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Creating new worlds

Author: • Jan 30th, 2009 •

Category: Ballardosphere, science fiction, Toby Litt

It seems strange that in the SF & fantasy component of the Guardian’s ‘1000 novels everyone must read’ feature, Ballard is referenced extensively…

JG Ballard, the writer who brought SF into the mainstream, has remarked that “Everything is becoming science fiction. From the margins of an almost invisible literature has sprung the intact reality of the 20th century.” Ballard’s visions of “inner space”, Orwell, Huxley and Atwood’s totalitarian nightmares, Kafka’s uneasy bureaucracies, Gibson’s cutting-edge cool — all are examples of a literature at the forefront of the collective imagination. Every truly original writer must, by definition, create a new world. Here is a whole galaxy of worlds to explore.

…yet it fails to include a single Ballard novel in the accompanying list.

Still, mustn’t grumble: there is Toby Litt’s ‘Best of JG Ballard’ subsection instead:

When I read JG Ballard, I go into a particular kind of trance. The effect of his books isn’t comparable to those of any other writer. His prose, right from the beginning, has a mesmerising pace, rhythm and decorum all its own. Even more remarkably, Ballard has established his own set of visionary locations. Plenty of other writers now fictionally venture into multistorey carparks, airport hospital wards, decaying hotels, but they do so in the knowledge that they’re trespassing on Ballard’s territory. He was here first; he was the pioneer — back when these places were seen as totally unliterary. What could possibly happen on a motorway embankment that was of interest?

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4 Responses »

  1. I wonder what happened there – I saw the list last week and it contained The Drowned World, Crash and Millennium People in the SF and Fantasy category, and Empire of the Sun in the War & Travel one.

    If you go to the complete list the titles are still there – http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jan/23/bestbooks-fiction

  2. This possibly shows the pitfalls of reading these things on the interwebs rather than on the page. Those three books which our pal Toby blethers about are part of the ‘1000 novels’ list, but they were boxed-out separately from the main a-z list. It’s obvious when you have the actual paper, but not when it’s been split up for web publication like this.

    It does seem like our man is still in the scifi ghetto, though. Even with those novels, it would have been braver (and perhaps more accurate) to put MP in the ‘state of the nation’ list rather than the SF&F, or maybe Crash in ‘love’.

  3. The second quote really captures the magic and geography of Ballard’s worlds. Thanks for posting. I used to teach High Rise in a freshman writing class in a frozen literary zone of upstate NY – I’m not sure the students had any idea what hit them. Then again, who does? Pace, rhythm and decorum: that really hits the nail on the head. Such control within a basically out of control narrative: definitely Kafka’s MO too, in many ways.

  4. [...] Creating new worlds [...]

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