Step #1: Put any Kemper Norton e.p. on your mp3 player.
Step #2: Drive to spooky woods.
Step #3: Wander around woods at random until lost listening to preloaded e.p.
Step #4: Feel your mind separate from reality and enter the fairy realm.
Step #5: Forget where you parked your car.
Storm: In SF Horizons, Brian Aldiss wrote that “Ballard is seldom discussed in fanzines.” Time has certainly proved him wrong, and now you are one of the most discussed people in fandom. What do you think of fandom itself?
Ballard: I didn’t know that was the case, because I never see any fanzines. I don’t have any contact with fans. My one and only contact with fandom was when I’d just started writing, which is twelve years ago, when the World Science Fiction Convention was being held in London, in 1957, and I went along to that as a young new writer hoping to meet people who were interested in the serious aims of science fiction and all its possibilities. In fact there was just a collection of very unintelligent people, who were almost illiterate, who had no interest whatever in the serious and interesting possibilities of science fiction. In fact I was so taken aback by that convention that I more or less stopped writing for a couple of years. Since then I’ve had absolutely nothing to do with fans, and I think they’re a great handicap to science fiction and always have been.
On Sunday 17th of October David Pringle posted an interview with J.G. Ballard to the J.G. Ballard mailing list that he had transcribed from a zine published forty years ago. The extracts I post here are taken from this transcription of Jim Goddard’s interview with J.G. Ballard conducted in November 1970 and published in “Cypher” no.3 December 1970.
Thanks to David Pringle for transcribing this interview, and of course to Jim Goddard for conducting the original interview.
I have been thinking about many issues covered in the interview and it is clear to me that the same arguments and discussions reoccur within SF time and time again. The questions and answers are always the same. We need to move on.
Goddard: What is your opinion of world SF today? And what new directions do you foresee it taking during the next 20 or 30 years to ensure survival?
Ballard: _Everything is science fiction!_ I think the future for it is tremendously exciting, but there are dangers. At present science fiction is almost the only form of fiction which is thriving — the social novel, for example, is attracting fewer and fewer readers — and for the obvious reason that social relationships are no longer as important as the individual’s relationship with the technological and fictional landscape of the late 20th century. _However_, in spite of its increasing readership all over the world, it seems to me that science fiction is in danger of losing its direction and sense of purpose — it may easily become a “closed” fiction similar to the western, with a fixed set of conventions and scope of reference. It is most important that the younger writers continue the good work done in the past ten years or so. To survive during the next 20 or 30 years? SF must go on being _relevant_, making sense of people’s lives and imaginations. In practical terms — American SF of the 1930-1960 period is now dead and buried, but it is important to go on stamping the earth down on the coffin — there are still too many people eager to jerk the corpse out of its grave and deck it in electric flowers.
My problem is that when I look at a science fiction magazine I want to see an object that just shimmers and crackles with the electrical charge of speculative conception. Something with the spark of the new.
— Warren Ellis (Bad Signal 9/1/07)
I have been mining my archive of Warren Ellis’s defunct but wonderful mailing list Bad Signal. There’s an interview with J.G. Ballard that I intend to post some extracts from later on SF magazines. This is all related.
More from Bad Signal. People need to read this material
* In clicking around, I discover a word. Fantastika.
Fantastika appears to be the Russian word for
speculative, slipstream or science fiction. Isn’t that
a gorgeous word? Fantastika. Much better than
fantastique. Fantastique is arch. Fantastika is
* “What do you write?” “I write FANTASTIKA. And I
just shagged your wife until she saw God. Get away
from me now, shitbreath.”
* Steven McDonald just said to me, “SF should be prone
to seizures and periods of self-wetting mania in which it
tears the shit out of its surroundings. The moments
where SF has been turned into a gibbering surreal
catastrophe have been some of the best.” And I can’t
— Warren Ellis (Bad Signal 16/1/07)
Last week, during the Leicester Everybody’s Reading festival, I started to read “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte. I suspect this might be considered a slightly unusual choice of book for someone like me to be reading, as I am a young male who isn’t formally studying English.
My reasons for reading “Jane Eyre” are simple. The first reason is that I haven’t read it before and I am curious. This should be reason enough to pick a book to read. I do have a second reason, and this is to do with the how I approach what I read and how I let my reading affect my writing.
Understand that I believe that what you read affects what you write. If I was to read only science fiction (my native literary ghetto) then the narrative techniques and acquired experiences would be limited to those techniques and described experience found in science fiction. Yes, a wide range of techniques and stories are found within science fiction, but there are limits. Just as there are limits to what is considered romance fiction, crime fiction and literary fiction in all its many wonderful variations. To get better as a writer I have to read widely and without major prejudice towards style or content.
(Of course it helps that a book is good, but that’s a different discussion.)
What I do is read one book for fun and then read something that I would not normally read. Often this means I read a science fiction novel and then something you would expect to find on an English undergraduate course. There is a pretty neat side effect that forcing myself to read widely means I discover a lot of books which I end up enjoying I wouldn’t have encountered if I’d stuck to safe choices. Without deliberately making this effort I would not have read and enjoyed works authors like: Doris Lessing, Charles Dickens, Jorge Luis Borges, William Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf or Ernest Hemingway.
Without reading widely and attempting to close as many gaps in my own personal reading, I would be ignorant of so many ideas and techniques found in literature, and would probably still be writing thinly disguised homages to William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”. Reading widely has given me a deeper understanding of that book, Gibson’s style and has given me the confidence to explore the whole world of literature in both my reading and writing. My own authorial voice is no longer limited to a narrow range of influences, but is instead informed by everything from Asimov to Woolf.
So I am reading “Jane Eyre” because I want to try reading different books. It may not be a typical book for someone like me to read but I am only on page one-hundred and I think it’s great. Will it change the way I write? I doubt it will directly, but it is not hurting me to read Charlotte Bronte tell a story with beautifully chosen words.
So no one turned up to my creative writing event for the Everybody’s Reading festival. Bummer! I think those are quite hard words to write; to admit that your event did not happen because no one appeared, but it is the undeniable truth. I arrived slightly early and waited a full half hour to see if anyone would appear. I think I gave people enough time to turn up.
Like I said, no one appeared while I was there; maybe a hoard of writers turned up fifteen minutes after I left and demanded the Kick School of Creative Writing. It is a nice thought, but I doubt that it reflects reality.
I could spend some time discussion the many possible reasons why no one appeared. I have my suspicions that Leicester, unlike some other cities which host similar creative writing events, just does not have the number of interested people required to support such events.
(Please note the apparent irony of this realization taking place during a reading festival.)
There is also an issue with the venue, Fabrika, being out of the way, hard to find, and having a funny vibe to it. But that feels like an excuse and not a very good one at that.
No, I think it is best to accept for the sake of my sanity that a tautological explanation should be used: no one turned up because no one turned up. It happens to all events in their infancy, so I am not going to take it too hard. There is only one question that I am interested in drawing from today’s failure and that is do I keep trying to run events like this in Leicester? It feels pretty futile, but do you run these events for the sake of your ego or do you run them for purely altruistic purposes?