Wednesday, January 23, 2008
As has often been the case lately, I have been battling a case of insomnia. Browsing through some of the sites in one set of Bookmarks, I come across a link to a newspaper article about British SF writer J.G. Ballard. It is one of those very sad, introspective pieces, as Ballard, now in his late 70s, apparently is in the last stages of his fight against prostate cancer. Diagnosed in 2006, Ballard decided to write his autobiography of his life growing up in war-torn China during the 1930s and 1940s, the setting for his most famous novel, Empire of the Sun.
Although I have been meaning to read more of his work (to date, I have only read his excellent 1978 short story collection, The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard), what little I have read to date has been enough to convince me that Ballard is one of the more gifted and inquisitive of SF writers, at least of the past 40 years. I recently re-read the short story collection and I couldn't help but notice how he not only knew how to begin and to end his tales, but that interwoven into a great many of his tales were some very troubling questions about human society and our passions. I had planned that "someday," when I had read much more of his work, that I would do an extended discussion of his work like I have done with Gene Wolfe's and am planning to do with Ursula Le Guin's. But I had no idea that Ballard was dying and part of me marvels at the tone he takes in that article. But after glancing through an extract of his soon-to-be-published autobiography, Miracles of Life, perhaps I need to find a way to make that "someday" much closer to the present.
And for those readers of this blog who are not familiar with J.G. Ballard, I can only hope that you will read these two links and my few, poor words and go to your local library or bookstore and read as much of his work as you can. Too often people on the SF blogosphere get caught up in exploring the best of the new. It just might be time to discover some of the talents from the rich past before they have faded into a tattered, moldy memory.