Once when I was working at one of my many bookstore jobs, a bookseller came into the back and reported that she'd rung up some books for author Michael Crichton.

"Wow," I said. "So did you talk to him?"

"A little."

"Well, come on! What did you say?"

She shrugged. "I told him his books were selling very well at our store."

I stared at her. Selling WELL at our STORE? This to a man whose each and every recent book had hammered at the top of the best-seller lists for weeks, MONTHS even, as if the position of Number One was somehow not ENOUGH to reflect the massive number of orders that were pouring in for it on a daily basis?

She shrugged again, helplessly. "Well, what DO you say to Michael Crichton?"
How about: "I really love your books. They're great. There's just... well... one little thing... You really, really, really need to work on your character development. Sure, the science in your books is intriguing and frequently I'm in awe of the amount of research you put into each novel - but DAMN IT, man, your characters are so one-dimensional you could plot them on a single axis. Seriously - when I read 'The Terminal Man' I really, honestly tried to feel some sort of sympathy for the lead female, but it never came. Why? Because even despite your weak attempts at fleshing out her private life it was so incredibly transparent that I had to put the book down and get a glass of water. Or what about 'Sphere' - what the FUCK was going on there? You had these people stuck together in a small space thousands of feet underwater and you barely even began to explore the cabin-fever angle. Yeah, they turned against each other and stuff but THERE WAS SO MUCH UNTAPPED POTENTIAL IN THAT BOOK IT MAKES ME SICK! And don't get me started on 'Jurassic Park', that just sucked. And 'The Lost World' - WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? Talk about selling out! Don't you have any sort of integrity AT ALL? Isn't it enough for you to be a crappy writer that somehow manages to make a packet out of selling your unbelieveably scientifically accurate but unbearably sterile SHIT? YOU MAKE ME SICK!"

*ahem* Or something like that, anyway.

Well, now. Seems my dear friend nf (how the fuck do you pronounce that, anyway?) has gone and called me out. Yeah, I've heard what people say about how writeup does not mean reply. Well, do you know what? Fuck you. I'm Michael fucking Crichton and I'll write when I damn well please.

Now that we've settled that little issue, let's get one thing straight right from the start:

NOBODY GIVES A FUCK ABOUT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

Oh, and just so we're clear on this, by "nobody" I mean "nobody but a few pretentious lit-crit types who spend their lives mentally masturbating in windowless cubicles while contributing nothing to society and making less money than a non-union garbageman." English scholars are not real people, and don't you forget it.

Anyway, where were we? Ah, yes:

NOBODY GIVES A FUCK ABOUT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.

No. Really. They don't. Take a look around you. Take a look at the authors whose books always end up at the top of the charts. Dan Brown? Yeah, right. How many characters of his can you name, aside from that one dude who appears in all his books? Tom Clancy? Stereotypes and acronyms, people, stereotypes and acronyms. Shit, Clancy's weapons have richer backgrounds than his characters do; Ding Chavez doesn't have any personality aside from a bad case of Speedy Gonzales syndrome. J.K. Rowling? Okay, I'll grant you that some of Rowling's characters are at least living in Flatland instead of Lineland--we're all waiting breathlessly to find out whether Ron and Hermione are going to shag each other sore before the end of the series--but Voldemort still sounds like a bad James Bond villain. And her prose? Phoo...her prose sucks the sweat off a stegosaur's balls. And believe you me, I know something about a stegosaur's balls. Hell, I even get asked to lecture about dinosaurs, as though I'd actually done research on them or something. (Can't top that bastard Tom Clancy, though. They had that ugly little fucker on CNN talking about the armaments that were going to be used in the second Iraq war. Like he knew anything other than what he'd read in Jane's! Can you believe it?)

Look, of course my characters are one-sided. Do you know why? Here's a clue: MOST PEOPLE ARE ONE-SIDED. Haven't you noticed? No? Well, then--you're probably one of them, aren't you?

Forget all that shit you learned in school about high drama involving noble figures in tragic situations created by vengeful or whimsical gods. Nobody wants to read that. People want to read about average dinks in exciting situations, largely because they're average dinks in unexciting situations and they want to imagine that something fun might happen to them someday. Oh, and in spite of all this, most people don't lead lives of quiet desperation, no matter what that narcissistic wanker Thoreau wanted you to believe. A sense of quiet desperation requires thought and reflection and contemplation, and that's far beyond the capacity of your average human being. Fuck, most people can't even manage the "quiet" part, at least not for very long. And I always love that bit about "leading a life," as though these people were capable of leading anything more than a dog. These fuckers are following--following a path that will leave them old, washed-up, senile, and poor.

So go ahead and slam me in the halls of your English departments, go ahead and write snarky reviews that nobody will ever take seriously, go ahead and insult me on some time-wasting website that doesn't earn you a cent. I don't care. And do you know why not? Because I'm Michael fucking Crichton, and I've written more books than you.


Disclaimer: The real Michael Crichton had nothing to do with this piece.

Well, to get the ball rolling I would don a pair of steel-toed boots and then place a swift but forceful roundhouse kick to his gonads.

Then, as he's lying on the ground in an agonized fetal heap, gasping for breath, I would ask,

"So you still don't think global warming is a problem?"

Okay, so maybe you're a bit taken aback by my avant-garde approach to rational discourse with an acclaimed writer. Not to worry, I intend to explain myself.

While Mr. Crichton is catching his breath, let me digress to another character whose balls —if indeed he has any— I would like to see hanging into a tankful of piranhas. This is Senator Jack Inhofe (R-OK). Mr. Inhofe is the bought, paid and retained bend-over bitch of the US industry. Whenever there's a law to be passed giving corporations greater leeway to poison our air or water, kill our wildlife or otherwise diminish our quality of life and forfeit our future, this man's vote, plus those he can bring around, are available to the highest bidder. Don't take my word for it, read Chris Mooney's The Republican War on Science. Sen. Inhofe gets a lot of dishonorable mention there, and it's all well researched and documented.

Back to Michael. Years ago I read his Sci-Fi novel The Andromeda Strain. It wasn't particularly captivating, and to this day I remember feeling annoyed that he used his shoddy paperback novel as a soap box to lecture us on the evils of driving a big car and polluting the environment. These days, Mr. Crichton seems to have jumped to the other side of the fence: Since having thrown away his book, the next mention I heard of him was that he had been invited to expound before Congress about the irrelevance of global warming.

No joke: In January of 2005, Crichton served as a lead witness at a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. I'm absolutely dumbfounded that the governing body of the mightiest nation on Earth shows such poor judgement as to fail to distinguish between a fiction author and an expert. It's like watching the "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV" joke come eerily to life. My recommendation would be... nah, I won't go there, or this essay may come off seeming to be a rant. Anyway, at the invitation of Jack Inhofe (to finally make the connection), Crichton told Congress exactly what ExxonMobil wanted them to hear: That scientists weren't really sure about global warming, that it was only a temporary hype, and that business would be best served by business as usual. The venue, by the way, was the AEI-Brookings Joint Center. The American Enterprise Institute, if you care to know, is the oil industry's think tank for influencing government policy. Just today, The Guardian exposed their attempt to bribe scientists into disagreeing with the UN IPPC global climate report.

With a whore like Crichton, it's difficult to tell where his own personal misconceptions end and his cheaply bought public opinion begins. To be honest, I don't care if Crichton believes the crap he's spouting. Here's the centerpiece of my objection to what's happening, sans obscene language and verbal violence:

Like it or not, Mr. Crichton is a figure in the public eye. Simple people trust him, simply because he's smart enough to be famous and rich when they are not. Or maybe because his novels have a flimsy medical/scientific background story. For better or worse, when Michael Crichton says things, a lot of people listen. The US flag-in-the-wind government is easily swayed by popular opinion, and that is easily swayed by what Mr. Crichton says and writes. By claiming that global warming is a figment of some money-greedy scientists' imagination, he is influencing political decisions that could end up contributing to making the entire planet uninhabitable. To me, that spells responsibility, and one that should be approached with care and humility. What he's doing, instead, is pushing either his personal agenda or one he's being paid to push.

That Inhofe is selling out his political influence is treason against his country but only to be expected: The United States has the best government that money can buy. What's at least as reprehensible is that an eloquent author is stooping to bottom-rung rhetoric, comparing today's supporters of the theory of global warming to the Third Reich's supporters of Eugenics. Yes indeed, there's no depth he won't plumb if there's a nickel to be had. Don't take my word for it, read his novels.

It's 2007 now, and for reasons having little to do with global warming, the citizens of the USA have driven the Republicans out of Congress, to be replaced by the lesser evil. Whether for righteous motives or simply to make the other guys look bad, the Dems are now cleaning up some of the mess they've inherited. 120 scientists who were blackmailed by government officials to suppress any mention of global warming have now been un-muzzled; a UN conference is showing overwhelming scientific consensus on the phenomenon of global warming and its likely causes; the US is starting to listen; and Inhofe and Crichton are being shown up for the shills they are.

I've had a good education —thankfully, in Canadian schools— and can discern good, honest science from bad. At the risk of saying "I told you so," I've been concerned about Global Warning for a while now. It seems that now, notwithstanding the best efforts of the oil industry, Inhofe and Crichton, some important people are starting to think about the right issues. My only nagging worry is: Too little, too late?

Something just occurred to me: Could the Second Amendment be construed to mean that Americans are at liberty to do their civic duty and shoot those two ugly bastards like the rabid dogs they are? You know, setting an example for other politicians and authors.

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