J. G. Ballard: 1930 - 2009

Books, Words | roomybonce | April 21, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I am actually a huge fan of J. G. Ballard. For me, his work was the perfectly polarised companion to the Star Trek adventures of the early 80’s, novelisations around which I read widely, expanding my sci-fi universe to incorporate Dick, Clarke, Asimov, and the paralysing Michael Moorcock, a writer so psychologically convoluted and relentlessly dystopian I could just never finish him.

Ballard, though, had his lighter side. How can anyone not be a fan of a man who wrote a 60’s pamphlet entitled ‘Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan’, written as a proper scientific paper and documenting various bizarre experiments designed to measure the ‘psychosexual appeal’ of the then Governor of California.

Here’s a typical quote:

“Slow-motion film of Reagan’s speeches produced a marked erotic effect in an audience of spastic children”

and here’s another:

“Faces were seen as either circumcised (JFK, Khrushchev) or uncircumcised (LBJ, Adenauer). In assembly-kit tests Reagan’s face was uniformly perceived as a penile erection. Patients were encouraged to devise the optimum sex-death of Ronald Reagan.”

Fantastic. When the pamphlet was appended to the first American edition of his classic ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ his publisher had to pulp the lot. But seriously, much as I’d like to believe our world will evolve according to the Star Trek model of global unity & purpose, I think the Ballardian alternative is far more likely. To quote Spock: “As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy than to create” and I think man’s appetite for destruction (to quote Axl Rose) will eventually overwhelm him far sooner than he can develop any selfless desire for exploration.

Happy days! But that’s what comes from reading Michael Moorcock at a formative age. I promise not to inflict him on my children, but I will encourage them to read J. G. Ballard, if only because I believe his books will be considered prophetic long after Gene Roddenberry’s name is dust.

See you on the other side Mr. B, and apologies for the cheap visual gag.

Tags: gene roddenberry, j g ballard, ronald reagan
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  1. Head Chef says:

    I’ve only read a short story by both Ballard and Moorcock. The Ballard one was about astronauts finding a spaceship of infinite corridors and dying of old age as they tried to find the end of the ship. It’s stuck with me, but I still don’t feel I fully got what he was getting at. The Moorcock one “Behold The Man” I read in my early twenties and loved. A guy time travels back to find out if Jesus was real and finds out he was actually severely disabled, so, he decides to be Jesus himself. That’s a great story. Where should I start with Ballard to fill the gaping, embarrassment of a hole in my knowledge?

  2. roomybonce says:

    ‘The Black Corridor’ was the Moorcock that did me in. Basically a story about a bunch of posh mates who flick the V’s at the baying starving masses at their gates and bugger off on a rocket where they’re almost all murdered (or so I think, it’s all deeply ambiguous)it was as depressing as you’d imagine a story about psycho twat toffs fleeing a dying planet could be.

    Ballard was different. I started with ‘The Drowned World’ which was one of the first sci-fi’s I’d read which wasn’t just about a worldwide disaster that forces mankind on its uppers. It was more about how people adapted to that environment psychologically, in this case regressively. I’m not sure what it would be like to read it again a quarter of a century down the line, but it worked for me at the time.

    ‘The Atrocity Exhibition’ is also well worth it. I prefer straighter novels - see also ‘The Vermilion Sands’ as a half-way house - to its archly fragmented approach, but I think the fragments are brilliant.

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