Dirda Reviews Ballard Collection
in Washington Post

Ballard once said, “The only truly alien planet is Earth,” recalls Michael Dirda in his review of The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard for the Washington Post.

Dirda sees parallels between Ballard and Philip K. Dick: many would agree. What’s surprising is his description of the contrasts in their work:

…Dick’s work is fundamentally sociable, a paean to unacknowledged goodness and the quiet satisfactions of ordinary life. Ballard’s protagonists tend to be isolated visionaries who inexorably pursue their obsessions to the point of madness or death, typically reaching self-fulfillment through nothing less than self-immolation.

By Michael Dirda’s lights, Phil Dick’s worldview sounds practically Hobbit-esque. But I don’t see Ragle Gumm or Frank Frink adjourning to the Prancing Pony for a jolly tankard of ale.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link.]

Moorcock Pleads Guilty — To Science Fiction

After so many obituaries minimized or denied J. G. Ballard’s roots in SF, Moshe Feder was glad to hear from Michael Moorcock, the godfather of the New Wave, that he still unashamedly identifies himself with the field — and that there is video of the late Ballard doing the same:

Mike Moorcock was kind enough to bring this BBC program to my attention. The first 8 minutes of this episode are devoted to Ballard. An interview with his daughter Bea frames clips from David Cronenberg,  Brian Aldiss and Ballard himself. He states unequivocally that he IS a science fiction writer and proud of it. (Take that, Robert Weil!) If you don’t have it, you’ll need to download Real Player to hear this.

Update 05/08/2009: Old dog tries new trick.

Snapshots 23

Here are a dozen developments of interest to fans:

(1) You don’t expect this from Locus, let alone a mundane paper, so how surprising is it that Ottawa Citizen editorialist Kate Heartfield devoted a recent column to the importance of Worldcon members voting for the Hugos?

[If] history is any guide, only a few hundred WorldCon participants will actually vote for the Hugos.

I don’t get that. So many literary awards are chosen by inscrutable juries and panels. The Hugos are — or at least have the potential to be — truly democratic. Not only do WorldCon members get to choose among the nominees; we also got to nominate them in the first place.

(2) Fred Pohl posted some very interesting observations about his late collaborator Cyril Kornbluth on The Way the Future Blogs:

Unfortunately Cyril’s health was deteriorating. Partly this was due to the quantities of coffee, cigarettes, hot pastrami sandwiches and alcohol he had been ingesting since his teens, but mostly it was due to the war.

(3) Want to see what the Hugo logo contest is inspiring? Fasten your seat-belt and click on this link to see California blogger Wendell Wittler’s suggestion:

When the lovely and/or talented John Scalzi mentioned that the Hugo Awards are staging a competition for a logo design, I was inspired to jump in head first. Now, I do not claim to be a good visual artist (which is why I own the domain name PhotoSlop.com which I will be putting to some use soon). But a few moments pondering about the prestigious awards for a class of massively imaginative writers and looking at the design of the award trophy (a shiny metal retro-style rocket with relatively little phallic resemblance) and I had an extremely cool idea.

(4) Francis Hamit was interviewed on Elise Cooper’s new program “The Book Stops Here” on April 19 about The Shenandoah Spy, of course, and also a little bit about self-publishing.  Programs are archived, so you can easily listen in anytime.

(5) Diana and Sierra recently visited Virginia. While on the road, Diana visited with a group of C. S. Lewis fans:

On April 9th, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Harrisonburg C. S. Lewis Society at their local Barnes & Noble. The group, founded by Will Vaus, was attentive and lively- we had a terrific evening.

This is from Diana’s new blog now, and the post includes photos.

(6) Lex Berman thinks fandom’s Secret Masters might glean something useful out of  the stats for DrupalCon, the recent “unconference” for Drupal users and developers held in Washington, D.C.

(7) TMZ.com reported that the late Majel Roddenberry made sure her dogs would  “live long and prosper after her death” by willing them the right to live in one of her mansions and setting up a $4 million residential trust to maintain the place in style.

And no, her son Eugene Roddenberry Jr. was not neglected in favor of the dogs. He got a mansion plus many more millions of his own.

(8) Reporters calling this archeological find a “hobbit” haven’t fooled Andrew Porter. He observes that the “article doesn’t mention hairy feet or proclivity to drink a lot (nor ring-wearing)”:

A “hobbit” will be making its public debut on Tuesday [April 21] at Stony Brook University on Long Island. A cast of the skull and bones of the hominid Homo floresiensis, its diminutive size inspiring the hobbit nickname, will be displayed for the first time at a public symposium on human evolution, titled “Hobbits in the Haystack.”

(9) You think your fanac is expensive? Try building a working model of the Saturn V:

On April 25, 2009, history will be made. At Higgs Farm in Price, Maryland, Steve Eves will enter the history books as the person who flew the largest model rocket in history. The rocket will weigh over 1,600 pounds, it will stand over 36 feet tall and it will be powered by a massive array of nine motors: eight 13,000ns N-Class motors and a 77,000ns P-Class motor. The estimated altitude of this single stage effort will be between 3,000 and 4,000 feet and the project will be recovered at apogee.

The fuel price alone, including the motor cases, will exceed $13,000.

(10) Garth Spencer’s Royal Swiss Navy Gazette #17 has been posted at eFanzines. It’s a very ambitious issue:

In this issue…the RSN presents a solution for violence in the Near East, the Elder Ghods submit a suit against Microsoft, I reveal what I learned from cop shows (and police news), and Taral Wayne tells us all about furry fandom.

(11) There’s lots to know about the Iron Man movie sequel:

Now, with director Jon Favreau in the grip of a full-fledged Twitter addiction, we may end up knowing more than we really want to…. According to Favreau’s tweets, American comedian Garry Shandling is in the film, although no-one seems to know who he’s playing. Not even Shandling.

David Klaus says the real comedy gold comes after the end of the article. “Be sure to read all the ‘Douglas Urbanski’-related comments,” he advises.

(12) John Crace has contributed an insightful post about J. G. Ballard to the Guardian‘s “Book Blog”:

Critics often used to comment on the contrast between the prim suburban order of Shepperton, where Jim Ballard lived for the past 50 years or so, and the dark, dystopian worlds of his writing. Which rather missed the point. For Ballard was one of those increasingly rare writers who actually had a life before writing.

[Thanks to Geri Sullivan, Andrew Porter, David Klaus, Francis Hamit, Chaos Manor, Garth Spencer and Lex Berman for the links included in this post.]

Death Will Not Release You — From SF

Moshe Feder sends along the link to the New York Times obituary of J.G. Ballard. Ballard was a leading figure in science fiction’s New Wave of the 1960s and a breakout literary writer whose mainstream novels were made into movies. He died April 19 of cancer. Ballard’s early fame was founded on his Vermilion Sands stories, including “The Cloud Sculptors of Coral D,” the first story by him that I ever read.

Fans have expressed disgust over the too-familiar attempt by the media to deny a critically-acclaimed author’s roots in sf. It’s evident from the tone of the piece how reluctant the Times was to sully the author’s reputation by associating him with anything base or popular, excusing his early work by saying he “defied the genre of science fiction.”

Moshe particularly wanted to draw attention to the article’s closing:

The prescience of Mr. Ballard’s work and its harsh conflation of the present and the future often resulted in comparisons to writers like Huxley and Orwell. “His fabulistic style led people to review his work as science fiction,” said Robert Weil, Mr. Ballard’s American editor at Norton. “But that’s like calling ‘Brave New World’ science fiction, or ‘1984.’ “

“Oh gee, Mr. Weil, yuh think?” comments Moshe, who sighs, “Some things never change.”

And Andrew Porter has pointed out that USA Today went the Times one better, managing to run a lengthy Ballard obituary without ever mentioning SF at all.