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Today, these are the pieces we'll be covering from The Complete Short Stories of J.G. Ballard:
- Introduction by Martin Amis
- The Concentration City (p. 23)
- Now:Zero (p. 96)
- The Last World of Mr. Goddard (p. 196)
- Mr. F is Mr. F. (p. 255)
- The Man on the 99th Floor (p. 405)
- The Subliminal Man (p. 412)
- The Venus Hunters (p. 495)
For those of you not caught up, who didn't read any of stories, or just don't have any questions and love instant gratification, CONSIDER watching this VIDEO!
- Amis says "purists" call science fiction "SF", not "sci fi". Do you agree with this?
- Amis highlights early Ballard stories as "pushing hard against the boundaries of conventional SF," focusing on "the dystopia of overpopulation". This calls to mind the texts, "The Concentration City", "Chronopolis", and "Billennium", and others. While a lot of generic science fiction seems to promise a limitless expansion of time and space ("Star Wars", "Star Trek", "Avatar"), Ballard chooses to depict a decaying, crowded future of finite resources and dangerous overdevelopment. Are there questions here we may ask ourselves about what "generic" science fiction makes us think about the future of humanity, and the landscapes/scenarios Ballard envisions?
- "Now: Zero"; Many short stories depict a single narrative arch with limited third or first person perspective, or at times a more omnipotent point of view. However, with this piece, we see Ballard attempting a more fun, experimental approach. On page 105, the narrator makes reference to "a magazine of wide circulation": this brings to mind the old pulp serials of first half of the 20th century. Would a story like this be published today? Is there a publishing platform that still allows wide dissemination of innovative, creative storytelling?
- In "The Last World of Mr. Goddard", "Mr. F is Mr. F", "The Man on the 99th Floor","The Subliminal Man", "The Venus Hunters", is there a distinct common thread, thematically-speaking? While the plots of each tale are unique, Ballard situates us with a main character (in a sense, we are "thrown" into their world) who is assured of their reality and their mental competence, albeit stricken with a precise streak of paranoia.
Gradually (or very abruptly at times) these illusions are shattered and the characters are forced to reconcile themselves to a different reality; can one consider these "epiphanies" in a Joycean sense?
For next time, let's read and discuss:
- The Sudden Afternoon, p. 535
- The Terminal Beach, p. 589
- The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Considered as a Downhill Motor Race, p. 720
- Say Goodbye to the Wind, p. 795
- The Greatest Television Show on Earth, p. 806