Dead, James Graham “J. G.” Ballard on the 19th of April 2009 at the age of 79, he was an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Born on the 15th of November 1930, Ballard came to be associated with the New Wave of science fiction early in his career with apocalyptic (or post-apocalyptic) novels such as The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966).
In the late 1960s and early 1970s Ballard focused on an eclectic variety of short stories (or “condensed novels”) such as those found in The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), which drew comparison with the work of postmodernist writers such as William S. Burroughs.
Ballard’s father was a chemist at a Manchester-based textile firm, the Calico Printers’ Association, and became chairman and managing director of its subsidiary in Shanghai, the China Printing and Finishing Company.
His mother was Edna, née Johnstone. Ballard was born and raised in the Shanghai International Settlement, an area under foreign control where people “lived an American style of life”. He was sent to the Cathedral School in Shanghai. In late 1945, after the end of the war, his mother returned to Britain with Ballard and his sister on the SS Arawa.
They lived in the outskirts of Plymouth, and he attended The Leys School in Cambridge. He won an essay prize whilst at the school but did not contribute to the school magazine.
After a couple of years his mother and sister returned to China, rejoining Ballard’s father, leaving Ballard to live with his grandparents when not boarding at school. In 1949 he went on to study medicine at King’s College, Cambridge, with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist.
In 1960 Ballard moved with his family to the middle-class London suburb of Shepperton in Surrey, where he lived for the rest of his life and which would later give rise to his moniker as the “Seer of Shepperton”.
Finding that commuting to work did not leave him time to write, Ballard decided he had to make a break and become a full-time writer. He wrote his first novel, The Wind from Nowhere, over a two-week holiday simply to gain a foothold as a professional writer, not intending it as a “serious novel”; in books published later, it is omitted from the list of his works. When it was successfully published in January 1962, he resigned from his job at Chemistry and
Industry, and from then on supported himself and his family as a writer.
In 1964 Ballard’s wife died of pneumonia, leaving Ballard alone to raise their three children, further darkening the lens of his fiction. Despite these strains, Ballard managed to maintain a steady output of new work.
Over the next few years, he published the novels The Burning World (1964) and The Crystal World (1966), as well as a group of related stories that were ultimately collected under the title The Atrocity Exhibition.
Among Ballard’s best-known works, The Atrocity Exhibition is also among his most controversial. It was initially the subject of an obscenity trial in England, and copies of an early American edition were once destroyed by the publisher.
In the 2000s he published three novels noted for their violence—Super-Cannes (2000), Millennium People (2003) and Kingdom Come (2006)—as well as his autobiography, Miracles of Life. Published in 2008, Miracles of Life was begun by Ballard shortly after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.