I loved Michael Crichton’s writing. I can still remember a hundred years ago (it seems like!) watching The Andromeda Strain on television. That was back in the day of three channels, UHF, and “rabbit-ears” but the movie, made long before special-effects had taken the place of story telling, kept me riveted.
That was Crichton’s first successful book and he went on to pen many more thrillers over the years. I think my favorite might have been Eaters of the Dead though Prey really caught my fancy as well. And who couldn’t love Jurassic Park, though the sequels never captured the first story’s freshness. His latter books fell off a little as he became more openly political, but he never lost that special something that made his work Crichtonesque.
So what was that ‘special-something’? To me, Crichtonesque means taking some piece of science, tweaking it a little, and building a story around it. As opposed to other forms of science fiction by authors like Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke, Crichton’s stories always felt more grounded. More possible. Maybe that was their appeal to me – they felt like they could happen. Or, at least they didn’t stretch the boundaries of the possible pushing them into pure fantasy. I enjoy fantasy, too. I read it and I watch it. But Crichton’s storytelling is sorely missed in a world that seems to be getting overrun with Hunger Games, Twilight, and an endless stream of lesser knockoffs. For a host of reasons that I’ll discuss some other time, publishers have convinced themselves that there’s no market left for intelligent, Crichtonesque fiction. The result is what you get when you go to the bookstore.
So, if you loved Crichton, where do you turn now that he is gone? At least until they find a way to clone him. One place you might look is PlotForge, my publisher. PlotForge is young and doesn’t have a global reach yet, but if there is one word I would use to describe our work, it is Crichtonesque. Take reality and bend it a little, maybe even a tad past the breaking point. But isn’t that where things get interesting? Isn’t that where we see the soul of the characters laid bare? When we go one further. When the amp gets turned up to 11.
That’s PlotForge – stories that provide intrigue and excitement while, at the same time, forcing you to look at reality and think about where it is going. The ramifications of gene-splicing and cloning that drove Jurassic Park a generation ago are echoed in Multiplayer where the story centers around the results of online gaming pushed a tad beyond where we are now. Terri-Lynne Smiles debut novel Foreseen is every bit as adept at exploiting the mysteries of quantum mechanics as Crichton’s Timeline did for us. And The Silla Project introduces us to the terrifying reality of North Korea just as Crichton’s Rising Sun unveiled a side of Japan that none of us wanted to think about.
As authors, we don’t set out to emulate anyone. We don’t look at books that we ‘like’ and try to copy them. It’s deeper than that. When someone’s work reaches you, it becomes part of you. It changes you in subtle ways and rewires your brain a little. This is a permanent effect, so that when you sit down to write, even though the real ‘you’ comes out, it contains bits and pieces of all your experiences. Artists call it influence and the effect is called inspiration. So, if reading PlotForge books seems a bit like reading a Crichton thriller, it isn’t intentional. Then again, you know what they say: Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.