IMAGES OF THE FUTURE: Comments on some recent experiments, by J. G. Ballard
Editor's note: 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 -- DP.
Science fiction is distinguished from almost all other forms of literature by its prospective character, its interpretation of the present in terms of the future rather than the past. In this it differs strikingly from the great bulk of fiction, which by and large is retrospective in its approach to its subject matter, looking backwards at events and experiences that have taken place in the past, analysing the roots of behaviour and character, the first formative relationships, and so on. The events of the novel or short story are a synthesis of all these elements into the actual experience of a continuous narrative present that is itself cast into the perfect tense -- "he said" or "he did."
By and large this retrospective view of fiction has tallied well enough with the attitude most people take to their own lives -- at least until the present day. Throughout the nineteenth century, and the first half of the twentieth century, the retrospective novel provided an instantly recognizable image of all the more significant aspects of experience. The whole tenor of this form of fiction could be summed up as "What happened?" Almost without exception, the literature of the last 150 years answers this question. The social, psychological, economic and other factors that reinforce its retrospective bias are too obvious to need explanation.
By contrast, science fiction is the literature of "What will happen?" Not necessarily in the sense of prophecy -- if anything, the social satire has always seemed to me one of the most old-fashioned and least interesting forms of science fiction, a mere updating of the traditional social novel -- but in its complete acceptance of the materials of the immediate present, and in its eagerness to explore and analyse them in the context of the future. Here, however, the subject matter is radically different. One is dealing not with a formal sequence of events and relationships but with a series of shifting networks of possibilities that resemble the anticipated moves of a chess game. (In passing, one might note the difference in approach between so-called "games-theory," prospective in technique, and "work-theory" with its moralizing and retrospective bias -- perhaps the reason why the English are so bad at games is that they approach even these retrospectively, as enshrined in the very notion of "playing the game.")
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.
Principally, it is this attempt to reproduce the future in linear terms that mars so much science fiction. Partly this is a result of habit, the sheer inertia of the immense mass of retrospective fictions produced during the 300 years of the novel -- or three thousand, if one cares to go back to the Homeric fables. But it is also a result of failing to look with complete honesty at one's subject matter. However much they may deny it, most people are made uneasy by a prospective view of the world around them -- it seems to lack stability, certainty and continuity with the efforts of the past, and instead to be a place of rapidly changing currencies, bizarre images and apparently random or, far worse, inexplicable experiences.
However, over the last decade or so it seems to me that more and more people have come to terms with the past, declaring a private moratorium on their own past failures and experiences, and are becoming more and more fascinated by a future that presents itself in terms of uncertainty, opportunity and the brilliant illumination of the chance encounter. In the place of probability, possibility with all its magic and meaning, the strange logic of the chance encounter, the fusion of apparently irreconcilable images that is the stuff of poetry.
All my own fiction could be regarded as an attempt to escape from time -- or, more exactly, from linear time, as it seems to me that time is quantifiable and non-linear in far more aspects, and that the most significant relationships and experiences of our lives are intelligible only in non-linear terms. (If this seems doubtful, pause for a moment and examine the goulash of ideas, images, activities, relationships and dreams that make up your own life -- how many of them make sense in linear terms, how adequately would a framework such as Pride and Prejudice or The Magic Mountain, to take two examples at random, represent the texture of your own consciousness and behaviour? Far less adequately, I would guess, than a framework such as that of "You and Me and the Continuum" or "The Atrocity Exhibition." This is no comparison of literary merit, I hasten to add.)
In my three novels, The Drowned World, The Drought and The Crystal World, I attempted to construct linear systems that made no use of the sequential elements of time; that is, the events of the narrative unfold chronologically, but what determines their movement forward (or backward in the case of The Drowned World and sideways or inwards in The Crystal World) is the mythological element, the attempt -- particularly in the first two novels -- to validate the linear element of time by imposing a psychological dynamic and necessity. However, a series of non-linear elements and images more and more began to force themselves through the texture of the narrative -- the characters found themselves in situations that owed nothing or little to their place in the sequence of events. Finally, in The Crystal World, this isolation of experience and identity is carried to its ultimate point.
In my latest group of stories, "You and Me and the Continuum," "The Assassination Weapon," "You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe" and "The Atrocity Exhibition," the linear elements of sequential narrative have been eliminated altogether. The world of these stories is the nearest I can reach to the matrix of my own consciousness and experience, an expression of the completely quantified and discontinuous flux of events taking place on both sides of my retina.
-- J. G. Ballard
BALLARD'S RECENT WRITINGS
The following is a list of JGB's published non-fiction writings (of which I'm aware) since JGB News 18 appeared six months ago; the first three items should have been listed there, but I didn't have details of them at the time. Many thanks to all those who have sent me cuttings and information -- keep them coming!
1) "A City of Excess" in The Daily Telegraph Weekend (February 2, 1991): XV. Review of Shanghai by Harriet Sergeant.
2) "The Last Real Innocents" in New York Times Book Review (September 1, 1991): 10. Review of Children of War, Children of Peace: Photographs by Robert Capa edited by Cornell Capa and Richard Whelan.
3) "Feast on Magical Seas" in The Daily Telegraph Weekend (November 2, 1991): XXXVI. Review of In Search of Conrad by Gavin Young.
4) "Scallywags of the World" in The Daily Telegraph Weekend (September 19, 1992): XVII. Review of The Oxford Book of Villains edited by John Mortimer.
5) "Has the Interview Become a Media Game?" in The Daily Telegraph Weekend (October 3, 1992): XXVI. Review of In the Psychiatrist's Chair by Anthony Clare.
6) "Shrine to the Bear of Little Brain" in The Daily Telegraph Weekend (October 10, 1992): XX. Review of The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh: The Story of A. A. Milne and His Writing for Children by Ann Thwaite.
7) "Cyclops Eye of the Century" in The Daily Telegraph ["Christmas Books" supplement] (November 25, 1992): 3. Review of Mapplethorpe by Robert Mapplethorpe, If We Shadows by David Bailey, Nudes in Budapest by James Cotier, Victorian Photographs of Famous Men & Women by Julia Margaret Cameron, Inside New York by Joe Friedman, From Sea to Shining Sea: A Portrait of America by Hiroji Kubota, The Russian Heart: Days of Crisis & Hope by David Turnley, Imperial Palaces of Russia by Prince Michael of Greece, Over Europe by Jan Morris, Broken Images by David Parker, Return to Mexico: Journeys Beyond the Mask by Abbas, Mexico: Feast and Ferment by Tom Owen Edmunds, Witnesses of Time by Flor Garduno, Mentawi Shaman: Keeper of the Rain Forest by Charles Lindsay, Shooting Stars: Contemporary Glamour Photography by Ricky Spears and Eyewitness: World Press Photo 1992.
8) "Books of the Year" in The Daily Telegraph ["Christmas Books" supplement] (November 25, 1992): 15. Very brief contribution to this round-robin item, in which Ballard commends Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero by Charles Sprawson.
JGB's Critical Coverage
The following list of articles, critical essays, books, etc., follows on from the column entitled "JGB'S Media Coverage" in JGB NEWS number 17. It consists of items of criticism and reference pertaining to his works (and related works, such as the film Empire of the Sun) but excluding reviews of his books; shorter reviews will be listed separately at a later date. Again, I'm grateful to all those who have sent me cuttings, particularly Jonathan Benison in Italy, who has provided much of the foreign-language information, as well as Philip Best and Mark Jones.
1) Postmodernist Fiction by Brian McHale. London and New York: Methuen, 1987, trade paper, 264p. Contains a chapter on science fiction, "Worlds in Collision," which includes a short discussion of works by Ballard, among others.
2) "The Sci-Fi Connection: The IG, J. G. Ballard, and Robert Smithson" by Eugene Tsai, in Modern Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Pop. New York: ??, 1988, p. ??-??. Essay on Ballard's interest in the so-called "Independent Group" of British artists in the 1950s and his later enthusiasm for Pop Art. [Not seen]
3) "BALLARD, J(AMES) G(RAHAM)" by "S.H.G.," in The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by James Gunn. New York: Viking, 1988, cloth, p. 35-36. Bio-bibliography; alas, a page of the key to contributors which would reveal the identity of "S.H.G." is missing from all copies of the finished book.
4) "Concrete Island: J. G. Ballard and the Paradox of Memory" by Francesco Marroni, in Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses no. 12 (1988): 131-143. English-language contribution to a journal published by Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain. [Not seen.]
5) "Travels on the Sun" by Robbie Robertson, in Teaching English vol. 21, no. 1 (Winter 1988): 32-36. Article about Empire of the Sun, which has now been set as "an option in the list of nominated texts for revised Higher Grade English" in Scottish secondary schools.
6) "Mobility and Masochism: Christine Brooke-Rose and J. G. Ballard" by Robert L. Caserio, in Novel vol. 21 (Winter-Spring 1988); 292-310. [Not seen]
7) "Master Steven's Search for the Sun" by Richard Combs, in The Listener (February 18, 1988): 29. Article about Spielberg, Ballard and the filming of Empire of the Sun.
8) "De la dystopie a l'impossible utopie, ou des avatars de la science-fiction chez J. G. Ballard (de 'Chronopolis' a 'The Ultimate City')" by Gilles Menegaldo, in Etudes Anglaises XLI, no. 3 (1988): 291-306. Essay which concentrates in some detail on the two stories named. [Not seen; French]
9) "Deep Waters: The Significance of the Deluge in Science Fiction" by Nicholas Ruddick, in Foundation no. 42 (Spring 1988): 49-58. Essay on the flood theme in sf, which gives pride of place to Ballard's The Drowned World.
10) "The Man with the Movie Camera: The Cinema of J. G. Ballard" by Julian Petley, in Monthly Film Bulletin no. 651 (April 1988): 97-98. Article about Ballard's use of the cinema in his fiction.
11) Entry on J. G. Ballard in Current Biography vol. 49, no. 5 (May 1988). [Not seen: listed in Locus no. 330 (July 1988): 50.]
12) "The Strange Case of J. G. Ballard" by Norman Spinrad, in Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine no. 131 (June 1988): 178-191. Overview of Ballard's career and a review of The Day of Creation.
13) "J. G. Ballard: Author of 'Empire of the Sun'" by Mike Ashley, in Book and Magazine Collector no. 53 (August 1988): 51-57. Overview of Ballard's career, plus short bibliography.
14) "The Unlimited Dream Company" and "The Day of Creation" by David Pringle, in Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels. London: Grafton, November 1988, cloth and paper, p. 191-192, 265-266. Short essays on the two novels.
15) "J. G. Ballard: The Crystal World" by James Cawthorn, in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock. London: Xanadu, December 1988, cloth, p. 173-174. Short essay on the novel.
16) "J. G. Ballard: The Crystal World" by Craig Shaw Gardner, in Horror: 100 Best Books edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman. London: Xanadu, December 1988, cloth, p. 140-141. Short essay on the novel.
17) "Ballard, J. G." by Jonathan Benison, in Reader's Guide to Twentieth-Century Science Fiction edited by Marilyn P. Fletcher. Chicago & London: American Library Association, 1989, cloth, p. 34-42. Overview of Ballard's career, plus short bibliography.
18) "Dreams of Unreason" by Damien Broderick, in Australian Science Fiction Review (Second Series) no. 22 (December 1989): 11-13. Article on recent borderline works of sf/fantasy, which devotes about half its length to an analysis of Ballard's The Day of Creation.
19) The Pleasures of Peace by Bryan Appleyard. London: ??, 1990?, cloth?, p. ?-?. "Seven or eight pages on JGB," according to Mark Jones. [Not seen]
20) "The Unlimited Dream Company" by Maxim Jakubowski, in Fantasy Literature: A Reader's Guide edited by Neil Barron. New York & London: Garland, 1990, cloth, p. 239. Brief annotation of the named book.
21) "Concrete Island," "Crash," "The Crystal World" and "High-Rise" by Keith Neilson, in Horror Literature: A Reader's Guide edited by Neil Barron. New York & London: Garland, 1990, cloth, p. 218-219. Brief annotations of the named books; also, further comments on Ballard in Neilson's introduction to his section of the book, p. 208-209.
22) "J. G. Ballard" in Authors & Artists for Young Adults, Volume 3 edited by Agnes Garrett and Helga P. McCue. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990, cloth, p. 11-24. Bio-bibliographical compilation which quotes from many previously published interviews.
23) "Pass Notes, 15: J. G. Ballard" in The Sunday Correspondent (January 7, 1990): 44. Brief tongue-in-cheek profile of Ballard ("Hobbies: Staying in and watching TV," etc.).
24) "Erotico crash" by Marco Giovannini, in Panorama (May 6, 1990): 19. Short article to mark the publication of an Italian edition of Crash. [Italian]
25) "Twenty-Five Years of Drowning: Mapping J. G. Ballard's The Drowned World onto The Day of Creation" by Paul Di Filippo, in Quantum Science Fiction & Fantasy Review no. 37 (Summer 1990): 13-15. Essay comparing the texts of the two novels, showing many points of similarity as well as significant differences.
26) "Utopianism After the End of Utopia" by Fredric Jameson, in Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism by Jameson. Durham, NJ: Duke University Press, 1991, cloth?, p. 154-180. Chapter on the "postmodern" perception of space and time which uses Ballard's story "The Voices of Time" as one of its principal exemplary texts; there is also an allusion to Crash and a quotation from The Atrocity Exhibition.
27) "Atomized Artifacts: J. G. Ballard's Atrocity Exhibition and the End of History" by Richard C. Walls, in Science Fiction Eye no. 8 (Winter 1991): 75-77. Review/essay.
28) "The Cloud-Sculptor of Terminal X" by Barry N. Malzberg, in New York Review of Science Fiction no. 29 (January 1991): 1, 8-9. Curious, lyrical tribute by a fellow sf writer who is one of Ballard's keenest American admirers.
29) "J. G. Ballard and the Transvaluation of Utopia" by W. Warren Wagar, in Science-Fiction Studies no. 53 (March 1991): 53-70. Essay which argues for Ballard as a "utopographer," concluding: "it is possible to foresee a future for J. G. Ballard as the literary herald of a new, liberated world society. His landscapes of the soul are also landscapes of justice."
30) "Two Essays" by Jean Baudrillard, in Science-Fiction Studies no. 55 (November 1991): 309-320. Translated by Arthur B. Evans. Consists of the first English-language appearances of Baudrillard's essays "Simulacra and Science Fiction" and "Ballard's Crash." These are followed by several responses from other critics, most of whom have remarks to make about Ballard's work and in particular his novel Crash: "The Borders of Madness" by N. Katherine Hayles, p. 321-323; "The Architextuality of Transcendence" by David Porush, p. 323-325; "Responding to the Killer B's" by Brooks Landon, p. 326-327; and "Baudrillard's Obscenity" by Vivian Sobchack, p. 327-329.
31) "Ballard, J(ames) G(raham)" by Nicholas Ruddick, in Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, 3rd edition, edited by Noelle Watson and Paul E. Schellinger. Chicago & London: St James Press, November 1991, cloth, p. 29-30. Overview of Ballard's career, plus bibliography.
32) Out of the Night and Into the Dream: A Thematic Study of the Fiction of J. G. Ballard by Gregory Stephenson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, December 1991, cloth, 182p. "Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Number 47." Substantial study of Ballard's work up to and including the novella Running Wild (1988). In the main, Stephenson favours a depth-psychological approach, evoking C. G. Jung, R. D. Laing and others, and he regards Ballard's works as adding up to a quest for mystical transcendence.
33) "J. G. Ballard: miti di un futuro anteriore" by Laura Di Michele, in Cronache del futuro edited by Carlo Pagetti. Bari: Adriatica, 1992, p. 225-247. Paper delivered at a conference on "Science Fiction and Scientific Imagination in the Contemporary English Novel," Turin, 1990. [Not seen; Italian]
34) "Nell'isola ermeneutica di J. G. Ballard" by Francesco Marroni, in Cronache del futuro edited by Carlo Pagetti. Bari: Adriatica, 1992, p. 249-277. Paper delivered at a conference on "Science Fiction and Scientific Imagination in the Contemporary English Novel," Turin, 1990. [Not seen; Italian]
35) "La cita morta: vedute urbane in The Drowned World e Hello America di J. G. Ballard" by Umberto Rossi, in Cronache del futuro edited by Carlo Pagetti. Bari: Adriatica, 1992, p. 279-310. Paper delivered at a conference on "Science Fiction and Scientific Imagination in the Contemporary English Novel," Turin, 1990. [Not seen; Italian]
36) "Compass Points 2: The Wind from Nowhere -- J. G. Ballard" by Ben Jeapes, in Vector no. 168 (August/ September 1992): 14. Short article on Ballard's first novel, listing its good points.
37) "Ballard/Crash/Baudrillard" by Nicholas Ruddick, in Science-Fiction Studies no. 58 (November 1992): 354-360. Response to the translation of Baudrillard's essay "Ballard's Crash," and the discussion surrounding it, which appeared in Science-Fiction Studies no. 55 (November 1991).
Fredric Jameson on Ballard
Item 26 above, the recent book by Fredric Jameson, reminds me that Jameson (who is regarded as one of the most important contemporary American critics) has had things to say about Ballard before now -- although he has never written about JGB at any length, to my knowledge. I've trawled through some earlier essays by him, and here are the provocative results:
1) "In Retrospect" in Science-Fiction Studies no. 4 (Fall 1974): 272-276. Short contribution to an ongoing debate with Franz Rottensteiner, H. Bruce Franklin and other critics under the general heading of "Change, SF, and Marxism: Open or Closed Universes?" Jameson picks up on a passing reference to J. G. Ballard's "The Subliminal Man" by Franklin, and goes on to say: "... every reader of Ballard knows that the lush, diseased, apocalyptic world of that great writer is the very opposite of a committed literature, and that it is by sheerest accident that his private obsessions (entropy, illusion, the shrinkage of space itself towards some deathly center) happened, in 'The Subliminal Man,' to have intersected with a piece of genuinely socio-political raw material. Ballard's work is one immense attempt to substitute nature for history, and thus a kind of dizzying and ecstatic feeling of inevitable natural eschatology for that far more troubled sense of collective historical death which someone so steeped in the British colonial experience must of necessity feel. That part of Ballard we surely cannot recuperate by attaching it to 'socioeconomics'... ; we must therefore envisage a different kind of approach, some deeper kind of reading which makes the relationship between Ballard's talent and his concrete experience of history more accessible and visible to us."
2) "World-Reduction in Le Guin: The Emergence of Utopian Narrative" in Science-Fiction Studies no. 7 (November 1975): 221-230. Essay on the sf of Ursula Le Guin which has, embedded within it, another very interesting and characteristically Jamesonian aside on Ballard. Commenting on Le Guin's use of "extreme cold," Jameson says: "the motif may have some other, deeper, disguised symbolic meaning that can perhaps best be illustrated by the related symbolism of the tropics in recent SF, particularly the novels of J. G. Ballard. Heat is here conveyed as a kind of dissolution of the body into the outside world, a loss of that clean separation from clothes and external objects that gives you your autonomy and allows you to move about freely... This loss of physical autonomy -- dramatized by the total environment of the jungle into which the European dissolves -- is then understood as a figure for the loss of psychic autonomy, of which the utter demoralization, the colonial whisky-drinking and general dissolution of the tropical hero is the canonical symbol in literature... Ballard's work is suggestive in the way in which he translates both physical and moral dissolution into the great ideological myth of entropy, in which the historic collapse of the British Empire is projected outwards into some immense cosmic deceleration of the universe itself... This kind of ideological message makes it hard to escape the feeling that the heat symbolism in question here is a peculiarly Western and ethnocentric one..."
3) "Progress Versus Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?" in Science-Fiction Studies no. 27 (July 1982): 147-158. This theoretical essay on sf contains yet another magisterial Jamesonian aside on Ballard: "Let the Wagnerian and Spenglerian world-dissolutions of J. G. Ballard stand as exemplary illustrations of the ways in which the imagination of a dying class -- in this case the cancelled future of a vanished colonial and imperial destiny -- seeks to intoxicate itself with images of death that range from the destruction of the world by fire, water and ice to lengthening sleep or the berserk orgies of high-rise buildings or superhighways reverting to barbarism. Ballard's work -- so rich and corrupt -- testifies powerfully to the contradictions of a properly representational attempt to grasp the future directly..."
Book Endorsements by Ballard
As far as can be ascertained, the following brief statements by Ballard have appeared only on book covers or in catalogues and other publicity material. Presumably such endorsements were taken from letters by JGB to publishers, editors or authors. I'd be grateful to hear from anyone who knows of other such pieces by Ballard that I've overlooked or forgotten.
1. Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock. London: Jenkins, January? 1965, cloth; dustjacket flap: "Strange and tormented landscapes, peopled by characters of archetypal dimensions, are the setting for a series of titanic duels between the forces of Chaos and Order. Nightmare armies clash on the shores of spectral seas. Phantom horsemen ride on skeleton steeds across a world as fantastic as those of Bosch and Breughel. Over all these presides the central figure of Elric, the haunted warrior-king whose ambivalent relationship with the magical sword Stormbringer is the author's most original creation. The vast, tragic and sometimes terrifying symbols by which Mr Moorcock continually illuminates the metaphysical quest of his hero are a measure of the author's remarkable talents."
2. Penguin reprint of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Penguinews, November 1972: "This powerful and obsessive book, an elegy for the concrete freeway, is one of the most important novels written since World War II. Kerouac's lonely and isolated characters, endlessly driving their cars from coast to coast across the trans-American highways, a nightmare linear continent, are the first dispossessed of the technological landscape. No other book I have read sums up so well the melancholy of the automobile."
3. Story of O by Pauline Reage. London: Corgi, 1972, paper [1976 reprint seen]; back cover: "Here all kinds of terrors await us, but like a baby taking its mother's milk all pains are assuaged. Touched by the magic of love, everything is transformed. Story of O is a deeply moral homily."
4. Cults of Unreason by Christopher Evans. London: Harrap, 1973, cloth. Reprinted, London: Panther, 1974, 269p, paper; p. 1: "Dr Evans is witty, tolerant and never dismissive as he examines the personalities and motives of these bizarre 20th century messiahs. The section on Scientology is a brilliant tour de force."
5. The Hospital Ship by Martin Bax. London: Picador, 204p., 1977, paper; back cover: "...the most exciting, stimulating and brilliantly conceived book I have read since Burroughs' novels."
6. Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels by David Pringle. London: Grafton, October 1988, cloth and paper; dustjacket flap: "Science fiction's most intelligent critic here turns his attention to fantasy and gives us a shrewd and entertaining guide-book to this extraordinary genre."
7. Apocalypse Culture: Expanded and Revised Edition edited by Adam Parfrey. Los Angeles: Feral House, late 1990, trade paper, 362p. (First edition published in 1987.) Front cover: "Apocalypse Culture is compulsory reading for all those concerned with the crisis of our time... An extraordinary collection unlike anything I have encountered. These are the terminal documents of the twentieth century."
8. Autogeddon by Heathcote Williams. London: Cape, August 1991, cloth; seen in the publisher's catalogue for Autumn 1991: "I thought the poem tremendous. Powerfully impacting, one might say."
9. Isidore: A Fictional Re-Creation of the Life of Lautreamont by Jeremy Reed. London: Picador, 1992?, trade paper?; seen in a proof copy of Picador's Spring 1993 catalogue (September 1992): "Superb... Enthralling and entertaining from first to last."
Ballard Books Which Never Were
This last list is a bit of a joke, consisting as it does of non-existent items. Nevertheless, it should be of interest to most readers of this newsletter. If anyone can cast further light on JGB "books which never were" -- either these, or others which I wot not of -- I'd be grateful to hear about them.
1. You and Me and the Continuum. Circa 1957. A novel, mentioned as nearing completion in 1956. Ballard later used the title for a short story in 1966 (included in The Atrocity Exhibition).
2. The Wrecks of Time (or The Rituals of Infinity). Circa 1965. A science-fiction novel in collaboration with Michael Moorcock; in the event, Moorcock wrote it solus, though it is likely that JGB had some influence at the planning stage. In particular, chapters 13 and 14, entitled "The Time Dump" and "The Crucifixion in the Cathedral," have a slightly Ballardian feel.
3. When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. Circa 1969. A novelization of the Val Guest film. There is no evidence that a book version was ever mooted; but, if it had been, then Ballard (as author of the film's "treatment") would surely have been asked.
4. Ballard on Surrealism. Circa mid-1970s. JGB was invited to write a book about surrealist painting and apparently responded positively to the idea. However, the project never came to fruition.
5. Alien. Circa 1979. A novelization of the Ridley Scott film; Ballard was in fact approached to write this, but declined. The book was written by Alan Dean Foster.
6. The Neuro-Surgeon's Tale. Circa 1980. A novella by Ballard advertised as forthcoming in the "Next Editions" series of ringbound booklets edited by Emma Tennant and distributed by Faber & Faber. The series was discontinued, but Ballard's story eventually appeared as "Myths of the Near Future."
7. The Terminal Beach. Illustrated by Jim Burns. Circa 1982. This large-format volume, featuring colour paintings by a leading science-fiction artist, was to have been the follow-up to the illustrated edition of The Drowned World (Dragon's Dream, 1981; paintings by Dick French). The project was dropped.
8. Which Way to Inner Space? Circa mid-1980s. A collection of Ballard's non-fiction, edited and introduced by David Pringle. This was announced but has been postponed for various reasons. A volume resembling it is likely to be published one day, though probably not under that title.
That's all there's space for this time. I had hoped to list book reviews, TV and radio interviews, etc., but they'll have to wait until next issue -- as will comments from readers' letters. I intend to continue producing this newsletter at approximately twice-yearly intervals as I continue work on the colossal new edition of my JGB bibliography. If you want to receive the next issue, please send me relevant cuttings, photocopies or a useable letter of comment. If in doubt as to whether or not I may want a particular item, please feel free to phone me. Failing any of those things, but you still want the next issue, please send £2 (£3, or US$4 overseas) to help defray my costs. All back issues, nos. 1-18, are available at £1 each from me (£1.50, or US$2, overseas). Happy New Year!
David Pringle, Brighton, UK