Tag Archives: Michael Crichton

SENSORY DEPRIVATION IN AN IMMERSION TANK – and how it relates to the science technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH

A while back, I posted here on how author Michael Crichton used an immersion tank to jump-start his idea factory.

That post on immersion tanks drew a lot of clicks, so I thought I’d offer you a long sample from my science technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH –particularly, the section in which Dr. Doug Dalby, a brain researcher, tries out sensory deprivation at a shadowy clinic hidden away in the spooky mountains of central Europe.

How do the immersion tanks and  hyperbaric oxygen treatments relate to what’s going on at the Hauenfelder Clinic and why it’s being supported by a cabal of really, really rich old guys? Well, if you really want to know, then I hope you’ll read the book.

(And, by the way, while this clinic is fictional, I suspect the reality may not be so far away–rich old (and not so old) folks have it good this time ’round, and are not eager to leave it all behind.  See the archive of my posts on this blog.)

Here’s the link to that free sample, and how to order the book via Amazon: To buy A REMEDY FOR DEATH via Amazon as pbook or ebook

Also, here’s the link to my post “Michael Crichton and how he used an immersion tank to jump-start his ideas: __________


great-train-dec-2Who invented the techno-thriller?  If your taste is military and hardware, then Tom Clancy. If other techno-areas, Michael Crichton gets the nod.

When we think techno-thriller, we tend to be looking forward—the newest ships and planes (in Clancy-land). Or medical or science technologies that are  just over the horizon—as in cloning dinosaurs in JURASSIC PARK, the perils of nanotechnology in PREY, biotech in THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, quantum physics as a route to time–travel in TIMELINE.

But we think of techno-thrillers as looking ahead to oncoming tech. What about techno of the past—“retro-tech”? In the course of plumbing the depths of my book-shelves, I discovered that Michael Crichton wrote (if I may coin the term) a “retro-techno-thriller,” way back in the 1970’s. Retro-techno, as it centered around that tech breakthroughs of the mid-1800’s –that new phenomenon, the steam-powered railroads that were extending across England. What was Michael Crichton’s “retro-techno-thriller”? THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY.

I’d read it a long while back–see the cover above scanned from copy I read back in 1979 and again this week. That was probably just before seeing the 1979 movie with Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, written and directed by none other than the same Michael Crichton.

In any case, I picked it off the shelf to have another read  and found it was like all new to me  . . .and very good, even by the usual high standards of a Crichton. In my mind, good thrillers—or novels, for that matter–are not only interesting in covering places, people, events and so on, but are also worthwhile. What do I mean by worthwhile? Basically, that I learn something interesting and significant while following the story.

TRAIN drew me on—built as it is around short, punchy chapters. As for “worthwhile”, I feel I learned more about life in Victorian London than from plowing through a handful of non-fiction tomes of that era (perhaps because I’d have fallen asleep long before those dry, academic accounts ended!) Not so with TRAIN—the background, the history, the way of life and expectations across class lines are so well integrated that you learn about that era as you follow on the cascade of events that led up to the robbery itself. And done subtly, though–in several chapters, background of the era begins, then blends into the “now” of the action.

Michael Crichton, and how he used an immersion tank to jump-start his ideas

I’ve read most of Michael Crichton’s thrillers–more than once, most of them–so I have his name on my Google Alerts to see what new comes up. Today, from the British site, Den of Geek, came this little tidbit buried in the post.

(Background, just in case not everyone remembers, CONGO was a thriller about apes, set in Africa. It was later made into a movie 15 years later, in 1995, but Crichton had elected not to be involved, for reasons that you’ll learn in the full blog post.  Link is below):

What grabbed my eye was this:

Congo  was still only a title and a vague concept when he pitched it to 20th Century Fox producer Frank Yablans in 1979, and yet Crichton’s clout was such that he was handed $1.5m in exchange for its rights. That pay cheque was so huge, in fact, that the normally prolific Crichton wound up with a chronic case of writer’s block. Determined to shift it, he spent hour after hour lying in an isolation tank, gradually formulating his adventure story in the pitch darkness.”

Interesting to me for a couple of reasons. 1) Crichton was incredibly prolific, and I’d never thought that he’d get blocked. But seems he did.

2) It brought to mind that I had tried an isolation tank (also termed immersion tank or flotation tank) when I was researching my own sci-fi thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH  (which led to the character in the book getting quite a surprise, but I’ll refrain from any plot-spoilers.)  I found it a mind-opening experience, and doggone, I think I want to do it again soon!  Want to know more, google Dr. John Lilly, who came up with original idea.

The tank is filled with warm salt water, so you float, don’t get cold. It’s dark, and your thoughts go off in interesting ways.  Here’s a picture of one. (Full disclosure: the person in this tank is not me!)

By the way, both flotation tanks and hyperbaric oxygen tanks appear in my science techno-thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH.



For the article I referenced  in Den of Geek:  : http://www.denofgeek.com/uk/movies/congo/43576/the-strange-prehistory-of-1995s-congo#ixzz4K4iRkxIC