Thursday, November 06, 2008

Turning the page: Michael Crichton

Wow, talking about the "old guard" and "turning the page", the death of Michael Crichton is quite a shock. I actually thought he was still a fairly young guy. Twelve years older than me, but now he is gone. I remember when The Andromeda Strain was new and exciting, when I was in high school. I guess we have moved on sinced then, but there is not a lot around us these days that feels as new and exciting as things did back then. I never though of Crichton as "old guard", but I never thought of the Clintons as "old guard" either. Now, as they say, we have "turned the page." Crichton's death make the "turn" that much more emphatic.

People talk about change accelerating, but to me it feels as if the pace of change is actually decelerating. Maybe it is the pace of promises for change that has decelerated since the great science fiction writers and social commentators of the 1950's through 1980's that has slowed down. ANd maybe it is the pace of catching up with all of those promises that appears to be accelerating.

After all, if change is accelerating, why would we be worried at all about energy and transportation at all? In truth, a lot of serious and important change has been ongoing and occurs at such a slow, but variable, rate that we flip flop from claiming that it is either not happening at all or that it is suddenly accelerating, even though the overall pace when measured over a multi-decade timeframe may be little changed.

I would simply say that the pace of change is uneven and leave it at that.

Back to Crichton, I suppose it is rather ironic for his career to start with The Andromeda Strain and then end with the U.S. settling the case of an anthrax biological attack. Which is stranger, fiction or fact?

I also enjoyed reading The Great Train Robbery and State of Fear.

I also love the irony of State of Fear, which ultimately is simply making the point that separating fact from fiction is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible in many cases, at least in real-time. Crichton was a truly brilliant guy, but somehow a lot of people actually do believe that they are so much smarter than him. Time will tell if their claims and beliefs truly justify their self-righteous arrogance.

-- Jack Krupansky

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