Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Novelist, essayist, philospher and visionary J.G. Ballard died two days ago, on April 19th. Ballard was a kind of patron saint to bloggers and to the internet in general, and the web is just full of articles on his influence. A brief search reveals thoughtful essays on everything from cyberpunk (check out this rich article, which buzzes with the excitement of the genre’s earliest moments) to modern music (as this article asserts, Ballard could be credited for having inspired the entire genre of industrial music.)

Ballard's writing changed over the years from the sociologically critical science fiction of the 1950's to painfully raw explorations of urban psychology in books like " The Atrocity Exhibition" to the more soul searching autobiographical musings of "Miracles of Life." Over a career of some 40 years Ballard explored modern conditions from paranoia to euphoria. He examined the implications of living in an age of total consumerism, blanket surveillance, and enslavement designed as mass entertainment, but he also spoke of resistance through feats of confrontation and imagination. Basically he was among the earliest practitioners of the arts that came to define late 20th century culture - sampling, remixing and recycling.

He gave a characteristically insightful response when asked about his vision of the future by Re/Search magazine in 1982:

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that’s my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again… the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.

The fansite Ballardian has posted a compendium of remembrances by writers like Martin Amis and Will Self, in addition to their usual treasure trove of scholarly articles on all things Ballard. J.G. Ballard was a brave, brilliant and obsessive writer whose work will continue to resonate well into our dark future.

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