J. G. Ballard died on April 19. Best known probably for his autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, later filmed by Steven Spielberg, and Crash, filmed by David Cronenberg, it was always Ballard’s early work that had the most influence on me. Within science fiction circles, Ballard was one of the chief figures in the New Wave science fiction, a movement that sought to raise the form from the naive childishness that many people associate with it to the realms of ‘literature’. The New Wave’s irreducible nucleus, as Thomas Disch said, ‘was the dyad of J.G. Ballard and Michael Moorcock, with Ballard in the role of T.S. Eliot, the genius in residence, and Moorcock as Ezra Pound … ‘ Here’s a bit from an essay I wrote on Ballard some time ago and published in Vector:
If the New Worlds magazine [edited by Moorcock] began the process that was to revolutionise science fiction, then the work of J.G.Ballard (1930-) was at the centre of this change. Ballard embodied the main reversals and shifts that were to characterise the early British New Wave. He proclaimed a boredom with traditional science fiction, preferring an examination of ‘inner space’ to outer space; he reversed or inverted the central narrative strategies of Golden Age science fiction, replacing rational cerebral heroes with troubled, isolated antiheroes. His future worlds were not the space-faring futures of Asimov, Heinlein or Clarke, but crumbling worlds which were expressions of some sort of transfigured future of the psyche.
Some years ago I wrote to Ballard, requesting an interview. He declined, but I still have the card that he wrote to me, wishing me well. The front image is of a gaudy constructivist-style image. I’m not one really for author memorabilia, but I do appreciate that.