Arriving on the desk this morning (as well as some free stuff! Thanks, Michael!) was a copy of J.G. Ballard’s THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION.
I had read a couple of these stories—’You: Coma: Marilyn Monroe’ and ‘The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered As A Downhill Motor Race’—in a couple of old New Worlds obtained on one of the many Solaris recces to the second hand bookstores of Nottingham. (Think three geeks going mad for pungent paperbacks, elbowing each other out of the way for anything that’s rare, and spilling blood if it’s a first edition.) I sense a Big Ballard Phase coming on, and will be hitting the Amazon marketplace this lunch hour to buy a stack of his stuff to read.
I find it remarkable that there was such an outrage when THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION was published—obscenity trials, print runs being destroyed etc. Aside from the controversy, it was a remarkably experimental work, establishing Ballard's literary reputation. It’s hard to think of anything like that happening today in the publishing world. But also, it makes me wonder if publishing is more conservative today—or is it that the market demands more conservative titles. Sales are extremely important; this is a business after all. Maybe there is a need to stick with what’s safe. On the other hand, are there many taboos left in SF? Surely such a speculative field has mined as much as it can on this front. Perhaps all the frontiers have been pushed, which is why there is so little controversy these days. If a modern equivalent of Ballard’s early writing arrived on desks across the publishing world today, would many go for it? I doubt that much of what went in the New Wave of SF would be accepted by mainstream press in the modern publishing world, which is a shame.
And although it’s after 9/11 now, National Geographic has these remarkable photos to mark the day.
— Mark N