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Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008

Author: • Sep 23rd, 2012 •

Category: Ballardosphere, Extreme Metaphors, Lead Story

Extreme Metaphors in Waterstones, Birmingham – appropriately next to Barthes, Amis and Bataille. Photo by Luke Robert Mason.

I’m very excited to announce that Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008 is now on sale in the UK. The official publishing date is 27 September 2012, but the book has been spotted in the wild at various Waterstones stores around England. Four years in the making, Extreme Metaphors, published by Fourth Estate/HarperCollins, is the first comprehensive, career-spanning compilation of interviews with Ballard.

Edited by myself and Dan O’Hara, the book collects 44 conversations including his first published interview, with George MacBeth in 1967, and one of his last, a 2008 interview with James Naughtie. Other contributors include Eduardo Paolozzi, Jon Savage, Will Self, David Cronenberg, Mark Dery, Richard Kadrey, Iain Sinclair, John Gray, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Toby Litt and Hari Kunzru. Each interview includes a brief introduction from either myself or Dan, and the book’s title is taken from a 1984 chat with Thomas Frick, in which Ballard says: ‘Presumably all obsessions are extreme metaphors waiting to be born. That whole private mythology, in which I believe totally, is a collaboration between one’s conscious mind and those obsessions that, one by one, present themselves as stepping-stones.’ Given that, to a certain extent, Ballard gestated his own obsessions in the interview situation before birthing them in his fiction, ‘extreme metaphors’ seemed the perfect title for our collection.

It’s been a very great privilege to ‘collaborate’ posthumously with Ballard and I hope he would have been pleased with the result. Included are some rarely seen interviews, and some appearing in English for the first time. The interviews are drawn from a rich variety of sources: everything from mainstream newspapers to obscure fanzines, from commercial magazines to blogs and websites, and transcripts from TV and radio. We’ve tried to cover every phase of Ballard’s career (since 1967, at least) including novels, short stories, movies and the various genres Ballard moved through, and hope the book illuminates your favourite Ballardian trajectory. Aside from that, even if you’re not a fan of Ballard’s fiction, I trust there will still be something to enjoy, for it’s my contention that Ballard is one of the greatest philosophers of the post-war technological age, surpassing McLuhan and Toffler, and that this is readily apparent in the brace of interviews he gave from 1967–1974.

By way of promotion I’ve been posting quotes from the book on my Twitter account, and I’ve collected the first few batches on Storify (see below).

Extreme Metaphors doesn’t have a US release at this stage, but that’s being worked on. Of course, it’s available through Amazon in the meantime. And it’s getting a local release in my country – Australia.

Now, let’s leave the last word to Ballard, from his 2000 interview with John Gray:

It’s extremely difficult for people to remake themselves, particularly if they’ve got husbands and wives, jobs, children. It’s very, very difficult to throw everything up and embark on a completely new reappraisal of yourself. But, I think, sooner or later, all of us have to do that. Mostly I think we do it vicariously, by reading novels, by going to films and so on. We allow others to be our deputies in making some kind of radical shift, stealing a million dollars from a bank or whatever it may be. But I think we all feel a powerful need to make this change, to rediscover who we really are and what our real assignment is.

From the HarperCollins website:

A startling and at times unsettlingly prescient collection of J.G. Ballard’s greatest interviews.

J.G. Ballard was a literary giant. His novels were unique and surprising. To the journalists and admirers who sought him out, Ballard was the ‘seer of Shepperton’; his home the vantage from which he observed the rising suburban tide, part of a changing society captured and second-guessed so plausibly in his fiction.

Such acuity was not exclusive to his novels and, as this book reminds us, Ballard’s restive intelligence sharpened itself in dialogue. He entertained many with insights into the world as he saw it, and speculated, often correctly, about its future. Some of these observations earned Ballard an oracular reputation, and continue to yield an uncannily accurate commentary today.

Now, for the first time, ‘Extreme Metaphors’ collects the finest interviews of his career. Conversations with cultural figureheads such as Will Self, Jon Savage, Iain Sinclair and John Gray, and collaborators like David Cronenberg, are a reminder of his wit and humanity, testament to Ballard’s profound worldliness as much as his otherworldly imagination. This collection is an indispensable tribute to one of recent history’s most incisive and original thinkers.

This collection would not have been possible without the network provided by David Pringle, Mike Holliday, Rick McGrath and Mike Bonsall. Their tireless efforts in bringing to light the more obscure corners of Ballard’s career, and in providing new perspectives on the more familiar elements, laid the foundation for this project, and their ongoing support allowed it to be completed.


Simon Sellars. Introduction: A Launchpad for Other Explorations

1967: George MacBeth. The New Science Fiction
1968: Uncredited. Munich Round Up – Interview with J.G. Ballard
1968: Jannick Storm. An Interview with J.G. Ballard
1970: Lynn Barber. Sci-fi Seer
1971: Frank Whitford. Speculative Illustrations: Eduardo Paolozzi in Conversation with J.G. Ballard
1973: Peter Linnett. J.G. Ballard
1974: Carol Orr. How to Face Doomsday without Really Trying
1974: Robert Louit. Crash & Learn
1975: Philippe R. Hupp. Interview with J.G. Ballard
1975: James Goddard and David Pringle. An Interview with J.G. Ballard
1976: Jorg Krichbaum & Rein A. Zondergeld. “It would be a mistake to write about the future”
1978: Jon Savage. J.G. Ballard
1979: Christopher Evans. The Space Age is Over
1982: Werner Fuchs & Joachim Korber. An Interview with J.G. Ballard
1982: V. Vale. Interview with JGB
1983: Sam Scoggins. Ninety Questions from the Eyckman Personality Quotient
1984: Thomas Frick. The Art of Fiction
1984: Peter Ronnov-Jessen. Against Entropy
1985: Tony Cartano and Maxim Jakubowski. The Past Tense of J.G. Ballard
1986: Solveig Nordlund. Future Now
1988: James Verniere. A Conversation with J.G. Ballard
1988: Rosetta Brooks. Myths of the Near Future
1991: Jeremy Lewis. An Interview with J.G. Ballard
1992: Phil Halper and Lard Lyer. The Visitor
1993: Joan Bakewell. Memento: J.G. Ballard
1994: Lukas Barr. Don’t Crash
1995: Nicholas Zurbrugg. Empire of the Surreal
1995: Will Self. Conversations: J.G. Ballard
1996: Damien Love. “Kafka with unlimited Chicken Kiev”: J.G. Ballard on Cocaine Nights
1996: Chris Rodley. Crash Talk: J.G. Ballard in Conversation with David Cronenberg
1997: Mark Dery. J.G. Ballard’s Wild Ride
1997: Richard Kadrey & Suzanne Stefanac. J.G. Ballard on William S. Burroughs’ Naked Truth
1998: Zinovy Zinik. Russia on My Mind
1999: Iain Sinclair. J.G. Ballard’s Cinema in the Slipstream of Discontent
2000: John Gray. “Technology is always a facilitator”: J.G. Ballard on Super-Cannes
2003: Hans Ulrich Obrist. “Nothing is real, everything is fake”
2003: Chris Hall. “All we’ve got left is our own psychopathology”: J.G. Ballard on Millennium People
2004: Jeannette Baxter. Reading the Signs
2006: Toby Litt. “Dangerous bends ahead. Slow down”: J.G. Ballard on Kingdom Come
2006: Simon Sellars. “Rattling other people’s cages”
2006: Mark Goodall. An Exhibition of Atrocities: J.G. Ballard on Mondo Films
2006: Jonathan Weiss. “Not entirely a journey without maps”: J.G. Ballard on The Atrocity Exhibition
2007: Hari Kunzru. Historian of the Future
2008: James Naughtie. “Up a kind of sociological Amazon”: J.G. Ballard on Miracles of Life

Dan O’Hara. Afterword: Script-writing the Future

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19 Responses »

  1. When will the Kindle version be available in the U.S.? I was dismayed to discover that I can’t buy the U.K. Kindle version.

  2. I’m not sure Kris – I’ll try to look into this for you. That’s unfortunate, to say the least. Cheers, Simon

  3. In my book “Londra chiama”, Il Saggiatore, Milan, 2010 (Amazon), you could have found an interview with Ballard, maybe one of the last ones he did, but unfortunately in Italian!

  4. Not “the first-ever compilation of interviews with Ballard.”


  5. You’re right Robert – and I didn’t mean to disavow that book. Text amended to give a better sense of what I meant.

  6. Very excited to get this!

  7. Great cover design btw.

  8. That’s great news, Simon! I hope everything will sell good – the impact is sure, all those fascinating interviews. Needles to say, I;m green with jealousy (a good mannered one!) that I was not able to provide you with my JGB interview circa 1997 (but promise to send you our fotoz as soon as I find them). I wish you all the best and I am already working on to get me the cheapest copy available (any knowledge about when will this be available as apaperback?) – Love, Iraklis

  9. Wonderful, exciting news, Simon!

    Congratulations on completing such a wonderful project! Bravo!

    I’ll patiently (almost) await the text arriving on Canadian shores!

  10. Once in a blue moon a book comes out that still manages to get one excited. The books of Ballard and Burroughs have always accomplished this. I very much look forward to reading Extreme Metaphors.

  11. […] with Iain Sinclair, Jon Savage, David Cronenberg, and others. Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008 (Ballardian, thanks Mark […]

  12. Superb book – enjoying all the interviews as well as the backgrounds to the interviews.

  13. Thank you for sharing, I’m also waiting for the Kindle version in the USA.

  14. Simon and Dan
    Congratulations on getting this published. I will go out and buy a copy.
    Where is the best place to get it in Melbourne?

    regards Brent

  15. Simon…ordered the book tonight as I just came across it’s existence…being shipped from England and cannot wait to read it here in Vermont…good on you for getting this published…Cheers, Jeff

  16. Great book! Well done guys and thanks.

  17. […] Simon Sellars, one of the three greatest J.G. Ballard fans in the world and compiler of the superb Extreme Metaphors, a just-released book of Ballard interviews that pretty much everyone should […]

  18. […] with Ballard is more than interesting and shows a prophet of the future now in his words. Extreme Metaphors is a great compilation of the author in talks that are always interesting, and often […]

  19. […] with Ballard is more than interesting and shows a prophet of the future now in his words. Extreme Metaphors is a great compilation of the author in talks that are always interesting, and often […]

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