Thursday, April 23, 2009


Computerless Ballard, the least technological of men, read humans as intermediaries for technology, saw the car as more than just a vehicle, as a pod for living and receptacle for extreme sexual fantasies.... "The amiable saunter of Frances Waring, bored wife of my partner, through the turnstiles of the local supermarkets, the domestic wrangles of our well-to-do neighbours in our apartment house, all the hopes and fancies of this placid suburban enclave, drenched in a thousand infidelities, faltered before the solid reality of the motorway embankments, with their constant and un-swerving geometry, and before the finite areas of the car-park aprons."

Chris Petit's tribute to Ballard, on the Granta site, pinpoints possibly the man's most important legacy: a philosophy, Weltanschauung or diagnostic insight, articulated, like that of, say, Balzac, through the most effective of media - popular fiction, as opposed to didactic theory - of the increasing (and, in some ways, liberating) dissolution of human personality and agency in the networks of technology and capital - a wholly necessary showing of how the supposed future of science-fiction was already infiltrating our own time. The mutated psychology of his 'apocalypse' novels - most particularly The Drowned World - are also beginning to look frighteningly prescient...


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