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Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Memoriam: Michael Crichton (1942 - 2008)

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Unless you've been living under a rock someplace, you'd have at least been exposed to some of his non-literary work, if not read his books. 

Image taken from AP article, hosting by PhotobucketJohn Michael Crichton - author, film & TV producer/director, and medical doctor - passed away on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 (via Reuters), after a long but private battle with cancer. Walski only found out about his demise early this morning. Undoubtedly, his death was overshadowed by the world celebrating Barrack Obama's victory in the 2008 Presidential elections.

Crichton started writing while he was still in medical school in the mid 1960's, and perhaps received wide attention with his 1969 novel, "The Andromeda Strain", which was made into a film in 1971 (directed by Robert Wise), and more recently adapted into a 2-part TV movie earlier this year. 

Meticulous research is perhaps one of the aspects of Michael Crichton's writing that will be remembered as his legacy. Walski recalls reading one of his novels, "Airframe", which at times read like an aircraft manufacturing manual. When it came to things technical and scientific, Crichton's work can be very convincing.

Combining a measure each of imagination, science, and creative license, Michael Crichton, throughout his career in writing, film and TV never failed to impress. Where Stephen King succeeded in the horror and fantasy departments, Crichton excelled in techno-science realism

Dying at a relatively young age of 66, ZDNet has described his death as America losing its "moral technologist".
(more about Michael Crichton, in the full post)

Apart from his novels and non-fiction works, Michael Crichton was also a successful film/TV producer and director. He wrote and directed "The First Great Train Robbery", released in 1979, for which Crichton won the Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay in 1980.

Crichton was also the creator of the hit TV series ER, which launched George Clooney into stardom. Michael Crichton also has been give writing credit, and has been credited as Executive Producer for the entire series, which is now in its 15th (and possibly final) season.

But perhaps what made Michael Crichton most well-known, at least outside the US, were "Jurassic Park", and its sequel "The Lost World", both of which were adapted into hit films, helmed by Steven Speilberg. In the process, both films became the impetus for dinosaurs becoming public interest on a big and almost celebrity-like scale - as far as Walski is concerned, anyway. One thing for sure - Crichton had a species of dinosaur named after him - Crichtonsaurus bohlini - apparently in honor of Jurassic Park.

Science and medicine became central to many of his works, and indicates the influence of his medical training. But Crichton made science interesting, and his novels explored the possibilities in areas such as genetics, quantum physics, and even human-machine interaction. Frequently, authentic scientific research was incorporated with the fiction, making his novels compelling. And definitely commercially successful.

Although he's not read all of Michael Crichton's books, this is one author whom Walski will definitely miss. And Walski suspects, so will many people the world over.