Monday, April 20, 2009

JG Ballard, 1930 - 2009


The novelist JG Ballard, who conjured up a bleak vision of modern life in a series of powerful novels and short stories published over more than 50 years, died today after a long battle with cancer.

Inspired by the popular science fiction magazines he came across while stationed in Canada with the RAF, Ballard began publishing short stories evoking fractured landscapes full of wrecked machinery, deserted beaches and desolate buildings.

Novels of disaster and experimentation, including 1962's The Drowned World and 1973's Crash, later made into a film by David Cronenberg, garnered him a growing reputation as an anti-establishment avant garde writer. Crash, in which a couple become sexually aroused through car crashes, was written as a motorway extension was being built past the end of his street in Shepperton, west London.

In 1984, Ballard reached a new level of public recognition with Empire of the Sun, a straightforwardly realist novelisation of his detention as a teenager in a Japanese camp for civilians in Shanghai.

His later work continued to subject modern life to its own extremes, with a sinister corporate dystopia in 2000's Super Cannes, a middle-class revolution in 2003's Millennium People and a descent into consumerist fascism in 2006's Kingdom Come. But the label of science fiction writer still stuck, much to Ballard's irritation, partly as a way of "defusing the threat". "By calling a novel like Crash science fiction, you isolate the book and you don't think about what it is," he explained.


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