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James Graham Ballard (born November 15, 1930 in Shanghai) is a British novelist. Ballard, at eleven years old, lived through the Japanese takeover of China. He was moved to a civilian detention camp where he spent the remainder of World War II. These experiences were described in the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun (which was adapted for film by Steven Spielberg). After the war's end he returned to England. He was first educated at the the Ley's School, Cambridge, then read Medicine at King's College, Cambridge (which he abandoned after two years) and later English Literature at the University of London. He also worked as a copywriter and then was stationed with the RAF in Canada. Ballard wrote about these and later events in another semi-autobiographical novel The Kindness of Women.
Those who know Ballard from his autobiographical novels will not be prepared for the subject matter that Ballard most commonly pursues, as his most common genre is dystopia. His most celebrated early novel is Crash, in which cars symbolise the mechanisation of the world and man's capacity to destroy himself with the technology he creates; and the characters (the protagonist, called Ballard, included) become involved in a violent obsession with the psychosexuality of car crashes. Ballard's disturbing novel was turned into a controversial, and also disturbing, film by David Cronenberg.
Several of Ballard's earlier works deal with scenarios of 'natural disaster', for instance the novels The Wind From Nowhere, The Drowned World and The Drought.
In addition to his novels, Ballard has made extensive use of the short story form. Many of his earliest published works in the 1950s and 1960s were short stories.
Ballard's fiction is sophisticated, often bizarre, and a constant challenge to the cognitive and aesthetic preconceptions of his readers. As Martin Amis has written: "Ballard is quite unlike anyone else; indeed, he seems to address a different - a disused - part of the reader's brain." Because of this tendency to upset readers in order to enlighten them, Ballard does not enjoy a large mass market following, but he is recognized by critics as one of the U.K.'s most prominent writers. He has been influential beyond his mass market success; he is cited as perhaps the most important forebear of the cyberpunk movement by Bruce Sterling in his introduction to the seminal "Mirrorshades" anthology. Also, his parody (or psychoanalysis) of American politics, the pamphlet Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan (subsequently included as a chapter in his experimental novel The Atrocity Exhibition), was photocopied and distributed by pranksters at the 1976 Republican convention. A bookseller in Brighton had been prosecuted for selling this pamphlet in the early 1970s, under UK obscenity legislation.
Ballard has also had a noticeable influence on popular music, where his work has been used as a basis for lyrical imagery, particularly amoungst British post-punk groups. Examples include albums such as Metamatic by John Foxx, various songs by Joy Divison, and Warm Leatherette by The Normal.
In 2003, a short darkly comic story of his was adapted into an hour-long television film for the BBC entitled Home by Richard Curson Smith, who also directed it. The plot follows a middle class man who chooses to abandon the outside world and restrict himself to his house, becoming a hermit.
- The Wind From Nowhere (1961)
- The Drowned World (1962)
- The Burning World (1964) (also The Drought) (1965)
- The Crystal World (1966)
- The Atrocity Exhibition (1969) (also Love and Napalm: Export USA)) (1972)
- Crash (1973)
- Concrete Island (1974)
- High Rise (1975)
- The Unlimited Dream Company (1979)
- Chronopolis (1979)
- Hello America (1981)
- Empire of the Sun (1984, fictionalised autobiography of his adolescence in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai)
- The Day of Creation (1987)
- Running Wild (1988)
- The Kindness of Women (1991, follow up to Empire Of The Sun covering his early adulthood)
- Rushing to Paradise (1994)
- Cocaine Nights (1996)
- Super-Cannes (2000)
- Millennium People (2003)
Short Story Collections
- The Voices of Time and Other Stories (1962)
- Billenium (1962)
- Passport to Eternity (1963)
- The Four-Dimensional Nightmare (1963)
- The Terminal Beach (1964)
- The Impossible Man (1966)
- The Venus Hunters (1967)
- The Overloaded Man (1967)
- The Disaster Area (1967)
- The Day of Forever (1967)
- Vermilion Sands (1971)
- Chronopolis and Other Stories (1971)
- Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories (1976)
- The Best of J. G. Ballard (1977)
- The Best Short Stories of J. G. Ballard (1978)
- Myths of the Near Future (1982)
- The Voices of Time (1985)
- Memories of the Space Age (1988)
- War Fever (1990)
- The Complete Short Stories of J. G. Ballard (2001)
- A User's Guide to the Millennium: Essays and Reviews (1996)
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