RIP, JG Ballard

I see that JG Ballard has died at the age of 78. He is one of my favorite writers. Those who listened to my Reality Break interviews know that one of my tics is to always work Ballard into every interview if I can. When I talked to Kim Stanley Robinson about Red Mars, we talked about how you could interpret the terraforming as a Ballardian disaster novel. This is a common pattern across many of my interviews. Even today, as the climate change debate rages a large portion of the way I feel about it was formed from reading The Drowned World 20 years ago.

I was a young man in my early 20s when I read Crash and that was the book that really knocked the legs out from under me. There are a handful of books that upon reading them, my worldview was irrevocably different, and Crash was one of those books. A few days after I finished reading it, I was driving home from work on my motorcycle. I was at a red light, the first one in the line so I had a very clear view of the whole intersection. A woman coming the opposite way did not notice the light had changed and ran the light. I watched a man come out of the industrial park to my left, plow into the woman’s car and slide them across this intersection. I could see both faces of the drivers the whole time, watching as the shock settled in. It was a moment straight out of the novel and the way I felt for watching this was different post Crash than it ever could have been before. My reaction was tangible and disturbing and different. The book had changed the way I viewed the world around me.

Goodbye, James. With you around to warp my worldview what will I do, have an unwarped worldview? That’s the most unthinkable outcome of all.