Ballard’s Short Story Ceasefire

Here it is – the end of my survey of J.G. Ballard’s short stories, with his The Complete Short Stories as my source text but each of these articles focusing on one of the individual UK short story collections the tales were derived from. This time around I’ll cover his final pre-Complete Stories collection, War Fever, and three 1992 stories which went unanthologised until they were assembled in The Complete Short Stories.

Turning to 1989’s War Fever first, the title story posits a near future where war, like smallpox, has been largely eradicated – but a small sample is allowed to survive (in this case, in a rebuilt version of Beirut) for the purposes of study and examination of mutations. It’s a rather glib and simplistic concept; though it’s inspired by 1980s headlines, in execution it feels more like a second-tier dystopia from Ballard’s early era.

This is followed up with The Secret History of World War 3, Ballard’s parting shot at Ronald Reagan written to mark the end of Reagan’s second term in office. It presents an account of a hypothetical third term for Reagan – the necessary Constitutional tweaks having been rammed through after his successor (unnamed, presumably because the 1988 election hadn’t been called when Ballard was writing) proved to be less-than-inspirational. This an era in which news reportage on the President’s health ends up displacing stories of far greater importance – such as the brief outbreak of World War 3, swiftly nixed.

In predicting that Reagan would have succumbed to a form of dementia almost entirely soon after leaving office, Ballard might simply be being cheeky about Reagan’s public image – in retrospect, it seems like the signs were evident, though how much of Reagan’s public failures of recollection were sincere and how many were a bid to evade scrutiny over the Iran-Contra affair is an open question. Nonetheless, this last twisting of the knife is wild to read knowing what we know now, especially given Ballard’s long-standing hostility towards Reagan as enunciated in The Atrocity Exhibition.

What feels particularly prophetic here – though, again, this is likely extrapolating from trends already extant during Reagan’s presidency – was how the then-new medium of 24/7 news would rapidly become consumed by irrelevancy, and in the depiction of a gerontocracy in the United States as stagnant and moribund as that in the late Soviet Union or China in the time Ballard was writing.

(The story unfortunately includes a crack about radical Islamism and feminism finding common cause; this is an ugly take, and whilst I suspect it’s specifically a jab at some of the more sex-negative expressions of second wave feminism the lack of specificity is still galling.)

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Ballard’s Millennial Legends

Myths of the Near Future is the first of J.G. Ballard’s two major late-career short story collections. In terms of the chronology of when the stories emerged, the anthology spans 1976-1982 – a narrower span of years than any Ballard collection since The Terminal Beach – and so covers much of Ballard’s late flowering of short story output from this period. From 1984 onwards, his short story output would be more sporadic, but as in Low-Flying Aircraft we find Ballard here using his well-matured talents to provide both somewhat more refined takes on earlier ideas and toying with a few new ones.

The title story is a phantasmagoric blend of a massive number of distinctive Ballard themes and images from across his entire career, combined together in a single narrative that reaches a Messianic culmination. Light aircraft… abandoned beachside resorts occupied by transients and hangers on… a long-decommissioned Cape Kennedy… the failure of the Space Age… empty swimming pools… people on the verge of turning into birds… new life forms emerging in a zone where the future is just a little closer than elsewhere… jeweled animals… obsessive blends of pornography and geometry… strange ritualistic behaviour… a world winding down into slow disaster, or perhaps preparing for a massive evolutionary leap… accreted time… a man chasing his wife, who may be dead… a renegade neurosurgeon… a strange sort of time-sickness which may be a transformation of how we see perceive the universe itself…

All these Ballard ideas and more besides crop up in the story, making it a sort of Platonic ideal of his writing and the keystone through which everything fits together. Look through it in this direction and you can see The Crystal World; rotate it a little, like a multifaceted gemstone, and you might see glimpses of The Cage of Sand, The Atrocity Exhibition, The Dead Astronaut, Low-Flying Aircraft, The Voices of Time, Storm-Bird, Storm Dreamer, and more besides.

What’s startling is just how well all these ideas blend together; it’s like this is the story which Ballard has been working towards, and he needed to master all the individual ideas in it before he could bring them all together in one bizarre vision. Whereas one of Ballard’s earliest stories, Passport To Eternity, fell down because it was trying to do too many things at once and Ballard was still honing his skills, here Ballard is able to throw in even more at once and make it all work beautifully.

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Scavenging For Deep Space Scraps

Among the clutch of J.G. Ballard collections that came out in the 1960s, there was a set I’ve not covered yet called The Overloaded Man. After the publication of the Vermilion Sands collection, later revisions of The 4-Dimensional Nightmare/The Voices of Time would drop the stories Studio 5, The Stars and Prima Belladonna so as to keep the Vermilion Sands stories exclusive to their own collection, and substitute in Thirteen To Centaurus and The Overloaded Man (the story) from The Overloaded Man (the collection).

This left the remaining stories from The Overloaded Man rather orphaned; eventually, the collection was revised and reissued in 1980 under the title of The Venus Hunters (after all, The Overloaded Man was no longer in the collection) with three otherwise-uncollected stories tacked on to fill the gap.

The resulting collection is therefore a bit of a weird grab-bag. On one level, it’s the most wide-ranging of Ballard’s main UK anthologies (other than The Complete Short Stories, of course), since the stories in it span from 1956 to 1976. On the other hand, the distribution in that timespan is far from even. You have the seven stories orphaned from The Overloaded Man, which span from 1956 to 1963 but err towards the earlier part of that (there’s more 1950s stories here than in any of the other Ballard collections I’ve covered), and then the added-in stories come from 1969, 1976, and 1978.

The overall impression, looking at the collection from this perspective is of a grab-bag of stories which didn’t quite make the cut for any other collection – including sets like The Terminal Beach or The Day of Forever, which I already felt were a tier below other collections published at around the same time of them. Is that fair, or are there overlooked treasures here?

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Ballard Glides Into the 1970s

Collecting stories spanning from 1966 to 1976, Low-Flying Aircraft is a J.G. Ballard collection which represents a significant step forward from the various short stories collections I’ve covered so far as I’ve been working my way through his Complete Short Stories.

The collections I’ve covered so far – The Voices of Time, The Terminal Beach, The Disaster Area, The Day of Forever, and Vermilion Sands – have all essentially centred on Ballard’s work from the 1950s to the mid-1960s. (Vermilion Sands includes some stories set after this, but rooted sufficiently in the approach of the earlier tales in the collection to feel like all the segments are in the same general style.) Likewise The Atrocity Exhibition, if you take it as a short story selection rather than a novel, is more the product of an intense burst of experimental writing on Ballard’s part spanning 1966-1969, and each of the experiments were so thematically tied to each other that the tales there constitute its own little anomaly.

The end of the 1960s, however, saw Ballard’s short fiction output tailing off. After he broke into the market in the 1950s, the 1960s was really the main flowering of his short story writing; even if you set aside the components of The Atrocity Exhibition, comfortably over half his short story output took place then, with the bulk of it from 1960-1966 or so. Following The Atrocity Exhibition, Ballard’s short story output tailed off as he placed a greater focus on his novels, with Crash, Concrete Island, and High-Rise finding him shift his novel-writing in a direction which shifted away from both the different flavours of post-apocalyptic fiction he explored in The Wind From Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Burning World, and The Crystal World, whilst stepping back from the high-experimentation approach of The Atrocity Exhibition.

As a result, despite containing stories separated by a decade or so, Low-Flying Aircraft actually contains all of Ballard’s short story output of 1970 to 1974 and (again, if you don’t account the components of The Atrocity Exhibition as short stories) the majority of his output from 1968 to 1975. This means that as well as catching some of the last fruits of Ballard’s major run of short stories ending in the late 1960s, Low-Flying Aircraft also captures the start of the burst of new short stories he produced from 1976 to the early 1980s which would be the focus of collections like Myths of the Near Future.

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Ballard’s Obscene Display

Though I’ve been looking over J.G. Ballard’s short stories as collected in The Complete Short Stories of late, I’m switching tracks here to tackle The Atrocity Exhibition, since I think I’ve now hit an appropriate point to consider that and, according to some schools of thought, it’s a collection of short stories instead of a novel, since each individual chapter of it was published separately somewhere in 1966-1969 before it was all brought together in the book.

On rereading it, I don’t agree. Although each chapter can be taken as its own self-contained thing, the mosaic Ballard creates when putting them together like this reveals a kind of narrative arc spanning the entire book, from its opening chapter (The Atrocity Exhibition) to its conclusion, The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As a Downhill Motor Race, which had been originally devised by Ballard as his contribution to Dangerous Visions before an interfering publisher decided to reject the story before it even reached Harlan Ellison for consideration.

This was not the only censorious response to the book’s contents. In the UK, a booklet publication of the penultimate chapter/story, Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan, was one of the subjects of obscenity charges brought against the Unicorn Bookshop in Brighton; Ballard was in the end not called as a witness by the defence because in an interview with the defence attorneys he stated that yes, obviously the story was obscene, the whole point of it was to present a grotesque obscenity as a means of taking a stab at then-Governor Reagan and the far-right tone of his policies at the time. (In Ballard’s assessment, Reagan toned things down a notch by the time he was President, but that’s perhaps more a measure of how extreme Reagan was in the late 1960s than how mellow he was in the 1980s.)

Its original US publication by Doubleday had the entire print run pulped when Nelson Doubleday Jr. decided that there was too much risk of legal action taken by the real-life celebrities named in the book. Doubleday’s worries are interesting here because the book doesn’t actually depict any of those celebrities doing anything which they have not been demonstrably shown to do – it merely depicts a very, very strange way of looking at and interpreting those people – and so it feels like a defamation action would have struggled, but such was the offense that publishers feared would be caused by the book.

Grove Press would issue the book in 1972 under the alternate title of Love and Napalm: Export USA; though this was one of the chapter titles in the book, Ballard objected to using it as the name of the entire novel because he thought it implied that the whole thing was exclusively an anti-American polemic, when in fact he thought that the sort of mass media assault on the public psyche the book obsesses about was as present in Britain as it was in America, and had probably been taken further and become more sophisticated.

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J.G. Ballard’s Ultimate Resort

I’ve been looking forward to this one. Over the course of my coverage of Ballard’s short stories – working through his Collected Short Stories based on the contents of individual short story collections (so far: The Voices of TimeThe Terminal BeachThe Disaster AreaThe Day of Forever), I’ve hit the point where I have now covered the majority of his short stories of his first decade or so as a writer, from 1956 to 1966. (A few odds and sods remain, but they’ll end up covered when I tackle The Venus Hunters.)

There is, however, a really major exception, and it’s not any of the component stories which went into The Atrocity Exhibition (written 1966-1969, and arguably a novel originally issued as a scattered cloud of short stories before Ballard drew them all together to reveal the hideous pattern lurking underneath). So far, I have not covered any of Ballard’s stories about the strange artistic enclave of Vermilion Sands. This means so that I’ve not talked about an entire dimension of Ballard’s early writing which was extraordinarily important – there’s a particular atmosphere to the Vermilion Sands stories that is unique to them and which, at least at this phase of his career, he largely restricted to them, and so isn’t really reflected in his larger body of work from the era.

The reason I’ve not looked at them yet is that they live in their own collection, Vermilion Sands, originally emerging in a slightly truncated US version in 1971 before Jonathan Cape put out the full version in the UK in 1973. It was subsequent to this that his early UK collection The 4-Dimensional Nightmare – later retitled the much more appropriate The Voices of Time – was revised to remove the two Vermilion Sands stories from it and insert two other tales, and for good reason: Vermilion Sands is something special, and the stories gain something from being read together.

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Mini-Review: Moments In the Long Now

I’m back on my J.G. Ballard nonsense. This time, I’m going to cover (most of) the stories in his collection The Day of Forever, released near-simultaneously with The Disaster Area, as well as his contribution to Dangerous Visions.

The title story depicts a quintessentially Ballardian apocalypse: the Earth’s rotation has ceased (or rather, come to a near-standstill), and a small number of survivors rattle around in the depopulated world that remains, sticking to the slowly drifting habitable strip of dusk and dawn. Where North Africa is in dusk, the protagonist finds himself drawn by dreams into a strange revenge plan. What does it all mean? I haven’t the foggiest – but it has this distinctive nightmare quality to it (particularly with the grim turn things take at the end) which feels like something drawn out of dream, and which one has perhaps dreamed too. Perhaps this is the intention – the Surrealists were big on dreams, and Delvaux’s The Echo is specifically cited in the story as a specific image haunting the protagonist’s dreams.

The brief Prisoner of the Coral Deep was included in The Starry Wisdom anthology, and though it is not specifically a Cthulhu Mythos story I can see the logic there since it’s a dreamlike horror-fantasy piece about a mysterious encounter with a mysterious woman on a mysterious coastline, and emphasises the ocean as a link to primal, ancient times. We’ve seen a bunch of those themes in the Ballad readthrough so far – think The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon and Now Wakes the Sea in particular, which this might be read as forming a triptych with.

Tomorrow Is a Million Years feels like Ballard riffing on Moorcock; the hallucinatory imagery as a result of the “timewinds” experienced on a distant planet feels like an intrusion of Moorcockian fantasy, whilst the central guilt trip that has resulted in the main character’s extraterrestrial isolation kind of put me in mind of The Black Corridor. The story is comparatively heavy-handed by Ballard’s standards – as is The Man On the 99th Floor, which is basically a hypnosis story with a rather obvious twist, and feels less interesting than some of Ballard’s more subtle psychological explorations, and The Gentle Assassin, a time travel story which, though competently executed, is based on such an over-used concept that it ends up feeling rather obvious.

A somewhat more involved hypnosis story is The Sudden Afternoon, in which a man having a lazy day at home finds his mind invaded by someone else’s memories – specifically, the memories of a murderer using hypnotic power to hijack his life. Unfortunately the hypnotist in question is Indian, his Indian-ness is fairly heavily emphasised as being exotic and unusual and a little threatening by the text, and his powers are described as arising from yogic practices. As a result, it ends up essentially offering a story which could have come out of the Victorian period in terms of the values expressed.

The Waiting Grounds, meanwhile, feels like a dry run of The Voices of Time – set in space rather than Earth, being as it is a fairly early Ballard work written before he seems to have settled on dilapidated areas of Earth as a better venue for his work. Much as with that story it culminates in a meditation on the long-term meaning or meaninglessness of existence, but it takes a more hopeful, Olaf Stapledon-tinged view of things.

The Last World of Mr. Goddard, a fantasy which presents a protagonist who exercises a strange sort of supervision over his little world and is increasingly resented for it, feels like one of Ballard’s many exercises in highlighting the artificiality of British society as it existed at the time. Having had his comfortable colonial childhood entirely upended by World War II, Ballard took an interest going forwards in the idea of polite society as an artificial veneer which can go away at any time, and this plugs directly into that concept.

The Insane Ones depicts a future dystopia in which psychiatry and mental health assistance is banned outright – ostensibly in the name of “mental freedom”, but in practice as a means of furthering an authoritarian crackdown. The concerns seem plausible, but the story could be read as a slam on the concept of “neurodiversity” and the like; it is perhaps best to regard it as a pushback of the tendency in science fiction (including some of Ballard’s own work) to have excessive psychologically-driven intrusion and control being a regular theme, and a warning against the excesses of the anti-psychiatry movement of the time (from the fringes of which emerged Dianetics and Scientology). Yes, mid-20th Century psychiatry made some bad mistakes – the excessive use of lobotomy being a particularly gruesome case in point – but Ballard recognises that an excessive backlash risks creating a world where people are outright refused the help they are crying out for.

The last story in the collection is The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As a Downhill Motor Race, but this was later integrated into The Atrocity Exhibition so I think it is better covered in relation to that. In its place, I may as well take this chance to look at Ballard’s 1967 story The Recognition, which was his contribution to Dangerous Visions. (In fact, The Assassination… was Ballard’s original submission to Dangerous Visions, but was rejected; Ellison claims that the publishers didn’t even forward the story to him but decided to punt it back to Ballard immediately.) This sets up an almost Thomas Ligotti-esque atmosphere in its creepy story of a decrepit little animal exhibit setting itself up on the fringe of a more typical funfair, but somewhat blows it by being somewhat too coy in the very end; that coyness may be the point, but it’s still somewhat deflating and anticlimatic in execution, especially if you’ve already sussed out where the story is going.

It’s notable that The Disaster Area came out via Jonathan Cape, The Day of Forever via Panther; Jonathan Cape was a bit more upmarket at the time, Panther less so, and I think this had an influence on the selection of material; the stories here seem to veer more towards more traditional genre stuff rather than the more literary SF style of many of the tales in The Disaster Area. As such, it does feel like The Day of Forever consists of Ballard throwing Panther the scraps left behind after Jonathan Cape got the meat; it’s alright as far as 1960s science fiction and fantasy material goes, but it’s not peak Ballard.

Ballard’s Zone of Alienation

After harkening to The Voices of Time and lounging on The Terminal Beach, I’m moving on to the next port of call in my journey through J.G. Ballard’s short stories. The Disaster Area is one of two Ballard anthologies which came out in rapid succession in 1967, the other one being The Day of Forever; I’ll tackle this one first since, collecting stories that emerged from 1957-1966, its chronological centre of gravity is slightly earlier than The Day of Forever‘s.

The collection leads off with Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer, one of the 1966 pieces. By this point, Ballard had honed his particular style of psychological science fiction to the level where he could meaningfully parody it, as I kind of think he does here. On the coast of Norfolk a volunteer militiaman is assigned to a picket boat to keep watch for giant birds – mutants resulting from an agrichemical accident a la H.G. Wells’ The Food of the Gods. He observes a woman in the bird-blighted wasteland acting strangely; he comes up with a typically Ballardian armchair psychology diagnosis of what’s going on with her, tries to play along, and comes to bad end because her actual obsession is not what he expected.

As well as a warning to readers not to jump the gun when diagnosing Ballard’s characters, this also strikes me as an acknowledgement that stories of his based around the observation of the psychological quirks and fixations of characters are inevitably also an exploration of the psychology of the characters observing and reacting to these quirks, and of Ballard himself.

The first 1957 here is The Concentration City, sometimes published as Build-Up, in which a man who lives in a hyper-populated city of the far future goes on an expedition to attempt to find the edge of it; internal evidence suggests that the area is, in fact, significantly larger than the Earth itself, and some sort of warping of space and time occurs if you attempt to travel far enough.

What seemed at first to be a fairly generic “overpopulation of Earth” story (like Billennium from The Terminal Beach) dissolves to reveal a much stranger enigma, which the central character has no way to meaningfully interrogate and so the story stops at that point, Ballard early on in his career finding a place where science fictional speculation and fantastic allegory end up bleeding into each other and settling down there to make it his own.

The Subliminal Man, likewise, at first looks like it is going to be a simplistic “advertising bad” story, but is able to move beyond this by putting the subliminal adverts that are its subject in the midst of a much broader depiction of consumerism and capitalism run wild, a future where the subliminal ads have become necessary because the capacity of innovation to drive economic growth has reached its limit and the economic system can’t cope with a slowdown; here, the use of such tactics is characteristic of a system desperately trying a last-ditch attempt to keep itself upright before it becomes terminally disrupted.

Any parallels to today’s social media data-harvesting and targeted advertising are coincidental, but flattering to Ballard’s reputation as a prognosticator; whilst science fiction isn’t really about predicting the future, Ballard’s worlds often seem like places where we could plausibly end up, which is why the consumerism of the 1960s he was skewering here feels so much like the consumerism of the 2020s (since the root causes have not changed). Moreover, in its depiction of the media landscape invading both the exterior landscape of the city and the interior landscape of people’s minds, it’s another stop on the route to The Atrocity Exhibition.

Now Wakes the Sea is almost horror; a man dreams of the ocean which once existed where his home currently is, and finds himself translated through time. It feels like another take on a similar concept to The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon from The Terminal Beach – right down to the visions of a mysterious coastline with a mysterious woman on it. Another fantasy-horror story is Mr F. is Mr F., in which a man discovers that he is suffering a kind of sudden onset Benjamin Button syndrome and aging in reverse under the influence his wife, who is intent on infantilising him. This feels like the sort of writing men like Ballard or Dick did about emasculating women who were out to infantilise their husbands, when in my experience the last thing women want is to feel like they’ve taken the place of their husband’s mother when it comes to housework/feeding/etc.

Other psychological stories with a more science fictional bent include Zone of Terror, in which a man’s displaced sense of self manifests as actual visions of himself as he was a few minutes ago, and Manhole 69 (hurr), which is probably most interesting as a precursor to that “sleep deprivation experiment” creepypasta, and The Impossible Man, which expresses reservations about the rise of transplant surgery which look a bit implausible in the wake of decades of experience. All three of these feel like they are let down by a little too much armchair psychology and an over-reliance on concepts the field has moved beyond since.

On the other hand, Minus One‘s psychological message is a bit more timeless, since it’s as much a spoof on psychological theorising as it is an exercise in doing so oneself: faced with the potentially disastrous escape of a patient, the staff of a mental hospital persuade themselves that the patient never existed, adopting avoidant behaviour on an institutional level.

By and large, The Disaster Area is a less patchy collection than The Terminal Beach, and is at least on the level of The Voices of Time when it comes to anthologies of Ballard’s early work.

The Liminal Coastline of Mortality

The story so far: I’m going to be working through J.G. Ballard’s short stories (with the exception of the pieces that got assembled into The Atrocity Exhibition, which I will discuss when I review that should I get around to it), but rather than reading the entire massive brick of his Complete Short Stories at once my plan is to pick stories out of there based on a set of his UK-published anthologies which allows for covering them with no overlap between collections.

Previously, I’d done The Voices of Time, a collection of stories from a narrow span of time (1960-1962); this time, I’m going to go beachcombing on The Terminal Beach, not to be confused with the US collection with a similar name (just Terminal Beach, no “the”) which came out at around the same time. This has another reasonably tight timeframe in terms of when the stories collected therein first emerged – they’re all from 1963 or 1964 except for Deep End and Billennium, which are both from 1961.

The opening story, A Question of Re-Entry, revolves around the search for the first astronaut to have successfully made it to the Moon (in this timeline three capsules of failed spaceships orbit the Moon, their astronauts aboard them), whose pod crash-landed in the Amazon. The story is unfortunately mired in a deeply colonialist view of Amazonian tribespeople, regularly using intensely dehumanising language in relation to them. Whilst the interactions between global culture and these uncontacted peoples is part of the point of the story, these depictions creep beyond the perceptions and attitudes of the outsiders visiting these tribes and into the narration itself.

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Echoes From the Aeons

J.G. Ballard was a good buddy of Michael Moorcock and a regular contributor to New Worlds even before Moorcock took over the editorship of that organ, and as such his early writing career established him as a cornerstone of British New Wave science fiction. Between Moorcock’s childhood in a bombed-out London and Ballard’s stint in a Japanese prison camp, both men’s lives saw them emerging from the traumas of the Second World War to confront the future with, perhaps, a little more caution than the more gung-ho visions of most American SF authors of their generation.

J.G. Ballard’s novels have ranged from straight-ahead postapocalyptic fiction to William Burroughs-esque fever dreams to bizarre explorations of imaginary fetishes to satirical takedowns of modern excess, but in his early career his short stories were as important as his novels, so I’ve decided to start an exploration of his short fiction. Fortunately for me, the vast majority of it is collected in his Complete Short Stories, which I am the happy owner of a 2001 edition of.

Despite the title it is not quite complete – it skips over his “surgical fictions” which just consisted of surgical reports with celebrity’s names substituted in for the names of the patients, some juvenilia, a couple of brief and not particularly notable pieces penned after The Complete Short Fiction was published, pieces later expanded into full novels, and Journey Across a Crater, an attempt to address the ideas of Crash in the “condensed novel” style Ballard infamously used in The Atrocity Exhibition which Ballard later declared didn’t really work. I don’t think we lose anything if we skip those, however. I am also going to skip over the stories which later became integral parts of The Atrocity Exhibition, since whether that is a novel or a collection of connected stories is a debate in its own right which I’ll address if and when I get around to reviewing it. (Indeed, it’s notable that only two of them appear in the Complete Short Stories).

I am also going to apply a bit of structure to the review process. Rather than trying to consume the entire Complete Short Stories at once, I am going to address it by covering the subsets of the stories in question that appear in each of Ballard’s major UK anthologies of his work. Happily, the final versions of these anthologies (some of them had stories removed and added and titles tweaks over their publication history) yield a collection of Ballard’s stories in which no stories are redundantly covered in two anthologies at once, so by taking each of those anthologies in turn I should cover the vast majority of the collection, and also each article will be a more or less complete review of the smaller anthology in question, which may benefit those of you who don’t want to dive in with the whole Complete Short Stories but would prefer to have thoughts on smaller, more digestible delivery mechanisms for Ballard fiction. I will save for the end of this series a consideration of the tales in the Complete Short Stories which hadn’t previously been collected in a Ballard anthology – three brief 1992 pieces plus The Recognition, his contribution to Dangerous Visions.

The Voices of Time is a Ballard anthology with a complicated publishing history. A collection called The Voices of Time was released in the US in 1962 as the first anthology of Ballard’s works to be published; the contents of that collection overlap with this one but are not the same. The UK version of The Voices of Time was Ballard’s first UK collection, and was released in 1963 under the title of The 4-Dimensional Nightmare.

A 1974 edition revised the collection, removing two stories – Prima Belladonna and Studio 5, the Stars – belonging to the Vermilion Sands setting, since those stories were being anthologised in a single book (called, unsurprisingly, Vermilion Sands), and substituting in two other stories, The Overloaded Man and Thirteen to Centaurus. All subsequent releases of the collection have used this revised set of contents, and from 1984 onwards have used the title The Voices of Time, since The 4-Dimensional Nightmare probably sounds a bit more pulpy and sensational than Ballard’s writing actually is.

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