Feeds

JG Ballard: Warrior for Gaia?

Library finds a moral message

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

The British Library yesterday announced it had acquired the archives of the late JG Ballard, the great English novelist who died last year.

Ballard hated establishment approval, turning down a CBE from Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003, and would have found his incorporation into the Heritage Industry quite ironic. He told an interviewer in 1982 that "There are no Ballard archives. I never keep letters, reviews, research materials. Every page is a fresh start."

Also, as reader Shaun Rolph reminds us: "Much of his contempt for literary England was provoked by its archival reverence, its love of the rear-view mirror. He dug a hole in his back garden and tried to burn all his old SF mags from the 'fifties."

A press release from the BL touting the news contained something that caught my eye. Listing Ballard's achievements, the Library tells us he "predicted the rise of terrorism against tourists, the alienation of a society obsessed by new technology and ecological disasters such as the melting of the ice caps".

It was echoed in a tweet, from the Library's Head of Media Relations, Strategic Marketing and Communications Miki Lentin.

Sort of like Mystic Meg, then.

But is this really true? While disasters recur in Ballard's fiction, the reason they are so vivid, Shaun again reminds us, is "because it's what we really wanted all along". They weren't ecological predictions, or warnings. They explored our desire for apocalypse. If they predicted anything, it was the media's desire for eco-porn, and our thirst for the End Times.

One Ballard novel in particular, Rushing to Paradise, was directly inspired by Greenpeace. In it, an environmentalist cult takes over a Pacific Island, turning to euthanasia to weed out the politically-incorrect. As Ballard told an interviewer at the time:

"Enlightened legislation or enlightened social activity of whatever kind, does play into the hands of people with agendas of their own, with secret agendas. And, of course, if you legalize euthanasia, you provide a field day for people who like killing other people."

Since the dark side of the environmental agenda has always been its creepy obsession with population control, this still rings true.

Strangely, when Will Self (correctly, I think) described JG Ballard's later novels as exploring the origins of fascism, he omitted this one. Funny, that.

This is not promising material for someone wishing to enrol Ballard posthumously as a Warrior For Gaia. But it's 2010, it's a state-funded institution, so every trumpet must give a little toot.

Miki told us via email:

"JG Ballard’s writing encompassed topics as diverse as ecological crisis, technological fetishism, urban ruination and suburban mob culture. Therefore, many topics. We were trying to demonstrate the breadth of his literature in 140 characters – not that easy!"

Further comment would be superfluous, really. Although I am tempted to offer a T-shirt for the best Tweet-length summary of any novelists' career, written in the style of a British Library press release. Metamorphosis? Pest control. Moby Dick? Save the Whale! Submissions here please. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Nintend-OH NO! Sorry, Mario – your profits are in another castle
Red-hatted mascot, red-colored logo, red-stained finance books
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.