Monday, April 20, 2009

J G Ballard - For those who might not know his work.

Thoughts on James Graham Ballard - for those who might not know much of his work...

.. or none at all. Died yesterday at home, he had been dealing with prostrate cancer since June of 2006 according to his Wikipedia page. He was working on a new book at the time of his death. Conversations with my Physician: The Meaning, if Any, of Life. I do so hope he found some, for the world would be very ballardian without meaning.

A member of the new wave of science fiction has crashed. Lets not hope he finds himself in Drowned or Burning worlds, but instead The Kindness of Woman finds him Rushing to Paradise. How indeed, will his Kingdom Come?

Ok, now that one was just bad, I should stop now.

Sorry, there are few other writers who have such a great body of work that one could use it to describe the possible two paths a spirit might take to other worlds. It has occurred to me that writing some thing on JG Ballard, within hours of watching Dame Edna will make for a very unusual post. Oh well, if the Friday night show had not been sold out I might be more serious today.

Ballard's works were considered more mainstream than the other SF writers of the 1970'0 and 1980's Ballard attended his first and only science fiction convention in 1957. It has been suggested, he did not like what he saw or read of SF at the time, and decided, or was unable to write for a time. Looking for a different group of readers in 1960 he became editor of Ambit Magazine, which he considered more avant-guarde and aligned with his esthetic's, of how to see the world.

His name even became a noun, when Collier Dictionary added "Ballardian" - resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in a JG Ballard novel. This term must have confused the many who knew his work not from the printed page, but from the movie screen. As the writer of the movies “Crash" and "Empire of the Sun" neither movie was as hard to get through as the books, or any of his other books. These movies were Ballard light.

It was after the death of his wife in 1964 that he began to write his most controversial work. A collection of stories which would become The Atrocity Exhibition. From the best known story “Crash” Ballard took part in an exhibition called “Crashed Cars' at the New Art Library in London. That he crashed his own car shortly after the exhibit had ended was just a fluke, a prank pulled on him by nature, I hope.

Crash, moved from the written streets of Sheridan England, to the already Ballardian Southern California, became a break through picture for David Cronerberg. If a recent A.V. Club interview with Cronerberg is to be believe, Crash is the number one waitlisted film on Netflix.

I am a fan of his collection Vermilion Sands, and I always wondered why a book so loved by fans, is the book he himself always felt was his weakest work. Well, I shall never get to ask him that question now.

To admit you read Ballard is to set your self apart from other sf readers or fen. When Bruce Sterling cited him as a influence in his introduction to Mirrorshades. It was a warning we were in for a different kind of a ride. I do not know the exact wording of the statement, I shall have to pull the book off the shelf and read it again. I do know the introduction, the name check of an author I liked, is what made me take the book home. The writers skill kept me reading it. Ballard's writing has also found a place in British post punk. The Klaxons take there name from a story in the collection “Myths of the near Future”

Ballard is not an easy read, in his full out SF dystopia mode, I often wonder how people who read “Empire of the Sun” react when they see his name on other books? Do they snap them up only to become disillusioned at what they are reading? Are his books even shelved as science fiction, or does he get a place in Fiction since he did not consider himself a Science Fiction writer? Again a question I can never ask of him.

Some of the people reading this may have never heard of Mr. Ballard before. I hope this small showing by a nameless fan has encourage even a few people to see some of what he wrote. I shall suggested the books I discovered him in 1976 – Low Flying Aircraft & other Stories or the 1987 The best short stories of Ballard. And, when you reach a point where it is time to view Crash. First read Crash, and then, sample the pictures from the 1970's Crashed Cars exhibit. Finally watch the movie Crash.

Writing a blog post on the differences, or how the story effected you, is just optional. But link to my post if you do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for the comment, come back any time. Bring friends.

Just the fur, no beach

    follow me on Twitter