Michael Crichton’s new book Next is about the hazards of biotechnology. And while it might not be hard science fiction it does appear to hit hard against somebody. The book contains a character named Mick Crowley, a Washington political columnist, who rapes a young child. Certainly a mature subject, but it also seems to be a literary attack on a critic of Crichton named Michael Crowley, also a Washington political columnist (who, as far as we know, hasn’t committed any felonies.) You can read what Crowley has to say about it on The New Republic’s web site. (Warning: registration required at TNR, and the article and passage from the book are quite graphic.)
Now, I can understand being unhappy with a critic, but is this kind of attack warranted? Is it better or worse than Caitlin Kiernan’s attack on John she posted to her blog? And I have to agree completely with Crowley’s sentiments: “If someone offers substantive critcism of an author and the author responds by hitting below the belt, as it were, then he’s conceding that the critic has won.”
Note to all authors – responding to critics simply isn’t worth it. You best you can do is come off as defensive, and the worst you can do is very bad indeed.