I was saddened to read of the death of the writer J.G. Ballard, one of the most visionary authors of the 20th and early 21st century.
For those not familiar with his work, Ballard began his career writing science fiction short stories for anthologies like New Worlds. However, to call him a science fiction author would be misleading. He usually described himself as a writer of "speculative fiction", or as an author of books which pictured "the psychology of the future".
What so inflamed my imagination reading him in my teens and early twenties is that, unlike the galactic adventures of many conventional sci-fi authors, Ballard's stories are often concerned with inner space and the often surrealistic experiences of characters with often very uniquely disturbed psyches.
In works like The Atrocity Exhibition Ballard drew even further away from conventional science fiction themes into the literary avant garde.
A number of his novels were adapted into very successful and often controversial Hollywood films. Empire of the Sun, a semi-autobiographical account of his experiences as a child in Shanghai during World War 2, was filmed by Steven Spielberg, and his novel Crash, about the lives of characters who all share the same bizarre automotive fetish, was made into a controversial 1996 movie by David Cronenberg.
If you haven't read Ballard his short stories are definately the place to begin, partly for the simple, lucid and often beautiful descriptive quality he brought to the most intensely subjective material, and partly for their genuinely mind expanding quality.
Better than drugs.
J.G. Ballard 1930 - 2009