Thursday, July 30, 2015


I picked up a copy of the “Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard.” It had been a long time since I read anything by him. A couple of excellent stories, a number of pleasantly weird imaginings, a number of “that was a waste of my time,” and rounding the collection off, some stuff too chaotic to bother with (“The Atrocity Exhibition”).

If you’re not familiar with his work, he had a profound allergy to “happy endings” and a love of situations involving relics of war, disease, overpopulation, and advertising/control. And of madness, or at least a layman’s idea of madness, as either a result or cause of the mess.

In The Wind from Nowhere a wind springs up and grows until it destroys every human structure. IIRC in Passport to Eternity a man’s wife buys them tickets on a spacecraft that will travel forever with no destination. (Neither is in this collection.)

Very creative, but good only in small doses, and then only some of his work. An example of one clever idea (not really feasible, unfortunately) is to use gliders spraying silver iodide dust to create localized rain and as a result sculpt clouds. Nice idea, but the short story wasn't engaging.

I looked at the dates of the chaotic works, and remember how drab or depressing the movies were then (remember Silent Running?). I seem to recall having been infected by the mood of the era too: you felt superior if you could show how everything shiny was really dooming us. Plus: Overpopulation was going to kill us all. Pollution was going to kill us all. Nuclear winter was going to kill us all. I was into understanding things, not chaotic non-stories, so that didn't effect me much. I wasn't big into solutions; which is just as well. That path gets ugly in a hurry--you know so much better than hoi polloi that you must have the right to direct them. But I did like being more knowing, and a gotterdammerung makes a nice bang.

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