Commerce, Science by Daniel Beegan
Current Biography Yearbook 1993. CRICHTON, Michael. Oct. 23, 1942 - Writer; filmmaker. Address: c/o Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 201 E. 50th St., New York, NY 10022. Note: This biography supersedes the article that appeared in Current Biography in 1976. The novelist and filmmaker Michael CRICHTON has become one of Hollywood's most valuable literary properties. His high-concept books that probe into scientific, moral, and sensitive political issues lend themselves easily to cinematic adaptation. Indeed, CRICHTON himself is an accomplished screenwriter, whose scripts and novels are the subject of high stakes bidding wars by the major film studios. Starting out as a writer of paperback adventure novels while studying medicine at Harvard, CRICHTON abandoned his plan for a career as a physician to become the author of such bestsellers as The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man, works of so-called knowledge fiction whose suspenseful plots are somehow never overwhelmed by their scientific data and "techno speak." After several of his novels were transformed into feature films, CRICHTON distinguished himself as the director of Coma and The Great Train Robbery. He is perhaps best known, however, for his two most recent novels, Jurassic Park, a cautionary tale about the hubris of modern science that Steven SPIELBERG turned into one of the most money-making hits in film history, and Rising Sun, his highly controversial story about rapacious Japanese business practices, which was made into a popular movie starring Sean CONNERY and Wesley SNIPES. Michael CRICHTON was born John Michael CRICHTON in Chicago, IL on October 23, 1942, the son of John Henderson CRICHTON, a journalist who later became an advertising executive, and Zula (MILLER) CRICHTON. The oldest of four children, he has a brother, Douglas, with whom he wrote the novel Dealing: Or, the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues, which was pseudonymously published under the name Michael DOUGLAS in 1971. Not long after Michael's birth his family moved to the New York City suburb of Roslyn, Long Island. Michael CRICHTON published a travel article in the New York Times when he was only fourteen, and in an interview with a writer for Contemporary Authors (1984), he recalled that as a child he was "always interested in lots of things." "I must have gotten it from my parents," he explained. "My father was a journalist, and journalists tend to have a broad range of interests. It was an idea in my family that it was good to have an interest in many diverse things - that you didn't have to have a scheme whereby it all fit together." Moreover, CRICHTON has said that he "developed wide interests from an early age," because his mother took her children to museums, stage plays, concerts, and movies on a weekly basis. Michael CRICHTON enrolled at Harvard College in 1960 with plans of becoming a writer, but after an English professor criticized his writing style he switched his major to anthropology. Upon his graduation, summa cum laude, from Harvard in 1964, he received a fellowship to Cambridge University in England, where he taught anthropology for a year. In 1966 CRICHTON returned to Harvard and entered its medical school. To support himself and pay for his education, he wrote paperback adventure novels. Under the pseudonym John LANGE, he published eight novels: Odds On (1966), Scratch One (1967), Easy Go (1968), Zero Cool (1969), The Venom Business (1969), Drug of Choice (1970), Grave Descend (1970), and Binary (1972). Using the pseudonym Jeffery HUDSON, he also wrote A Case of Need (1968), a medical detective story that probes into the moral and medical dilemmas associated with clinical abortions. The prolific CRICHTON ground out those thrillers by writing at a pace of 10,000 words a day. After obtaining his medical degree in 1969, CRICHTON decided to become a writer rather than a physician. Moving to La Jolla, California, he worked for one year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Also in 1969 he published the best-selling "knowledge fiction" novel The Andromeda Strain, about four scientists racing against time to save the world from "Andromeda," the code name for a lethal, alien strain of bacteria. Critics applauded the speed of its breakneck plot and what one reviewer called its "terrifying air of authenticity," which derived from its "mass of convincing scientific and technological detail." In 1970 CRICHTON published the nonfiction book Five Patients: The Hospital Explained, a moving account of the case histories of five patients whom he had observed over a period of seven months at a hospital in Massachusetts. It managed to "capture faithfully the atmosphere of a large urban hospital," as Louis LASAGNA put it in his review of the book for Life magazine (June 19, 1970). While The Andromeda Strain was being filmed by the director Robert WISE, CRICHTON moved to Los Angeles. The year was 1970, a year before the release of The Andromeda Strain. "I'd always wanted to direct movies," CRICHTON explained in an interview with Ned SMITH for American Way (September 1975). "My first hero was Alfred HITCHCOCK - I knew who [he] was long before I knew who Charles DICKENS was." In 1972 two more CRICHTON novels were made into films: Dealing, about a Berkeley-to-Harvard marijuana-selling operation, directed by Paul Williams, and The Carey Treatment, adapted from CRICHTON's Jeffrey HUDSON novel A Case of Need and directed by Blake EDWARDS. After visiting the sets of those films, CRICHTON decided that "directing was something [he] could do," as he put it in the autobiographical sketch he wrote for World Film Directors 1945-1985 (1988). Consequently, when he sold the rights to one of his John LANGE novels to the ABC television network, he insisted that he be allowed to direct the made-for-television movie, which was broadcast in 1972 under the title Pursuit. CRICHTON returned to the fiction bestseller lists with the publication, in 1972, of his novel The Terminal Man, in which he used a modern setting to rework Mary Shelley's nineteenth-century classic Frankenstein. CRICHTON's story dealt with the plight of Harry Benson, an automobile accident victim who is "saved" when a tiny computer that controls his brain is surgically implanted in his shoulder; when the experimental medical technology fails to function, he goes berserk and embarks on a killing spree. In the New York Times (May 9, 1972), Christopher LEHMANN-HAUPT complained that The Terminal Man had failed to add up to a "philosophical thriller with implications that resonate" and instead declined into the "sort of monster-at-large-that-must-be-destroyed potboiler that Universal Studios used to churn out." Moreover, although Warner Brothers had asked CRICHTON to adapt the screenplay for its 1973 film version of The Terminal Man, the studio rejected his script after he departed from his own novel by writing scenes that he had considered to cinematic to include in his book. The first Hollywood film that CRICHTON directed was Westworld (1973), a tale of out-of-control androids in a futuristic theme park. Adapted by CRICHTON from his own script, the movie deals with a virtual-reality park where the rich and powerful can indulge their fantasies by visiting an electronically generated simulacrum of ancient Rome, medieval England, or a frontier town in the Old West. When an android gunfighter (Yul BRYNNER) rejects his programmed code of behavior, a well-to-do businessman (Richard BENJAMIN) finds himself in a lethal duel with a humanoid rebel. Although the film critic Richard CORLISS felt that Westworld, which CRICHTON had shot quickly but efficiently on a shoestring budget, was "shoddy entertainment," Phillip FRENCH, the Guardian's longtime resident movie reviewer, called it a "richly suggestive film" that was "at turns funny, sad, and chilling." Dividing his time between directing films and writing screenplays and novels, in 1975 CRICHTON published The Great Train Robbery, an adventure story about Edward Pearce, a suave gentleman-criminal who masterminds the world's first robbery of a gold-bullion-bearing locomotive. With its setting in Victorian England, The Great Train Robbery was the first fictional work by CRICHTON that did not concern itself with the impact of high technology on contemporary or futuristic society. "I've never read so didactic a crime story, or one that so studiously set out to be entertaining," Peter S. PRESCOTT wrote in Newsweek (June 23, 1975). "The Great Train Robbery is stuffed with little essays and digressions on Victorian trains, slang, technology, burial customs - even a gratuitous summary of the Sepoy Rebellion...This is a charming, diverting summer tale that will surely be translated into yet another medium." It was CRICHTON himself who adapted his novel for the screen. Released in 1979, The Great Train Robbery, which CRICHTON also directed, starred Sean CONNERY as the aristocratic Pearce. Although Frank RICH, then on the staff of Time (February 5, 1979), rated CRICHTON's film as a "mediocre movie," other critics not only like the performances turned in by CONNERY and Lesley-Anne DOWNE, as the actress who is Pearce's lover, but also admired CRICHTON's knowing use of period details and his accurate depiction of life in mid-Victorian England. In 1975 CRICHTON produced another novelistic reworking of a literary classic, in this instance the Old English poem Beowulf, with Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan, Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in A.D. 922. Written in the form of a diary kept by a kidnapped Arab traveler in medieval Scandinavia, Eaters of the Dead concerns the social life of Vikings and their war with a tribe of cannibalistic cavemen. Turning his attention to nonfiction, CRICHTON, who is himself a collector of contemporary American art, next published Jasper Johns (1977), a biography of the quintessential modern artist whose deadpan paintings of flags and targets pointed away from the abstract expressionism of the 1950's and looked forward to the pop art of the 1960s. Adapted by CRICHTON from Robin COOK's best-selling novel, and also directed by him, Coma (1977) starred Genevieve BUJOLD as a plucky doctor in a large hospital in Boston. When one of her friends becomes comatose after a simple operation, she unearths a sinister and ghoulish plot to induce comas in healthy patients and then sell their body parts for transplants. In his book American Film Now, (1979) James MONACO said that CRICHTON's film "rings with the truth of its setting. The plot is clean and direct: an absorbing mystery with a very cogent point to it." Although Coma was marred by an ending in which the heroine was allowed to "deteriorate into a dumb broad who needs a man to look after her," as CRICHTON put it in World Film Directors, the film fared well at the box office and became CRICHTON's second consecutive commercial success as a director. In his best-selling novel Congo (1980), CRICHTON once again trod familiar literary terrain, this time with a book that was reminiscent of Sr. H. Rider HAGGARD's King Solomon's Mines. CRICHTON's novel centers on a group of corporate-sponsored diamond hunters searching for a type of diamond that would, in the hands of scientists, make nuclear power obsolete. Leading the scientists Peter Elliot and Karen Ross into the heart of Africa are the guide Charles Munro and a gorilla named Amy, who uses sign language to communicate with her human companions. In a review for the Los Angeles Times (December 28, 1980), Don STRACHAN announced that CRICHTON had produced yet another thrilling page-turner but noted that his characters tended to be two-dimensional, a common complaint about CRICHTON's vastly entertaining novels. "As is too often the case sci-fi thrillers," STRACHAN wrote, "[Congo's] machines are more exciting than its people. Munro, jungle guide extraordinaire, enjoys a dramatic buildup before he appears, but once onstage, he shows nary a sign of individuality. [Karen Ross] is inhumanly ruthless...Peter Elliot exists only as the scientist studying Amy the gorilla, [and Amy], oddly, is the one character with human dimensions." In 1981, CRICHTON wrote and directed Looker, a somewhat disappointing comedy-melodrama about a captain of industry [James COBURN] who gains power through the use of hypnotic television commercials, using a plastic surgeon [Albert FINNEY] to create physically perfect women who are killed when they cease to serve the industrialist's purposes. It was the consensus of most critics that Looker was a "shiny, cold job of engineering," an "affectless, impersonal film" as Pauline KAEL put it in the New Yorker, and a less effective variant of The Stepford Wives. In Runaway (1984), which he directed from his own original script, CRICHTON explored an idea that he would later return to in Jurassic Park - that technology is helpless in the face of problems that are fundamental components of the structure of human existence, such as despair, anxiety, hatred, and greed. Tom SELLECK, in an oddly wooden performance, was starred as a policeman/android hunter hired to track down rogue robots whose microchips have been altered and who have turned homicidal. In the New York Times (December 14, 1984), Janet MASLIN observed that CRICHTON has a "much better feel for the film's gadgets than for its human players," and Paul ATTANASIO of the Washington Post (December 15, 1984) felt that CRICHTON had become so adept at controlling audience responses that he was as "cynical and manipulative as his villains." Although in his fiction CRICHTON had earlier explored the perils and limitations of rampant high technology, his nonfiction book Electronic Life: How to Think About Computers (1983) is an engaging handbook aimed at dispelling the fears of those who might be intimidated by personal computers. CRICHTON told the interviewer for Contemporary Authors that he had written Electronic Life "off the top of [his] head" in a "very short period of time, four weeks." CRICHTON would probably agree with those critics who call him an overly facile writer. He begins by reading desultorily on a given subject, taking copious notes that he disregards when he sits down to write. "I don't usually look at any reference books or cards or notes or anything," he explained. "I just sit down and do it...I write it off the top of my head." In 1987 CRICHTON published Sphere: A Novel, about the discovery underwater of what is initially thought to be an alien spacecraft but turns out to be an American vessel from the future containing a curious alien artifact and a long-dead crew member. Although Marion HANSCOM, who appraised it for the Library Journal (July 1987), viewed Sphere as a "disappointing" work in which CRICHTON had "rolled present, past and future into one highly technical and confusing science fiction adventure," Ron GIVENS of Newsweek (July 20, 1987) called the novel a "page-turner with oomph." Released in 1989, Physical Evidence, the sixth feature film to be directed by CRICHTON, starred Burt REYNOLDS as a Boston cop who gets suspended for attacking his reckless, gun-happy partner and Theresa RUSSELL as the lawyer who tries to clear him. The verdict of most critics was that Physical Evidence was unsubstantial. In Jurassic Park (1990), perhaps CRICHTON's most riveting novel since The Andromeda Strain, a wealthy industrialist hires a team of bioengineers, who succeed in bringing to life a horde of dinosaurs. Hoping to open a dinosaur theme park, the visionary billionaire brings in a team of scientists to examine his island of prehistoric creatures, but the monsters run amok after the park's security system breaks down. "Jurassic Park is more daydream than nightmare," Ronald PRESTON noted in the Christian Science Monitor (November 21, 1990). "It is lurid and improbable. But it is also alluring, setting the reader to musing on wondrous beasts and scientific possibilities." Adapted for the screen by Michael CRICHTON and David KOEPP, Jurassic Park shattered previous box-office records when director Steven SPIELBERG's special-effects blockbuster was released in June 1993. Critics felt that the troubling questions CRICHTON had raised in his novel, about the risks involved when scientists make incursions into the secrets of life itself, were jettisoned once SPIELBERG's dinosaurs went on their rampage; still, the film's phenomenal success was assured by its relentless pace and stunningly life-like creatures. Without question the most influential and controversial of CRICHTON's novels to date, Rising Sun (1992) appeared at a time of grave American doubt about Japanese economic might, thus virtually assuring its enormous success. Dispensing with a fantastic premise, CRICHTON created in Rising Sun a realistic, densely plotted murder mystery set in contemporary Los Angeles. When a high-priced call girl is found strangled in the plush headquarters of Nakamoto, a powerful Japanese corporation, two policemen arrive on the scene. One is John Connor, an expert on Japanese customs, who admires the Japanese and their collective sense of national purpose; the other is Peter Smith, a tough, no-nonsense detective. During their investigation, which is road blocked by Japanese executives at every turn, the detectives uncover a plot by Nakamoto to undermine the American foothold in high-tech industries, and Connor delivers sermon like lectures on the predatory economic zeal of the corporate Japanese. "But my friends always ask me to remember that [the Japanese] are human beings first and Japanese second," Connor tells his partner. "Unfortunately, in my experience that is not always true." He also accuses the Japanese of being the "most racist people on the planet" and of conducting their business affairs as though they were waging war. Readily admitting that he intended Rising Sun to serve as a call to industrial arms for the United States, CRICHTON appended to his novel a bibliography of more than three dozen scholarly books that address such matters as Japanese trade policy and also voice concerns that Japan is "buying" America while shrinking the nation's manufacturing base. Although many reviewers saw CRICHTON's book as a tendentious exercise in ideological Japanese-bashing, Neil GROSS conceded in Business Week (February 10, 1992) that "in Rising Sun, CRICHTON hammers a bit too hard. But most of the time, he hits the right nails." In the New York Times (January 30, 1992), Christopher LEHMANN-HAUPT protested that Rising Sun was far too didactic, so that "we never go for long without hearing the whack of Professor CRICHTON's classroom pointer against the slate of the blackboard." But he added, "The trouble with Rising Sun is obviously that as a serious discourse on why we should begin waging economic war against Japan, the book is far too entertaining." With the release in 1993 of the film Rising Sun, which starred Sean CONNERY as Connor and Wesley SNIPES as Smith, CRICHTON became the first living novelist to have two novels in circulation as hit movies in the same year. Although CRICHTON wrote the screenplay for Rising Sun, he turned his back on the production when its director, Philip KAUFMAN, chose to dilute the book's astringent criticisms of the Japanese. Writing in the trade paper Variety (March 1, 1993), Peter BART commented: "CRICHTON is the king of 'high concept,' yet he has never pitched an idea or asked a studio exec, 'What's selling today?' He has mastered 'the process' while demonstrating disdain for it." The disenchanted CRICHTON has no immediate plans to return to the director's chair. He told Peter BART that this is a "dull period" for Hollywood filmmakers, "a period of remakes and recycled ideas." He intends to focus instead on writing film-worthy novels and drafting screenplays that give his literary ideas a distinctive cinematic shape. Since 1973, when he took up meditation as a form of relaxation, Michael CRICHTON has become progressively disenchanted with purely scientific methods of describing the varieties of knowledge. In his spirited autobiography Travels (1988) and in an essay entitled "Travels with My Karma" that was published in Esquire (May 1988), he discussed his firm belief that every human being possesses some degree of psychic ability and that society needs the insights of the mystic as much as those of the empirical scientist. "For a long time, my work life worked better than my personal life," he admitted in an interview with a writer for People (May 4, 1992). CRICHTON and his wife, the former Ann-Marie MARTIN, have a daughter, Taylor, whose presence, CRICHTON has said, "has actually made [him] more productive." Three earlier marriages ended in divorce. The CRICHTONs live in what Variety's Peter BART called one of the "grand houses" of Santa Monica, California. At the age of fifty, the six-foot-nine-inch writer and director has retained his choirboy good looks.
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The Daily Mail, Hagerstown, MD, Monday, February 27, 1978. "CRICHTON's 'Coma' no film for one facing surgery" by Jean-Claude BOUIS, Associate Press Writer. New York (AP) - While he says the macabre events in "Coma" are not likely to happen in any hospital, director Michael CRICHTON hopes the suspense thriller will provoke serious thought as well as entertain. "In the near future, before the end of the century, there will be a problem about finding an adequate source of organs for transplantation. People will be dying for the lack of organs," says CRICHTON, who has a degree in medicine. He has directed one other movie, "Westworld," and sees "Coma" as a medical Western rather than as a "message film." But in an interview he talked about the problem of transplants, one of many unclear areas in medicine and law. He described it as a social rather than technical problem that will have to be solved in the near future by "social consensus." "There will be the capability to transplant. The capability to keep people alive will be there, the patients will be there, the organs will not be there." "There are serious questions in medicine now. The presence of the movie in a sense is a recognition that there are those questions." In "Coma," a doctor - played by Genevieve BUJOLD - single-handedly tries to find out why young, healthy patients are being turned into human vegetables during minor, routine surgery involving total anesthesia. She suspects a conspiracy, but no one, even her doctor-lover - played by Michael DOUGLAS - believes her. The comatose patients, it turns out, are stored away in a state of suspended animation in a sort of eerie hothouse under the care of computers and an automaton-like nurse, played by Elizabeth ASHLEY. When transplant recipients are located, the comatose are "terminated" and their organs are sold to the highest bidder. CRICHTON said doctors will soon face the same problems in organ transplantation as in blood transfusions, such as obtaining and storing good blood, purchases of blood and contaminated blood. "It's a kind of paradigm for the ultimate experience for kidneys and all other organs, unless we begin to think about how we're going to handle it." He suggested that the laws in most states be changed so that organs will automatically be taken for transplantation after death, unless someone specifically refuses to have the organs donated. Because "Coma" feeds on people's paranoia about hospitals, some critics and MGM's publicity material put the film in the same category as the hit thriller "Jaws," which deals with primal fear of the water. Other critics have said that aside from its medical shock value - in a pathology lab we see a brain being dissected like baloney on a delicatessen slicer - "Coma" is standard melodrama and too antiseptic. CRICHTON (whose name rhymes with "frighten") wrote the screenplay from a novel by Dr. Robin COOK, an ophthalmologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School. CRICHTON, a graduate of Harvard, decided not to complete internship and became a writer instead of going into practice. He has written 15 books, including "The Andromeda Strain" and "The Terminal Man." He said doctors who have seen "Coma" find it authentic. "They find a tone, a quality to the film which is identifiable, which they sensed to be correct, even though the picture is fiction." Asked why the film does not seem to be as critical of surgeons as the book, which harps on the excesses of the "surgical personality," CRICHTON said: "This is a movie about doctors, and everyone is a doctor. The good guys are doctors, the bad guys are doctors. In that respect it's like a Western in which everyone is a cowboy. And you don't go to a Western to see if the movie takes a positive or negative view of the life of a cowboy. That's given, that's what goes on."
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The Los Angeles Times, (date unknown), "CRICHTON Draws Novel's Readers in 'Sphere' of Undersea Terror" By James M. KAHN. An American Sailing vessel laying phone cable in the remote Pacific runs into a snag. Navy exploration reveals, buried on a shelf 1,000 feet beneath the surface, what appears to be a gigantic spaceship - completely intact, showing no signs of corrosion and at least 300 years old. [caption under picture: CRICHTON...keeps reader guessing at every turn] Investigators flown to the scene include a biologist, an astrophysicist, a mathematician and a psychologist. Startling questions arise from the beginning: Is the craft alien or manmade? From our past, or from our future? What is the nature of the mysterious hollow sphere they discover on board? CRICHTON keeps us guessing at every turn, in his best work since "The Andromeda Strain." Each chapter end reveals some new clue or poses some new threat that compels the reader to read on. Each new twist builds the pace with careful precision. Precision and meticulous research are, in fact, a CRICHTON hallmark. In "Sphere," his details range from integral (The age of the space vehicle is dated by its coral growth: "Pacific coral grows two centimeters a year...") to casual (In a habitat 1,000 feet underwater - 30 atmospheres of pressure - you can't make whipped cream: "Won't whip"). Such digressions are not merely entertaining in science fiction of this sort. They are essential to establishing an environment of believability, so that when the inevitable speculative leaps are made, the reader eagerly tags along. Somehow it is easier to buy the concept of extraterrestrial intelligence from an author who shows a little terrestrial intelligence himself. CRICHTON shows plenty. Philosophical discussions abound, covering theories of extraplanetary life, black holes, human knowledge and behavior. The latter is actually a recurring theme, explored from the point of view of psychological Norman Johnson - the man who chose the other mission specialists, yet who remains under constant attack by them for being a champion of the "soft science" of psychology, in the face of their death-struggle against the forces of inexplicable deep-sea monsters. This whole set-up invites comparison to "The Andromeda Strain" - in which another group of scientists, cloistered in another isolated death-trap, confront an extraterrestrial virus. CRICHTON himself raises the memory of that encounter early on in "Sphere": "The fears unleashed by contact with a new life form are not understood...But the most likely consequence...is absolute terror." Terror - the terror of death, and of the essentially unknowable - is at the core of this book. Terror, and how to confront it. "Understanding is a delaying tactic," muses mission psychologist Johnson. "Only people who are afraid of the water want to understand it. Other people jump in and get wet." So CRICHTON's academic credentials - he's a research M.D. - may be impeccable - but only in letting them lapse does his researcher become a hero in this tale. There are more than sonar echoes of Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" here - and that's another charm of the novel. One of the subliminal ways CRICHTON achieves this is by titling every chapter ("The Monster," "Beyond Pluto," etc.) - a literary device that is rather out of fashion, and rather evocative of all those grand adventure yarns we read as kids. It's a device that is, not incidentally, rather effective. There are a few problems with the book: CRICHTON's dialogue tends to be a bit stilted at times, his characters a bit broad (there is the self-hating feminist; there is the weapon-mongering military man) - but these criticisms seem, at the end, pale in context, the context being that CRICHTON is a storyteller, and a good one.
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Publication Unknown (date unknown). Writer Michael CRICHTON Fears Mixture of commerce, Science" by Daniel Beegan. Boston (AP) - Novelist Michael CRICHTON is afraid of what could happen as a result of unregulated genetic engineering. But CRICHTON, a trained scientist who graduated from Harvard Medical School, makes his point in the entertaining thriller about re-created dinosaurs titled "Jurassic Park" (Knopf) instead of through preachy scholarly works. "The Andromeda Strain," which dealt with germ warfare, was CRICHTON's first best seller. And, like that first big success, "Jurassic Park" has spent several weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and it isn't just empty reading. In the new book, an eccentric millionaire hires scientists to re-create living, breathing dinosaurs through DNA extracted from fossilized biting insects and dinosaur bones. The idea is to create a dinosaur theme park on an island. But some dinosaurs escape and others run amok within the park, dooming the project. In an interview during a recent stop in Boston, CRICHTON said the point he is making in the book is that very little genetic or biotechnological research is being conducted independent of commercial companies. CRICHTON said that traditionally, academic scientists, such as those found at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Massachusetts General Hospital, did their work independently of commercial enterprises. "Something very important was going on and, so far as I could tell, no one was talking about it," CRICHTON said. "The notion that that person is an independent, neutral observer of events is over. Everyone is being supported and financed by some commercial consideration." According to CRICHTON, professional scientists may still attempt to retain their independence, but, "we are all influenced by the people who pay our bills. It is that simple." CRICHTON said the purpose of his warning isn't to say that the government should regulate science or that there was anything inherently bad with scientific discoveries eventually finding their way into a profitable commercial market. Instead, he said, scientists, through peer review, and society, by arriving at consensus, can regulate the direction research takes. "This notion that scientific research is uncontrollable is fundamentally untrue," CRICHTON said. "You have seen examples where we have turned away from both basic research and technology in certain areas, or tried to turn away. So a book like this is entertaining and, I hope, compelling, and it's interesting to read and it makes a point," CRICHTON said. "The point needs to be made sort of metaphorically and by parable. This is not a case study. We don't have to worry about dinosaurs. But it is an arena where I try to raise these issues in a kind of vivid and fictitious example."
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TV Guide, 10 Dec 1988, "It's Bad Medicine for Doctors" By Michael CRICHTON. This best-selling author - and Harvard M.D. - argues against the traditional ways of educating medical students. Nova will present "Can We Make a Better Doctor?" on many PBS stations on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 8 P.M. (ET). See local listings for time and channel in your area. On my first day in the emergency ward as a medical student, an intern took me aside. "The guy in Room 2 needs an intravenous line. Go start one. "I've never done that," I said. "I don't know how." The intern squinted at me. "What year are you?" "Third year." "Third year and you can't start an IV? Brother." The intern grabbed a plastic IV pack off a cart, spoke quickly. "Look, it's all in here. Stick the needle in the vein, pull back this thing here, leaving that thing there, hook up this thing to the bottle, get it flowing and tape it down. Nothing to it." "But..." "Just do it!" I opened the door to Room 2. A 40-year-old man sat up in bed. My victim. I said, "Hi, I'm Dr. CRICHTON, and I'm going to start your IV." "Fine, Doctor," he said and smiled. I set out my equipment, wondering how long he'd be smiling. The equipment was unfamiliar. My hands shook; I dropped things on the floor; I sweated. I stuck the needle in his arm, missed the vein, pulled it out. Blood spurted - apparently I'd been in the vein after all. I bandaged his puncture and tried again. I missed again. More blood dripped from his arm. Miraculously, the man still smiled. "Have you done this before, Doctor?" I said, "I'd hate to tell you how many times I've done this." He just laughed and said, "Go ahead." By the time I finally got the IV going, the man's arm looked like a pincushion. He just said, "Thank you, Doctor." I've been eternally grateful to him ever since. But as I left the room, I couldn't help wondering: Is this really the best way for a doctor to learn? That question lies at the heart of this week's Nova documentary, which examines a controversial curriculum called the New Pathway at Harvard Medical School. I graduated from that institution 20 years ago; I have long felt that fundamental changes are overdue. Educator John FOSTER once noted that "it is easier to move a graveyard than to change a medical curriculum." In the last half-century the basic plan of medical teaching has only superficially evolved. For the first two years, students live in the classroom and have little exposure to patients. For the last two years, students live in the hospital and see patients continuously but have almost no classes at all. It's always been questionable whether this split between the "classroom years" and the "clinical years" is a good idea. In fact, nearly every educator agrees it is not. The distinction between basic science and clinical knowledge exists primarily because of academic politics and follows the contours of institutional structure - the departments' and the hospitals' - not the contours of knowledge. In my time, the basic-science years were unappealing. Class hours were absurdly long. Medical students attended class 50 hours a week - twice as long as law or business students - and half of that time was lectures. Imagine sitting and listening to lectures for four hours a day, six days a week - for two years! It was a stupefying regimen, and it made medical education passive, thus denying the student the single most important thing he needed to learn at school: how to educate himself in later life, when he is a practitioner. The lectures were not inspiring. Hour after hour, day after day, we were treated to world-famous but ill-prepared speakers, their slides out of focus and out of order, their lecture notes an untidy heap atop the podium. In fact, the lectures were so bad that the students rebelled and demanded the right to tape them, so we could prepare decent notes. The faculty refused but had to acquiesce in the end: the quality of the lectures was simply too poor. As for patients - the reason most of us were in medical school in the first place - we hardly ever saw them. Patients were chiefly represented by the rolling carts the professors brought each day and rolled from room to room. One day, the carts would contain sputum from patients with different diseases; another day, pathology slides; another day, feces. For a long time, all we knew about patients was what they produced for the rolling carts. We rarely saw an actual patient in an actual hospital bed. Our professors agreed that seeing patients would be a good experience, but the academic departments had taken up so much time that there was none left. If patients were to be seen, the departments must reduce their course load. No department was willing to do that. A few years earlier, a political compromise had been reached: in the company of an instructor, we were taken in small groups to see patients for two hours a week, in what was called a "tutorial." These tutorials were the most vivid part of our education, the most challenging, the most provocative. Twenty years later, when the lectures have merged into a vague drone, the tutorials still stand out crisp and clear in my memory. On the first day, our tutor, Dr. DEYKIN, showed us a man on anticoagulant therapy. Whenever this man had a fight with his wife, he would take extra pills and come into the hospital with internal bleeding. His pills were intended to control his illness, but he used them to control his wife. Immediately we were introduced to the deeper problems of medical practice. Being a good doctor demanded more than making a diagnosis and prescribing the right pills. We must somehow persuade the patient to take those pills in the right way. Here was a patient who refused to do that. What should we do? Stop the medication? Without it, the patient would die. Then what should we do? These real-life complexities were a far cry from the cut-and-dried academic curriculum we were learning. Later, we saw a woman who had been operated on by an incompetent surgeon. Now she would have to have a leg amputated. In those days before medical malpractice was commonplace, no physician would tell the woman that she had been treated negligently. What should we do? What was our obligation? We argued about the case for hours. Brief as they were, our clinical experiences often made us dissatisfied with our classroom lectures. Yesterday we saw a patient with kidney disease; today we look forward to a lecture on the kidney. But we listen with growing weariness as the instructor ramble son about mechanisms of sodium transport in the ultrafine microtubules of dogs. We've just seen that our understanding of kidney function can be a matter of life or death; but now we hear nothing but dry abstractions and laboratory studies, coming from an instructor who has never seen an actual patient and never intends to. This instructor is interested in the biochemistry of active ion transport in the kidney. We are interested in helping sick people. We have surprisingly little in common. And in many important areas, we received no formal instruction at all. When I was at Harvard, medical students were taught nothing about sex, nothing about death, nothing about medical ethics. And we studied at such a furious pace that we learned nothing about ourselves, either. Thus the curriculum changes Harvard has instituted in the New Pathway are nothing short of astonishing. The brief tutorials I found so valuable two decades ago have been made the center of medical instruction. To see medical students talking with AIDS patients about death, or talking with cardiac patients about sex, is remarkable indeed. The Nova episode also reveals plenty of dispute about how well the New Pathway works. Certainly it demands a faculty of talented, committed teachers. And judging from the comments of these attractive, articulate students, the new medical education is as intensely stressful as the old. But one thing is clear; we cannot educate 21st-century physicians with a 19th-century curriculum. Harvard's New Pathway may not be perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. Michael CRICHTON's most recent book, Travels, discusses his medical education. He is writing a new novel on American history.
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Parade Magazine, 12 Sep 1993, "Personality Parade." Q. My favorite movies this summer were "Jurassic Park" and "Rising Sun" - both films based on novels written by Michael CRICHTON. I haven't found much information about his professional and private lives. Can you fill in some of the blanks? - Sandra Mellman, Santa Barbara, Calif. A. Known in publishing circles as "the father of the techno-thriller," John Michael CRICHTON, 50, was graduated from Harvard in 1969 with a medical degree but never practiced medicine. He published several novels under the pseudonym John LANGE before hitting the best-seller lists under his own name in 1969 with "The Andromeda Strain." Since then, CRICHTON has written 11 books and directed seven movies. Warner Brothers recently paid $3.5 million for the film rights to his next novel, which hasn't been published yet. The writer-director stands 6 feet 9, is married, has three ex-wives and a daughter, Taylor, 5. [caption under picture: Michael CRICHTON with wife No. 4, Anne-Marie, in 1993]
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Time, 10 Jan 1994, "Pop Fiction's Prime Provocateur" By Gregory JAYNES. In a blue-gray bungalow on a lamppost-lined street in an unremarkable American neighborhood, squirms a man of sudden celebrity, Michael CRICHTON. The year just done was "pretty amazing," he says. The reason is that one book of his, Jurassic Park, became the biggest hit in movie history, and another, Rising Sun, was no slouch, and together they vaulted old writings even he had dismissed back onto bookshop shelves, where they became the stuff of authors' dreams: they were bought, not remaindered. There are 100 million copies of CRICHTON's books now in print. "I'm still not accustomed to being recognized the way I am," he says. "It's nice, but I'm accustomed to not being noticed - except by people who notice that I'm tall." Indeed, he has to duck to get under his own door. He is 6 ft. 9 in. You fear that if he fell down he would be out of town. This week CRICHTON, 51, is publishing his 24th book, Disclosure (Knopf; $24; first printing: 750,000 copies). It is about sexual harassment; a female executive virtually manhandles a subordinate. The woman, scorned, ignores the facts and charges the man with stepping over the line. He fights back. CRICHTON says he got the idea from a friend, presumably male, who told him about an incident in the workplace. That was the seed, and then CRICHTON cogitated, watered it as you would a Ficus, which seems to be his method. The result is provocative, which seems to be his pattern. To read it in this charged climate makes a man want to holler, "Slap leather, boys, and head for that line of trees!" Acknowledges CRICHTON: "It has been suggested that now is the time for that long-postponed trip to the Australian outback." Instead he is bracing for the criticism that trails his books like gulls after a trawler. The new novel was written in the tidy bungalow in Santa Monica, California. CRICHTON uses the place as an office; his home, his wife (the fourth) and his child (the first) are a mile and a half away. In his office sits the author, a student, a thinker, possessed of restless intelligence. He is the only person this person has ever interviewed whose answer to a question was "I don't know." That's inspired. [Inserted quotation: Seize the day's subject is the megabuck rule Michael CRICHTON follows, so his new novel puts a reverse twist on sexual harassment] To catch a sense of CRICHTON, one must summon other failed physicians who turned to fiction, though failed, perhaps, is the wrong word. Conan DOYLE. More recently, Walker PERCY. In The Moviegoer, PERCY wrote of "the search." What's the search? Well, you poke about the neighborhood and don't miss a trick. Somehow, it all has to do with novelists trained in the field of science, men like CRICHTON who found science too unimaginative. In the '60s he went to Harvard Medical School and swiftly became disillusioned. "I hated it," he says. "I'd go to the shrink, and he'd tell me that everybody hated it. Why? Well, you went through it to get your license. There was nothing to discuss. You went through the hazing to join the fraternity - it was male-dominated in those days." Regrets? "No regrets. Early on, it gave me something to write about, an area of expertise that I could draw upon, a fund experience and a sense of pace. Things happen fast. I still think it's true that any sense of narrative pacing on my part comes out of the emergency room. We don't get to know anybody well, and it's time to move on." He laughs at himself; he has been criticized for characters who have the depth of dust-bowl topsoil. The discipline of medicine fit his perception of himself, but the politics - a collegial judgment call by his superiors for what he felt was a needless series of operations, say, or, in those days, the rigid abortion restrictions - drew him up cold. He had a tetchy stomach that gave him the tendency to faint. So he concluded, Physician, wheel thyself. And drove away from such a future, in 1970. "To quit medicine to become a writer struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman," he wrote. But this was disingenuous. He had already published 10 thrillers. By the time The Andromeda Strain reached the screen in 1972, he was writing screenplays and other novels, and about to start a career as a film director (Coma, The Great Train Robbery, Runaway). It was natural for him, CRICHTON says. He knew the works of HITCHCOCK before he knew the works of DICKENS. John Michael CRICHTON grew up in a suburb of New York City, on Long Island, one of four children of an advertising-magazine executive and a homemaker. The parents encouraged the children to find nothing intellectually daunting. The theater, movies and museums were a large part of their lives. CRICHTON sold his first story, a travel piece, to the New York Times when he was 14. He entered Harvard as an English major, intending to become a writer, but after his compositions were adjudged underwhelming, he switched to anthropology. "The English department was not the place for an aspiring writer," he says. "It was the place for an aspiring English professor." After graduating with honors in 1964, ever precocious, he lectured on anthropology for a year at Cambridge University in England. Then came medical school and the incredible events that followed. In the past 18 months, in just the U.S., CRICHTON has sold 30 million books. His popularity seems to spring from his ability to marry his vast appetite for science and its frontiers to humans caught in perilous situations - all told in a driving narrative that fairly whispers, "...and then...and then..." Jurassic Park, for one, has sold 9 million copies. Yet, as seems to be the way of it with many people of protean interests (his passions range from computers, about which he wrote a book, to Jasper JOHNS, about whom he wrote a book) and prodigious success, personal happiness does not always attend. There was a period, in the late '70s and early '80s, when CRICHTON was blocked. "Writing was very difficult for me." He leans toward his interlocutor conspiratorially. "You know, Olivier got stage fright when he was 65. It lasted about five years and then vanished. I did everything I could think of to do. Nothing seemed to much matter." For years CRICHTON responded by traveling like a tramp, the anthropologist in him exploring exotic cultures hard to reach. From Malaysia to Pakistan to an ascent of Kilimanjaro to a descent with South Pacific sharks, literally, he roamed. Along the way he was a spiritual pilgrim as well, exploring psychic phenomena the scientist within him assessed carefully but many times failed to discredit. He says he bent spoons, visited a past gladiatorial life in Rome, had his aura fluffed as you would a poodle. Once, he found himself in the desert conversing with a cactus, which he insulted, only to feel contrite. "Will you forgive me?" CRICHTON asked the cactus. "No answer. Hardball from the cactus." Skeptical? So was CRICHTON. "Sometimes I thought, 'You've been in California too long, and you've gone from a perfectly O.K. doctor to a guy who lies on a couch while somebody puts crystals on him and you actually think it means something, but it's nothing but a lot of hippie-dippy-airy-fairy baloney. New Age Garbage, Aquarian Abracadabra, Karmic Crap. Get out now, Michael, before you start to believe this stuff.' But the thing is, I was having a really interesting time." He explored the landscape of the mind, or consciousness, as he explored the physical landscape of the planet, and then...for whatever reason, by 1985 CRICHTON was back working; by 1987 he was into his most solidly satisfying marriage (to Anne-Marie MARTIN); by 1988 he was a deliriously happy father (her name is Taylor); and by 1993 the money he was earning by his wits rolled up in 18-wheelers (the film rights to Disclosure went for $3.5 million). The new book may turn out to be his most provocative yet. Asked if provocation is his intent, he laughs. "I don't really enjoy it. I feel I am caught up in something, and I am made to do it." He knows he will be attacked and will find it extremely unpleasant, as he did with Rising Sun, and he will come away feeling that an honest attempt to educate and entertain on a complicated topic has been given a simplistic reading. He still picks at the abrasions from the Japan-bashing charges Rising Sun raised. "I'm a clean look in any given area, and I'm a single look," he says. "I won't be making the issue my life's work. I'm not going to be making future sources of funding angry. I can walk in the door and say what I see in the room and walk out. That's what I do. I tell the truth. I believe very strongly in equality for women, and there's only one way to get it. Egalitarian feminism is the only way. That's the story. Egalitarian feminism says equality of opportunity and pay, period. That's it. People say women have special problems. Well, men have special problems. I'm very tall. That's a special problem." Here CRICHTON is arguing, as his book does, against any "special protection" for women. "Equality is clear. No favoritism is clear. If you say, 'No favoritism except here,' then it's not clear. I think everybody understands equal. It's relatively easy to measure, as in exactly how far we've gotten and exactly how far we have to go. Protectionism is not clear. It's possible to imagine there's something even anti-American in it. Limiting free speech..." CRICHTON crops it for a moment with some sort of back-of-the-throat sound of exasperation. He's not talking about physical invasion. He's talking about, one gathers from his book and his discourse, the folly of trying to redesign gender relations in the workplace by defining harassment, in the subtle, gray areas, so specifically that litigation or incarceration will eventually do away with every offense, make the office a perfect world. This may be the anthropologist at work (or a too casual interpretation). Beyond that, if a certain perfume or cologne is intoxicating, everyone should know by now to remain silent or, in close quarters, stop breathing. CRICHTON's book examines, at a sensationalistic but not implausible level, just what a powerful weapon a claim, or even the threat of a claim, of sexual harassment today. Having written it, CRICHTON is out of that metaphorical room he has spoken of. He won't be making a life's work of this issue, as he says. But he won't have heard the last of it either. However, he will be onto something else by the time the criticism comes battering at the gate. He'll be rolling toward another minefield that has snagged his curiosity. For the moment, though, he is on a plane - not the Australian outback, but at least as far as Hawaii.
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Time, 25 Sep 1995, "Michael CRICHTON Multimedia Star" by Gregory JAYNES Santa Monica. Meet Mister Wizard. With his Jurassic Park sequel roaring into stores, Michael CRICHTON gets set for another monster hit. People with something to sell and a little cash for promotion sometimes engage a publicist to put out a flattering word. Such a paper is called a press release. Journalists consider it a breach of legitimacy to publish such a document verbatim; in most cases, the hyperbole would invite derision. A few days ago, however, a press release went around from Alfred A. Knopf, Michael CRICHTON's publisher, announcing the imminent release of 2 million copies of his new novel, The Lost World, the sequel to his 1990 blockbuster Jurassic Park. The remarkable thing is that if not for its length, this particular press release was eminently publishable, without risk of embarrassment. The reason is, it was almost arrogantly devoid of adjectives. It merely listed what CRICHTON has accomplished in his 52 years. They say it ain't bragging if you did it, and, as it happens, Michael CRICHTON's resume needs no more elevating than his shoes. He is 6 ft. 9 in. The alpine height is usually the starting place in any attempt to sketch CRICHTON, for it is what flattens everyone upon first meeting him. "I found myself climbing up on things without even knowing it just to talk to him," says Kathleen Kennedy, who produced the movie Jurassic Park, as well as this summer's Congo, based on a 1980 CRICHTON novel. "It's a bit disconcerting when you realize you're tilting your head completely back just to get a glimpse of him." [caption under picture: Dino-might. The "high priest of high concept" trots out the T. rexes again] His altitude defined him early, set him apart, just as his protean interests, multimedia successes and towering earnings would put him in rarefied air later on. A source of humiliation in cruel, skinny youth, his height was put in perspective later on, when he met, and was thrown into the shade by, 7-ft. 2-in. Wilt Chamberlain. "I had to admit," he said, "that part of me is proud of what makes me different." Different, but deferential. He fiercely guards his private life and keeps his distance from the press. "I have a family; I have an existence; I have some privacy, and it's not going to be private if I let every reporter into my house," he says. If you caught him on television last week at the Emmy Awards, where one of his creations, the hit NBC medical series ER, was nominated for 23 awards (and took home eight), you saw him scrunched down in his chair, as a friendly giant will do in an auditorium seat - especially a giant writer seated in front of god filmmaker Steven SPIELBERG - 5 ft. 10 in. - who directed Jurassic Park and will produce a movie version of The Lost World, and whose company, Amblin [caption over picture: The World According to CRICHTON. Medical school memories. CRICHTON wrote ER, about a hospital emergency room, based on his experiences at Harvard. The script languished for 22 years before SPIELBERG helped bring it to the small screen. Now it's TV's most popular show] Entertainment, is responsible for putting ER on the air. ER, based on a script of CRICHTON's that had been moldering around Hollywood for 22 years, is just the latest evidence that CRICHTON hits more passes than anyone else at the high roller's table, even with old dice. From his best-selling The Andromeda Strain (the first novel he wrote under his own name), which became a hit movie in 1971, through Jurassic Park, with a worldwide box-office take of $912 million the most popular movie of recorded history, he is a giant even among those other popular novelists - John GRISHAM, Stephen KING, Tom CLANCY - whom Hollywood has fallen in love with. Consider the string of CRICHTON novels that have tapped into popular obsessions and been converted into box-office gold: Rising Sun, his thriller that exploited American fears of Japan's economic threat, earned $65 million domestically for Hollywood in 1993. Disclosure, his 1994 topical twist on sex-harassment in the office (Demi MOORE chases Michael DOUGLAS around the desk) collected $83 million domestically. Congo, his adventure saga featuring a talking gorilla, was released last summer to widespread pans but still made a hefty $80 million. May be that's because its advertisements didn't feature a single cast member - just the real superstar behind the project; "From the author of Jurassic Park." CRICHTON built his success out of his understanding of and passion for science, technology, art, entertainment and commerce. His is one of those high-end, abstract-thinking machines, keen on contemporary social issues but able to make his interests drive book and ticket sales. That pejorative expression that has so much currency - "obviously written with a movie in mind" - requires qualification when applied to CRICHTON. "I think of Michael as the high priest of high concept," says SPIELBERG. All right, concept: Island. Theme park. Dinosaurs. Adults swallowed whole. Kids in peril. Easy. But who said the author had to give us the history of computers along with it? And chaos theory? Fractal vs. Euclidean geometry? [captions: The Andromeda Strain Killer bacteria, and his first best seller. The Terminal Man A scientist grows irrational, then murderous. Rising Sun A global thriller that played on U.S. fears of Japan. Jurassic Park Book sales of 10 million; all-time box-office champ. Disclosure Sex harassment with a twist: DOUGLAS is the victim. Congo Despite bad reviews, the CRICHTON name made it a hit] And the workings of a Stegosaurus gizzard? And DNA? So much DNA it's a wonder CRICHTON hasn't been called as an expert witness in the O.J. trial. "He's the only writer I know who has footnotes in his fiction," says Frank MARSHALL, who directed Congo. Raves SPIELBERG: "He has maybe the richest imagination of anybody I know. And he grounds his fantasy in such contemporary technical reality that he can make the reader swallow just about anything." Need a for-instance? Take Jurassic Park, page 69: "Bioengineered DNA was, weight for weight, the most valuable material in the world. A single microscope bacterium, too small to see with the naked eye, but containing the genes for a heart-attack enzyme, streptokinase, or for 'ice-minus,' which prevented frost damage to crops, might be worth $5 billion to the right buyer." There is popularity in a passage like that. It bears information a man, even a casual-reading man, can do something with. Win a bar bet. Pass the time creatively on the scaffold with the hangman. It is skinny with legs. CRICHTON is Captain Reliable at this. But he doesn't please everyone. Critics complain he never lets plausible characters stand in the way of information; not much of a novelist but a hell of an educator. On the other hand, scientists have been known to say he saws the limb off behind him; no hotshot in the lab but a hell of a tap dancer with a word processor. CRICHTON is used to the charges. "Feeling conflicted, different, has been a fact of my life," CRICHTON told the Los Angeles Times. "Someone once compared me to a bat. 'Put a bat among birds,' he said, 'and they call it a mammal. Put it among mammals and they call it a bird.' In more intellectual circles, I'm seen as a 'popular entertainer' unworthy of consideration. In popular entertainment circles, I'm considered too intellectual. I don't seem to fit in anywhere." Except perhaps the bank. CRICHTON's 1995 entertainment earnings, according to Forbes magazine, amounted to $22 million - not just from principal, not from interest, but just from words he thought up himself. His remuneration casts a consequential shadow, but the author isn't comfortable talking about it. He would sooner cogitate on those literary niggles -t he charges that his characters have no depth. Back as far as The Andromeda Strain, CRICHTON concedes, he wasn't much for delving into character ("It didn't matter who the people were"). Still, he's human: criticism stings. "You know, I'm not very well read," he says, with characteristic self-effacement. "I was reading a book COCTEAU wrote called The Difficulty of Being. And in that, he had an essay on writing, and he said what I've always believed about myself. He didn't care about being noticed for his style. He only wanted to be noticed for his ideas. And even better for the influence of his ideas. Which I thought was nicely said." The people who work with him can say it just as nicely. "Michael is interested in issues," observes Sonny MEHTA, editor in chief at Knopf, "whether they grow out of science, out of society, out of what is happening to us. When Michael delivers a manuscript, we are all struck by how much we are made to think, and how much information there is, and how well researched it is. I'm always learning something every time I work with Michael." Notes Lynn NESBIT, his longtime literary agent: "You can never predict with Michael, because his range of interests is so broad. You can't characterize him. [caption under the picture below: Educated guesses. CRICHTON, on the set of Coma, is a master at turning speculative science into popular entertainment] He writes out of real passion about a subject that he's currently thinking about." But what about those cardboard characters? "I guess I have three answers," CRICHTON responds. "First of all, I'm doing the best I can. I really try hard. Second, I think there is a way where often you don't know motivation. I don't believe you can know it. So I hesitate to write it. And it makes a cold quality, an exterior quality. And I guess the third reason is that very often I'm not, in some way or another, interested in the characters. For many years, I really wasn't interested." The editor of most of his early novels, Robert GOTTLIEB, confirms that. "What interested Michael was the scientific process and the excitement of the suspense," he says. "He had very dutifully filled in characters [in The Andromeda Strain]. I felt that the characters were getting in the way and that it should be stripped down even further toward being documentary in tone. When I told him this, it was already what he was thinking. We saw eye to eye from the start." With typical scientific precision, CRICHTON tries to get to the bottom of this literary obsession with the inner lives of characters. "I've become very interested in where this inner life came from - as defined by Henry JAMES, I guess. You don't see it at the very beginning. You don't see it in DEFOE or FIELDING. Was it Jane AUSTEN? George ELIOT? J.B.S. HALDANE [the English scientist and writer] concluded after some period of introspection he didn't know why he did anything. I'm a lot more interested in religion and spirituality, interests you share with age, and" - he laughs -"the inevitable interest in the future. I don't really know why I am the way I am. To me the value of introspection is to have some insight into your ongoing behavior. My goal is to see myself in the room - looking from a corner." All right, let's take a look from this corner. The tallest overachiever outside the N.B.A. was born in Chicago, the oldest of four children. His father was a journalist who saw there was more money to be made in advertising and adjusted his career forthrightly, moving his family to Roslyn, New York. His mother once characterized her strategy for rearing Michael as, "I just get out of his way." He wrote a travel story for the New York Times at age 14 and went to Harvard in 1960 intending to be a writer. But the English department rubbed a blister on his soul (it was "not the place for an aspiring writer," he said; "it was the place for an aspiring English professor"), so he switched to anthropology, graduated summa cum laude and, after a yearlong fellowship overseas at Cambridge University, returned to Harvard Medical School. He plowed through with plenty of pocket money, earned by writing a shelf full of novels before he left college. Eight were paperback adventure novels written under the name John LANGE, one was and Edgar Award-winning medical-detective paperback under the name Jeffrey HUDSON, and another was the hardcover breakthrough under his own name, The Andromeda Strain, which was published as he worked out a one-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. He says he produced 10,000 words a day during those years, and no one who knows his work habits disputes it. Medicine, he discovered, was too unimaginative to hold him. "To quit medicine to become a writer," he once wrote, "struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman." Yet the medical-school years gave him "a fund of experience and a sense of pace. things happen fast. I still think it's true that any sense of narrative pacing on my part comes out of the emergency room." Indeed, in 1974 he wrote a movie script about his emergency-room experiences but got no takers in Hollywood. Years later, Steven SPIELBERG took a shine to it, and eventually shepherded it onto TV. The result was ER, the biggest hit of the 1994-95 season and, with 30 million viewers, now the most popular show on television. The emergency-room pace seems to have governed all CRICHTON's working life. "Whatever the word is that's the opposite of lazy," says GOTTLIEB, "is what Michael is." He has written 24 books and directed seven movies - including Westworld, Coma and (based on his own novel) The Great Train Robbery. He mastered computers in their nascent stage and wrote one of the first texts on information technology (Electronic Life, in 1983). He ran a software company. He designed a computer game. He wrote essays for Wired, the hot computer magazine, even before it was hot. He collects modern art and once wrote a book about Jasper JOHNS. He has married four times, beginning a sort of anthropological study of the institution at age 22. CRICHTON and his wife of eight years, Anne-Marie MARTIN, currently live in Santa Monica with their six-year-old daughter Taylor. He allows no visitors from the press there, and works hard to play down the trappings of celebrity. "People say, 'How do you do it?' I say, 'Stay away from show business,'" CRICHTON said earlier this month. He was driving to lunch, headed inland from the coast in one of those heavy-browed Ford things that take a lot of fossil fuel to slake. A couple of years ago, he was peeved that a Vanity Fair article said he drove a tonier, more expensive Land Rover. Then, he had marched this interviewer to the window in his office and pointed at the brawny Ford in the driveway: "Does that look like a Land Rover?" "One of the things that's important to me," he said, turning west on Wilshire, "is that feeling of being out here, being a consumer of all this stuff." Fifteen years or so ago, he had an office at 20th Century Fox, "an itinerant director's office. I had my own furniture. It was very pleasant. But I found all kinds of things drying up inside of me. I thought, I've got to get out of here." Eventually, he secured a bungalow on a manicured, middle-class street in Santa Monica and made that his office. It was just a little two-bedroom deal, and he worked there until a few months ago, when he moved to grander surroundings closer to the ocean. He cites the need for space, not success, as the reason, and is almost apologetic about the splendor of the present arrangement. Compared with the old office, this new place has majestic scale; there are university presidents with smaller offices than one of the bathrooms in this house. "It doesn't have a Hollywood pedigree," CRICHTON said, slightly defensively. Out back, the swimming pool is covered over. The projectors in the carriage house screening room have been removed. CRICHTON's actual workspace is within four rather close-together walls. He gives the impression he would be happy if visitors were led directly to his desk and then back to curb, wearing blinders. The rub here is that seeing the new digs makes visitors think of money, and talking about money, as we have seen, makes CRICHTON sore. In fact, he is tight with a buck and says so. The little software company he formed in the early '80s came about because he saw movie man-hours being squandered on tasks computers could dispatch in minutes. (One more entry for the give-us-a-break file: he won an Academy Award for technical achievement for this assistance to studio accountants.) He wonders crankily about society's fierce curiosity about how much money people make, and all these Top 10 lists of what movies the nation spent its leisure dollars on last week. He points out - enviously - that we do not know what Clint Eastwood was paid for The Bridges of Madison County. Though smart enough to beat your brain to the finish line twice before breakfast, CRICHTON is self-effacing sometimes to the point of disingenuousness, gracious to the point of ingratiation. Yet all the while you sense that if things weren't going his way, things wouldn't be going at all. After a day or two in his company, one gathers that CRICHTON would choose, in a fair world, to be treated like the next fellow; he would prefer that we acknowledge his genius, but make no fuss. ("How smart is Michael?" his wife was once asked. "How smart did he tell you he was?" she replied. It's a sly family.) A fair world, he would say, would omit his private life from any public discussion. Once, though, just once, CRICHTON hung his personal life out nakedly - in an autobiographical book called Travels, published in 1988. In it he talks of his five-year attack of writer's block in the late '70s and early '80s. He wrote: "My subjective feeling every day was, it's hard, and it's not working." So he didn't work. He traveled like a fox on the run, racking up exotic locales, exploring the world and the mind, the squirrelier the better. He went through every bent-spoon, aura-fluffing, New Age, past-life, talk-to-plants, Aquarian-karmic investigation one can imagine. "The thing is," he said, "I was having a really interesting time." The clouds lifted in 1985 - no explanation - and he went back to work. [caption under picture: Protecting privacy: CRICHTON with his wife Anne-Marie in Los Angeles] Since then, his working process has varied little. Each book takes about 18 months. "I'm not an everyday writer and I never have been. I have continued a pattern of intermittent, very intense effort, and that's the way I still do it." Routine is key. He eats the same lunch every day: while writing Rising Sun, it was buckwheat noodles; during Congo, mashed potatoes, gravy and an open-face turkey sandwich; for The Great Train Robbery, heavily peppered tuna sandwiches. "I start with a fairly well-worked-out plan that has been percolating for some while, maybe five years. I turn things over. I solve a lot of problems far in advance. I don't usually refer to anything; I've done all the research and reading in advance. The first draft takes six to 10 weeks, working seven days. I first wake up at 6 o'clock in the morning. Then it's 5:30, then 5. It keeps moving back. After a month of work, it will start to be uncomfortable. It becomes earlier than 4 o'clock and eventually 2. And I begin to feel sleep deprived. I either finish the draft or I have to stop." He is just as driven in the collaborative world of movies and TV. Thought he has written none of the episodes of ER since the pilot, he has stayed closely involved in the production. "He gets all the outlines, all the scripts, all the dailies, all the rough cuts, and then he makes notes," says ER executive producer John WELLS. "He's absolutely involved in the day-to-day workings of the show, but he's not in the office 12 hours a day, which is what makes a difference. It's really helpful to have an outside eye." And an outside intellect. "Medical shows have traditionally pandered to the audience," says Wells. "Michael brought a demand for a certain type of intelligent storytelling, and the audience has responded." The Lost World, which will show up in bookstores in dino-size portions this Wednesday, might seem like a bit of backtracking for CRICHTON - it's the first sequel he has ever written. CRICHTON saw it as a challenge: "The reality is, you can't be fresh. If you're really fresh, it's not a sequel." He anticipates a critical drubbing, and probably deserves one. The book (it's six years after Jurassic Park, we're on a Costa Rican island, and the earth trembles...) has a cutting-room-floor feeling to it: outtakes. No matter; the national release of 2 million hardback copies is one of the biggest in history, and SPIELBERG is already storyboarding it for the movies - though he hasn't yet decided whether he will direct. The other reason why CRICHTON discovered The Lost World is that he needed something to do while gestating his next project. This unborn novel, he says, will deal with the media, big legal trials, Menendez-like crimes, something along those lines. "Shoot mom and reload and keep shooting. Is that O.K.? I mean, what do we think about all this? Are we all victims of our upbringing in some form or another? Or do we at every moment have a choice, and are we responsible for that choice? You know, this is a phenomenally contentious area. [caption under picture: Towering over Hollywood: Or at least over Michael OVITZ and SPIELBERG] Nature/nurture -whether you were born bad, or made that way, he means] makes everybody mad." CRICHTON smiles sweetly, makes a steeple of his long fingers. Anything else? "I just kind of mostly work a lot and spend time with my family. It seems like, in a way, that's all there is. There's the time you spend with your family and your friends, and there's the time you spend working. You're actually trying to make something, and you make it." With The Lost World about to hit the bookstores, the movie screens and the popular imagination, nobody will be unaware that he made something, again. - With reporting by Jeffrey RESSNER/Los Angeles and Andrea SACHS/New York.
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Sidebar article, same issue: How Good Is His Science? by Michael D. LEMONICK. Michael CRICHTON didn't really have to get the science right to make sure The Lost World would be a best seller. But he got the science right anyway. Like many of his earlier novels - from The Andromeda Strain, his killer-bacteria thriller that prefigured The Hot Zone by 25 years, to Jurassic Park - The Lost World is suffused with scientific detail that has clearly been lifted from the latest research journals. Yet as a novelist CRICHTON isn't bound by the usual caveats that academics are forced to issue; he can and does take the most speculative of theories and run with them as if they were proved. Take CRICHTON's dinos: unlike the dumb, drab, ponderous monsters that once graced the textbooks, his animals are smart, nimble and decked out in designer colors. The wily, vicious velociraptors are green with tiger stripes of bright red. Tyrannosaurus rex is the hue of dried blood. And a dino called Carnotaurus sastrei is a super chameleon, its skin capable of taking on the look of anything - a leafy branch, a stone wall or even a chain-link fence. Is it possible? Absolutely, say paleontologists. After all, aside from a few fossilized scraps, nobody has ever seen a dinosaur's skin. And modern lizards and birds, both relatives of the dinosaurs, are often brightly colored. Some scientists - most notably Robert BAKKER, an iconoclastic paleontologist who served as an informal adviser on the movie version of Jurassic Park - have even suggested that dinosaurs could have sported feathers. [caption under picture: CRICHTON's dinos - like this T. rex from Jurassic Park - are smart, nimble and designer-colored] Which is precisely what CRICHTON's baby tyrannosaurs do. Dinosaur babies figure prominently in The Lost World, just as they do in much current paleontological research. The recent discovery of a number of well-preserved dino nests in the western U.S. and Mongolia has convinced scientists that the terrible lizards were actually nurturing parents, watching lovingly over their hatchlings and bringing them tidbits of food, like robins tending their chicks. CRICHTON's creatures do the same, to the horror of at least one tidbit. CRICHTON's other major excursion into cutting-edge science involves the trendy field of complexity theory, as translated by the author's mathematician caricature, Ian Malcolm. Building on chaos theory, the big thing of the 1980s, complexity theory argues that groups of randomly operating independent units - amino acids floating in primordial seas, humans acting in their own interests, populations of animals - can spontaneously and without outside direction organize themselves into complex systems - self-reproducing DNA molecules, functioning economies, social groups. The downside is that these complex systems can easily become unstable given the slightest change in conditions. That, according to some experts, could explain why the dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. According to this notion, the popular theory that the cause was a comet crash is only half right: the comet did crash, but its effect was to destabilize dino behavior, rendering the creatures unable to compete with mammals, those hairy little animals with big ambitions. This is just the sort of behavioral disruption (induced by disease rather than a comet impact) that leads to a disintegration of the dino social structure in The Lost World. It gives the book and intriguing plot thickener, and proves once again that Michael CRICHTON knows more than just how to tell a riveting story.
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Sidebar article, same issue: "Lightning flashed, and then Malcolm saw a big head peering down at him and snarling." In The Lost World Michael CRICHTON's sequel to Jurassic Park, a group of scientists travel to a remote island to investigate reports that live dinosaurs are once again running loose. In this excerpt, mathematician Ian Malcolm (a leftover from Jurassic Park) and animal behaviorist Sarah Harding face the consequences when two tyrannosaurs drop by their trailer-laboratory to reclaim an injured baby dinosaur that the scientists have been nursing: Malcolm watched the retreating tyrannosaurs through the shattered glass window. Beside him, Sarah said nothing. She never took her eyes off the animals. Rain started to fall; water dripped from the shards of glass. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and lightning cracked harshly down, illuminating the giant animals as they moved away. At the nearest of the big trees, the adults stopped, and placed the baby on the ground. "Why are they doing that?" Sarah said. "They should be going back to the nest." "I don't know, maybe they're--" "Maybe the baby is dead," she said. But no, in the next flash of lightning they could see the baby moving. It was still alive. They could hear its high-itched squeaking as one of the adults took the baby in its jaws, and gently placed it in a fork among the high branches of a tree. "Oh no," Sarah said, shaking her head. "This is wrong, Ian. This is all wrong." The female tyrannosaur remained with the baby for some moments, moving it, positioning it. Then the female turned, opened its jaws, and roared. The male tyrannosaur roared in response. And then both animals charged the trailer at full speed, racing across the clearing toward them. "Oh, my God," Sarah said. "Brace yourself, Sarah!" Malcolm shouted. "It's going to be bad!" The impact was stunning, knocking them sideways through the air. Sarah screamed as she tumbled away. Malcolm hit his head and fell to the floor, seeing stars. Beneath him, the trailer rocked on its suspension, with a metallic scream. The tyrannosaurs roared, and slammed into it again. He heard her shouting, "Ian! Ian!" and then the trailer crashed over onto its side. Malcolm turned away: glassware and lab equipment smashed all around him. When he looked up, everything was cockeyed. Directly above him was the broken window the tyrannosaur had smashed. Rain dripped through onto Malcolm's face. Lightning flashed, and then he saw a big head peering down at him and snarling. He heard the harsh scratching of the tyrannosaurs' claws on the metal side of the trailer, then the face disappeared. A moment later, he heard them bellowing as they pushed the trailer through the dirt. He called "Sarah!" and he saw her, somewhere behind him, just as the world spun crazily again, and the trailer was upended with a crash. Now the trailer was lying on its roof; Malcolm started crawling along the ceiling, trying to reach Sarah. He looked up at the lab equipment locked down on the lab benches, above his head. Liquid dripped onto him from a dozen sources. Something stung his left shoulder. He heard a hiss, and realized it must be acid. Somewhere in the darkness ahead, Sarah was groaning. Lightning flashed again, and Malcolm saw her, lying crumpled near the accordion junction that connected the two trailers. That junction was twisted almost shut, which must mean that the second trailer was still upright. It was crazy. Everything was crazy. Outside, the tyrannosaurs roared, and he heard a muffled explosion. They were biting the tires. He thought: To mad they don't bite into the battery cable. That'd give them a real surprise. Suddenly, the tyrannosaurs slammed into the trailer again, knocking it laterally along the clearing. As soon as it stopped, they slammed gain. The trailer lurched sideways. By then he had reached Sarah. S he threw her arms around him. "Ian," she said. The whole left half of her face was dark. When the lightning flashed, he saw it was covered in blood. "Are you okay?" "I'm fine," she said. With the back of her hand, she wiped blood out of her eye. "Can you see what it is?" In another lightning flash, he saw the glint of a large chunk of glass, embedded hear her hairline. He pulled it out and pressed his hand against the sudden gush of blood. They were in the kitchen; he reached up toward the stove, and pulled down a dishtowel. He held it against her head and watched the cloth darken. "Does it hurt?" "It's okay." "I think it's not too bad," he said. Outside, the tyrannosaurs roared in the night. "What are they doing?" she said. Her voice was dull. The tyrannosaurs slammed into the trailer again. With this impact, the trailer seemed to move a lot more than before, sliding sideways - and down. Sliding down. "They're pushing us," he said. "Where, Ian?" "To the edge of the clearing." The tyrannosaurs slammed again, and the trailer moved farther. "They're pushing us over the cliff." The cliff was 500 feet of sheer rock, straight down to the valley below. They'd never survive the fall.
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The Washington Post, 26 Nov 1999, "King of Catastrophe" by Linton WEEKS, Washington Post Staff Writer. New York. [caption upper right in picture: A hint about his next novel? "It would be extremely difficult to destroy the human race with an atom bomb," says Michael CRICHTON. "With genetic engineering, it's a snap."] Is Michael CRICHTON stretched too thin? At the end of the millennium, the prolific writer is a one-man volcano of creative influence. He's arguably one of the few folks - along with Steven SPIELBERG and Madonna, perhaps - who single-handedly can make popular culture worldwide snap to and pay attention to things it never bothered with before - killer bacteria, dinosaur DNA, sexual harassment of men, Japanese business practices. His new novel, "timeline," will soon have the world talking about, believe it or not, 14th-centure France and quantum physics. How wide is his wingspan? [inserted headline: Michael CRICHTON's Dark Visions and Positive Prospects] Neo-techno novels are immediate best-sellers. Since 1966 CRICHTON has written 22 novels, nearly half of them under pseudonyms. There are, by Playboy's count, more than 100 million CRICHTON books in print. "Timeline" had a first printing of 1.5 million copies and zoomed posthaste to No. 4 on the Amazon.com Hot Books list - behind three Harry Potter books. He's written a passel of nonfiction books, too. Mega-monster movies are box office bonanzas. Many of his novels have been fashioned into films. CRICHTON has written and/or directed eight movies. He's produced a bunch more. "Jurassic Park" alone scored more than $900 million, making it one of the largest-grossing movies of all time. Blood-and-guts TV show, "ER," which he created in 1994, is the top-rated series on television and winner of 16 Emmys. His audio books outsell all other Random House titles and his Timeline computer game company is scheduled to ship its first game next year. Last year he made about $65 million, more than any other writer in the country, according to Forbes magazine. "Michaels has such an enormous range of interests and concerns," says his agent, Lynn NESBIT, "he has to try new things in order to keep himself completely engaged." She pauses. Sometimes, she says, choosing her words, "he puts too much of a load on himself." Midtown to Medieval. he does look a little stoop-shouldered on this crisp autumn day in Manhatten. Could be his height. At a rangy 6 feet 9 inches, he has to bend down to attend to the mortals below. Could be his age. He says he feels the aches and pains that inevitably accompany a 57-year-old man. Or it could be that he feels the never-ending burden of being Michael CRICHTON. You would expect the man who co-wrote "Twister" to be more of a whirlwind. But in gray suit, dark striped tie and wire-rims he is the picture of a great-heronlike calm. He hears a question. Ponders the answer. Speaks softly and clearly. He sips coffee at the trendy Cafe des Artistes. The legacy of this century, he says, is that mankind "developed fundamental scientific power and didn't discuss how it should be used." These days he's especially concerned about genetic modification. "I'm very distressed at this debate on both sides." Danger, he says, springs from "unintended consequences very far from the area of activity." He touches the thin wedding band on his hand. Thinks. Speaks. "It would be extremely difficult to destroy the human race with an atom bomb," he says. "With genetic engineering, it's a snap." Apparently the world will be talking about the pitfalls of genetic engineering after his next novel. But now, he talks of "Timeline," a rollicking tale of Yalies who are "faxed" back to the Dordogne region of France in 1357, during the Hundred Years' War. The conceit gives CRICHTON the opportunity to do what he does best: explore the possibility of time travel using day-after-tomorrow technology, demonstrate that academic theories and real-life situations do not always jibe, and wax on and on about the arrogance of the contemporary world and the coming quest for authenticity. Writing about the Middle Ages, he says, posed particular problems. "You're always fighting: one, what's not known - the actual dances, the actual music. You try not to make it up. And two, people don't know what you're talking about." The time travelers are provided with earpieces that translate Middle French into modern English. Along the way, they - and readers - learn valuable medieval skills, such as how to joust and make gunpowder. "You learn so much," says NESBIT. "He's a real educator." Over the years, CRICHTON has moved from medicine to other facets of science and technology. "He has a tremendous curiosity," she says. "He's never willing to repeat himself." [caption in picture: Michael CRICHTON's creative reach runs the gamut from "ER," far left, to "Twister," center, to "Jurassic Park."] From East to 'Westworld.' Who could blame him if he does repeat himself? He's been writing professionally since he was 14, when he sold a travel story to the New York Times. Born in Chicago, John Michael CRICHTON was raised on Long Island. He played basketball in high school and for two years at Harvard. He quit to focus on his pre-med studies. Besides, he adds, he didn't enjoy playing on a losing team. After college, he received a one-year postgrad fellowship to Cambridge University, where he taught anthropology. In 1966 he went back to Harvard Medical School. While there he wrote fiction to pay some bills. Between 1966 and 1972 he penned eight adventure novels under the name John LANGE and a medical mystery as Jeffrey HUDSON. [inserted quotation: On writing about the Middle Ages: "People don't know what you're talking about." Michael CRICHTON, author] In 1969 he published "The Andromeda Strain," about a deadly bacterium, under his own name, and when it was made into a movie in 1972, CRICHTON moved to Hollywood, leaving behind any thoughts of becoming a doc. He wanted to direct movies. His first effort was "Westworld," a futuristic robots-gone-berserk thrilled, in 1973. He wrote a screenplay in 1974 about life in a hospital emergency room, but couldn't sell it to anyone. He returned to writing books. "The Great Train Robbery," a novel about Victorian England, came out in 1975. For the past quarter-century, CRICHTON has juggled fiction and filmcraft. And the failed screenplay? It was rediscovered by SPIELBERG and became "ER," the runaway TV smash. "We never planned to do it as a series," CRICHTON says. "Everybody understood it was only a movie of the week." Talk about unintended consequences. These days, CRICHTON says he enjoys the simple act of researching and writing a book. But he doesn't rule out more movies or TV projects. "Whatever I'm doing," he says, "I wish I were doing one of the other things." Unlike the themes of his books, which are often dark portraits of science gone awry and technology that brings out the rot in the human heart, CRICHTON has a fairly rosy view of what is to come - genetic engineering notwithstanding. "Reading has a very robust future," he says. And writing. "E-mail is the preferred mode of communication," he explains. "But it's a return to a very old idea." At Cambridge, he recalls, the mail was delivered several times a day and students made all of their plans, such as the evening's dinner arrangements, by handwritten letters. In a prolonged conversation with CRICHTON, on a wide range of subjects, you are struck by the fact that many of his ideas are the conventional notions of a middle-aged father. He even says as much. His belief in God, for instance. "If the big bang is initiated by infinitesimally heavy, dense, small compressed matter that explodes out and expands into the universe," he says, slowly, deliberately, "I'm one of those people who want to know what's outside the point." The typical 20th-century scientific reply, he says, "is: That's not relevant." To CRICHTON, the mystery is relevant. "Those scientific ideas leave room for a creator." His favorite composer of the moment is the 18th-century German Georg Philipp TELEMANN. He also likes the Dixie Chicks and Aretha FRANKLIN. As he speaks, the door to the cafe cracks open. A bleary-eyed Christopher HITCHENS wanders in, looking for coffee or some other kind of refreshment. CRICHTON introduces himself and says he liked HITCHENS's latest book, "No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson CLINTON." "You've made my day," HITCHENS says humbly, backing out of the room. 'It's the Geeky Stuff' Despite his fascination with technology, CRICHTON is convinced that the Internet is fast becoming another Home Shopping Network. "I don't get to see enough advertising in my life," he says sarcastically. "Now I can go on my computer and get still more of it - flashing at me, no less." He reads books. Visiting bookstores is one of his favorite sports and he always emerges with an armload. Jane AUSTEN he loves. "She is robust, vigorous, funny, so alive!" He's no fan of Henry JAMES. "I think he's trivial." The problem with JAMES, CRICHTON continues, is that the world he constructs is not believable. Or interesting. Some critics make the same observation about CRICHTON's novels. "Timeline," noted one recent rip in the New York Times, is "not nearly as much fun as it could have been" and "CRICHTON's lack of curiosity about humans and their inner motivations limits him even as a science-fiction writer." But, the reviewer added, "it's the geeky stuff, in fact, that makes CRICHTON's books so hugely entertaining, lending thrilling documentary realness to the proceedings. And he makes the factoids seem - well, fun. Like the high school teacher we always dreamed of, he moons over double helixes or particle theory in a gee-whiz manner guaranteed not to terrify those of us who got 54's on the chem midterm." Computer artist and CRICHTON fan John SELVIA of Dayton, Ohio, says he learns plenty from the author. "When I read one of his books, no matter how 'farfetched' the subject, I get the feeling it is or could be happening. 'Jurassic Park' is currently playing before our eyes - albeit a woolly mammoth instead of a dinosaur - and his books, I think capture the awe and wonder of such an event." Some professors have discovered that a spoonful of CRICHTON helps the medicine go down. At American University, his 1992 novel about Japan, "Rising Sun," has been assigned to students in the international service department. And communications students were asked to read "The Andromeda Strain." Dorothy M. MATTHEWS, a professor of freshman biology at Sage Junior College in Albany, N.Y., is a devotee. She explains to her classes that CRICHTON's science is sound, but enhanced by a liberal literary license, and she uses his novels "as a way to attract students who may not respond to the normal presentation of science." A Whirlwind Life. OF the bad reviews, Sonny MEHTA, CRICHTON's editor at Alfred A. Knopf since 1988, says: "Most writers of entertainment fiction tend to receive controversial reviews. Am I troubled by them? I think sometimes people don't give Michael the credit he deserves for the things he gets superlatively right." To Knopf, says MEHTA, CRICHTON means continuity, in the manner of longtime Knopf writers John UPDIKE and Annie DILLARD. But there is a difference. CRICHTON is also Knopf's top cash cow. MEHTA and scores of others in New York and Hollywood are depending on the mighty mind of CRICHTON. He is living a good life, the author says. He takes vacations. He is married to actress Anne-Marie MARTIN, his fourth wife. They collaborated on the script of "Twister." They have one daughter, Taylor, who is 10. The family has just built a house in Westchester County, N.Y. Taylor, CRICHTON says, is not that interested in his childhood memories, which is just as well: He doesn't remember much. He has said at other times that his relationship with his father was not smooth. He doesn't want to talk about that anymore. Or death. At 57, CRICHTON is the same age his father was when he died. Though he hasn't given the endgame much attention, he says he'd like to be buried in Hawaii. "That's the place I like best in the world." For now, he's got too many balls in the air to look down. People who know him say that he would have it no other way. They speak of him as if he's not truly alive unless he's operating at 120 percent of rated capacity. Does MEHTA worry that CRICHTON stretches himself too thin? "What I admire about Michael is the way he can so easily do many things and do them all so easily well," the editor says. "There are not too many people who are polymathic these days. Michael's doing an awful lot," he says, "and thriving on it."
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Parade 5 Dec 2004, "Let's Stop Scaring Ourselves" by Michael CRICHTON. The author of the new novel State of Fear says many scientific predictions of doom just haven't panned out. From world overpopulation to Y2K to killer bees, many of the dangers we're warned about never materialize. Isn't it time for some healthy skepticism? This year I turned 62, and I find I have acquired - along with aches and pains - a perspective on the world that I lacked as a younger person. I now recognize that for most of my life I have felt burdened by highly publicized fears that decades later did not turn out to be true. I was reminded of this when I came across this 1972 statement about climate: "We simply cannot afford to gamble...We cannot risk inaction. Those scientists who [disagree] are acting irresponsibly. The indications that our climate can soon change for the worse are too strong to be reasonably ignored." This author wasn't concerned about global warming. He was worried about global cooling and the coming ice age. We're all going to freeze! Or is it sizzle? It may be mostly forgotten now, but back then many climate scientists shared his concern: Temperatures around the world had fallen steadily for 30 years, dropping half a degree in the Northern Hemisphere between 1945 and 1968. Pack ice was increasing. Glaciers were advancing. Growing seasons had shortened by two weeks in only a few years. In 1975, Newsweek noted "ominous signs that weather patterns have begun to change...with serious political implications for just about every nation." Scientists were predicting that "the resulting famines could be catastrophic." But it is now clear that even as Newsweek was printing its fears, temperatures already had begun to rise. Within a decade, scientists would be decrying a global warming trend that threatened to raise temperatures as much as 30 degrees in the 21st century. Such predictions implied palm trees in Montana, and they have since been revised downward. By 1995, the UN midrange estimates were about 4 degrees over the next 100 years. Although concern about warming remains, the prospect of catastrophic change seems increasingly unlikely. Oh no, it's a population explosion! Similarly, for all of my adult life, informed people have lived in continual anxiety about an exploding world population and the inevitable resulting mass starvation and environmental degradation. In the 1960s, experts like Paul Ehrlich spoke with conviction: "In the 1970s the world will undergo famines - hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." Ehrlich argued for compulsory population control if voluntary methods failed. In the 1970s, The Club of Rome (a global think tank) predicted a world population of 14 billion in the year 2030, with no end in sight. Instead, fertility rates fell steadily. By the end of the century, they were about half what they were in 1950, with the result that many now expect world population to peak at 9 billion or so and then to decline. (It's estimated to be about 6 billion today.) And mass starvation never occurred either. Instead, per capita food production increased through the end of the century because of the "green revolution" resulting from increased agricultural efficiency and better seeds. Grain production increased as much as 600% per acre, bringing unprecedented crop yields around the world. These changes were exemplified by the rise of India, which in the 1960s was widely acknowledged to be a symbol of the overpopulation disaster. Western children were chided to finish their food because of the starving children in India. By 2000, however, India had become a net exporter of grain, and Americans were worried about outsourced jobs to that nation's highly educated workforce. Almost no one concerned about population spoke of an explosion anymore. Instead, they discussed the new problems: an aging population and a declining population. We're running out...of everything! The 1970s saw the use of computers to predict future world trends. In 1972, The Club of Rome used its computers to warn us that raw materials were fast funning out. By 1993 we would have exhausted our supplies of gold, mercury, tin, zinc, oil, copper, lead and natural gas. Yet 1993 came and went. We still have all these things, at prices that fluctuate but over the long term have generally declined. What seems to be more accurate is that there is a perennial market for dire predictions of resource depletion. Human beings never tire of discussing the latest report that tells us the end is near. But, at some point, we might start regarding each breathless new claim with skepticism. I have learned to do so. The machines are taking over! Any catalog of false fears and counterfeit crises must include examples of the ever-present threat posed by technology. Nobody of my generation will ever forget the looming crisis of too much leisure time, an issue much discussed in the 1960s. Since machines would soon be doing all our work, we needed to learn watercolor painting and macrame to pass the time. Yet, by the end of the century, Americans were regarded as overworked, overstressed and sleepless. The crisis of leisure time had gone the way of the paperless office. More sinister were the health threats posed by technology, such as the fears about cancer from power lines. The great power-line scare lasted more than a decade and, according to one expert, cost the nation $25 billion before many studies determined it to be false. Ironically, 10 years later, the same magnetic fields that were formerly feared as carcinogenic now were welcomed as healthful. People attached magnets (the best ones were imported from Japan) to their legs and backs, or put magnetic pads on their mattresses, in order to experience the benefits of the same magnetic fields they previously had avoided. Magnet therapy even became a new treatment for depression. Be very afraid! Along with all the big fears have been dozens of lesser ones: Saccharin, swine flue, cyclamates, endocrine disrupters, deodorants, electric razors, fluorescent lights, computer terminals, road rage, killer bees - the list goes on and on. In this tradition, the association of cell phones and brain cancer has emerged as a contemporary concern, flourishing despite a lack of conclusive evidence of any direct link. I was drawn to one British study which suggested that cellular radiation actually improved brain function, but it got little publicity. And, of course, the best-documented hazard from cell phones - their use while driving - is largely ignored. (Handheld cell phones are only marginally more dangerous than speaker phones. The real danger comes from using a phone at all while driving.) Fittingly, the century ended with one final, magnificent false fear: Y2K. For years, computer experts predicted a smorgasbord of horrors, ranging from the collapse of the stock market to the crash of airplanes. Some people withdrew their savings, sold their houses and moved to higher ground. In the end, nobody seemed to notice much of anything at all. "I've seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass," Mark Twain is supposed to have said. At this point in my life, I can only agree. So many fears have turned out to be untrue or wildly exaggerated that I no longer get so excited about the latest one. Keeping fears in perspective leads me to ignore most of the frightening things I read and hear - or at least to take them with a pillar of salt. For a time I wondered how it would feel to be without these fears and the frantic nagging concerns at the back of my mind. Actually, it feels just fine. I recommend it.
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Michael CRICHTON Fears Mixture of Commerce, Science by Daniel Beegan.
Boston (AP) - Novelist Michael CRICHTON is afraid of what could happen as a result of unregulated genetic engineering. But CRICHTON, a trained scientist who graduated from Harvard Medical School, makes his point in the entertaining thriller about re-created dinosaurs titled "Jurassic Park" (Knopf) instead of through preachy scholarly works. "The Andromeda Strain," which dealt with germ warfare, was CRICHTON's first best seller. And, like that first big success, "Jurassic Park" has spent several weeks on the New York Times best-seller list and it isn't just empty reading. In the new book, an eccentric millionaire hires scientists to re-create living, breathing dinosaurs through DNA extracted from fossilized biting insects and dinosaur bones. The idea is to create a dinosaur theme park on an island. But some dinosaurs escape and others run amok within the park, dooming the project. In an interview during a recent stop in Boston, CRICHTON said the point he is making in the book is that very little genetic or biotechnological research is being conducted independent of commercial companies. CRICHTON said that traditionally, academic scientists, such as those found at Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or Massachusetts General Hospital, did their work independently of commercial enterprises. "Something very important was going on and, so far as I could tell, no one was talking about it," CRICHTON said. "The notion that that person is an independent, neutral observer of events is over. Everyone is being supported and financed by some commercial consideration." According to CRICHTON, professional scientists may still attempt to retain their independence, but, "we are all influenced by the people who pay our bills. It is that simple." CRICHTON said the purpose of his warning isn't to say that the government should regulate science or that there was anything inherently bad with scientific discoveries eventually finding their way into a profitable commercial market. Instead, he said, scientists, through peer review, and society, by arriving at consensus, can regulate the direction research takes. "This notion that scientific research is uncontrollable is fundamentally untrue," CRICHTON said. "You have seen examples where we have turned away from both basic research and technology in certain areas, or tried to turn away." "So a book like this is entertaining and, I hope, compelling, and it's interesting to read and it makes a point," CRICHTON said. "The point needs to be made sort of metaphorically and by parable. This is not a case study. We don't have to worry about dinosaurs. But it is an arena where I try to raise these issues in a kind of vivid and fictitious example."
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