“Born in Shanghai in 1930, James Ballard came to England with his parents after the war, where he became a boarder at the Leys school in Cambridge; stepping, as he put it, “out of one institution, into another.” After studying medicine at Cambridge, which he dismissed as an “academic theme park”, he studied English at the University of London, before taking on a succession of jobs and writing short fiction in his spare time.
“His first published story, a tale of singing plants called Prima Belladonna, appeared in the magazine Science Fantasy in 1956, the same year as an exhibition at the Whitechapel gallery which marked the birth of pop art. In this and the work of the surrealists such as Max Ernst, René Magritte, Salvador Dali and Paul Delvaux he found the inspiration for what he later called a “fiction for the present day”. The Guardian obit
“[Ballard’s] work embraces dystopian scenarios, including the archetypal non-space often characterised as a deadening feature of late capitalism. But this is not simply a call for nihilism. Ballard’s characters are not disengaged from their world. Rather, they embody a sense of resistance that derives from full immersion, a therapeutic confrontation with the powers of darkness, whereby merging with dystopian alienation negates its power. This is predicated on concurrency: Ballard’s writing turns objectivity into subjectivity, opens up gaps where there is room for new subjects. His scenarios are what I term ‘affirmative dystopias’, neither straight utopia nor straight dystopia, but an occupant of the interstitial space between them, perpetual oscillation between the poles – the ‘yes or no of the borderzone’, to use a phrase from his work…” Ballardian.com