+ THORACIC DROP: < Deposit > news appropriate to this site.

+ AUTOGEDDON: Subscribe to Ballardian & receive automatic email updates

Ballardosphere Wrap-Up: Part 6

Author: • Jun 10th, 2007 •

Category: academia, architecture, Ballardosphere, David Cronenberg, dystopia, film, gated communities, leisure, utopia, visual art, William Burroughs


In his excellent paper, ‘Ballard’s Banlieue Radieuse’, delivered at the Ballard conference, Owen Hatherley locates JGB’s Vermilion Sands stories as a vision at right angles to the dystopian tradition in which Ballard is normally housed — the Vermilion collection posits, Hatherley writes, ‘an actual, liveable future utopia that is eminently possible’. And yet, weaving the history of Modernist architecture — especially the tradition of ‘ideal, radiant cities’ — into a close reading of the ‘Vermilion’ stories, Hatherley concludes:

…we need to look elsewhere to see what it is that causes the unambiguously seductive qualities of Vermilion Sands to veer off into the horrors of Eden-Olympia in Super-Cannes or the Estrella de Mar of Cocaine Nights … The inhabitants [of the latter two] are perfectly prepared to use the surrounding immigrant population as fodder for their entertainment much as they might have used the psychotropic houses and singing statues of [Vermilion Sands]. The most striking similarity is in the sense of a time both stood still and siezed by overwhelming technical advance. In that, Ballard’s Banlieue Radieuse is both Modernism’s fulfilment and its repudiation, and Vermilion Sands, for all that it says of the leisure society that the post-Golden Age generations have been denied, is not so far from our present.”

You can find the paper at The Measures Taken.


Ballardian: David Pelham


The illustrator David Pelham’s four vivid Ballard covers for Penguin in the 1970s have been cited as favourites by both our Ballardian cover experts, Rick McGrath and Rick Poynor. Now, over at Creative Review, in this transcript of a talk given by Pelham at the V&A in 2005, he guides us through the creation of these and many other covers, including the Ballards and one of my personal faves, the 1972 Penguin cover for A Clockwork Orange.

According to Pelham:

I met Jim Ballard through Eduardo Paolozzi. They were great friends. I was very familiar with Ballard’s work, having been a great admirer from way back. I admired the bleak style of his catastrophe novels – this being The Drought – and their heartless depiction of technological and human breakdown and decay. Grim perhaps, but wonderfully written. Drawn to the romance of his apocalyptic imagery I wanted to illustrate his covers myself. Consequently I quickly airbrushed this postcard sized image to show him the idea and talked to him about his other titles in the list. That’s how we started out. Here’s the finished job. I did a series of four which I think we have here to look at, together with a slipcase which we don’t.

It was a huge pleasure working so closely with Ballard, and I’m pleased to be able to report that the titles in these covers sold very well.”

Pelham also imparts some fascinating details about what it was like to work as a graphic designer and illustrator well before computers transformed the scene: “there was no pressing of buttons and getting a result there and then, no emails or jpegs or instant typesetting… In those days you often found yourself working around the clock because everything technical took so long … [ there were ] motorcycle messengers roaring around London in large crash helmets; and some days later I would see a proof. In those days, that was quick!”

[ Thanks Rick McG ]


Ballardian: David Cronenberg


A promising new site has come online, designed to scope out David Cronenberg’s film version of Ballard’s Crash for the unwary — including every idiot who prefers a Haggis to a Berg(er). It’s thorough, with in-depth, scene-by scene analyses, and comes with the as-yet-unfilled promise of “articles and commentary in June 2007”. According to Vaughan, the site moderator, ‘Crash is both a movie and a novel. For once, there is no competition between the two. Instead, they complement each other. The subject is inspirational, suggestive, and challenging. Hence a need for a random assortment of articles and commentary.’

So, bring ’em on already.


Ballardian: Simon Sellars


Part 1 of the travelogue detailing my recent jaunt around Southeast England (with more than a nudge and a wink to this site) is now online at Sleepy Brain.

Find all posts by

Older: «

4 Responses »

  1. I love the “grumpy old man” quotes. It would be fun to see Ballard write a book from the perspective of a grump, rather than the perpetual 30-something protagonists he always uses.

  2. Thanks for the link, Simon: but the photo (alas) is not mine: in fact I’ve still not got round to having my UEA photos developed…

  3. hi owen, whose is it? should i take it down then?

  4. It’s from wikipedia commons, so by all means keep it up.

Leave a Reply