|JG Ballard Non-Fiction
1963: Time, Memory and Inner Space
A fascinating article JG Ballard wrote in 1963 for The Woman Journalist Magazine. Although most of the article is about The Drowned World, he does offer insights into his creative techniques: "I feel that the writer of fantasy has a marked tendency to select images and ideas which directly reflect the internal landscapes of his mind, and the reader of fantasy must interpret them on this level, distinguishing between the manifest content, which may seem obscure, meaningless or nightmarish, and the latent content, the private vocabulary of symbols drawn by the narrative from the writer's mind. The dream worlds, synthetic landscapes and plasticity of visual forms invented by the writer of fantasy are external equivalents of the inner world of the psyche, and because these symbols take their impetus from the most formative and confused periods of our lives they are often time-sculptures of terrifying ambiguity."
1966: Images Of The Future
As David Pringle notes in his introduction: "this article was written in 1966 for a British fanzine called Fusion, edited by Jim Grant; never published at the time, it was passed to me by Mike Ashley who had been given it many years ago by Jim Grant. Thanks to Mike, and to J. G. Ballard for permission to publish it here for the first time -- ". OK, so this isn't the first time, but it's still full of pithy JG comments about form & content: "Above all, then, the future presents itself to us as a series of quantified images and relationships. To make any kind of fiction out of these elements demands techniques appropriate to them, and it is precisely here, I feel, that science fiction has failed. The principal literary technique of retrospective fiction, the sequential and consequential narrative, is wholly unsuited to analyse events that have not as yet taken place, let alone produce that free play and rapid association of ideas and images that is what we perceive of the future."
1966: The Coming Of The Unconscious
A fascinating article by JG Ballard, published in the July 1966 edition of New Worlds Magazine. While ostensibly a review of two books, this is really an opportunity for JGB to expound on one of his favourite topics: "The pervasiveness of surrealism is proof enough of its success. The landscapes of the soul, the juxtaposition of the bizarre and familiar, and all the techniques of violent impact have become part of the stock-in-trade of publicity and the cinema, not to mention science fiction". Much of the content pertains to The Atrocity Exhibition.
1966: Notes From Nowhere
Another fascinating article by JG Ballard, published in the October 1966 edition of New Worlds Magazine. As Michael Moorcock writes in his introduction: "Reader interest in J.G. Ballard's recent work has been high. We invited Mr. Ballard to produce these notes explaining some of his current ideas. They take the form of a dialogue with himself -- the answers explaining the unstated questions. Here's Ballard's lucky "dialogue" #13: Dali: "After Freud's explorations within the psyche it is now the outer world of reality which will have to be quantified and eroticised." Query: at what point does the plane of intersection of two cones become sexually more stimulating than Elizabeth Taylor's cleavage?" There's 24 of these little JG gems in total.
1966: Terminal Documents: J.G. Ballard Reviews William S. Burroughs
In a 1966 issue of Ambit, JGB "reviews" the works of WSB: "The first mythographer of the mid-20th century, and the lineal successor to James Joyce, to whom he bears more than a passing resemblance... Burroughs nevertheless reaches certain conclusions not only about society at large but also about our notions of reality, of the hierarchies of the mind and senses that underpin our consciousness, that seem to me to be questionable."
1969: Mein Kampf Reviewed
In the December 1969 issue of New Worlds JGB takes a look at Hitler's infamous blueprint for irrationality. "Certainly, Nazi society seems strangely prophetic of our own - the same maximising of violence and sensation, the same alphabets of unreason and the fictionalising of experience. Goebbels in his diaries remarks that he and the Nazi leaders had merely done in the realm of reality what Dostoevski had done in fiction. Interestingly, both Goebbels and Mussolini had written novels, in the days before they were able to get to grips with their real subject matter - one wonders if they would have bothered now, with the fiction waiting to be manipulated all around them."
1969: JGB's foreword to the Danish edition of The Atrocity Exhibition
Oriiginally written in English, then translated into Danish, and then back into English. Still great.
1971: Fictions Of Every Kind
Another fascinating article by JG Ballard, published in the February 1971 edition of Books & Bookmen. He's surprisingly aggressive: "In essence, science fiction is a response to science and technology as perceived by the inhabitants of the consumer goods society, and recognizes that the role of the writer today has totally changed -- he is now merely one of a huge army of people filling the environment with fictions of every kind. To survive, he must become far more analytic, approaching his subject matter like a scientist or engineer. If he is to produce fiction at all, he must out-imagine everyone else, scream louder, whisper more quietly. For the first time in the history of narrative fiction, it will require more than talent to become a writer."
1973: A New Metaphor For The Future
I think the notion of calling most science fiction that has been written over the last ten years new wave immediately puts a frame around a certain kind of writing which isolates it from itself. I myself identify with the new wave rather than the old wave at times. I suppose I'm identified with the so-called new wave; therefore a certain hostility is attributed to me against the older school of science fiction. I get the impression that I am at times regarded as a kind of anti-Christ. In fact, I am the greatest possible defender of the traditional virtues of science fiction.
1981: JGB reviews Amis's The Golden Age of Science Fiction
What have we done to deserve his hostility? To some extent Amis's distaste for science fiction can be put down to simple pique. Sharp observer though he was of 1940s and 1950s s-f, his prediction in New Maps of Hell that science fiction would become primarily a satirical and sociological medium proved totally wrong.
1992: JGB remembers Vermilion Sands
The short stories that make up this collection were written between 1956 and 1970, and once they were published in a single volume I never returned, regrettably, to this genial playground. By sealing one's imagination between hard covers one can close the door forever on a still vivid private world. I'm glad that I began my career by writing short stories, when I was free to chase any passing hare in a way that is no longer possible, and without over-committing myself to a single idea.
JGB writes about his writing room
My room is dominated by the huge painting, which is a copy of The Violation by the Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux.