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R.I.P. J.G. Ballard, 1930-2009

Author: • Apr 20th, 2009 •

Category: R.I.P. JGB

Ballardian: R.I.P. J.G. Ballard

Goodbye, Jim…

As publisher of this site, my goal has always been to take J.G. Ballard as a philosopher, rather than simply a ‘novelist’. Sometimes this has truly angered fans and champions of his work, more often it has brought me into brilliant and inspiring contact with writers, artists, musicians, filmmakers and theorists who all see the world through that same Ballardian lens — and with Jim Ballard himself, who, along with his partner Claire Walsh, always remained supportive of the site.

Ballard articulates clearly to me the implications of living in an age of total consumerism, of blanket surveillance, of enslavement designed as mass entertainment. But he also speaks to me of resistance through irony, immersion, ambivalence, imagination — of remixing, recycling, remaking, remodelling.

Ballard embraces dystopian scenarios, including the archetypal non-space often characterised as a deadening feature of late capitalism. But this is not simply a call for nihilism. Ballard’s characters are not disengaged from their world. Rather, they embody a sense of resistance that derives from full immersion, a therapeutic confrontation with the powers of darkness, whereby merging with dystopian alienation negates its power.

This is predicated on concurrency: Ballard’s writing turns objectivity into subjectivity, opens up gaps where there is room for new subjects. His scenarios are what I term ‘affirmative dystopias’, neither straight utopia nor straight dystopia, but an occupant of the interstitial space between them, perpetual oscillation between the poles – the ‘yes or no of the borderzone’, to use a phrase from his work.

Here, dystopia becomes the real utopia, and utopian ideals, typically represented as a stifling of the imagination, the true dystopia. He reinhabits the frame to present a clearinghouse in which corporate and national governance is overthrown and regoverned as a ‘state of mind’.

To read and to understand Ballard, then, is to be gloriously, finally liberated.

To James Graham Ballard: thank you.

Share your tributes and memories of JGB in the comments section below.

>> Further news, links etc at my Twitter stream — where I post the bulk of my links and new info.

>> I have asked Ballardian contributors & associates for their thoughts on JGB’s passing:

+ Part 1: Ben Noys, Chris Nakashima-Brown and Mark Dery.
+ Part 2: Michael Moorcock.
+ Part 3: Tim Chapman, Rick McGrath, Solveig Nordlund, Dan O’Hara, Dominika Oramus, Rick Poynor, David Pringle, Simon Sellars, Supervert and V. Vale.
+ Part 4: Jeannette Baxter, Mike Bonsall, Mark Fisher, Owen Hatherley, Mike Holliday and Nina Power.


+ Claire Walsh
(1) @The Evening Standard (2) @The Guardian
+ Bea Ballard
+ Michael Moorcock
(1) @Multiverse (2) @Ballardian
+ Iain Sinclair
+ David Pringle
+ Jeff VanderMeer
+ Christopher Priest
+ V. Vale
+ Toby Litt
+ Malcolm Edwards
+ Neil Gaiman
+ John Clute
+ Will Self
+ John Gray
+ Chris Petit
+ Simon Reynolds
+ David Cronenberg
+ Martin Amis
+ Bruce Sterling

+ BBC News
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+ The Independent
+ The Telegraph
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+ Wall Street Journal
+ Salon
+ A.V. Club
+ Time
+ Wall Street Journal

+ Jimmy, the sweet sage of Shepperton
+ How J.G. Ballard cast his shadow right across the arts
+ Nine J.G. Ballard stories that must be filmed
+ What pop music tells us about JG Ballard
+ In pictures: J.G. Ballard’s architectural inspiration
+ What sort of doctor would JG Ballard have made?
+ Ballard and the painters
+ ‘JG Ballard was our own private, Home Counties, prophet of doom’
+ Was J.G. Ballard a prophet of doom – or the future?
+ ‘Between the Tower and the Parking Lot: A Spatial Appreciation of J.G. Ballard’
+ Fans want car park named after celebrated writer
+ Divergent perspectives on J.G. Ballard
+ Crashing through to dystopia

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203 Responses »

  1. Hello. My name The Angel. I need to publish J.G.
    Ballard. It is a project to promote reading. The text would be distributed free and in high volume. Anybody know who I contact to ask permission?

  2. I am a Norwegian songwriter and musician. I posted this message on my band The Opium Cartel’s myspace page today:

    J.G. Ballard RIP
    I was deeply saddened by the news that my favorite author and one of the leading lights in my life, J.G. Ballard, passed away yesterday. There is no other author that I have identified with as deeply, and felt so in tune with what he wrote. Ever since I first stumbled across “Vermilion Sands”, with it’s psycho-sexual landscapes of deserts and dried up coral reefs right out of a Max Ernst painting, I have been hooked. Without books like “Myths of the Near Future” and “Voices of Time”, a lot of my music wouldn’t have existed. White Willow’s album “Storm Season”, and especially the song “Chemical Sunset” was deeply indebted to him, and The Opium Cartel’s “Beach House” is a direct homage to him. In fact, the original idea was to use snippets of Ballard’s texts at the end of the song, but somehow it became even more Ballardian with just the desolate noises of the slowly disintegrating song. “There is a pool that’s filling with sand/lizards can sleep there when we are gone” – that’s me doing Ballard.

    In the story “News from the Sun”, Marion tells her husband, the one-time NASA doctor Franklin: “Think of yourself – what you’ve always wanted – alone in the world, just you and these empty hotels”. She might as well have been speaking to Ballard himself. All his works reveal a longing for some kind of socio-cultural extinction, where infrastructures collapse, order crumbles, the masses disappear and the protagonist is left to himself, to his own musings of the world around him, ending, changing, re-emerging.

    In Ballard’s heaven I am sure he is now sitting on some rooftop of some abandoned motel, quietly scanning the horizon of some dried out ocean, contemplating the empty swimming pools and the sleeping night clubs along the beach, watching the cerise dusk settle on vermilion sands.


  3. […] as if by imagining the very worst we can stop it from happening. But there is a touch, too, of JG Ballard‘s call to the power of the imagination “to remake the world” and “hold back […]

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