Saturday, May 2, 2009

J. G. Ballard

Bruce Sterling has a nice obituary for J.G. Ballard in the May 4 issue of Time magazine. I am always heartened when a mainstream news magazine takes notice of the passing of an SF writer. Bruce manages to pack a lot into three paragraphs: Ballard's reputation, stature, obsessions, taste in clothing, and ability to arouse strong feelings in his fiction (a publisher's reader described him as "beyond psychiatric help").

The first Ballard story I ever read was "Belladonna." I was quite young, and I remember going "Wow!" Years later I taught the story to college freshmen, and as I reread it to prepare my class, I went "Wow!" all over again. So did the freshmen, except for those who went "Huh?" Ballard was not for everyone. But he had, to a huge degree, a quality that science fiction does -- and should -- prize. His fiction was original. There is no mistaking a Ballard story for anyone else's.

4 comments:

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Fer Christ's sake, Nancy, the man =hated= the West. The civilization that gave him nurture. "WHY I WANT TO FUCK RONALD REAGAN"? He was bugfuck nuts.

Later for him.

Jack said...

I agree. Anyone would had to have been crazy to want to fuck Ronald Reagan.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

The best president of our lives, Jack. And that's a fact.

Eric said...

Bruce S once compared Ballard and Burroughs thusly:

"... I think Ballard is actually about ten times smarter than Burroughs. I mean, Burroughs is like a drunk who found a sharpened screwdriver in the gutter. His work is claptrap, but it’s marvellous claptrap. So that gives it a weird demented Bohemian majesty. Whereas Ballard is a very fastidious kind of guy who’s very much on top of his game. He’s willing to stare into the same abyss as Burroughs, but he’d never sit there in a heroin stupor as the abyss started eating its way up his leg. You look at the colleagues of Burroughs and you just tick off the body count. It’s unbelievable. Whereas the colleagues of Ballard did pretty well for themselves. Burroughs may be a greater artist than Ballard, because he’s really pushing right past, and over, the edge. But I think Ballard as a creative figure is much more on top of his game than Burroughs. His muse is not a carnivore. He doesn’t have a monkey on his back. He’s really in command of his material."

http://www.ballardian.com/sterling-on-ballardI didn't really come to Ballard until I was in my 30s, and still haven't read any of his novels. (I have some baggage w.r.t. to Crash, mostly due to the kind of people I knew in the 80s who liked it, and it generalized to his other books.)

Anyway, that quote for me summarizes something I wouldn't have been able to perceive when I was a teenager reading his more experimental work from the 70s. I kept thinking "but this is just like the stuff I'm writing." Well, no: Not just like. Not really even very much like....

bluesman miike: some of us challenge what we love in hope of making it better. Other's just take it as it's given and assume that nothing need ever be challenged.