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Things You Didn't Know About Michael Crichton

In his heyday in the mid-'90s, author and filmmaker Michael Crichton was basically the king of all media. His novels were all bestsellers. His TV show ER was one of the most successful of all time. And then there's Jurassic Park, which needs no introduction (who doesn't know about Jurassic Park?!). But there are plenty of facts about Michael Crichton that even his fans don't know.

Michael Crichton facts are sort of hard to come by, actually. The man was famously reclusive, rarely giving interviews. But he did publish a memoir called Travels, which helps fill in his biography. And since his untimely death in 2008, plenty of his friends and fans have stepped forward to share Michael Crichton stories. So if you've ever wondered, "Who is Michael Crichton?" read on to learn more about the man that helped shape pop culture as we know it today.

  • He Thought Arcade Games Were Just a Fad

    Photo: bjhanifin / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    In 1983, Crichton wrote a non-fiction book called Electronic Life, which was supposed to de-mystify computers for those unfamiliar with the burgeoning technology. There are plenty of dated references that sound silly to 21st-century readers, such as Crichton's caveat that there will be a noticeable delay if you ask a computer to compute complex equations.

    There are some predictions in the book that Crichton got right, such as his thoughts about the rising importance of computer networks. The biggest groaner, however, is his assertion that "arcade games are the hula hoops of the '80s" and that their popularity "may be fading." 

  • He Tried to Pass a George Orwell Paper Off as His Own to Prove a Point

    Photo: Branch of the National Union of Journalists/Public Domain / via Wikimedia Commons

    When Crichton was a student at Harvard in the '60s, he thought his English professor was "in error" for giving him C grades on his papers, so he decided to try a little experiment. Instead of turning in his own work, he turned in George Orwell's 1946 essay “Politics vs. Literature: An Examination of Gulliver’s Travels.” Crichton was worried about plagiarism, but thought his instructor was likely "poorly read." His grade convinced him "that the English department was too difficult for [him]." He received a B-minus!

  • He Predicted the Demise of Newspapers in 1993

    Photo: alextorrenegra / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In a Wired essay in 1993, Crichton guessed that newspapers like The New York Times had about a decade to live. He wasn't spot-on in his prophesy, of course, but he was fairly early in his doomsaying, as Jack Shafer of Slate points out. Especially in the early 2000s, plenty of writers claimed that print would soon die, but in 1993, the Internet was still essentially in its infancy. Crichton was certainly onto something. As Shafer wrote in 2008, "rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues." Since 2007, Newspaper Death Watch has been chronicling the decline of the industry.

  • He Wrote a Mixed Review of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five

    Photo: cdrummbks / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    In 1969, Crichton wrote a largely ambivalent review of Kurt Vonnegut's beloved novel Slaughterhouse Five in the New Republic. The relatively unknown Crichton thought parts of the book were "beautifully done, fluid, smooth, and powerful" but took issue with it being classified as science fiction: "There is also some business about a distant planet and flying saucers, but that does not make the book science fiction, any more than flippers make a cat a penguin." Regarding Vonnegut's style, he says it is "effortless, naive, almost childlike" but ultimately "schizophrenic." In a final diss (or not, depending on how you read it), Crichton called the book "hideous, ghastly, murderous—and calm."