On Sunday British author J.G. Ballard died at 78 after a long battle with prostate cancer. Ballard was primarily considered a post-modernist sci-fi writer but his best known book was “Empire of the Sun”, a fictionalized account of his childhood in a Japanese-run prison camp in WWII-era Shanghai which Stephen Spielberg adapted into a movie in 1987 starring a young Christian Bale.
After getting his start with sci-fi novels like “The Drowned World”, Ballard ventured out into full-on weirdness and perversion with “The Atrocity Exhibition”, an experimental book of short fragments containing the seeds of his later car accident fetish novel “Crash” which was later made into a movie by David Cronenberg. Ballard was also credited with the story idea for the Hammer Film’s 1970 caveman epic “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.”
I’ve only read a few of Ballard’s novels and short stories, but my personal favorite is “Concrete Island”, a modern day retelling of the Robinson Caruso legend involving a guy who crashes his Jaguar onto an island in the middle of a highway and finds himself stranded there. Ballard deserves a place alongside Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut and others as one of the great 20th century writers who helped gain mainstream literary acceptance for genre work.