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JG Ballard dies

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  • #2
    I am saddened by this news, and my best goes out to his friends and loved ones during this time. Bad news indeed.
    Infinite complexity according to simple rules.


    • #3
      Oh .

      Mike, I'm very sorry for your personal loss. Ballard was one of the greats and, I think, an unique voice in English Literature. He'll be sorely missed both by his readers as well as his friends and family.
      _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
      _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
      _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
      _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."


      • #4
        I offer my sincerest condolences to all that knew him. This is a great loss.

        I only knew of him through his work and I can say that my life changed for the better after I had encountered Empire of the Sun.

        "When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained."
        - Mark Twain, notebook entry, 1898.


        • #5
          Sad news, indeed. My condolences also go out to those who knew him.


          • #6
            JG Ballard

            JGBallard died Sunday 19 April at 7am. A giant in literature, he'll be greatly missed. One of my best and oldest friends.

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
            The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
            Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds

            Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
            The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
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            • #7
              Deep sympathies to his family and friends, particulalry those here that knew him (Mike and perhaps some others).


              • #8
                I'm really sorry to read your news, Mike.


                • #9
                  JG Ballard -

                  JG Ballard
        , United Kingdom

                  JG Ballard, the author who has died aged 78, was best known for his two fictionalised autobiographies, Empire of the Sun and The Kindness of Women; the former, which told of his childhood in a Japanese internment camp outside Shanghai, became an international best-seller and was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg.

                  Before the success of Empire of the Sun Ballard was known principally for darkly surreal novels such as The Crystal World (1966), which described a West African country undergoing an inexplicable process of petrifaction, and Crash (1973), in which he put forward the idea that modern society finds traffic accidents erotic. Despising the term science fiction, Ballard never used it, preferring to describe his work as "apocalyptic".

                  Despite Ballard's avuncular appearance and booming voice, his air of bonhomie belied a much darker side. Acquaintances recalled that as young man he was "obsessed" with topics such as assassination, car crash injuries and psychosis. One of Ballard's more outré projects had been an "installation" at the ICA called The Assassination Weapon featuring a story about a deranged bomber pilot simultaneously screened on three walls to the sound of cars crashing.

                  Friends, while remembering Ballard as "generous and jovial" also described him as "jolly peculiar" and on occasion "straightforwardly mad".

                  Ballard admitted to spending much of his adult life drinking too much. "It was a great sense of achievement," he recalled, "when my first drink of the day was not at nine in the morning but at noon and then at eight. Life got much duller as a result." No doubt as an antidote to boredom he began taking the mind altering drug LSD and recalled "an indulgent over use" of silver spray-paint in decorating his footwear.

                  James Graham Ballard was born on November 15 1930 in Shanghai, the elder child of a cotton mill owner and his wife. Ballard's sister was not born until he was seven and he recalled that much of his childhood was spent alone or in the company of his nanny. "My father worked," he remembered, "and my mother played bridge. Every time I went out of the house I was chauffeur-driven with my nanny next to me to stop me being kidnapped."

                  Ballard's memories of pre-war Shanghai were of "a cruel city". "If you fainted on the road from lack of food you lay there until you died," he said. "There used to be carts going around the city picking up dead bodies."

                  A year after the Japanese took possession of Shanghai, Ballard and his family were interned in Lunghua Camp just outside the city. "It was absolutely the reverse of anything I had ever known," he recalled, "previously we had lived an incredibly formal existence, then suddenly I was a member of a 2,000 strong tenement family. I had a good time, I thoroughly enjoyed myself."

                  Ballard was, he admitted, aware to some extent of the "years of stress and illness" undergone by his parents. "Towards the end when the food supplies had collapsed we were living on warehouse scrapings," he recalled. "One day my father said: 'We must eat the weevils, they contain protein' and so we did."

                  Ballard and his fellow internees were isolated from all news of the war.

                  They did not know hostilities had ended until the United States began dropping food parcels instead of bombs on the airbase next to their camp.

                  Ballard and his family went back to their house in Amherst Avenue in Shanghai and remained there until 1946 when they returned to England.

                  After China Ballard recalled that he found life in Britain "cold, grey and dull". He attended The Leys public school which, he insisted, he only survived having been previously exposed to the rigours of an internment camp. "I'd seen so much by then," he remembered, "I could put up even with public school."

                  On leaving in 1948 he went up to Kings College, Cambridge, where he studied Medicine for two years. Ballard had originally hoped to go on to study psychiatry but realised that the demands of the course were leaving him no time for writing. "I felt the pressure of imagination against the doors of my mind was so great," he recalled, "that they were going to burst."

                  When Ballard left Cambridge without having taken a degree, he joined the RAF to train as a pilot. After two years of training in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, he returned to Britain. He then worked variously as an encyclopedia salesman, a Covent Garden porter and a writer on a technical journal before publishing his first short story in Michael Moorcock's magazine New Worlds in 1956.

                  JG Ballard was married later that year and moved to Shepperton with his wife. He became a professional writer and his first novel The Drowned World was published in 1961. In it he put forward one of the first theories about global warming causing the flooding of the world's major cities. His second book, The Terminal Beach, followed a year later.

                  Ballard and his wife had three children before her sudden death from pneumonia in 1964. After his wife's death Ballard brought his children up alone, an experience he described as "the most important" of his life.

                  While Ballard insisted that he had enjoyed bringing up his children, and regretted that he had not had "more children and more dogs", the strain of being a single parent increasingly took its toll. "I used to have my first whisky at nine am, after I'd taken the children to school," he remembered, "then I'd have a glass on the hour, every hour. I was never drunk but I would have a glow all through the day."

                  Ballard spent the late 1960s editing Ambit magazine and socialising with fellow writers and artists such as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. Having developed a fascination for car crashes he frequently surprised fellow dinner guests by producing photographs of his girlfriend's crash injuries.

                  If she was also present Ballard would persuade her to show her scars.

                  Another long-term obsession, assassination, culminated in Ballard producing a screenplay, Atrocity Exhibition, which became part of an "installation" at the ICA entitled The Assassination Weapon (1969).

                  The film told the surreal story of an H-Bomber pilot lost among a series of motorways and psychiatric wards and haunted by images of John F Kennedy, Malcolm X and Lee Harvey Oswald. It was projected onto a number of screens and was accompanied by flashing lights, incense and the sound of car crashes. The event lasted for 75 hours.

                  In 1973 Ballard's obsession with car accidents came to fruition with the publication of Crash. The book put forward the unusual theory that only through intimate contact with a car (in the form of accidents) can humans achieve true eroticism. Ballard's accounts of "the mysterious eroticism of wounds: the perverse logic of blood-soaked instrument panels and sun visors lined with brain tissue" did not suit all tastes. The publisher's reader who first saw the manuscript described Ballard as being "beyond psychiatric help." Ballard took her comment as a compliment.

                  Throughout the rest of the 1970s and early 1980s JG Ballard wrote approximately one book every 18 months. All of his novels and short stories were marked by the same dark, surreal landscapes and all dealt with a future in which his characters had abandoned themselves to personal obsessions.

                  Concrete Island (1974) dealt with a futuristic motorist marooned for days, not on a desert island but on a roundabout, by the ceaseless flow of traffic. Stories such as Low Flying Aircraft (1976), The Unlimited Dream Company (1979), Hello America (1981) and Myths of the Near Future shared an almost hallucinatory quality and featured Ballard's most common theme, characters lost in unknown and abandoned landscapes.

                  In 1984 Ballard wrote his first realistic novel, the fictional autobiography Empire of the Sun. The book told the story of his childhood in Shanghai and his internment in Lunghua camp and proved an international best-seller. The 1987 film version, made by Steven Spielberg, prompted further sales and Ballard estimated that he made half a million pounds from book sales alone.

                  Ballard was offered an extra's part in the film and played John Bull in a scene featuring a fancy-dress party.

                  Instead of producing further realistic works, Ballard returned to his "apocalyptic" vision of the future with The Day of Creation (1988). The novel told the story of a doctor, working in Africa, who opens a small spring which rapidly grows into a river. As the flood transforms the country around it the doctor feels compelled to find the source of the river and to try to dam the flow. "Obsessions again," Ballard recalled. "I think people often feel like that, they create something and then become frightened of it, people become jealous of their own children."

                  Later that year Ballard returned to Shanghai for the BBC Two Bookmark programme. He visited his old house in Amherst Avenue, by then an electronics library, which had remained largely unchanged since the war. "My bedroom was still painted blue," he recalled, "and the shelves where I had stacked my Chums annuals were full of reports." Ballard also visited Lunghua camp, which had been transformed into a boarding school.

                  "The Ballard family's room was a broom cupboard" he recalled, "but I remembered every scratch, every chip of paint. It was Lunghua, not Amherst Avenue, which felt like home."

                  After producing two more books of short stories, Running Wild (1988) and War Fever (1990), Ballard wrote the second part of his fictionalised autobiography The Kindness of Women in 1991. Although the book sold well it did not enjoy the same kind of success as Empire of the Sun. Spurred on by advanced prostate cancer, Ballard completed his non-fiction memoirs, Miracles of Life, in 2007. In them he observed that the attack on the World Trade Centre of September 11 "was a brave attempt to free America from the 20th century". His own life, he declared, was the final story he would tell.

                  JG Ballard remained in his peeling semi-detached house in Shepperton throughout his life, surrounded by the same furniture and fittings which had been there when he bought it. Asked why he never moved after the enormous financial success of Empire of the Sun, Ballard insisted that living in Shepperton was a "political statement." "My upbringing was so middle-class and repressed," he insisted, "It wasn't until I was placed in Lunghua that I met anyone from any other social strata. When I did I found them colossally vital."

                  Ballard also claimed that he liked living near the motorway and Heathrow airport because he enjoyed their "perverse beauty". "I only realised why I keep living in Shepperton when I returned to China," he recalled. "All the people who moved there had come from places just like Shepperton and so they built and lived in houses exactly like these. I now know I was drawn here because, on an unconscious level, Shepperton reminds me of Shanghai."

                  JG Ballard married, in 1954, Helen Matthews, who died in 1964. He never remarried. He is survived by his three children and by his long-term companion Claire.
                  Last edited by The Cosmic Balance; 04-19-2009, 01:22 PM.


                  • #10
                    Very sad to hear this Mike. As David said, Ballard was one of the greats of British post-war literature and a unique voice, someone who was ostensibly an sf writer but stood outside the genre to an extent and managed to enter the mainstream.

                    Condolences to his family and friends and to you for losing yet another close, life-long friend. He will be missed.
                    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

                    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)


                    • #11
                      This is awful, awful news, although not unexpected, of course. He is one of the greats, right up there with Orwell as far as I am concerned. They saw things in a way that most of us don't (until it is too late), and could put it into words.

                      Ballard's world may have been science fiction (far too crude a term, I know) when he wrote it, but his vision seem to be becoming more and more relevant, and we desperately need writers like him to keep reminding us what sort of world it is that we seem hellbent on making for ourselves.

                      I read Crash at probably too early an age, at around the time I was discovering Mike's work, but that led me on to his other books and his superb short stories in my late teens, and I've been reading and rereading him for the last thirty years, finding new things of value in his work each time, which help me to make sense of the world.

                      My condolences to his family and friends - I can't imagine how it must feel, Mike, not having lost anyone that close. Rest assured, he will be missed by many, many other people.

                      I'll be raising a glass of finest pure single malt in his honour tonight.



                      • #12
                        Ballard will never be replaced, which makes his passing all the more painful for readers everywhere - I only met him once, but he was utterly charming and happy to talk to his admirers, a real gentleman. The world will not be the same without him, but at least his thoughts are still with us - Ballard's relevance will remain cardinal to our understanding of the world for a very long time to come, I think.

                        Condolences, Mike. I wish there was something more eloquent I could say.
                        2006: 100 Must Read Science Fiction Novels (5th printing 2009/Bulgarian Edition (!) due 2011).

                        2008: 100 Must Read Books For Men (2nd printing 2008)

                        2009: 100 Must Read Fantasy Novels



                        • #13
                          Terribly sad to hear of this. I'd just seen the news on the BBC website and came here directly.

                          Such a monumental writer - visionary, ground-braking, oh, I can't find words enough.
                          One of the 'big three' of the sixties New Wave, along with Aldiss and of course, Mike.
                          And one of my all time favourites.

                          The only compensation is knowing that he's escaped from the condition he was suffering from
                          - which sadly I know about as it was the same one my father died from six years ago.

                          My deepest sympathies to his family, his friends and all those as affected by his passing as I am.


                          • #14
                            Paul here from the BBC world service radio, the Newshour programme. Condolences for the loss of your friend. Would you possibly be able to spare 5 minutes on the phone this evening to talk to us about your memories of JG Ballard? Many thanks, the number is 0207 557 2141.


                            • #15
                              Mike, I'm sorry to hear of this news today.
                              I have not read much of his work, but by a strange co-incidence I read "Low Flying Aircraft" in hospital last week. He was a visionary indeed, and will live on through his works.