follow us in feedly
Mouth-watering trailer for a ‘what if?’ 1970s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s ‘High-Rise’
02:12 pm


J.G. Ballard

Ben Wheatley’s recent adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s masterful 1975 novel High-Rise scratched a profound itch many of us had had for years, but by rights we really should have had an adaptation from its own time, a brutalist B-movie with dissonant stereophonic music that should take its rightful place alongside Death Race 2000 and Logan’s Run.

We never got that movie, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend.

Adam Scovell has helpfully put together a marvelous trailer for a make-believe BBC series based on High-Rise using imagery from a really interesting-looking series from the early 1970s called Doomwatch that garnered controversy at the time for several episodes, including one that focused on mutant rats taking over the streets of London. The episode Scovell used is called “The Human Time-Bomb,” and it ran on the BBC on February 22, 1971.

I don’t know much about the plot except that the bland plot synopsis from the time sounds intriguingly Ballardian: “Dr. Fay Chantry performs a biological study of tower block life—and finds far more than she expected.”

On his blog Celluloid Wicker Man, Scovell raises a very interesting point, which is the possibility—one might even say the likelihood—that “The Human Time-Bomb” is actually a direct source for Ballard’s novel:

The Human Time-Bomb rather uniquely pre-empts almost all aspects of High-Rise in such detail that it must be considered whether Ballard himself actually saw it when broadcast. I have little doubt that he at least knew about the series, such was the crossover of the series’ goals with his own conflation of science and disaster.

He also notes that during this time, it wasn’t hard at all to find Ballard’s themes played out on the telly:

British Television of this period is brimming with Ballardian imagery; endless brutalist structures, obsessive emphasis on cars, violence and misogyny.  This is all compacted into a huge variety of drama, only ever really escaping from such aspects when a series or play was set in period.

Have a look at the trailer for the 70s ‘High-Rise’ that shoulda been, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth,’ J.G. Ballard’s Hammer film
08:49 am


J.G. Ballard
Hammer Films

“Ballardian” is a word that will only gain currency during 2017 and the years to come. If there were a stock market for words, I would be bullish on this one. Today’s jobs, homes, vacations, grocery stores, politicians, kinks, vehicles, riots, drugs, disasters, wars, and surgeries all seem to have come out of a Ballard novel.

But the feature that gave Ballard his first film credit (as treatment writer “J.B. Ballard”), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), is so uncannily prescient as to resemble raw news footage of the day after tomorrow. Watch it alongside any 24-hour cable network and you’ll see: it’s like the screenplay of Dinosaurs was ripped from the headlines.

In his last book, the autobiography Miracles of Life, Ballard recalled the meeting that gave life to the movie:

The first time I saw my name (even if misspelled) in the credits of a film came in 1970, with the British release of When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth. This was a Hammer film, a sequel to the Raquel Welch vehicle One Million Years BC, itself a remake of the 1940 Hollywood original starring Victor Mature and Carole Landis. Hammer specialized in Dracula and Frankenstein films, then much despised by the critics. But their films had tremendous panache and visual attack, without a single wasted frame, and the directors were surprisingly free to push their obsessions to the limit.

I was contacted by a Hammer producer, Aida Young, who was a great admirer of The Drowned World. She was keen that I write the screenplay for their next production, a sequel to One Million Years BC. Curious to see how the British film world worked, I turned up at the Wardour Street offices of Hammer, to be greeted in the foyer by a huge Tyrannosaurus rex about to deflower a blonde-haired actress in a leopard-skin bikini. The credits screamed ‘Curse of the Dinosaurs!’


Young brought Ballard up to date on the status of the project (“Raquel Welch would not be available”) and escorted him into the office of Hammer’s Tony Hinds, where Young narrated the entire story of The Drowned World for the studio boss. Hinds muttered something about water being “trouble” and asked Ballard for his ideas; the writer described a few that had occurred to him on the drive between Shepperton and Soho.

‘Too original,’ Hinds commented. Aida agreed. ‘Jim, we want that Drowned World atmosphere.’ She spoke as if this could be sprayed on, presumably in a fetching shade of jungle green.

Hinds then told me what the central idea would be. His secretary had suggested it this morning. This was nothing less than the story of the birth of the Moon–in fact, one of the oldest and corniest ideas in the whole of science fiction, which I would never have dared to lay on his desk. Hines stared hard at me. ‘We want you to tell us what happens next.’

I thought desperately, realizing that the film industry was not for me. ‘A tidal wave?’

‘Too many tidal waves. If you’ve seen one tidal wave you’ve seen them all.’

A small light came on in the total darkness of my brain. ‘But you always see the tidal waves coming in,’ I said in a stronger voice. ‘We should show the tidal wave going out! All those strange creatures and plants . . .’ I ended with a brief course in surrealist biology.

There was a silence as Hinds and Aida stared at each other. I assumed I was about to be shown the door.

‘When the wave goes out . . .’ Hinds stood up, clearly rejuvenated, standing behind his huge desk like Captain Ahab sighting the white whale. ‘Brilliant. Jim, who’s your agent?’

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Science fiction writer J.G Ballard’s home is for sale
12:44 pm


J.G. Ballard
real estate


“The fiction is already there. The writer’s task is to invent the reality.”
—J.G. Ballard

The three bedroom semi detached property that British novelist, short story writer, and essayist J.G Ballard lived in between 1960 and his death in 2009 is for sale. Listed by Daniel Wallin of Shepperton Estate Agents, the residence at Old Charlton Road in Central Shepperton is being offered for £475,000, a relative bargain in the commuter town:

Located on one of Shepperton’s most popular roads, just a short walk from the High Street, all local schools and the train station which offers direct services into London in just 50mins. Between 1960 and 2009 the property was owned by the writer J.G. Ballard, author of novels such as Empire of the Sun, Crash and High Rise - and Shepperton’s most famous resident. The home retains all of its original features but has also undergone some necessary but sympathetic updating with complete rewiring, the addition of central heating and solid oak parquet flooring throughout the ground floor. Three bedrooms, separate dining room, separate lounge, generous rear garden and a driveway. The entrance hall is of a proportionately generous size giving a welcome feel and space.

When Ballard’s first novel, The Wind from Nowhere, was published in January 1962, tired of traveling from Surrey into London (and back) every day, he resigned from his job at as the assistant editor of Chemistry and Industry magazine, and from then on supported himself and his family as a fulltime writer. After Ballard’s wife Mary died suddenly of pneumonia in 1964, the father of post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction raised their three children – James, Fay and Bea– by himself in the home.

Ironically the very most Ballardian thing ever, isn’t really even remotely Ballardian itself. Except for the car crashes on the M3, of course. You can still hear them from the garden.


Ballard with his children Fay, Jim and Bea at their Shepperton home in 1965

More photos of the home after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Classic Penguin sci-fi covers from the 1970s by David Pelham

Night of Light by Philip José Farmer
David Pelham was art director for Penguin Books during the 1970s and was responsible for a great many arresting and distinctive covers for many of the sci-fi novels Penguin put out during that time, which is one of the great periods for sci-fi writing in general. Many of the images on this page come from a series that came out in 1972-73 that used (as Penguin often did and still does) visual cues to signal that books belong together. In this case the series had in common white text and a black background, bold use of primary colors and a strong horizon line that in some cases (Sirius, A Cure for Cancer) is cleverly adapted for a slightly different purpose.

Pelham did many Penguin covers for works by J.G. Ballard and was in close contact with the author in the process of creating them. Ballard actually named a character in “The Reptile Enclosure” after Pelham. After one meeting during which they had looked over Pelham’s mockups for a series of Ballard covers, Pelham scribbled some notes that were obviously based on Ballard’s comments, and they make for a resonant and Ballardian piece of poetry: “monumental / tombstones / airless thermonuclear landscape / horizons / a zone devoid of time.”

Pelham’s most famous cover was for Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, and fascinatingly enough, Pelham himself doesn’t think much of it:

When I was Art Director of Penguin Books I had to create this image in one night. We planned to bring out a film tie-in of Burgess’s wonderful book to coincide with the release of the movie, and we obviously urgently needed a strong cover image that related to the film. When Stanley Kubrick unaccountably refused to supply us with promotional press shots I immediately commissioned a well-known illustrator to help out. The result was not only unacceptable but it was also inexcusably late, so we were horribly out of time. Having already attended a press screening of Kubrick’s film I had a very clear image in my mind’s eye as to how the cover should look and so, collecting up a few supplies from the art department, I sped home to my Highgate flat to create the cover myself. I remember a motorcycle messenger arriving at 4.30am to deliver the ‘repro’—that is the typography—for the paste up. This of course was a long time before the age of computers, and everything was done with ink, glue and ‘repro’, which had to be painstakingly stuck in place on a base board. Another messenger arrived at 7am to whisk the artwork off to the printer. Consequently I had not had time to properly scrutinize the image, to make the small adjustments and refinements that I still believe it needed. So now, every time I see that image, all I see are the mistakes. But then, maybe it’s those unfinished rough edges that contribute to its appeal. Who knows?

In 1996 Eye Magazine wrote that Pelham’s covers “dignify the books with symbolic images that help to convey the conceptual sophistication of the writing inside.” For more of Pelham’s covers as well as many striking Penguin covers by other artists, check out the well-curated website Penguin Science Fiction.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
Many more of Pelham’s spectacular sci-fi creations after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Stained glass windows of Aleister Crowley, Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Cash, JG Ballard & many more

In 2010 and 2011 the English artist Neal Fox executed an utterly gorgeous series of stained-glass windows in imitation of the iconography of saints found in cathedrals all over Europe. The series included Johnny Cash, J.G. Ballard, Hunter S. Thompson, Albert Hofmann, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Serge Gainsbourg, Aleister Crowley, William S. Burroughs, Billie Holiday, and Francis Bacon.

Now, it’s perfectly possible that you will see these images and think, “Wow, those paintings in the stained-glass style are awesome.” So it’s important to emphasize that these are not paintings, Fox actually created the stained-glass windows themselves—in fact, he worked with traditional methods “at the renowned Franz Mayer of Munich manufacturer” in order to produce a dozen windows, each using leaded stained glass in a steel frame and standing 2.5 meters tall.

Put them all together in a room, as the Daniel Blau gallery in London did in 2011, and you have “an alternative church of alternative saints.” Here is what that room looked like:

The Daniel Blau show was called “Beware of the God.” Alongside the well-known provocateurs and trouble-makers like Crowley and Hawkins is a figure that might challenge even the most astute student of antiheroes, a man named John Watson. Far from the complacent invention of Arthur Conan Doyle, this John Watson is the artist’s grandfather, described by his loving grandson as a “hell raiser” and “a World War II bomber pilot, chat show host, writer and publisher, who in his post war years sought solace in Soho’s bohemian watering holes.”

Quoting the Daniel Blau exhibition notes:

As traditional church windows show the iconography of saints, through representations of events in their lives, instruments of martyrdom and iconic motifs, Fox plays with the symbolism of each character’s cult of personality; Albert Hoffman takes a psychedelic bicycle ride above the LSD molecule, J G Ballard dissects the world, surrounded by 20th Century imagery and the eroticism of the car crash, and Johnny Cash holds his inner demon in chains after a religious experience in Nickerjack cave.

You can order prints of some of these images for £150 each (about $214).


Many more after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Unlimited Dream Company’: Essential video portrait for J.G. Ballard fans
12:41 pm


J.G. Ballard

In 1983 a director named Sam Scoggins made a 23-minute movie with the title The Unlimited Dream Company; the film gestured at being an adaptation of J.G. Ballard‘s 1979 novel of the same name but is actually something far more compelling, an experimental profile of Ballard himself with some of the most fascinating footage ever taken of the writer.

You couldn’t ask for a more thorough examination of Ballard’s themes, work, and bio in 23 minutes. The movie alternates between footage of Ballard himself speaking and strange clips accompanied by clinical extracts from The Atrocity Exhibition read by Julian Gartside. Sometimes Ballard’s comments also receive a filmic accompaniment. In his own comments, Ballard discusses his childhood in Shanghai and describes in some detail a car crash he experienced, an event that occurred, curiously, after Ballard had written Crash.

A lengthy treatment of The Unlimited Dream Company appeared in RE/Search #8/9: J.G. Ballard, which you can read here. What follows is just a portion:

There are two main types of material intercut in the film:

1) A big close-up of Ballard’s face. He talks, looking straight at the camera,

2) Ballard’s alter ego wearing a ragged flying suit wanders through “Ballardian” landscapes and in each makes a portrait of Ballard from things around him.

The landscapes are:

a) The jungle (past). He makes a portrait from feathers.

b) Motorway/Scrapyard (present). He makes a portrait from crashed cars.

c) The Beach (future). He draws a huge spiral in the sand.

These sections were shot in black and white, then printed each in a different monochrome, i.e. a green, b) red, c) blue.

The enthralling core of the movie is unmistakably “(v)”, which is described thus: “A 6 min. duration very slow zoom in from a head and shoulders shot of Ballard to a very large close-up of his right eyeball. Off camera a voice asks the 90 questions from the Eyckman Personality Quotient, each of which Ballard answers Yes or No.”

This section in some quarters bears the title “Answers Given By Patient J.G.B. To The Eyckman Personality Quotient Test.” (A commenter points out, its actual name is the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire.) It’s reminiscent of the Voigt-Kampff test from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, adapted in 1982 by Ridley Scott as Blade Runner. It’s a six-minute shot in which the camera slowly zooms in on Ballard’s left eye (the above synopsis has the eye wrong) during which the writer gives candid answers to questions such as these:

Are you an irritable person? No
Have you ever blamed someone for doing something you knew was really your fault? No
Do you enjoy meeting new people? Yes
Do you believe insurance schemes are a good idea? Yes
Are your feelings easily hurt? No
Are all your habits good and desirable ones? No
Do you tend to keep in the background on social occasions? Yes

Keep reading, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Mighty Micro’: J.G. Ballard’s best friend introduces the microprocessor on British TV, 1979
08:50 am


J.G. Ballard

J.G. Ballard told the Paris Review that one of his most important sources was a friend’s trash.

As far as reading for research is concerned, I’ve always been very fortunate in my friends. For years, Dr. Christopher Evans, a psychologist in the computer branch of the National Physical Laboratory (whom I visited regularly until his death—his lab was just a ten-minute drive away), literally sent me the contents of his wastebasket. Once a fortnight, a huge envelope arrived filled with scientific reprints and handouts, specialist magazines and reports, all of which I read carefully.

In his last book, the autobiography Miracles of Life, Ballard sketched his late friend, who died of cancer in 1979, during the filming of his last TV series, The Mighty Micro:

Chris Evans drove into my life at the wheel of a Ford Galaxy, a huge American convertible that he soon swapped for a Mini-Cooper, a high-performance car not much bigger than a bullet that travelled at about the same speed. Chris was the first ‘hoodlum scientist’ I had met, and he became the closest friend I have made in my life. In appearance he resembled Vaughan, the auto-destructive hero of my novel Crash, though he himself was nothing like that deranged figure. Most scientists in the 1960s, especially at a government laboratory, wore white lab coats over a collar and tie, squinted at the world over the rims of their glasses and were rather stooped and conventional. Glamour played no part in their job description.

Chris, by contrast, raced around his laboratory in American sneakers, jeans and a denim shirt open to reveal an Iron Cross on a gold chain, his long black hair and craggy profile giving him a handsomely Byronic air. I never met a woman who wasn’t immediately under his spell. A natural actor, he was at his best on the lecture platform, and played to his audience’s emotions like a matinee idol, a young Olivier with a degree in computer science. He was hugely popular on television, and presented a number of successful series, including The Mighty Micro.

I’m afraid Evans’ producers at ITC made him cover up his Iron Cross, but The Mighty Micro is up on YouTube (except episode two, which you can find at, and it’s fascinating to watch. Based on Evans’ book of the same name, the series looks at the history of counting machines, calculators and computers in order to understand the radical changes the microprocessor will bring about over the coming decades.

Of course, some of the show’s predictions are wide of the mark. Citizens of the UK were not able to vote through their television sets by the mid-80s, computers have not eliminated war, and as you are no doubt painfully aware, robots have not yet replaced our teachers or bosses, or delivered the five-day weekend. The series’ emphasis on the psychological dimension of technological change, however, is properly Ballardian, and many of its claims are eerily prescient. The third episode hints at the ways our notions of privacy will be reshaped by computers; the fourth, which includes a look at a 1979 prototype of a Kindle-type device, ends with this message-in-a-bottle to the present moment:

The one note of warning is sounded by the compelling nature of the computer itself. Increasingly, it will draw you into an obsessive embrace, where the world comes to you in your home. The current limitless fascination with microprocessor-based toys is but a tiny indicator of the trend towards an introverted society.

With the computer as an increasingly interesting and useful companion, could the factories and office blocks empty, commuter lines fall silent, as we retreat into our own private universe?


(Episodes two, three, four, five and six)

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Crash: Apocalyptic J.G. Ballard quotes about cars on traffic signs
12:59 pm


J.G. Ballard

In 1965 the British Road Sign project was launched, introducing Great Britain to a multitude of new road signs as well as two ubiquitous two new typefaces (Transport and Motorway), all of which were designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, who basically invented modern road signage in the same act. It doesn’t matter if you live in the U.K. or the U.S. or the European continent—if you’ve been in a car, you’ve seen their two-dimensional pantomimes (example).

2015 being the 50th anniversary of the British Road Sign, this summer the MADE NORTH Gallery celebrated the design landmarks with a project in which they invited “leading British artists and designers to transform the familiar circle, triangle and square signs.” The participants were encouraged to “create their own content for the signs developing concepts that evolve from current signs function of instructing people of speed limits and directions to poetically disrupting our everyday with designs that makes us stop, look and think about design and our environment in a slightly different way; less instructions and more pauses for thought.”

J.G. Ballard behind the wheel of a 1904 Renault Park Phaeton, 1971
Possibly the most intriguing entry came from the well-known British designer Jonathan Barnbrook, whose past projects include the album art for David Bowie’s 2002 album Heathen as well as his 2013 release The Next Day; he also collaborated with Damien Hirst on his restaurant Pharmacy. Barnbrook crated two “anti-signs,” if you will, signs that could never serve any proper public service but whose very inutility prompts the viewer to engage with them in a more conceptual, artistic way. More interestingly, Barnbrook’s two signs incorporate lengthy quotations from the patron saint of automobile crashes, J.G. Ballard, the one man on earth who might fairly be said to disagree with the need for traffic signs to prevent fatal accidents.

Both signs are essentially illegible in the usual sense, and simply offer up a perverse Ballard sentiment about cars in forbidding combinations of red, white, and black. The first features a sentence from Ballard’s interview in Penthouse, which appeared in the magazine in the September 1970 issue (incidentally, three years before the publication of Ballard’s magnum opus on automobile accidents, Crash, but the same year as Ballard’s thematically similar multi-media work The Atrocity Exhibition).

For the record, the full line is “A car crash harnesses elements of eroticism, aggression, desire, speed, drama, kinesthetic factors, the stylizing of motion, consumer goods, status—all in one event.” You can read Ballard’s full Penthouse interview here.

Barnbrook’s second sign appropriates a comment about the eventual demise of cars (one that has proven to be not very prophetic at all) that comes from an essay Ballard wrote for the Autumn 1971 issue of Drive called “The Car, the Future”:

This sign is far more cluttered, with too much text really. The quotation reads as follows: “The car as we know it is on the way out. To a large extent, I deplore its passing, for as a basically old-fashioned machine, it enshrines a basically old-fashioned machine, it enshrines a basically old-fashioned idea: freedom. In terms of pollution, noise and human life, the price of that freedom may be high, but perhaps the car, by the very muddle and confusion it causes, may be holding back the remorseless spread of the regimented, electronic society.” You can read the full essay “The Car, the Future” here.

After the jump, director Harley Cokeliss’ 17-minute meditation on Ballard’s “Crash” thematic, featuring an appearance by Ballard himself…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
J.G. Ballard’s favorite food
01:54 pm


J.G. Ballard

Visionary writer J.G. Ballard‘s list of simple but enjoyable foods would probably make most struggling “healthy living” bloggers’ heads explode. Especially the ones on restrictive diets whose mission is to bore everyone around them to death by talking of nothing else. Ballard, who spent two years of World War II in a Japanese internment camp with his family, also remembered the postwar food rationing that persisted into the ‘50s in the U.K. Even so, he wasn’t obsessive about food. In fact, he saw a happy correlation between food and sex.

He told The Guardian about his usual diet in 2003 (and, of course, a doctor was brought in to explain why all of his choices were unhealthy):

One should love outside one’s own head. I believe that the tongue is just as important as other organs. If you have an appetite for food, you’ll have an appetite for sex. I’m always suspicious of people who lack an appetite and I admire people with strong appetites. However, now I’m 72 I don’t eat a great deal and, let’s say, my tastes have simplified. It is a matter of metabolism, and I’m bored. I’ve eaten everything.

I live alone and eat rather modestly when I’m at home…

I wake at 8 a.m. and have a couple of cups of tea. Midmorning I make a coffee to get my brain in gear. I used to have a large scotch (and that worked even better). Alcohol used to provide a large proportion of my calorie intake and my life enhancement, but I’m too old for that now. I don’t drink spirits any more. Carte Noir is a good substitute. I’ve always drunk instant coffee at home—ever since I read Elizabeth David, who wrote about its virtues. For lunch I eat odd things—Parma ham with a few drops of truffle oil. Dinner is usually an omelette.

If I’m out I like some lobster, but you have to be lucky because it can be very disappointing, and I order a lot of crab dishes. I’m not as keen on beef as I used to be but I still enjoy a nice juicy steak. I’m also very fond of game. I love quails—Maquis do a wonderful quail dish—but I like grouse best of all. I eat a lot of game because the flavour is richer, it’s darker. I drink it with a good red wine. I prefer French wines, possibly because they were the only good wines when I was young. I used to drink a bottle of wine a day, now I have less: half a bottle a day.

Below, J.G Ballard profiled by Melvyn Bragg on The South Bank Show:

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
‘The JG Ballard Book’ celebrates the ‘Seer of Shepperton’
03:01 pm


J.G. Ballard

Luca Del Baldo‘s terrific cover portrait of Ballard

This review of The JG Ballard Book is a guest post from Graham Rae

Even though writer James Graham Ballard, the so-called “Seer of Shepperton,” died in 2009, interest in his far-seeing-and-reaching futurologist oeuvre has not waned any. More specifically, his memory and legacy have been kept alive by a dedicated band of Ballardians, as his devotees are known, who converse on a Yahoo group about every JGB-related topic under the (empire of the) sun.

One such dedicated Ballardian is Canadian Rick McGrath. He runs the excellent site, where he has all manner of material on display about the writer – interviews, non-fiction, videos, etc. Shoot on over there and have a look for yourself. Fellow Ballardian James Goddard suggested to McGrath that he might try self-publishing a book, so he put out a call for material to various JGB-interested parties round the world, being pleasantly surprised at the response he got. The JG Ballard Book, of course, is the end result, and is also a self-confessed nod to RE/Search 8/9, V. Vale’s seminal 1984 book which helped introduce Ballard to the American audience.

As I said, it’s self-published (easily available through the usual channels), being ex-adman McGrath’s first ever attempt at publishing, and I’d have to say it’s a damned fine-looking book. Starting with the great painting of Ballard on the cover by extremely talented, amiable Italian painter Luca Del Baldo, the book is jam-packed with 191 pages of well-reproduced full-color Ballard letters, interviews with hand-written corrections by the writer, bibliographies, etc; a real smorgasbord of juicy Ballardania for any fan of the writer. Color photos and cover reproductions and such jump from nearly every page of The JG Ballard Book, and it’s a real pleasure to look at from start to finish. This is a labor of love, and it really shows.

There are a huge amount of first-hand JGB reproductions here, and they’re great to see. I have a few letters from the man myself, having very occasionally corresponded with him in the 90s and noughties, and it’s always great to see his sometimes-cryptic handwriting detailing his deep-dish creative thoughts on some headscratcher existential mystery or other. Besides all the reproducing of JGB handwritten materials, there are also a lot of excellent interpretive articles by Ballard admirers in the book, focusing on some aspect of his work and discussing it at length.

Thus we have Peter Brigg examining the writer’s attempts at transcending/rearranging the human concept of time (“JG Ballard: Time Out of Mind,” a really thought-provoking piece); a discussion of why JGB has been so poorly served with his book covers and what might be done to rectify this, “Visualizing the Ballardian Image” (writer Rick Poynor reckons that ‘narrative figuration’ artist Peter Klasen’s splintered-view images, synchronous with Ballard’s writing during the 60s and 70s, would provide a great marriage of aesthetic minds); inspired-lateral-thinking piece “JG Ballard in the Dissecting Room,” where Mike Bonsall purchased a copy of the same edition of Cunningham’s anatomy book the young JGB used when studying medicine at Cambridge and points out passages in the writer’s work that could have been inspired by the dissection diagrams and explanatory texts; a travelogue of McGrath’s own visit to Ballard’s childhood Shanghai home in “JG Ballard’s Shanghai”; and many more.

Aside from analytical writings, McGrath and his fellow Ballardians (including David Pringle, JGB’s Scottish archivist, who tentatively announced last year his starting work on a definitive Ballard biography) have dug up things like rare interviews never collected anywhere before, or even expanded reprints of already-familiar Q&As. These reminded me of why I started reading Ballard in the first place. I always personally liked his interviews more than a lot of his writing, to be perfectly honest, all those amazing thought processes in full flow and flower, which is why I was so glad to see this sort of stuff included.  The old-worldview-destroying firecrackers and depth charges of deep thought peppered liberally throughout the interviews and fiction were what kept me coming back to Ballard. Stuff like this, from the 1981 short story “News From the Sun,” as singled out by Peter Brigg:

“The whole process of life is the discovery of the imminent past contained in the present. At the same time, I feel a growing nostalgia for the future, a memory of the future I have already experienced but somehow forgotten. In our lives we try to repeat those significant events that have already taken place in the future. As we grow older we feel an increasing nostalgia for our own deaths, through which we have already passed. Equally, we have a growing premonition of our births, which are about to take place. At any moment we may be born for the first time.”

You just think about that for a while. Isn’t that just great? You just feel your brain being buffeted back and forth and up and down and round and about by the strength of Ballard’s intellect and ability at getting philosophical brainteasers down on the page, and it’s just a joy to sit and think about what he has said and run it through our minds, savoring the fine seditious vintage of his brilliant intellect. Nobody else has ever, to my knowledge, written like that, and nobody ever will again. Which is why Ballard’s death left such a huge, unfillable hole in world thought and literature.

And why books like McGrath’s are such a necessity and pleasure. Unlike his American counterpart-cum-literary-outlaw hero William S Burroughs, JG Ballard seems to have already started to slide from view into obscurity. At least on the American side of the Atlantic, that is; in the UK he is still venerated by the London media and chattering classes, and quoted fairly constantly by the likes of Will Self and John Gray, a rent-a-gob duo who seem boringly terminally fixated on JGB at the expense of their own thoughts on things. Still, all in the cause of keeping Ballard’s memory alive, so it’s all well and good. (Hopefully the announced production of High Rise will remedy this also.)

Ballard’s daughter Fay likes The JG Ballard Book a great deal, which should tell you something. It’s perfect for the hardcore Ballard enthusiast, though as an introduction to the writer I think it may be a bit esoteric, as it assumes a familiarity with the subject matter under discussion. But the interviews and interpretive pieces might provide an inroad into Ballard’s work and thought for those uninitiated would-be readers who wonder what all the fuss was and is about. McGrath, bolstered by the way the volume turned out, and the good reception it has had, is already planning a second volume to be published through The Terminal Press, his own wee publishing house. If the quality of this volume is anything to go by, with the amount of uncollected Ballardania floating round the world, the Canadian may be keeping JG Ballard’s memory alive for many years to come, and that would be nothing but a good thing.

A 2003 BBC profile of Ballard

Previously from Graham Rae on Dangerous Minds:
Scraping Foetus Off The Wheel: Nailing a whole lot of ‘Hole’ and ‘Nail,’ an exegesis

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Shooting on movie adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s ‘High-Rise’ to begin in June
06:28 pm


J.G. Ballard

Late last year I was casting about for a good book to read, and I inquired on Facebook which J.G. Ballard book is the right one to start with. (I read The Atrocity Exhibition many years ago.) DM’s own Tara McGinley weighed in with alacrity, urging me to try High-Rise, which I directly went and did. I found it just tremendous, and I kept running into Ballardian resonances of the novel while I was reading it, news stories and the like. It’s a marvelous, anomic novel, counterintuitive in all its surface premises and yet emotionally and psychologically true every step of the way.

According to Wikipedia, “For over 30 years, British producer Jeremy Thomas has wanted to do a film version of the book. It was nearly made in the late 1970s, with Nicolas Roeg directing from a script by Paul Mayersberg.” Instead Thomas ended up producing David Cronenberg’s 1996 adaptation of Ballard’s Crash instead.

Ballard fans can rejoice (or cringe) at the news that a high-profile version of High-Rise is officially in the works. Director Ben Wheatley, whose last two efforts were A Field in England and the pitch black comedy Sightseers, today tweeted that principal photography on High-Rise is now set to begin in June. Wheatley is also directing the first two episodes of the upcoming season of Doctor Who, so he is being entrusted to introducing audiences to Peter Capaldi in the main role.

Starring as Dr. Robert Laing in High-Rise is Tom Hiddleston, best known for playing Loki in the Avengers movie franchise. This adaptation of High-Rise is likewise being produced by Jeremy Thomas.

High-Rise is a formidable challenge for any director, and we’ll just have to wait and see how well it comes out. Certainly, if we can judge by the poster art, we have substantial reason for optimism.

Here’s a peculiar “adaptation” of High-Rise by Mike Bonsall executed in Google SketchUp:

via Den of Geek

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Drowned/Burning World: Is J.G. Ballard’s dystopian prophecy of mankind’s future coming early?
J.G. Ballard’s Crash!  (A Film By Harley Cokeliss)

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Art of Tripping’: A Who’s Who of creative drug users

The Art of Tripping
The title of The Art of Tripping, a documentary about the visionary uses of narcotics that aired on Channel 4 in the UK in 1993, has a slippery double meaning. The surface notion is the idea of a guide to tripping well, of tripping with style, but that’s not what it refers to. More literally, the documentary addresses the artistic uses of drugs, art produced by tripping.

“Devised and directed” by Storm Thorgerson, well known as one of the members of the legendary Hipgnosis artistic team, The Art of Tripping is a satisfyingly intelligent narrative that brings the viewer through two centuries of the effects of mind-altering substances on highly creative minds. Hail Britannia: I’m trying to imagine CBS coming up with a program like this, without success. Even PBS wouldn’t likely go out of its way to praise the salutary uses of mescaline, although I’d be delighted to be proven wrong on that point. The narrator is Bernard Hill, who does an excellent job of imitating a certain kind of louche academic type who might plausibly have created the documentary you’re watching (even though he didn’t).
Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg
The documentary takes you from the days of Coleridge more than 200 years ago up through De Quincey, Rimbaud, Modigliani, and Picasso before getting to the golden age of chemically enhanced literature and painting following World War II. Be warned: this is a high-minded documentary, and the focus is entirely on authors and painters. You won’t hear anything about Jimi Hendrix here. The doc has a highbrow bias but is no less witty for that: many interviews are digitally fucked-with in appropriate ways, including a Picasso expert whose bit is presented in a cubist style and a commentator on LSD whose outline is briefly replaced with footage of an underwater vista, and so forth. In the familiar effort to make sure everything stays amiably “visual,” there’s also a metaphor in which the narrator ascends a creaky elevator to the rooftop of a building—the resolution of that metaphor could not be more cheesy or perfunctory.

Most notable for the purposes of DM is its lengthy succession of prominent talking heads, from Allen Ginsberg and J.G. Ballard to Hubert Selby Jr. and Paul Bowles. Where such personages were unavailable for reasons of death, Hill “interviews”  De Quincey, Edgar Allan Poe, Anaïs Nin, Andy Warhol, and a few others who are embodied by actors who quote diaries and other literary works in order to “answer” the questions.

Paul Bowles
All of the great druggie classics of the postwar era are explored. Allen Ginsberg reads some bits of “Laughing Gas” from Kaddish and Other Poems, while Paul Bowles discusses the practice of ingesting kif in Tangier and reads a druggy bit from his book Let It Come Down. J.G. Ballard calls Naked Lunch “a comic masterpiece … a kind of apocalyptic view of the postwar world.” Amusingly, Ballard later says that “taking LSD was probably one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life.” Of course, a few years after this documentary aired, Ballard wrote Cocaine Nights, which would obviously have fit this show to a T.
J.G. Ballard
J.G. Ballard
The show is chronological, so if you’re looking for Aldous Huxley or Ken Kesey or Jay McInerney, it won’t be too hard to find. My favorite bit comes towards the very end, when Lawrence Sutin, author of Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick, describes Dick’s disturbingly high intake of amphetamines:

At his peak, in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s, by his own testimony he was taking a thousand amphetamines a week. White crosses and whatever speed, street drugs he was taking. The testimony of the roommate who I interviewed was that he would go to the refrigerator, in which was a large jar of white crosses, and simpy dip his hand in, take a handful, and swallow them, so if you ask how he fared with all this, the answer was: badly.


via {feuilleton}

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The final resting place of Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky
J. G. Ballard: A gallery of 1980s book covers

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Myths of the Near Future: A young J.G. Ballard wins university writing prize, 1951
10:23 am


J.G. Ballard

Graham Rae writes:

In 1951, a 20-year-old J.G. Ballard was studying medicine at Cambridge University in an odd, physician-heal-thyself way to deal with the death and decay and destruction he had witnessed during his famous Shanghai childhood. Whilst there he won a (shared) ten quid Crime Story prize in Varsity, the student paper, writing a story about “Malayan terrorism.” The scan here is from the May 1951 issue.

During the closing stages of his literary career Ballard would again write about terrorism, giving a certain circularity to his writing efforts.

With special thanks to David Pringle, JGB’s archivist, for retrieving this classic wee snippet from the Cambridge University library.

Below, the 1991 Ballard documentary, Shanghai Jim:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Red States vs Blue States: Guess who wins in number of per capita auto fatalities?
12:24 pm

Current Events

J.G. Ballard
Red States
Blue States

With all of the red state vs blue state data that’s been parsed—and is still being parsed—post Election 2012, one of the more fascinating examples of all that number crunching comes, not from Nate Silver, but via a former federal auto safety researcher named Louis V. Lombardo and public safety watchdog group Fair Warning:

The nation’s red and blue states often are miles apart in social attitudes and, of course, political outlook.

It turns out that they also divide into distinct camps when it comes to a grimmer measure — fatal traffic accidents.

To an extent that mystifies safety experts and other observers, federal statistics show that people in red states are more likely to die in road crashes. The least deadly states – those with the fewest crash deaths per 100,000 people – overwhelmingly are blue.

In the absence of formal definitions for red or blue states, we labeled as red the states that favored Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and as blue those that supported the reelection of President Obama.

The 10 states with the highest fatality rates all were red, while all but one of the 10 lowest-fatality states were blue. What’s more, the place with the nation’s lowest fatality rate, while not a state, was the very blue District of Columbia.

Massachusetts was lowest among the states, with 4.79 road deaths per 100,000 people. By contrast, red Wyoming had a fatality rate of 27.46 per 100,000.

They even got a pull quote from What’s the Matter with Kansas? author Thomas Frank, who deemed the study “amazing” and added:

“This is someplace where you would not expect to see a partisan divide.”

What if it’s not a partisan divide at all and something closer to variance in regional IQs? I’d love to see those red state vs blue state stats, wouldn’t you?

Of course there are other factors to take into consideration, such as driving distances, seasonal weather conditions and the fact that many red states have more lax speed limits (Texas, for instance, has a toll road where you can drive 85mph). What time states makes bars shut also comes to mind. So would the proximity to hospitals… population density…

But still, think about it: Voting Republican (and all that implies about intelligence)... Significantly increased per capita auto fatalities... it would seem to me that factoring in IQs might shed at least some additional light on this subject.

There are a lot of ways you could slice and dice something like this, of course, but the most basic factors (as opposed to ideology or a specific belief in, say, Creationisn) would obviously be the most relevant. They might never be able to “prove” a statistical connection—perhaps thick people make better drivers and it’s the red state Democrats doing the bulk of the car crashing, the study obviously didn’t drill down that far, and I doubt they asked these dead people who they were planing to vote for—but it’s probably worth the effort to factor in IQs.

I do wonder what J.G. Ballard would make of all this!
Thank you kindly, Em!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
J.G. Ballard’s Crash!  (A Film By Harley Cokeliss)

And speaking of David Cronenberg...the Canadian wasn’t the first director to take a stab at J.G. Ballard’s novel.  The San Diego-born (but London educated) Harley Cokeliss directed a version of his own in ‘71.

Since Crash, the novel, was still two years down the road, Cokeliss based the film on some fragments found in Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibition.  And, perhaps even more suited to the role than James Spader, Ballard himself starred as the film’s lead.  From the Ballardian:

With his brooding, hypermasculine presence, Ballard plays a version of Atrocity’s ‘T’ character alongside the actor Gabrielle Drake, her own role a composite of the book’s archetypal ’sex-kit’ women.  The film was a product of the most experimental, the darkest phase of Ballard’s career.  It was an era of psychological blowback from the sudden, shocking death of his wife in 1964, an era that had produced the cut-up ‘condensed novels’ of Atrocity, plus a series of strange collages and ‘advertisers’ announcements.’

The Ballardian link includes a scene-by-scene description of the hard-to-see short, but, since it’s a recent addition to YouTube, you can start watching it right now below:

Crash! Part II

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 2  1 2 >