The Collins English Dictionary defines ‘Ballardian’ 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 developments.” The London Times described Ballard as one of the fifty greatest British writers since 1945. Born in Shanghai in 1930, he was interned there with his family during World War II. Apart from something like ninety-eight short stories, Ballard is the author of sixteen novels, including the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun, The Drowned World, and Crash. Until his death in April 2009 he lived for many years in Shepperton, outside of London.
Novelist Jonathan Lethem said about Ballard: ‘For me, Ballard’s the purist’s dystopian writer. He submitted himself absolutely to the admonitory mode, seeming to merge his writerly ego, his whole emotional palette, into our entire species’ experience of modernity, technology, architecture, automobiles and the artifacts of culture…An absolutely irreplaceable writer.’
Browsing in Barnes & Noble the other day I came across a hefty three pound stack of pages called, The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard. On another day it might have gone unnoticed, but a novel by Ballard had recently been on my mind. During my university years I was at one point working on a screen adaptation of the 1965 short novel, The Drought. Somewhere along the way and between the years I lost the manuscript. Recent recollection of that incomplete project stopped me in B&N when I came across the Ballard book on their shelves. The odd part is, I have read very little of Ballard and owned not a single one of his books. But it was exactly those thoughts—the college project, little experience with Ballard and owning none of his books—that prompted me to buy the story collection.
Since bringing the book home I’ve read no more than the introduction by Martin Amis and the first story, but that for now is unimportant. A weighty collection of ‘complete’ stories is one meant to be roamed over time without concern for order or delay. Hopefully the weeks and months to come will unfold at least part of why J.G. Ballard enjoys the respect of millions worldwide. I am the latecomer, but one willing to sink himself into the world of an established master.