"It's a little as if I were leading the reader to a deserted laboratory, and that I put a collection of specimens and all the necessary equipment at his disposal. It's his job then to relate these elements together and create reactions from them."
JG Ballard, interviewed by Robert Louit, 1974.

Out of a deep respect for JG Ballard's work and a desire to carry out some of those experiments he speaks of, I've been interpreting his work using a variety of digital tools, some of the results are below.

Mike Bonsall: m dot bonsall at gmail dot com

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JG Ballard's Invisible Library:
Call for Contributions

"I have always been a voracious reader of what I term 'invisible literature' – market research reports, pharmaceutical company house magazines, the promotional copy for a new high-energy breakfast food, Journals such as Psychological Abstracts and the Italian automobile magazine Style Auto, the internal memoranda of TV company planning departments, sex manuals, U.S. government reports, and medical textbooks such as the extraordinary Crash Injuries..."
JG Ballard, 1970 interview in Books and Bookmen

We have created an online list of Ballard's invisible literatures, collected from various sources. These are the ephemera Ballard collected during his lifetime and kept in his coal-shed, which he would describe, aptly, as 'the most potent compost for the imagination'. The Invisible Library is an ongoing project, which invites contributions to help grow the list.

A collaborative project with researcher Liz Stainforth.

invisible library image

The Movie

Using Ballard's painstaking descriptions and the SketchUp application, I made and animated a model of the main actor in High-Rise.

You can now buy the book High-Rise: The Book of the Movie

This animation was shown as part of the Ballard Film season at the prestigious National Arts Festival in South Africa in July 2014

high-rise site

JGB Openings Twitterfeed screenshot

JG Ballard's Opening and Closing Tweets

Doing my impression of a Twitterbot I have been posting the first sentence of every Ballard story in date order, then similarly the last line of every story.

You can browse, follow and interact here @JGB_Openings

screenshot of New Ballard Twitterfeed

New Ballard Tweets

On the other hand, this is a real Twitterbot I made. Twice daily it makes up a piece of text using a statistical model based on work created in Ballard's 'urban' phase. Sometimes startling, sometimes surreal, sometimes dull, scroll down until you find something you like.

See it in action here @New_Ballard.

Made with Zach Whalen's bot tool

JG Ballard book 1 cover

The JG Ballard Book 2013

This is a treasure trove of information about Ballard edited by Rick McGrath. It has contributions from Ballard experts such as Toby Litt, David Pringle, James Goddard, Mike Holliday, Rick Poynor, Peter Brigg, Sam Francis, Jordi Costa and Paul A Green. Fully illustrated including pages of original Ballard works, and artwork by Luca del Baldo and Ana Barrado.

It also includes my chapter on JG Ballard in the Dissection Room, a reflection on my and Ballard's different experiences of dissection during two years of medical school -- illustrated with images from the dissection manual Ballard would have used, together with matching text taken from his fiction.

You can see all three volumes of Ballard's dissection manual, Cunningham's Manual of Practical Anatomy compressed into a single volume 0f 1635 pages (PDF 100MB). This is from the seventh edition, not the eleventh that Ballard would have used, though the only significant difference is in the quality of the x-rays -- human anatomy has not changed significantly in a few years!

Original scans of Cunningham's from Internet Archive

JG Ballard book 2 cover

Deep Ends - The JG Ballard Anthology 2014

This second anthology from Rick McGrath's Terminal Press if anything outdoes the first. Uniquely it includes a rare work by JG Ballard in the same volume as pieces from his two daughters Bea and Fay.

Also included is work by Iain Sinclair, Ana Barrado, David Pringle, Raymond Tait, D. Harlan Wilson, Russell Cuzner, Umberto Rossi, Mike Holliday, Lawrence Russell, Paul Green, Dominika Oramus, Pippa Tandy, Bernard Sigaud, Christopher Cokinos, Solveig Nordlund, Dan Mitchell, Pedro Groppo and Peter Brigg -- with art from Feroze Alam and The Test Centre.

My contribution is Mind-Mapping The Terminal Beach, which explores my obsession with a key Ballard short story and my multiple attempts to rediscover this most enigmatic and symbolic island -- including my pieces Ballard Geocoded, Another Terminal Beach, and The Ballard Concordance, all mentioned below.

jgb-geocoded site

Ballard Geocoded

A map of 550 of the locations JG Ballard mentioned in his fiction, demonstrating Ballard's canvas was indeed global.

Click on any of the flags to see the location mentioned, the title of the story and the source text itself.

A mashup made with batchgeo.

concordance site

Crash: The Dummies Tell Their Story

One of the key scenes in JG Ballard's brilliant novel Crash is set at the Road Research Laboratory - but what might the crash test dummies involved have made of it? The animation tool Xtranormal* made it all too easy to speculate...

*sadly Xtranormal is no longer with us

You can now buy the book Crash: The Dummies Tell Their Story

The Ballard Concordance

The concordance is based on all the material in Ballard's published novels, his non-fiction works; A User's Guide to the Millennium and his autobiography Miracles of Life. Also included is all the material in the one-volume Complete Short Stories (Flamingo 2001), the stories from The Atrocity Exhibition (Re/Search 1990), and various uncollected pieces, such as Neil Armstrong Remembers His Journey to the Moon.

Completed in 2008, we believe this is the first ever concordance made of the complete works of a living author.

Made with Concordance software.

crash test site

Welcome to the Ballard-bot

I've made a JG Ballard Interview AI using Ballard's real answers from more than 300 interviews, translated into 50,000 lines of AIML code and hosted by Pandorabots.

The Ballard-bot is waiting to answer your questions . . .

ballard-bot image
another terminal beach site

Another Terminal Beach

As soon as I heard about the resurgence of Interactive Fiction, I knew I had to create a Ballardian IF. Interactive Fiction makes concrete Barthes' trope of the reader creating the text, and The Terminal Beach is the most 'writerly' of texts.

In order to get to the end of the story the reader/player must become Traven, inhabiting the mind of this increasingly disturbed survivor of the modern world.

You can see the complete solution to the game here.

Made with Inform.

The Real Concrete Island?

I was fascinated to discover that Ballard had hung around Notting Hill in the 70s with Moorcock and the New Wave SF writers, Emma Tennant and the Bananas magazine crowd. He must have walked the same streets that years later I was to haunt with my own damaged crew. Living within sight of the Westway, which helped form his motorway mythology, I was moved to do some geo-detective work on Concrete Island, that great updating of Crusoe, and was surprised by what I found.

Hosted by Simon Sellars at Ballardian
Photo by Simon Crubellier

real concrete island site
another atrocity site

JG Ballard's Book of Knowledge

Whenever he was bored his mother had told him, "'Go and read The Eight Volumes.' That was her name for them," he chuckles. "It was the nearest thing to television."
Marianne Brace interviewing JG Ballard, Independent, 15 Sept 2006

'I sold encyclopaedias door to door, a job at which I was surprisingly successful, partly because the Waverley encyclopaedia was the one I had read as a child in Shanghai — I knew it backwards and genuinely believed in it. ... and I often waived my commission ... to secure for them the hours of intelligent pleasure I had known as a child.'
JG Ballard, Miracles of Life, 2008

As well as putting all 4,444 pages of Ballard's favourite encyclopaedia online, I've made a movie of some of them.

Another Atrocity

The hypnotic effect of reading The Atrocity Exhibition encouraged me to make this electronic 'cut-up' version. With each hit of the refresh button a unique page of Another Atrocity is created. Suitably macabre illustrations provided by Versalius.

Made with php.

book of knowledge site
chemistry and industry site

JG Ballard's Experiment in Chemical Living

From 1958 to 1964, J.G. Ballard worked as deputy editor and part-time writer at Chemistry & Industry, the journal of the Society of Chemical Industry. When he started he was also a struggling, disillusioned writer of science fiction; by the time he left C&I he was a successful full-time novelist, what happened at C&I codified the tropes Ballard was to return to throughout his career — the scientific, technical and imaginative motifs that shape the very essence of what we’ve come to know and love as ‘Ballardian’.

Hosted by Simon Sellars at Ballardian

The Ballard Quiz

How well do you know your Ballard?

In these five online quizes you will be shown a series of opening sentences from Ballard's works taken from the novels and short stories (including each of the 'stories' in The Atrocity Exhibition).

Choose the correct name of the work from the list provided - see how many you can get right.

Quiz 1
Quiz 2
Quiz 3
Quiz 4
Quiz 5

towards concrete island image
online quiz image

Towards Concrete Island

"Soon after three o'clock on the afternoon of April 22nd 1973, a 35-year-old architect named Robert Maitland was driving down the high-speed exit lane of the Westway interchange in central London. Six hundred yards from the junction with the newly built spur of the M4 motorway, when the Jaguar had already passed the 70 m.p.h. speed limit, a blow-out collapsed the front nearside tyre. The exploding air reflected from the concrete parapet seemed to detonate inside Robert Maitland's skull. During the few seconds before his crash he clutched at the whiplashing spokes of the steering wheel, dazed by the impact of the chromium window pillar against his head. The car veered from side to side across the empty traffic lanes, jerking his hands like a puppet's."
JG Ballard, Concrete Island, 1974

Thanks to Google Street View we can now follow Maitland at least as far as the crash barrier...

First part of soundtrack from the excellent film Radio On.

Voice synthesis by naturalreaders.com

sound tool

Blood on the Tracks

Before going further, see if you can identify these two sounds:

Sound 1.mp3
Sound 2.mp3

Any ideas? Click here to find the answers