“More than one thousand compelling pages from one of the most haunting, cogent, and individual imaginations in contemporary literature.”—William Boyd
The American publication of The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard
is a landmark event. Increasingly recognized as one of the greatest and most prophetic novelists, J. G. Ballard was a “writer of enormous inventive powers,” who, in the words of Malcolm Bradbury, possessed, “like Calvino, a remarkable gift for filling the empty deprived spaces of modern life with the invisible cities and the wonder worlds of imagination.”
Best known for his novels, such as Empire of the Sun
, Ballard rose to fame as the “ideal chronicler of disturbed modernity” (The Observer). Perhaps less known, though equally brilliant, were his devastatingly original short stories, which span nearly fifty years and reveal an unparalleled prescience so unique that a new word—Ballardian
—had to be invented. Ballard, who wrote that “short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction, easily ignored beside the wealth of novels available,” regretted the fact that the public had increasingly lost its ability to appreciate them.
With 98 pulse-quickening stories, this volume helps restore the very art form that Ballard feared was comatose. Ballard’s inimitable style was already present in his early stories, most of them published in science fiction magazines. These stories are surreal, richly atmospheric and splendidly elliptical, featuring an assortment of psychotropic houses, time-traveling assassins, and cities without clocks. Over the next fifty years, his fierce imaginative energy propelled him to explore new topics, including the dehumanization of technology, the brutality of the corporation, and nuclear Armageddon. Depicting the human soul as “being enervated and corrupted by the modern world” (New York Times
), Ballard began to examine themes like overpopulation, as in “Billenium,” a claustrophobic imagining of a world of 20 billion people crammed into four-square-meter rooms, or the false realities of modern media, as in the classic “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan,” a faux-psychological study of the sexual and violent reactions elicited by viewing Reagan’s face on television, in which Ballard predicted the unholy fusion of pop culture and sound-bite politics thirteen years
before Reagan became president. Given Ballard’s heightened powers of perception, it is astonishing that the dehumanized world that he apprehended so acutely neither diminished his own febrile imagination nor his engagement with mankind, evident in every story, including two new ones for this American edition.
So eerily prophetic is his vision, so commanding are his literary gifts, the import and insight of J. G. Ballard’s deeply humanistic and transcendent works can only grow in years to come.