WHERE WILL IT END?: J.G BALLARD, interviewed by V. Vale, introduced by Michael Moorcock (Arthur No. 15/March 2005)

V. Vale, with J.G. Ballard

This feature was originally published in Arthur No. 15 (March, 2005).

Where Will It End?
From his home in an English suburb, controversial novelist J. G. Ballard wonders if there is something fundamentally flawed about the American take on reality. Interview by V. Vale, with an introduction by Michael Moorcock.

Born in 1930, J.G.Ballard spent his formative years in a Shanghai civilian prison camp, experiences which form the basis of his autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, filmed by Steven Spielberg. In England he abandoned his medicine degree at Cambridge to become a technical journalist. His first stories in New Worlds, Science Fantasy and Science Fictions Adventure from 1956 including “The Voices of Time,” “Vermilion Sands” and “Chronopolis” are in The Complete Short Stories of J.G.Ballard (2002). Three novels, The Drowned World (predicting climate change), The Crystal World and The Drought increasingly reflected his interest in surrealist painting. The Terminal Beach in Science Fantasy (1964) marked a new phase, dispensing altogether with the conventions of science fiction.

Appearing in New Worlds, which by then I was editing, “The Assassination Weapon” (1966) was the first of Ballard’s “condensed novels” where iconographic personalities and events became the basis of narrative. Other stories included “The Atrocity Exhibition Weapon,” “You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe” and “Plan For The Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy” in New Worlds and, increasingly, in literary magazines such as Ambit and Transatlantic Review. His work encountered considerable hostility in the United States, where its irony went largely undetected. Doubleday, the publisher of The Atrocity Exhibition, ordered all copies pulped after it was printed. It eventually appeared from Grove Press in 1970. Meanwhile, “Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan” became the basis of a UK court case, while his “Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race,” “lost” by his U. S. agent, eventually appeared in New Worlds and Evergreen Review.

He remains a seminally controversial writer hugely admired by the likes of Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon, Angela Carter, Iain Sinclair and most of the best science fiction writers. Described as pornographic and psychotic when first reviewed, Crash (1973) was filmed by David Cronenberg starring James Spader in 1996. Concrete Island (1974) and High Rise (1975) continued similar themes of our psychological and sexual relationship with contemporary phenomena and iconography. The Unlimited Dream Company (1979) and Hello America (1981) are enjoyable satires; his autobiographical The Kindness of Women (1991) was a sequel to Empire of the Sun. Recent novels like Cocaine Nights (1996), Super-Cannes (2000) and Millennium People (2003) continue to develop techniques describing his unique experience and his notion that contemporary bourgeousie have become the new slave class. Today he lives in the same London suburb where he settled some 45 years ago and, as a widower, raised three children, eschewing electronics and still working at his typewriter. Combining the creative insight and originality of a modern William Blake, Ballard is our greatest living visionary writer. —Michael Moocock

The following is an excerpt from an interview conducted by V. Vale by telephone following the Nov. 2, 2004 United States elections. The interview appeared in J. G. Ballard Interviews, available from http://www.researchpubs.com. J. G. Ballard Quotations is also available from the same excellent publisher.

V. Vale: I wanted to get your “take” on the neo-cons and Bush, and your perspective on what happened with this election in November, 2004.
J. G. Ballard: I’m sure you and your readers have had an absolute Niagara of comment on the subject, so I don’t want to give anything but one European’s perspective on it. But there’s no doubt that most people over here on this side of the Atlantic were hoping for a Kerry victory. There’s something very frightening about Bush and the neo-con group. Donald Rumsfeld is quite a scary figure—putting it mildly.

One feels that Bush and his closest advisers are entirely driven by emotions. They’re no longer driven by a reasoned analysis of where the world is going, and what the U.S. response should be. They’re driven by this visceral need to express their anger—you know, their anger and, really, rage at the world. One feels, listening to people like Rumsfeld, Bush himself, and one or two of the others like Richard Perle, that the world is seen as an extremely hostile place. And moreover, they want it to be a hostile place.
They need enemies who can be challenged and then destroyed. This is a kind of psychology that people in Europe are very familiar with, going back to the psychology of people like Hitler and his henchman, and then to Stalin and the whole paranoid stance that both the Nazi and the Soviet regimes had towards their enemies. If they didn’t have enemies, they would soon invent enemies. Because they’re absolutely hung up—and I suspect Bush and the neo-cons, to a surprising extent, in a great democracy like the U.S., are hung up on this need to hate and this need to destroy. And of course it’s frightening, because where will it end? Today Iraq, tomorrow Iran, and the day after, hmmm… maybe France, you know, because given their mindset, there will be no shortage of enemies.

I think there’s nothing particularly extreme about saying this. I think it’s what people over here perceive of as part of the dangers of this situation. Nobody thinks there is a connection between the 9/11 attack and Saddam Hussein. There’s no connection at all—it’s quite the opposite. Hussein was running a secular regime. Bush and Rumsfeld have created a kind of unstable regime dominated by religious fanatics in Iraq, of the Khadafi kind they thought they were getting rid of!

So it is unnerving. It leads us to question many other areas of the American world view. Is there something fundamentally flawed about the American take on reality? Continue reading


Author Michael Moorcock, interviewed by Ben Graham at The Quietus

“I’m actually very anti-nostalgia, but I am interested in the past… I’m nostalgic for 1967, because that was when I was young and having a wickedly good time, but that’s about it. I knew that the 60s weren’t going to last, and so I decided that this is a golden age, and that it’s probably got about another 10 years, and I’m going to get everything I can out of it! And I had a great time. When people say, this didn’t happen or that didn’t happen, well, you weren’t there mate, you know! So yeah, that’s the only nostalgia I have, and even that, you know… I was also doing bad things as well, just bad things that everybody does, as it were.

“The thing was, everyone was in Ladbroke Grove or Notting Hill at that time; there were bands everywhere, and you felt that there was something wrong with you if you didn’t play some sort of fretted instrument! Almost everybody did, and I’d been in bands before that; right from the 50s; I’d been in a skiffle group, and I made that transition to blues, R&B, the way a lot of people did. And then I’d kind of given it up because I found it was more comfortable to sit there working in a chair than sitting in the back of an old van, and then being screwed when you got to a gig, the usual sort of crap. So I just stopped doing it. I’ve said this a lot of times but I think it’s actually worth saying: a lot of us did this, we went for rock & roll and science fiction because they weren’t respectable, and there was no criticism at all. There were no magazines that dealt with it; there was no body of criticism. There was nothing. Melody Maker, if you were lucky, you got a cartoon of Elvis Presley in the back, and they didn’t think it was going to last.

“But it was something that you could make of it what you wanted. So you went into the studio – when you went into the studio – not really knowing what you were going to do. And sometimes it was better than you thought it was going to be. Sometimes it was bloody awful. But again, it was just that sense of having something that was your own. I think that gaming [role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Runequest, which frequently drew on Moorcock’s work] became that for another generation, and there’s other stuff that goes on. I think if you’re 18, you’re always going to be looking for something where there isn’t your dad telling you, you know, how it should be or how it used to be. You’d rather somebody said ‘what the hell are you doing, wasting your time?’ Now it’s a respectable career. ‘Dad, I want to be a rock & roll musician!’ ‘Okay, we’ll send you to rock & roll school!’ And it’s just not, you know, who wants to do that?

“I think the 60s were really about ’63 to about ‘75; I mean what people call the 60s. I see it as finally ending with Stiff’s last tour. That was for me the kind of end of it all, the last record company that had come up from nothing, that was really going after new talent, that was really wide open to pretty much anything, a very broad spectrum of popular music. And classical music, if anybody had gone to see it. I know [Stiff label boss] Jake Riviera, if somebody had said to Jake, come on Jake, let’s get Birtwhistle, he’d probably have said yeah, alright, great, let’s try it. And that was in a sense what the so-called sixties were all about. But it also happened because there were huge amounts of money, and we were the richest kids that had ever been, and have ever been. That went as well. I think the tricks that Margaret Thatcher played on us all put the money into the hands of the powerful people who were interested in money. But for a short while the money was in the hands of people who were actually interested in doing something with the money.”




“Bishop Beesley, endlessly corrupt gluttonous villain series. Thirsts for power, money, pleasure.” (wikipedia entry on the villain from the Moorcock books)


February 18, 2010…



Michael Moorcock (with Arthur editor) at Arthur event at Church of Casper the Friendly Ghost—SXSW, 2005…


IAIN SINCLAIR on J.G. BALLARD's favorite artwork

Another piece by Iain Sinclair, this one regarding his friend, the late visionary author J.G. Ballard (wiki).

From today’s The Guardian, on the occasion of the new Ballard exhibition at the London Gagosian…


PAUL DELVAUX: Le canapé bleu, 1967 (Oil on canvas/55 1/8 x 70 7/8 inches)

Crash: JG Ballard’s artistic legacy

Shortly before JG Ballard’s death last year, Iain Sinclair made a pilgrimage to the author’s Shepperton semi, a shrine to his surreal tastes and happy family life. A new exhibition of his favourite paintings and of art work he has inspired honours this distinctive vision

Coming away from the official path, on a walk from the mouth of the Thames to Oxford in October 2008, I diverted through Shepperton. Light rain misted my spectacles. An uncertain detour was blocked by a two-tonne Jaguar saloon, white and racing green: XJ MOTOR SERVICES. The upstream settlement has evident 21st-century loot, as well as Edwardian weekend villas and chalets. There is a blue plaque to the literary giant they choose to commemorate: THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK LIVED HERE, 1823-1866. Modernist white cubes with big windows are attracted by reflections of light on water. Natural metaphors for unnatural liquidity in a time of recession.

I head for the station. That’s where JG Ballard met me when I visited him. I never saw the inside of his house. We drove to a riverside pub and sat under whirring fans. I wondered why, after his great success with Empire of the Sun, he didn’t relocate to one of those balconied, sharp-angled properties that were so attractive to the convalescing architects and blocked advertising men who populate his books. Foolish thought. Ballard was a working writer, first and last; the where of it was not to be disturbed. Fixed routines served him well; so many hours, so many words. Breakfast. Times crossword. Desk overlooking a natural ­garden. Stroll to the shops to observe the erotic rhythms of consumerism. Lunch standing up with The World at One on the radio. Back to the study. Forty-minute constitutional down to the river. TV chill-out meditation: ­Hawaii Five-O and The Rockford Files rather than Kenneth Clark.

The interior landscape of the suburban semi was a mirage. The more you studied it, the cannier the decision to settle the family in Shepperton, all those years ago, appeared. It was far enough out of London to limit the pests, the time-devourers. When journalists gained access they were mesmerised by the reproduction Delvaux canvases propped on the floor, the ­aluminium palm tree, the lounger in the front room; dutifully they repeated the standard questions about surrealism and how The Drowned World was saturated in Max Ernst. The house in Old Charlton Road was a premature ­installation; a stage set designed to confirm the expectations of awed pilgrims. But it was also a home in which the widowed author brought up three children who are always laughing in family snapshots.

Ballard may be the first serious ­novelist whose oeuvre is most widely represented in books of interviews. And whose future belongs as much in white-walled warehouse galleries as the diminishing shelves of public libra­ries. He was so generous to those who found his phone number, so direct: he rehearsed polished routines – and ­always agreed, with unfailing courtesy, that the world was indeed a pale Xerox made in homage to the manifold of his fiction. A late moralist, he practised undeceived reportage, not prophecy: closer to Orwell than HG Wells. Closer to Orson Welles than to either. Closer to Hitchcock. Take out the moving ­figures on staircases that go nowhere and stick with hollow architecture that co-authors subversive drama.

CHRIS BURDEN: L.A.P.D. Uniform (1994, Fabric, leather, wood, metal and plastic
88 x 72 x 6 inches Ed. of 30)

Spurning critical theory, Ballard joined his near-namesake Baudrillard as the hot topic for air-miles academics. Off-highway universities, indistinguishable from hospitals or hotels, approve infinite theses. A hall of mirrors in which students, who have lost the habit of literature, recognise, in the Shepperton master’s exquisitely calibrated prose, intimations of a hybrid form capable of processing autopsy ­reports and invasion politics into accidental poetry. The incantatory manifesto, “What I Believe”, deploys Ballard’s favourite device, the list, as he curates a museum of affinities: “I believe in Max Ernst, Delvaux, Dalí, ­Titian, / Goya, Leonardo, Vermeer, Chirico, Magritte, / Redon, Dürer, ­Tanguy, the Facteur Cheval, / the Watts Towers, Böcklin, Francis Bacon, and all the invisible artists / within the psychiatric institutions of the planet.”

It was almost dark when I got there, after walking down a street occupied by Indian ­restaurants, Chinese take­aways, charity and novelty shops. A man spotted me as I lined up the shot.

“A writer bloke is supposed to live in that house. We’ve been out here 25 years and I’ve never set eyes on him, tell the truth. But he’s on the box….”

Read on at The Guardian

PDF: Arthur No. 5 (June 2003)

ARTHUR NO. 5 (with David Cross on the cover as crazed jingoist god-blessed S.U.V.-driving soccer mom) IS SOLD OUT.

This was the issue we published back in June 2003 when 90% of the USA was in favor of invading Iraq.

Well Arthur No. 5 is now gone forever, peacenik fanboy.

BUT! you can download the entire issue in PDF (11mb) here:



Photographer Lauren Klain captures DAVID CROSS on his way to a Clear Channel war rally…

KRISTINE MCKENNA on the Tower of Protest, a Vietnam-era action on Sunset Blvd by celebrated artists. With photos by CHARLES BRITTIN…

Jonathan Shainin speaks with CHRIS HEDGES about the truths not being told about war…

ALAN MOORE comments on what the US and UK governments have been up to lately….

DAVID BYRNE writes about his life during wartime.


Art and comics by Steve Andersen, Tauno Blisted & Mac McGill, Robbie Conal, John Coulthart, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bill Griffith, Megan Kelso with Ron Rege, Peter Kuper, David Lasky, Sharon Rudahl, Patti Smith & Jem Cohen, art spiegelman and Carol Swain.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK on the fate of empires

DANIEL PINCHBECK on why he’s glad George Bush is president

Arthur film columnist PAUL CULLUM asks “Is George Bush addicted to cocaine?” as he examines “Horns and Halos,” “Journeys with George,” “Uncle Saddam,” “What I’ve Learned About U.S. Foreign Policy: The War Against the Third World” and “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.”

And — the fabulous GLAMericans are spotlit by Steffie Nelson…