JG Ballard

Ambit magazine screwed up my subscription and ended up having to send me three issues at once,so by way of apology they kindly chucked in a couple of vintage editions. Issue #3, first published in 1960, and issue #100, which came out in 1985. The latter is especially wonderful, with art by David Hockney and Eduardo Paolozzi, and writing by (amongst others) Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Moorcock and JG Ballard.

JG Ballard is someone who in my head is an underrated genius, a polymath and a fantastic writer. I have no idea why I think this, as I have never actually read any of his books. Here is a transcript of his piece from 1985 in Ambit #100, reproduced without any permission at all. It’s one of those kind of things that I wish I had thought of first. For some reason it reminds me of the novel Fight Club (which is much better than the film, incidentally).

Answers to a Questionnaire

1) Yes.
2) Male (?)
3) c/o Terminal 3, London Airport, Heathrow.
4) 27.
5) Unknown.
6) Dr. Barnado’s Primary, Kingston-on-Thames; H.M. Borstal, Send, Sussex; Brunel University Computer Sciences Department.
7) Floor cleaner, Mecca Amusement Arcades, Leicester Square.
8) If I can avoid it.
9) Systems Analyst, Sperry-Univac, 1979-1983.
10) Manchester Crown Court, 1984.
11) Credit card and computer fraud.
12) Guilty.
13) Two years. H.M. Prisons, Parkhurst.
14) Stockhausen, De Kooning, Jack Kerouac.
15) Whenever possible.
16) Twice a day.
17) NSU, Herpes, Gonorrhoea.
18) Husbands.
19) My greatest ambition is to turn into a TV programme.
20) I first saw the deceased on February 17, 1986, in the chapel at London Airport. He was praying in the front pew.
21) At the time I was living in an out-of-order cubicle in the air traffic controllers’ washroom in Terminal 3.
22) Approx. 5 ft 7 in, aged 33, slim build, albino skin and thin black beard, some kind of crash injuries to both hands. At first I thought he was a Palestinian terrorist.
23) He was wearing the stolen uniform of an El Al flight attendant.
24) With my last money I bought him a prawnburger in the mezzanine cafeteria. He thanked me and, although not carrying a bank-card, extracted £100 from a service till on the main concourse.
25) Already I was convinced that I was in the presence of a messianic figure who would help me to penetrate the Natwest deposit account computer codes.
26) No sexual activity occurred.
27) I took him to Richmond Ice Rink where he immediately performed six triple salchows. I urged him to take up ice-dancing with an eye to the European Championships and eventual gold in Seoul, but he began to trace out huge double spirals on the ice. I tried to convince him that these did not feature in the compulsory figures, but he told me that the spirals represented a model of synthetic DNA.
28) No.
29) He gave me to understand that he had important connections at the highest level of government.
30) Suite 17B, London Penta Hotel. I slept on the floor in the bathroom.
31) Service tills in Oxford Street, Knightsbridge and Earls Court.
32) Approx. £275,000 in three weeks.
33) Porno-videos. He took a particular interest in Kamera Klimax and Electric Blue.
34) Almost every day.
35) When he was drunk. He claimed that he brought the gift of eternal life.
36) At the Penta Hotel I tried to introduce him to Torvill and Dean. He was interested in meeting only members of the Stock Exchange and Fellows of the Royal Society.
37) Females of all ages.
38) Group sex.
39) Marie Drummond, 22, sales assistant, HMV records; Denise Attwell, research supervisor, Geigy pharmaceuticals; Florence Burgess, 55, deaconess, Bible Society Bookshop;Angelina Gomez, 23, air hostess, Iberian Airways; Phoebe Adams, 43, cruise protestor, Camp Orange, Greenham Common.
40) Sometimes, at his suggestion.
41) Unsatisfactory.
42) Premature ejaculation, impotence.
43) He urged me to have a sex-change operation.
44) National Gallery, Wallace Collection, British Museum. He was much intrigued by representations of Jesus, Zoroaster and the Gautama Buddha, and commented on the likenesses.
45) With the permission of the manager, NE district, British Telecom.
46) We erected the antenna on the roof of the Post Office Tower.
47) 2,500 KHz.
48) Toward the constellation Orion.
49) I heard his voice, apparently transmitted from the star Betelgeuse 2000 years ago.
50) Interference to TV reception all over London and the south-east.
51) No. 1 in the Jictar ratings, exceeding the combined audiences for Coronation Street, Dallas and Dynasty.
52) Regular visitors included Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Dr. Billy Graham.
53) He hired the Wembley Conference Centre.
54) “Immortality in the service of Mankind”.
55) Guests were drawn from the worlds of science and politics, the church, armed forces and the Inland Revenue.
56) Generous fees.
57) Serve tills in Mayfair and Regent Street.
58) He had a keen appreciation of money, but was not impressed when I told him of Torvill and Dean’s earnings.
59) He was obsessed by the nature of the chemical bond.
60) Sitting beside him at the top table were: (1) The Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, (2) The President of the Royal Society, (3) The Archbishop of Canterbury, (4) The Chief Rabbi, (5) The Chairman of the Diners Club, (6) The Chairman of the Bank of England, (7) The General Secretary of the Inland Revenue Staff Federation, (8) The President of Hertz Rent-a-Car, (9) The President of IBM, (10) The Chief of the General Staff, (11) Mr. Henry Kissinger, (12) Myself.
61) He stated that synthetic DNA introduced into the human germ plasm would arrest the process of ageing and extend human life almost indefinitely.
62) Perhaps 1 million years.
63) He announced that Princess Diana was immortal.
64) Astonishment/disbelief.
65) He advised the audience to invest heavily in leisure industries.
66) The value of the pound sterling rose to $8.75.
67) American TV networks, Time Magazine, Newsweek.
68) The Second Coming.
69) He expressed strong disappointment at the negative attitude of the Third World.
70) The Kremlin.
71) He wanted me to become the warhead of a cruise missile.
72) My growing disenchantment.
73) Sexual malaise.
74) He complained that I was spending too much time at Richmond Ice Rink.
75) The Royal Proclamation.
76) The pound sterling rose to $75.50.
77) Prince Andrew. Repeatedly.
78) Injection into the testicles.
79) The side-effects were permanent impotence and sterility. However, as immortality was ensured, no further offspring would be needed and the procreative urge would atrophy.
80) I seriously considered a sex-change operation.
81) Government White Paper on Immortality.
82) Compulsory injection into the testicles of the entire male population over 11 years.
83) Smith & Wesson short-barrel 38.
84) Entirely my own idea.
85) Many hours at Richmond Ice Rink trying unsuccessfully to erase the patterns of DNA.
86) Westminster Hall.
87) Premeditated. I questioned his real motives.
88) Assassination.
89) I was neither paid nor incited by agents of a foreign power.
90) Despair. I wished to go back to my cubicle at London Airport.
91) Between Princess Diana and the Governor of Nevada.
92) At the climax of Thus Spake Zarathustra.
93) 7 feet.
94) Three shots.
95) Blood Group O.
96) I did not wish to spend the rest of eternity in my own company.
97) I was visited in the death cell by Mr Terry Waite, special envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
98) That I had killed the Son of God.
99) He walked with a slight limp. He told me that, as a condemned prisoner, I alone had been spared the sterilising injections, and that the restoration of the national birthrate was now my sole duty.
100) Yes.


4 thoughts on “JG Ballard

  1. I have read a few of his sci fi books. But it was back in the days when I just wanted a story and his craft got in the way of my superficial appreciation. These days I would appreciate the way he told it as much as what he was telling.

    Liked by 1 person

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