The Electric Sheep Nightmare. J. G. Ballard and the Perverse Use of Technology
The aim of this paper is to investigate the role played by “machines” and technological innovation within James Graham Ballard’s literary production.
Since his debut as a novelist, Ballard devoted particular attention towards the human-machine connection, under the charm of both its immediate impact on the human psyche and the forms of representation in literature indirectly influenced by the human psyche itself. For these reasons, and in his attempt to escape from the traditional science fiction rules, in the mid-Sixties he suggested the notion of inner space: a new and innovative life, useful in the process of restoring the relation among the Self, the urban space, and the new forms of domination created by the post-modern world.
The analysis will be carried out in a historical perspective, highlighting the subsequent stages of such an extreme redefinition of the new ways of representing subjectivity. The present study will be inspired by the crucial period of transition of the Sixties, after which Ballard definitively abandoned the initial post-apocalyptic settings he had favored at the beginning of his career. He started placing his characters within suburban scenarios – far from those foreign worlds, explored by the numerous followers of Isaac Asimov over glorious Space Age years.
The second section of the study will focus on the way in which this shift mirrors Ballard’s intention to turn the science fiction novel into an anthropological reflection projected on the present time. Starting from the examples in Crash (1973) and Super-Cannes (2001), two features will be taken into consideration: on the one hand, the expanding gap between the categories of technique and morals; on the other hand, the dangerous ideological deviations to which such a gradual split may lead to.Linking these two aspects, the study will attempt to show how the never-ending debate on technological innovation led Ballard not only to an adjustment of science fiction motives and traditional topics, but also, more generally, to a reinterpretation of both the limits and cognitive possibilities of the genre.
Ballard, James Graham, The Wind From Nowhere, London, Berkley Books, 1961.
Ballard, James Graham, The Drowned World, London, Berkley Books, 1962.
Ballard, James Graham, The Burning World, London, Berkley Books, 1964.
Ballard, James Graham, The Crystal World, London, Cape, 1966.
Ballard, James Graham, Crash, London, Cape, 1973.
Ballard, James Graham, High Rise, London, Cape, 1975.
Ballard, James Graham, Cocaine Nights, London, Flamingo, 1996.
Ballard, James Graham, Super-Cannes, London, Flamingo, 2000.
Ballard, James Graham, Kingdom Come, London, Fourth Estate, 2006.
Augé, Marc, Non-Lieux: Introduction à une Anthropologie de la Sur-modernité, Paris, Seuil, 1992.
Ballard, James Graham, “Introduction of the French edition of Crash” , reprinted in Crash, London, Triad Paladin, 1990.
Ballard, James Graham, A User’s Guide to the New Millennium, London, HarperCollins, 1996.
Baudrillard, Jean, “Ballard’s Crash”, Science Fiction Studies 18 (No-vember 1991): 313-320.
Baxter, John, The Inner Man. The Life of J. G.
Ballard, London, Wei-denfeld & Nicolson, 2011.
Foucault, Michel, La Volonté de Savoir. Histoire de la Sexualité 1, Paris, Gallimard, 1978.
Foucault, Michel, “Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias”, Architecture, Mouvement, Continuité, 5 (1984): 46-49.
Gasiorek, Andrzej, J. G. Ballard, Manchester-New York, Manches-ter University Press, 2005.
Grosz, Elizabeth, Space, Time, and Perversion: Essays on the Politics of Bodies, New York,
Jameson, Fredric, Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capi-talism, Durham, Duke University Press, 1991.
Luckhurst, Roger, “J. G. Ballard Crash”, A Companion to Science Fic-tion, Ed. David Seed, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 2005: 512-521.
Maffesoli, Michel, Le Temps des Tribus: Le Déclin de l'Individualisme dans les Sociétés de Masse, Paris, Librairie Générale Française, 1991.
Mauron, Charles, Des Métaphores Obsédantes au Mythe Personnel; Introduction à la Psychocritique. Paris, Libraire J. Corti, 1962.
Soja, Edward, Postmetropolis. Critical Studies of Cities and Regions, Malden, Blackwell Publishing, 2000.
You are free to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and to adapt the work. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).