J.G. Ballard: Short Stories & Books

Instructor: Paulina Bouzas

Paulina holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and Literature and is pursuing a M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Eastern Finland.

J.G. Ballard was an English science fiction author best known for the novels 'The Atrocity Exhibition' and 'Crash.' In this lesson, we will learn more about some of his work, including his short stories and books.

The Life of J.G. Ballard

Author James Graham Ballard was born in China to English parents in 1930. Caught in the middle of World War II, the whole family had to relocate to an internment camp. It is sometimes said that Ballard's exposure to the war led to the apocalyptic and sometimes violent nature of some of his work.

By the end of the war, in 1945, he moved to the United Kingdom with his mother and sister. There he attended college with the intention to become a psychiatrist. Ten years later, after abandoning his medical career, he joined the Royal Air Force and was sent to Canada. It wasn't until his return to England that he got married. Two of his first science fiction stories were finally published in 1956.

Ballard first published his short stories in magazines, like Fantastic, published from 1952-1980.

By 1960, Ballard had achieved a full-time writing career and moved to the suburbs of London (where he spent the rest of his life) with his wife and kids.

His work is considered part of the New Wave science fiction. You may remember from other lessons that this particular type of science fiction deals with thematic and stylistic experimentation. Taboo and controversial subjects are often part of these works, as well as a more pessimistic view of humanity and a setting in a near future.

Short Stories

Although he wrote some short stories that won awards during his college years, he didn't explore the science fiction genre until 1956 after settling in the suburbs of London with his wife, and having returned from the Royal Air Force. ''Escapement'' and ''Prima Belladonna'' were published in 1956 in science fiction magazines.

Some of his most famous short story collections include:

  • The Terminal Beach (1964), in which the short story with the same title can be found. In this story, we witness the mental and physical decline of a recent widow.
  • Vermilion Sands (1971), in which an imaginary vacation resort is the setting of all the stories.
  • The Venus Hunters (1980), in which technology is a key component of some of the stories.
  • War Fever (1990), which includes the story ''Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown.'' This is an interesting story because it is told entirely by the use of footnotes!

In the early 2000s, a couple of volumes of Ballard's complete short stories were published.


The Wind from Nowhere (1961) is Ballard's first published novel. Before this, he had only focused on short stories. This novel is part of a series of novels that deals with natural disasters; this one involves a hurricane. Let's take a deeper look into two of his most famous novels.

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