After the difference between science fiction and fantasy post yesterday, I’ve got sci fi on the brain. I’m going to start writing about individual authors and stories until I get the urge to stop.
Today, if you’re looking to jump in to a truly strange author capable of some of the most exquisite imagery imaginable, I’m encouraging you to read the complete stories of J.G. Ballard.
Ballard was also very good at some of the most disgusting writing I know of. Writing that was still strangely compelling to me–check out Crash and/or The Atrocity Exhibition if you’re intrigued by what I’ll just call Ballard’s other side–but writing that I almost wish I didn’t love.
But his science fiction short stories are unlike anything else I have read. Ballard was writing across a couple of decades where many science fiction authors were writing apocalyptic collapses and empty cities and imagining the aftermath of humanity taking itself to the brink of its own destruction, but nobody else did it like Ballard. Some of his writing is absolutely beautiful. Some of the images he evokes are unforgettable, if anything truly is.
In The Crystal World it was the crocodile, barely able to move under the weight of the expanding jewels that were encasing it.
The surgeon who could never sleep again in The Voices of Time.
Growing sound sculptures invading houses.
Birds leaving time shadows as they fly across the sky.
People treating a vast desert like a beach with sand rays flying in lazy circles above them.
And so on.
Weird, wonderful, and beautifully evocative. A lot of Ballard’s stories leave people cold because they’re not traditional stories. The images were the thing.
I’ve never felt as lonely, in a good way, as after reading a Ballard story that he wrote to try to evoke loneliness.
The Complete Stories is a bargain of a giant book.