Sunday, April 19, 2009

J.G. Ballard dies

The Collins English Dictionary includes the adjective "Ballardian," defining it as "resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J.G. Ballard's novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental development." The great mind that encompassed this singular vision is no longer among us: J.G. Ballard has died at age 78.

Perhaps best known for the bizarre and controversial Crash and the autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, Ballard produced a large body of novels and short stories noted for their imaginative scope and serious literary quality. Though Ballard himself eschewed the term "science fiction," preferring to call much of his own 
work "apocalyptic" instead, he was nonetheless a major figure of the British New Wave, his first science fiction short story "Prima Belladonna," appearing in New Worlds in 1956. Edward Carnell, editor of New Worlds, went on to publish most of Ballard's early stories. 

I own an old book club two-in-one edition of Ballard's novels The Wind From Nowhere, and The Drowned World. These were his first two novels, published in 1962. They are lovely, mesmerizing little books of great strangeness and and mystery. They were the first of what we'd now call "Ballardian" fiction. Like Philip Jose Farmer, who died a few weeks ago, Ballard is a writer who left an undeniable mark on our genre. Whether you like his work or not, or have even read it or not, we live in a world that was changed in a real way because J.G. Ballard was in it.

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