Monday, April 20, 2009

J.G. Ballard and the way the future was

When I was a boy, I loved J. G. Ballard.  And when I was a teenager I loved J.G. Ballard. And as an adult I loved J.G. Ballard.   Different books, though, in each time -- as a boy I read and loved his disaster books, in which the world drowned or was blown away or slowly turned into crystal, and his Vermilion Sands short stories (particularly one called "The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D"). As a teen I took weird cool challenging Ballard out of the library (I loved Concrete Island most of all, a Robinsonade about a man in a road accident stranded on the centre island in a busy motorway). As a young man I loved Empire of the Sun -- but I never stopped loving the old books, even as I discovered the new.

And somewhere around 1985, my friend Kathy Acker took me to a party/book launch/some kind of event somewhere in London and I met William Burroughs and Jim Ballard, stood there and chatted  as they reminisced about London in the 1960s. I don't know what or who I had been expecting, but Jim Ballard, then, and whenever I met him after that, was terrifying in his ordinariness, like the protagonists of his high-rises and drowned worlds, like the man on the motorway island. 

As the years continued, I remained fascinated with Ballard, and with the strange way that Ballard's most outre work from the late 60s and early 70s, odd un-stories with titles like "Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan", or books like Crash, on the sexual fetishism of car crashes and beautiful women who die in them, seemed to have somehow predicted the future that we were in, the world of postReagan image control and the psychofallout of a dead Diana, better than any of the SF writers who thought they really were predicting the future.

And I found myself hesitating on writing this one, as if, if I didn't write something for my blog, I would keep him alive just a little bit longer.

The photo is by Miriam Berkley, from about 1991.


Over at Cat Mihos's Neverwear she threw open a competition for people to suggest t-shirts, and the results she got back are, frankly, amazing, and not easy to judge. If you would like to weigh in or vote for anything you would like to wear, head over to (And if you ever wondered what my mail looks like, she's started photographing it.)

And a quick one: Just heard from HarperChildrens that my audiobook of The Graveyard Book has been chosen as one of the three nominees for Audiobook of the year. It's already been nominated for two Audio Awards -- you can read the full list at and to have it picked as a potential audio book of the year put a smile on my face nothing could shift.

This is what they said about it:

The Graveyard Book
By Neil Gaiman
Read by the author
Published by HarperAudio
Also a Finalist in the Thriller/Suspense and Children’s Titles for Ages 8-12 categories.

The Graveyard Book leaped into immortality with its Newbery Medal win, but the audiobook adds the author’s haunting performance, which strikes the perfect balance between a professional reader and the heart and soul of the author. Bela Fleck’s eerie and whimsical original musical composition for the audiobook sets the tone and punctuates the production. Gaiman’s unabashed enthusiasm for the audiobook format found expression throughout his book tour and on his website. Gaiman’s and HarperAudio’s efforts have clearly won new fans through these recorded readings and effective social media marketing.

Which is astonishingly nice. I've said it before, but it remains true, I feel happier when people like the audiobooks I've recorded than I think I am about anything else. It's one of the few awards I take personally.

And, truth to tell, and while it's-always-nice-to-be-nominated-and-all-that, I would love to win an Audie award. I won one for SNOW GLASS APPLES/MURDER MYSTERIES (which was packaged as TWO PLAYS FOR VOICES) but that wasn't me reading, just my adaptations of my stories. I have many pewter nomination medals, and would like to get one big glass slab for reading. Probably, in truth, because I feel much more vulnerable about the readings than I ever do with the written words. And because Audiobooks have a special place in my heart - like an endangered species that's come back from the brink and is now thriving. 


And a reminder that Detective Comics #853 is coming out to comic shops this Wednesday, the second part of my two part last Batman story. The first six pages (and the two different covers) can be seen at .Here's page 1...

And no. It's not Death.


The Who Killed Amanda Palmer Book went on sale this morning, but it sounds like there were some problems with the robustness of the website you could order it from, so I'm going to hold off on tweeting or blogging it until tomorrow, by which time I should be able to send people there without it immediately crashing and wasting everyone's time. If you wish to find the link yourself in the meantime, you are very welcome to.

But for now, here's a link to the anniversary issue of Mythic Delirium, a poetry publication in which I have a poem. It was inspired by the same strange event that made Amanda write her "Trout Heart Replica" song. I was going to call my poem "Trout Heart Replica" but when I told her that she said, "You can't. That's what I called my song, and I got there first." And she had. (The illustration in the first 350 issues is hand-coloured.)


And finally, we went into the basement today and pulled out a bunch of comics for Len Wein. Len is a) one of the nicest people in comics and b) one of the writers who inspired me and made me want to write comics when I was a bit younger than I am now. Len's house was destroyed by fire, and while much of what he owned was irreplaceable, he's trying to replace his comics -- his copies of the ones he owned: If you have duplicates or, like me, just think your copies of those comics would be happier with Len, you can find details at:

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