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J G Ballard

Biography

When many of his English contemporaries were doing afternoon teas, gritty Northern realism, urbane but bland satires or”entertainments”, Ballard was out discovering both inner and outer space. The only reason he is not recognised as the most important English writer of the second half of the twentieth century is that he is all too often damned as a science fiction writer and nothing else. It is unfortunate that he is most recognised for Empire of the Sun. Not that this is a bad book; on the contrary, it is an excellent book and was made into an excellent film by Steven Spielberg. It is just that this is his least innovative work and his other works tend to get ignored. Any writer who can produce a work called Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (well before old dodderer became president) and one of the two first class novels to damn Thatcher and her works (the other is Jonathan Coe‘s What a Carve-Up!) is definitely worthy of your consideration.

James Graham Ballard was born in Shanghai, China in 1930, where his father worked. His early life is described in Empire of the Sun, in particular his internment in a Japanese camp, following the Fall of Singapore. After the war, he and his family went to England. Ballard read medicine at Cambridge University. His first job was working on a scientific journal but, once he started writing, he gave that up and has been a full-time writer since them. His early work was often published in New Worlds, the seminal British sci-fi magazine.

His early works are straight but highly imaginative science fiction, often involving natural disasters (no rain; too much rain) but he soon became known for dealing with post-technological subjects with amazing painter-like landscapes (he once said I think I always was a frustrated painter. They are all paintings, really, my novels and stories.) His theme – the collapse of technology (which he calls the fall of the American empire), depicted not in a blunt, apocalyptic manner but rather as a gradual decay – is told both through the use of landscape but also through what has become to be known as inner space. This idea – key to Ballard’s writing – is best expressed by Ballard himself – The biggest developments of the immediate future will take place not on the Moon or Mars, but on Earth, and it is inner space, not outer, that needs to be explored. The only truly alien planet is Earth. In the past the scientific bias of s-f has been towards the physical sciences–rocketry, electronics, cybernetics–and the emphasis should switch to the biological sciences.

The technology and inner space themes are examined in greater detail in his later works, such as Crash, probably the finest English novel of the second half of the twentieth century, in which Ballard studies the intimate relationship between people, cars, movie stars and sex. David Cronenberg’s film of the book, interesting though it is, ignores the movie star aspect. Ballard continued to produce first class fiction and non-fiction on into the new millennium. He died in 2009.

Books about J G Ballard

John Baxter: The Inner Man: The Life of J G Ballard
James Goddard and David Pringle (eds): J. G. Ballard, the First Twenty Years
Michael Delville: J G Ballard
Issue 8/9 of Re/Search magazine was devoted to Ballard

Other links

Ballardian
J G Ballard
J G Ballard
J G Ballard
Ballardian – The World of J G Ballard
Writers’ rooms: JG Ballard
J. G. Ballard – A Collector’s Guide
Evolution of a Moralist: J.G. Ballard in the 21st Century
Ballard and the painters
J.G. Ballard: Science Fiction Technology and Ideas
The Dying Fall (story by Ballard)
Interview
Interview
Interview
Obituaries

Cult author JG Ballard dies at 78
JG Ballard 1930-2009
Crash author JG Ballard, ‘a giant on the world literary scene’, dies aged 78
From outer space to inner space
Obituary: JG Ballard
JG Ballard
Appreciation: J G Ballard
The debt I owe JG Ballard
JG Ballard (1930-2009)
Obituary: JG Ballard
R.I.P. J.G. Ballard, 1930-2009
The Last Modernist
Remembering J.G. Ballard, 1930-2009
Remembering J.G. Ballard’s Science Fiction Legacy

Bibliography

1961 The Wind from Nowhere (novel)
1962 Billenium (stories)
1962 The Drowned World (novel)
1962 The Voices of Time (stories)
1963 Passport to Eternity (stories)
1963 The Four-Dimensional Nightmare (stories)
1964 The Drought (later: The Burning World) (novel)
1964 The Terminal Beach (stories)
1966 The Crystal World (novel)
1966 The Impossible Man (stories)
1967 The Day of Forever (stories)
1967 The Disaster Area (stories)
1967 The Overloaded Man (stories)
1968 Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan (short story)
1969 The Atrocity Exhibition (stories) (US: Love and Napalm: Export U.S.A)
1971 Chronopolis (stories)
1971 Vermilion Sands (stories)
1973 Crash (novel)
1974 Concrete Island (novel)
1974 The Four Dimensional Nightmare (stories)
1975 High-Rise (novel)
1976 Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories (stories)
1977 The Best of J.G. Ballard (stories)
1978 The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard (stories)
1979 The Unlimited Dream Company (novel)
1980 The Venus Hunters (stories)
1981 Hello America (novel)
1982 Myths of the Near Future (stories)
1984 Empire of the Sun (novel)
1987 Day of Creation (novel)
1988 Memories of the Space Age (stories)
1988 Running Wild (novel)
1991 War Fever (stories)
1993 The Kindness of Women (novel)
1995 Rushing to Paradise (novel)
1996 Cocaine Nights (novel)
1996 A User’s Guide to the Millennium: Essays and Reviews
2000 Super-Cannes (novel)
2001 The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard
2003 Millennium People (novel)
2006 The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard: Volume 1
2006 The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard: Volume 2
2006 Kingdom Come (novel)
2008 Miracles of Life (autobiography)
2009 The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard