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James Graham Ballard (Xangai, 15 de novembro de 1930 - 19 de Abril de 2009)
The British author James Graham Ballard spent part of his childhood in a prisoner of war camp in China during World War II, an experience that provided the inspiration for a successful mainstream novel, Empire of the Sun (1984). He started writing science fiction short stories in 1956, mostly for British markets, but his highly literate and very distinctive style was soon attracting attention from readers in the United States as well. His plots were unconventional and frequently were set in the near future, rarely using such traditional themes as journeys through time or outer space or encounters with aliens.
During the next few years, Ballard would produce a steady stream of high quality stories including “The VOICES OF TIME,” “Chronopolis,” “BILLENIUM,” “Cage of Sand,” and “Prima Belladonna.” He introduced the popular Vermilion Sands series, set in an artists colony in the near future, and established a reputation for extraordinarily evocative settings and unconventional themes. Ballard’s protagonists were rarely heroes in the usual sense; in fact, they often were small-minded, neurotic, or nihilistic, and his plots usually reinforced the mood of the central character. Many reviewers and critics in the genre were outraged by this break with the traditional optimism and assertive action associated with science fiction. Despite his prominent position in the field and the consistently high quality of his work, Ballard has never received either a Hugo or Nebula Award, and he has rarely been nominated.
Ballard’s first novel, The Wind from Nowhere (1962), was less unconventional. Disaster novels had long enjoyed popularity among such British SF writers as John WYNDHAM, John CHRISTOPHER, and John Bowen. Ballard devastated the world with a global windstorm of unparalleled strength, and there are only hints of the recurring imagery of decadence and decay that colored many of his previous short stories.
His next three book-length works would also involve worldwide disasters, but he never again followed the pattern of traditional disaster novels. In The Drowned World (1962), a change in the sun’s corona alters the climate on Earth. As the icecaps melt, inundating the coastlines, jungles begin to spread northward. The story begins after most of civilization has collapsed, and we watch as a handful of survivors attempt to hold onto the last vestiges of civilization as the heat and humidity literally rot the city around them. Ballard reversed direction in The Burning World (1964), describing a worldwide drought in similar terms, although not as successfully. The best of the four novels was the last, The CRYSTAL WORLD (1966). A large portion of Africa has succumbed to a spreading plague of crystallization that transforms fauna and flora alike, converting the conquered lands into an almost alien planet. Ballard’s facility with evocative language is at its best, but many readers were displeased by the protagonist’s attitude toward the change, which he ultimately embraces, and by the implied permanent replacement of the world as we know it. Nor were they easy with the underlying tone of the latter three novels, which implied that the disasters were not entirely bad things, that there was a kind of awesome wonder or even beauty in the destruction of everything that had gone before, and that the bad may have been swept away along with the good.
The titles of Ballard’s stories during this period reflect his fascination with surreal landscapes and collapsing cultures: “The Reptile Enclosure,” “The Subliminal Man,” “Terminal Beach,” “The Time Tombs,” and “Dune Limbo” are all top-notch stories. Certain images recur frequently—drained swimming pools, abandoned airfields, buildings buried in the sand, artifacts that produce song. Many of these owe their origin to Ballard’s experiences as a child.
During the second half of the 1960s, Ballard became associated with the New Wave movement, and some of his stories reflected experiments with prose styles and plotting in ways that alienated him even further from hardcore SF readers. He was exploring what he termed “inner space”—the effects that modern society and technology had on human psychology, not always for the best—and rejected the bland acceptance of technological innovation as the highest manifestation of human progress, the position of the majority of science fiction writers. The most famous of these literary experiments were the condensed novels, each of which consisted of a series of small scenes or paragraphs that were often so sketchy that they suggested rather than described the plot, without characterization or even much conventional description. Several outstanding short story collections had appeared by now, including The Voices of Time and Billenium in 1962, Passport to Eternity (1963), Terminal Beach (1964), and The Impossible Man (1966). Vermilion Sands (1971) collected that sequence of stories as well, and Chronopolis (1971) brought together the last of his better conventional stories. The Atrocity Exhibition (1972) consists primarily of his short experimental work. His output of short fiction dropped off dramatically during the 1970s. Only a handful of genre stories appeared during the past 30 years, although the short story “The Ultimate City” (1976) ranks among his best. Ballard’s next novel, Concrete Island (1973), was pure surrealistic fantasy—the story of a man trapped on a traffic island, which becomes for him the entire world. High Rise (1975) was science fiction, but was even less traditional than his previous work. An oversized future apartment complex is presented as a microcosm of the world when law and order collapse in the greater society outside, with subsequent repercussions within. It contains some of Ballard’s best characterizations, but it was now evident that he was moving even further from traditional genre themes, although the experiments with prose had diminished and gradually faded away almost entirely. A noteworthy exception to this trend was the novel, Hello America (1981). When the American economy collapses, North America is largely abandoned and becomes terra incognita until generations later, when an expedition from Europe encounters the remnants of the U.S. government. Ballard’s purpose was satirical, the plot purposefully implausible, and the characters are all exaggerated stereotypes. The satire is pointed and there are moments of biting humor, but at times the novel seems testy and mildly bitter. The Day of Creation (1987) is marginally science fiction, set in an imaginary African nation, but it lacks the power of his other novels.
Within the genre, Ballard was certainly more proficient at short stories than at novels, although his mainstream work has been far more successful at book length. Several themes and preoccupations recur: the influence of media, global politics, the lives and habits of artists, the impact of advertising, life within major urban centers, the collapse of civilization (or at least of law and order). Although genre readers are now much more open to the introspective style and themes that Ballard championed, it seems unlikely that he will return to the field except fleetingly. His legacy is assured, however, because he created some distinct and memorable imagery, singing statues, dying beaches, the slow deterioration of fixed objects—buildings, landscapes, or individual characters. One of his most effective stories, for example, “The Drowned Giant,” is simply a description of an enigmatic oversized human body washed up on a beach, where it slowly decays. Ballard was one of the most accomplished and most visible of the handful of writers who changed science fiction irrevocably during the 1960s; his influence on those who have followed is often less than obvious, but it is real nonetheless. He helped to make the human psyche a fertile ground for speculation, and he challenged the assumption that technology will solve all of our problems.
Fonte: Encyclopedia of Science Fiction - DON D’AMMASSA