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J. G. Ballard (James Graham Ballard) Biography

(1930– ), (James Graham Ballard), Empire of the Sun, New Worlds, The Voices of Time, Billenium

British writer, born in Shanghai, educated at King's College, Cambridge. During the Second World War he was interned by the Japanese and this traumatic experience of his early years has influenced much of his fiction; he made direct use of the material only in his autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun (1984; later filmed by S. Spielberg), the success of which widened the high reputation he had gained as an author of apocalyptic science fiction (see also Apocalyptic Literature). He returned to Britain in 1946 and trained as a doctor at Cambridge (without taking a degree). By 1956 he had begun a long association with New Worlds magazine and was publishing his experimental short stories; the best of these appeared in The Voices of Time (1962), Billenium (1962), The Four-Dimensional Nightmare (1963), The Terminal Beach (1964), and Vermilion Sands (1971). The abandoned concrete landscapes, the transfixed passivity of their protagonists, the sense of impending doom, the stark and vivid prose, all made Ballard's work unmistakable. He was widely imitated by writers impressed by the hypnotic veracity of his despair. In his early novels, The Drowned World (1962), The Drought (1965), and The Crystal World (1966), a different apocalypse ravages and transfigures the world. Only in The Wind from Nowhere (1962) does a protagonist engage in a fight against disaster in traditional science-fiction manner. Later volumes see the protagonist (usually male) approaching the apocalypse as a mystical consummation. After The Atrocity Exhibition (1970), an experimental work, there appeared Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), and High Rise (1975), which contain his finest and most violent explorations of what J. B. Priestley described as ‘inner space’, a term now indelibly associated with Ballard's work in which he has expressed the conviction that the most fearful science-fictional landscapes lie within the human heart. Later works include Hello America (1981); The Day of Creation (1987); Running Wild (1988), which anatomized the Britain of today; Rushing to Paradise (1994); the stories collected in War Fever (1990), which focused on public issues of the 1990s; and a collection of reviews and essays, A User's Guide to the Millenium (1995).

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Houston A. Baker (Houston Alfred to Sally Beauman Biography