Try to believe this really happened. In retaliation for negative coverage, Michael Crichton, the bestselling author of Jurassic Park, depicts a thinly-veiled version of The New Republic's Michael Crowley as a pedophile who rapes his two-year-old nephew in his new book.
Crowley explains in a TNR column that runs under the apt header "Michael Crichton, jurassic prick" (free registration required):
There is an obscure publishing doctrine known as "the small penis rule." As described in a 1998 New York Times article, it is a sly trick employed by authors who have defamed someone to discourage their targets from filing lawsuits. As libel lawyer Leon Friedman explained to the Times, "No male is going to come forward and say, 'That character with a very small penis, 'That's me!'" This gimmick was undoubtedly on the mind of Michael Crichton, the pulp science-fiction writer of Jurassic Park fame, when he wrote the following passage in his latest novel, Next. (Caution: Graphic imagery. Kids, ask for permission before reading on):
Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers. Crowley was a wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate and heir to a pharmaceutical fortune. ...
It turned out Crowley's taste in love objects was well known in Washington, but [his lawyer]--as was his custom--tried the case vigorously in the press months before the trial, repeatedly characterizing Alex and the child's mother as "fantasizing feminist fundamentalists" who had made up the whole thing from "their sick, twisted imaginations." This, despite a well-documented hospital examination of the child. (Crowley's penis was small, but he had still caused significant tears to the toddler's rectum.)
The next page contains fleeting references to Crowley as a "weasel" and a "dickhead," and, later, "that political reporter who likes little boys." But that's it--Crowley comes and goes without affecting the plot. He is not a character so much as a voodoo doll. Knowing that Crichton had used prior books to attack very real-seeming people, I was suspicious. Who was this Mick Crowley? A Google search turned up an Irish Workers Party politician in Knocknaheeny, Ireland. But Crowley's tireless advocacy for County Cork's disabled seemed to make him an unlikely target of Crichton's ire. And that's when it dawned on me: I happen to be a Washington political journalist. And, yes, I did attend Yale University. And, come to think of it, I had recently written a critical 3,700-word cover story about Crichton. In lieu of a letter to the editor, Crichton had fictionalized me as a child rapist. And, perhaps worse, falsely branded me a pharmaceutical-industry profiteer.
Crowley's conclusion is exactly right:
Crichton launched his noxious attack from behind the shield of the small penis rule because, I'm sure, he's embarrassed by what he has done. In researching my article, I found a man who has long yearned for intellectual stature beyond the realm of killer dinosaurs and talking monkeys. And Crichton must know that turning a critic into a poorly endowed child rapist won't exactly aid his cause. Ultimately, then, I find myself strangely flattered. To explain why, let me propose a corollary to the small penis rule. Call it the small man rule: If someone offers substantive criticism of an author, and the author responds by hitting below the belt, as it were, then he's conceding that the critic has won.