The Late Michael Crichton’s Next, Though Politically Charged, Is Not His Best

I think that Michael Crichton is a spectacular writer. Not only are his stories compelling, his plots engaging and his writing enjoyable, but his ability to incite something entirely different in his reader is remarkable. Why? Because he often writes about topics that are (or should be) important issues of public discourse.

Crichton does not merely pick some outrageous sci-fi notion and run with it to the ends of the earth. He writes science fiction that is well-researched and of practical public interest. He then crafts a story that pushes the boundaries of “what if” while demonstrating the numerous issues that surround the topic at hand, whether nanotechnology, biological experimentation or global warming – one of the largest thorns in his side.

He was an outspoken public critic of complacency and constantly sought to shake up the status-quo. When unethical or damaging tactics were allowed to plague an institute of government, a scientific research facility, or the media, he seized upon them and exposed them in the best way he knew how – creative science fiction grounded in reality.

Next was Crichton’s jab at genetic technology and gene experimentation. This well-researched book ended with a series of recommendations for how American politics, government and people should proceed in regards to these issues. The book itself was fascinating for the issues it exposed but for some reason this time I just couldn’t grab hold of the slightly over the top sci-fi elements.

I certainly feel more educated about genetic research and the state of affairs of politics and science than I did before – thanks to his grounding these books in facts – but the sci-fi elements themselves were just not for me this time. I won’t stop reading Crichton’s books, though, but sadly we won’t be seeing any more of them (that aren’t published posthumously).

Here’s to you, Mr. Crichton. Thanks!

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Topical Tuesday: My Literary Agent Dreams – History and Sci-Fi for Past and Future

I find the past endlessly fascinating and the future filled with wonderful posibilities. That said, I live every moment in the present – it’s the only place to live – but if I could be any kind of literary agent, I would be one who specialized in history (nonfiction though historical fiction is cool too) and science fiction.

Both of my degrees are in history and comparative religion and they are the subjects that truly capture my heart. Therefore, even if I were to handle fiction, I would have to include historical works as well. Oftentimes, academic and scholarly work is handled by university presses, and professors and academics who write such material do not seek out agents, but only their contacts at the appropriate presses who are already familiar with their scholarly accomplishments. So I suppose it would be a little hard for me to become an agent of such things.

However, I do love quality historical fiction (though it’s quite hard to come by, I think – or at least very difficult to do well), and in fact, most of the television shows that I watch and enjoy are historical fiction. Mad Men, for instance, or the Tudors. I love the elements that a show or book can give you about characters and life that my knowledge of historical facts just doesn’t fill in.

Also, sci-fi. I love good sci-fi and would be honored to represent it. Dune, The Foundation Series, LOTR, etc. The reason I think it would be cool being an agent for such things is because I feel like I can read good sci-fi and know whether or not I would want it on shelves. Other genres I couldn’t do that with. For instance, women’s romance literature. Hell if I know what’s good and what’s crap. Sci-fi, however, seems to be something that I could pick up and know about its quality, a very important attribute of a literary agent. Plus, you’d get to read all sorts of crazy crap that gets in people’s heads and once in a while be truly inspired – though perhaps that’s true for all genres.

I could also do smut. I would like to be a literary agent for total, degrading smut. Though that probably wouldn’t be a healthy habit to develop – reading smutty lit all day.

What about you? If you could be a literary agent for any genre, what would it be?

For yesterday’s Fun with the Bible post, click HERE or for last week’s Topical Tuesday – what book I would have written if I could have – click HERE.

And don’t forget to check out Chandler’s Fumbling with Fiction for her thoughts on the literary agent type of her dreams.

Topical Tuesday: If I Could Have Been the Author of Any Book it Would Have Been…

Slaughterhouse 5!

First, I jumped at the Bible. Oh to have written the Bible. But hey, I’m one guy in one place and that was written by dozens and dozens over the course of 1000 years so for the sake of keeping it a fascinating text, I let my dream of writing the Bible go.

My next reaction upon pondering this question was to look at my bookshelves and pick out something that I saw there. I love my book shelves. However, upon moving to San Francisco, I left them behind. I packed up hundreds and hundreds of books and stored them in my mother’s basement. With me came about two dozen.

I don’t really wish that I’d written any of the books I have here (other than maybe The Divine Comedy), and so I had to start thinking again from scratch. Of course, there are so many classics that I could have picked but what would my reasoning have been?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn could have made a fine selection. Mark Twain was brilliant. The book was sensational, influential, historically relevant, etc. But somehow I decided that I wanted something else. At first I was toying with sci-fi: The Hobbit, Dune. I really like the idea of creating a whole different world and think that it’s very difficult. I would love to move people’s imaginations that way. Stephen King’s epic The Dark Tower could have been excellent but Chandler and I did say 1 book.

Thus, I settled on Slaughterhouse 5. There are a couple of reasons. Personally, I’ve read the book about a dozen times. It reads so quickly and never ceases to amaze me. You can take so much away from this book. There are great one liners that stay with you – i.e., So it goes. There are hilarious quips about life’s odd situations. Billy, for instance, has a huge penis, and says, you never know who’s going to have one.

What’s more, the book has amazing historical relevance (related to the Crusades and WWII), an incredible message about war that it doesn’t just tell you but makes you feel, and makes you think 6000 times about the structure of the universe and time and other such things. I use the image of the Rocky Mountains from the beginning of time until the end of time all the time to convey various points about the nature of time. That and the attitude of the Trafalmadorians about life just make it an absolutely incredible book, with no extra words to spare.

So, thanks a lot Kurt Vonnegut for doing it first. Though I may not get your much deserved acclaim for this incredible masterpiece, I can certainly say that your book has inspired me on a personal level and for my writing. If I could publish – nay, write – anything comparable to the things you achieve inside that book I’ll be a very happy man.

What’s your favorite book? What book do you wish you’d written? If they’re different why? Did you like Slaughterhouse 5?

Enjoy your own copies of Slaughterhouse-Five, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Divine Comedy and many other great books.

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