I’m reading a thick book with a deadline to review, so you are going to continue to get old stuff.
J. G. Ballard is on my mind since the Weird Tradition group at LibraryThing was discussing his “The Drowned Giant“.
So I went into the archives for any Ballard stuff I had.
We’re going to start with one of his most infamous works.
By the way, my older self has no trouble believing that the sexual fetish at the heart of this novel could show up in the real world.
The introduction to the J. G. Ballard section in James Gunn’s The Road to Science Fiction #5: The British Way is titled “The Universe Considered as a Concentration Camp”. I think that time in a Japanese internment camp explains a lot about Ballard’s protagonists’ passive observations of wonders and apocalypse.
Raw Feed (1997): Crash, J. G. Ballard, 1973.
This is a perverse novel about a group of automobile accident victims who develop a sexual fetish for car wrecks and the resulting injuries. There is a lot of sex in this book, but it isn’t very arousing. If this is an attempt at pornography (I don’t think it is), it’s not very successful. Ballard’s prose is too clinical (I believe he contemplated a medical career once) to be arousing. This prose tone and quality mutes his attempt at poetic explanations for his narrator and Vaughn’s (that “nightmare angel of the highways”) thuggery, obsessed psychological state. While l I realize that people can and do develop all sorts of bizarre sexual fetishes, Ballard never really convinced me of the reality, plausibility, or emotion behind this one.
While this is not an sf novel per se, it has a science fiction sensibility about it in its exploration of the erotic attraction and mediation involved in a technology – here autos and automobile transportation and the spectacular failure of the latter in car wrecks. Ballard uses the novel to plot an extended series of sexual metaphors involving autos. In that sense, I can see his influence on the cyberpunks and their use of technological metaphors (though William Gibson is more skilled in this area). His fascination with celebrities and media – here symbolized by Vaughn’s obsession with “the film actress Elizabeth Taylor” – also prefigures cyberpunk themes. Sf critics antagonistic to the New Wave and its major figure Ballard accused him of creating disaster stories in which not only does the hero not try to prevent the disaster and is passive in the face of it but actually seem to desire it. This is certainly true here. The narrator – named James Ballard – not only senses a coming “autogeddon” but looks forward to his death in it and plots the erotic configurations of his future death.