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J. G. Ballard

AKA James Graham Ballard

Born: 18-Nov-1930
Birthplace: Shanghai, China
Died: 19-Apr-2009
Location of death: Shepperton, Surrey, England
Cause of death: Cancer - unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Author

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Empire of the Sun, Crash

Military service: Royal Air Force

J. G. Ballard is best remembered as the author of Empire of the Sun and Crash. After his first short story was published in 1956, he was considered shocking, dystopic, possibly deranged, and certainly heavily influenced by the surrealist movement. Along with Michael Moorcock and Brian Aldiss, Ballard was part of the British "New Wave" of science fiction authors of the late 1960s.

Born in Shanghai, China, in 1930, Ballard spent four years of his childhood interned in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. Liberated by the allies after four years, he returned with his family to Britain in 1946. He later studied medicine at Cambridge University, intending to become a psychiatrist, but he abandoned it after only two years in favor of writing. Heavily influenced by the Surrealist movement (as well as Hollywood film noir, and early German Expressionist films), Ballard pursued a degree in English literature at the University of London, only to be thrown out a year later. He worked as an ad copywriter, a porter, and an encyclopedia salesman before serving two years in the Royal Air Force. Stationed in Canada, he discovered American sci-fi magazines. The result was Passport to Eternity, his first science fiction short story attempt. Finally, in 1956, he sold his first piece of fiction, Prima Belladonna.

In 1968, having already published several novels, Ballard captured major attention with the publication of "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan" (an excerpt from his 1970 novel The Atrocity Exhibition). The work foretold the rise of Ronald Reagan from Hollywood cowboy to American President, and landed Ballard on trial for obscenity. Charges were eventually dropped, but The Atrocity Exhibition was not published in the U.S. until many years later, and then under a new name (Love and Napalm: Export USA).

Despite outcry over works like The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash (a reader at his publisher's once advised, "This author is beyond psychiatric help. Do Not Publish!"), Ballard did eventually find considerable mainstream success and acceptance. His autobiographical Empire of the Sun won both the Guardian Fiction Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and was transformed into a highly acclaimed film by Steven Spielberg. A later novel, Super Cannes, (published in 2000) not only achieved great commercial success but also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia Region, Best Book). In 1999, Crash was translated into film in by David Cronenberg and continues to enjoy tremendous cult popularity.

Father: James Ballard
Mother: Edna Johnstone
Wife: Helen Mary Matthews (m. 1955, d. 1964, one son, two daughters)
Son: James Christopher Ballard
Girlfriend: Claire Walsh (until his death)

    Law School: Ley's School, Cambridge (1946-49)
    University: King's College, Cambridge University
    University: London University

    Left at Orphanage
    Taken Prisoner of War Lunghua concentration camp, Shanghai, China (1943-45)
    Obscenity 1968, charges dropped
    Risk Factors: Former Smoker, LSD, Prostate Cancer

Official Website:

Author of books:
The Wind From Nowhere (1962)
The Voices of Time (1962)
The Terminal Beach (1964)
The Drowned World (1962)
The Burning World (1965)
The Crystal World (1966)
The Atrocity Exhibition (1970)

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