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J.G. Ballard: The Complete Short Stories, vols 1 & 2 (2006)

Author: • Sep 1st, 2006 •

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Ballardian: The Complete Short Stories of J.G. Ballard

“I first met Jane Ciracylides during the Recess, that world slump of boredom, lethargy and high summer which carried us all so blissfully through ten unforgettable years, and I suppose that may have had a lot to do with what went on between us.”
(from ‘Prima Belladonna’).

From the 2001 Flamingo edition (originally one volume; reprinted in two volumes in 2006):

For the first time in one volume, the complete collected short stories by the author of Empire of the Sun and Super-Cannes — regarded by many as Britain’s No.1 living fiction writer.

J.G. Ballard is firmly established as one of Britain’s most highly regarded and most influential novelists. Throughout his remarkable career, he has won equal praise for his ground-breaking short stories, which he first started writing during his days as a medical student at Cambridge. In fact, it was winning a short-story competition that gave him the impetus to become a full-time writer.

His first published works, ‘Prima Belladonna’ and ‘Escapement’ appeared in Science Fantasy and New Worlds in 1956. Ever since, he has been a prolific producer of stories, which have been published in numerous magazines and several separate collections, including The Voices of Time, The Terminal Beach, The Disaster Area, The Day of Forever, Vermilion Sands, Low-Flying Aircraft, The Venus Hunters, Myths of the Near Future and War Fever.

Now, for the first time, all of J.G. Ballard’s published stories — including four that have not previously appeared in a collection — have been gathered together and arranged in the order of original publication, providing an unprecedented opportunity tp review the career of one of Britain’s greatest writers”.

Plus the obligatory endorsement:

Ballard is one of the few genuine surrealists this country has produced, the possessor of a terrifying and exhilirating imagination — and a national treasure.”

Nicholas Royle, Guardian.

A large body of opinion says that Ballard’s a better short-form stylist than novelist. On some days, I agree. My first exposure to Ballard, aside from Crash, was his short story ‘The Subliminal Man’. It hung in my imagination like a sharp blade over a heifer’s neck. Absolutely incredible, the imagery of it:

The old cities were surrounded by the vast motion sculptures of the clover-leaves and flyovers, but even so the congestion was unremitting.

Then the flicker of lights cleared and steadied, blazing out continuously, and together the crowd looked up at the decks of brilliant letters. The phrases, and every combination of them possible, were entirely familiar, and Franklin knew that he had been reading them for weeks as he passed up and down the expressway.


They walked out into the trim drive, the shadows of the signs swinging across the quiet neighbourhood as the day progressed, sweeping over the heads of the people on their way to the supermarket like the blades of enormous scythes.”

J.G. Ballard. ‘The Subliminal Man’ (1963).

All the criticisms that are usually applied to Ballard’s novels — style over substance; lack of characterisation; thin plot — simply don’t apply in this format. In fact, in this realm they become virtues, as the sheer weight of Ballard’s imagination is compressed, and then unpacked, with full force. He didn’t dub the short pieces that make up The Atrocity Exhibition ‘condensed novels’ for nothing. Ballard’s a radical, a man who saw that the 20th-century novel was stifled by 19th-century function and set about stripping it to its very essence. That aesthetic became his body of short stories: quite simply, the man’s a master of the form and it’s a damn shame he doesn’t write them anymore.

I have the hardback, single-volume, supposedly complete version — a fallacy, for it only includes three pieces from The Atrocity Exhibition. I’m not sure if the new two-volume set rectifies that — probably not, considering it would take away sales from Atrocity itself.

It’s a bit of a cheat. If the publisher considers Atrocity to be a novel (as Ballard does), rather than a collection of short stories, then the Complete Short Stories shouldn’t contain any Atrocity pieces at all. According to Ballard expert David Pringle, there are three Ballard shorts that weren’t included, seemingly at the expense of the three Atrocities: ‘Journey Across a Crater’ (1970), ‘The Secret Autobiography of J. G. B——” (1984) and ‘The Dying Fall’ (1994).

I call that a missed opportunity.

Update: reader Mike Holliday contacted me with some further comments on this collection:

Despite its title, the book does not include all of Ballard’s short stories. If we discount those that are shortened versions of Ballard’s novels (Storm-Wind, The Drowned World, Equinox), then the following are missing:

(i) The Violet Noon, an early non-professional story published while Ballard was at university

(ii) most of the stories included in the original edition of The Atrocity Exhibition, namely You and Me and the Continuum, The Assassination Weapon, You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe, The Atrocity Exhibition, Plan for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy, The Death Module, Love and Napalm: Export USA, The Great American Nude, The University of Death, The Generations of America, The Summer Cannibals, Tolerances of the Human Face, Crash!

(iii) the so-called ‘surgical fictions’, Coitus 80, Princess Margaret’s Facelift, Mae West’s Reduction Mamoplasty, Queen Elizabeth’s
Rhinoplasty, Jane Fonda’s Augmentation Mammoplasty

(iv) a few other pieces, namely Journey Across a Crater, The Secret Autobiography of J. G. B******, Neil Armstrong Remembers His Journey to the Moon, and The Dying Fall. It also excludes those items classified as Miscellaneous Media [including Ballard’s collages for Ambit magazine].

In 2006, The Complete Short Stories was republished in two paperback volumes, but this edition omits the novella The Ultimate City.”

Disappointingly, there’s not a lot of decent criticism surrounding Ballard’s short-form work. Over at Rick McGrath’s site, however, John Boston has posted a thorough and interesting account of “the four short stories that got [Ballard] back into writing science fiction: Now: Zero (1959), The Waiting Grounds (1959), The Sound-Sweep (1960), and Zone of Terror (1960).”

..:: LINKS
+ J.G. Ballard’s Introduction to the Complete Short Stories


+ ‘Prima Belladonna’ (1956)
+ ‘Escapement’ (1956)
+ ‘The Concentration City’ (1957)
+ ‘Venus Smiles’ (1957)
+ ‘Manhole 69’ (1957)
+ ‘Track 12’ (1958)
+ ‘The Waiting Grounds’ (1959)
+ ‘Now: Zero’ (1959)
+ ‘The Sound-Sweep’ (1960)
+ ‘Zone of Terror’ (1960)
+ ‘Chronopolis’ (1960)
+ ‘The Voices of Time’ (1960)
+ ‘The Last World of Mr Goddard’ (1960)
+ ‘Studio 5, The Stars’ (1961)
+ ‘Deep End’ (1961)
+ ‘The Overloaded Man’ (1961)
+ ‘Mr F. is Mr F. (1961)
+ ‘Billennium’ (1961)
+ ‘The Gentle Assassin’ (1961)
+ ‘The Insane Ones’ (1962)
+ ‘The Garden of Time’ (1962)
+ ‘The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista’ (1962)
+ ‘Thirteen to Centaurus’ (1962)
+ ‘Passport to Eternity’ (1962)
+ ‘The Cage of Sand’ (1962)
+ ‘The Watch-Towers’ (1962)
+ ‘The Singing Statues’ (1962)
+ ‘The Man on the 99th Floor’ (1962)
+ ‘The Subliminal Man’ 63 (1962)
+ ‘The Reptile Enclosure’ (1962)
+ ‘A Question of Re-Entry’ (1962)
+ ‘The Time-Tombs’ (1962)
+ ‘Now Wakes the Sea’ (1962)
+ ‘The Venus Hunters’ (1962)
+ ‘End-Game’ (1962)
+ ‘Minus One’ (1962)
+ ‘The Sudden Afternoon’ (1962)
+ ‘The Screen Game’ (1962)
+ ‘Time of Passage’ (1964)
+ ‘Prisoner of the Coral Deep’ (1964)
+ ‘The Lost Leonardo’ (1964)
+ ‘The Terminal Beach’ (1964)
+ ‘The Illuminated Man’ (1964)
+ ‘The Delta at Sunset’ (1964)
+ ‘The Drowned Giant’ (1964)
+ ‘The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon’ (1964)
+ ‘The Volcano Dances’ (1964)
+ ‘The Beach Murders’ (1966)
+ ‘The Day of Forever’ (1966)
+ ‘The Impossible Man’ (1966)
+ ‘Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer’ (1966)
+ ‘Tomorrow is a Million Years’ (1966)
+ ‘The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race’ (1966)
+ ‘Cry Hope, Cry Fury!’ (1967)
+ ‘The Recognition’ (1967)
+ ‘The Cloud-Sculptors of Coral D’ (1967)
+ ‘Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan’ (1968)
+ ‘The Dead Astronaut’ (1968)
+ ‘The Comsat Angels’ (1968)
+ ‘The Killing Ground’ (1969)
+ ‘A Place and a Time to Die’ (1969)
+ ‘Say Goodbye to the Wind’ (1970)
+ ‘The Greatest Television Show on Earth’ (1972)
+ ‘My Dream of Flying to Wake Island’ (1974)
+ ‘The Air Disaster’ (1975)
+ ‘Low-Flying Aircraft’ (1975)
+ ‘The Life and Death of God’ (1976)
+ ‘Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown’ (1976)
+ ‘The 60 Minute Zoom’ (1976)
+ ‘The Smile’ (1976)
+ ‘The Ultimate City’ (1976)
+ ‘The Dead Time’ (1977)
+ ‘The Index’ (1977)
+ ‘The Intensive Care Unit’ (1977)
+ ‘Theatre of War’ (1977)
+ ‘Having A Wonderful Time’ (1978)
+ ‘One Afternoon at Utah Beach’ (1978)
+ ‘Zodiac 2000’ (1978)
+ ‘Motel Architecture’ (1978)
+ ‘A Host of Furious Fancies’ (1980)
+ ‘News from the Sun’ (1981)
+ ‘Memories of the Space Age’ (1982)
+ ‘Myths of the Near Future’ (1982)
+ ‘Report on An Unidentified Space Station’ (1982)
+ ‘The Object of the Attack’ (1984)
+ ‘Answers to a Questionnaire’ (1985)
+ ‘The Man Who Walked on the Moon’ (1985)
+ ‘The Secret History of World War 3’ (1988)
+ ‘Love in a Colder Climate’ (1989)
+ ‘The Enormous Space’ (1989)
+ ‘The Largest Theme Park in the World’ (1989)
+ ‘War Fever’ (1989)
+ ‘Dream Cargoes’ (1990)
+ ‘A Guide to Virtual Death’ (1992)
+ ‘The Message from Mars’ (1992)
+ ‘Report from an Obscure Planet’ (1992)

• Filmography (coming soon)
• Artography (coming soon)



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  1. […] Voador a Baixa Altitude, Solveig Nordlund’s artfully rendered riff on JG Ballard’s 1976 short story, ‘Low-Flying Aircraft’. Seen mainly at film festivals, this Portuguese-Swedish co-production […]

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