A thought for Michael Crichton

By James Fallows

I am sorry to be in a commemorative mode, but I can't let the day pass without saying something about Michael Crichton.

In the car this afternoon I turned on the radio and heard a news report ending ".... Crichton was 66." Was? That Michael Crichton has died in his 60s shocked me not simply because I'm now concentrating on the mortality of my father, in his 80s, but also because he always looked at least  20 years younger than his chronological age. I'd corresponded with him recently and didn't know he was sick.

Crichton had his enemies, especially after his recent anti-global-warming book (which I chose not to read). That he was married five times suggests that his personal life was not entirely tranquil. And he was hyper, hyper aware that in America he was regarded as a "genre" writer whereas in Italy, for example, he would be listed among the big names of Quality Lit.

But I was honored to have met him 20 years age, when I was living in Japan, and to have been a friend since then. He seemed unassuming, funny, charming in every way -- the unusual famous person who was genuinely considerate of one's spouse and kids. Very earnest about his political causes, including a very prescient argument fifteen years ago about the impending decline of the "Mediasaurus," now known as MSM. And, there is no way around it, incredibly talented. At one point in the 1990s, he was responsible for the #1-rated TV show (ER), the #1 box office movie (Jurassic Park), and the #1 best selling-novel -- and I'm not even sure now which of his novels it was. He must have been the only person in history to have paid his way through medical school by writing successful novels.

I loved hearing from him about oddball "practical" matters. For instance, height: he appeared to be nearly 7 feet tall, and explained to me (6'2") that up until 6'6" height was an advantage, but after that it was a big inconvenience -- door frames, beds, airplane seats. Or, getting ready for book writing bursts: He said he removed complications from his life while writing by having exactly the same food at every meal, so he never had to waste time deciding what to eat. He was a tech enthusiast, and the most passionate Mac advocate I have encountered.

He will be missed.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2008/11/a-thought-for-michael-crichton/9056/