J. G. Ballard

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J. G. Ballard
Born James Graham Ballard
15 November 1930(1930-11-15)
Shanghai International Settlement, China
Died 19 April 2009(2009-04-19) (aged 78)
London, England, United Kingdom
Occupation Novelist, short story writer
Genres Science fiction
Literary movement New Wave
Notable work(s) Crash
Empire of the Sun


James Graham Ballard (often "Jim"; 15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and important member of the New Wave movement in science fiction. His best-known books are Crash (1973) and Empire of the Sun (1984).[1]

Life[change | change source]

Shanghai[change | change source]

Ballard's father was a chemist at a company called the Calico Printers Association. The company was based in Manchester and made cloth. Ballard was born and raised in the Shanghai International Settlement, an area under foreign control where people "lived an American style of life".[2] He went to the Cathedral School in Shanghai. After the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ballard's family temporarily left their suburban home and rented a house in downtown Shanghai to avoid the shells fired by Chinese and Japanese forces.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, the Japanese occupied the International Settlement. In early 1943 they began interning Allied civilians. Ballard was sent to the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center with his parents and younger sister. He spent over two years in the internment camp. His family lived in a small area in G block, a two-story residence for 40 families. He went to school in the camp.

Many think that Ballard's exposure to the atrocities of war at a young age explains the conflicts and violence in much of his fiction.[3][4][5]

England and Canada[change | change source]

In 1946, after the end of the war, his mother returned to England with Ballard and his sister on the SS Arrawa. They in Plymouth, and he attended The Leys School in Cambridge. After a couple of years his mother and sister returned to China, rejoining Ballard's father. Ballard went to live with his grandparents when he was not at boarding school. In 1949 he went on to study medicine at King's College, Cambridge and planned to become a psychiatrist.

At university, Ballard was writing avant-garde fiction heavily influenced by psychoanalysis and surrealist painters. At this time, he wanted to become a writer as well as pursue a medical career. Ballard stopped his medical studies, and in 1952 he enrolled at Queen Mary, University of London to read English Literature.[6] However, he was asked to leave at the end of the year. Ballard then worked for an advertising agency and as an encyclopedia salesman. He kept writing short fiction but did not get published.

In 1953 Ballard joined the Royal Air Force and was sent to the RCAF flight-training base in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. He left the RAF in 1954 after two years and returned to England. In 1955 he married Helen Mary Matthews and they lived in Chiswick.

Ballard published several novels and short-story collections during the seventies and eighties. However, he only became popular in the mainstream with his novel Empire of the Sun in 1984. This novel was based on his years in Shanghai and in an internment camp. It became a bestseller,[7]

Ballard continued to write until the end of his life. He died of prostate cancer in London.

Influence[change | change source]

Bruce Sterling called Ballard is an important writer leading to cyberpunk in the introduction to the Mirrorshades anthology.

Jean Baudrillard praised Crash as the first great novel of the universe of simulation in Simulacra and Simulation

Ballard was interested in the relationship between different media. He was one of the trustees of the Institute for Research in Art and Technology in the early 1970s.

Works[change | change source]

Novels[change | change source]

Short story collections[change | change source]

Other[change | change source]

Adaptations[change | change source]

Films[change | change source]

Television[change | change source]

  • "Thirteen to Centaurus" (1965) from the short story of the same name – dir. Peter Potter (BBC Two)
  • Crash! (1971) dir. Harley Cokliss[11]
  • "Minus One" (1991) from the story of the same name – short film dir. by Simon Brooks.
  • "Home" (2003) primarily based on "The Enormous Space" – dir. Richard Curson Smith (BBC Four)

References[change | change source]

  1. McNeil, Joanne (July 2009). "Death of a Dystopian: The life and legacy of J.G. Ballard". Reason. http://reason.com/archives/2009/06/19/death-of-a-dystopian. Retrieved 7 October 2009.
  2. Pringle, D. (Ed.) and Ballard, J.G. (1982). "From Shanghai to Shepperton". Re/Search 8/9: J.G. Ballard: 112–124. ISBN 0-940642-08-5.
  3. Cowley, J. (4 November 2001). "The Ballard of Shanghai jail". The Observer. Retrieved on 25 April 2009.
  4. Hall, C. "JG Ballard: Extreme Metaphor: A Crash Course In The Fiction Of JG Ballard". Retrieved on 25 April 2009.
  5. Livingstone, D.B. (1996?). "J.G. Ballard: Crash: Prophet with Honour". Retrieved 12 March 2006.
  6. Alumni at Queen Mary, University of London. Retrieved 24 October 2009.
  7. Collinson, G. "Empire of the Sun". BBC Four article on the film and novel. Retrieved on 25 April 2009.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 None of the "complete" collections are in fact fully exhaustive, since they contain only some of the Atrocity Exhibition stories.
  9. REEL23: The Atrocity Exhibition. Retrieved on 25 April 2009.
  10. Aparelho Voador a Baixa Altitude at the Internet Movie Database
  11. Sellars, S. (10 August 2007). "Crash! Full-Tilt Autogeddon". Ballardian.com. Retrieved on 25 April 2009.

Bibliography[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]

articles, reviews and essays
source material
obituaries and remembrances