Mr. Ballard, He Say No

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“I thought the whole problem SF faced was that its consciousness, critically speaking, had been raised to wholly inappropriate heights-the apotheosis of the hamburger. An exhilarating and challenging entertainment fiction which Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain would have relished has become a “disci- pline”-God help us-beloved of those like the Delany who will no doubt pour scorn on my novel of the early ’70s. The “theory and criticism of s-f”!! Vast theories and pseudo-theories are elaborated by people with not an idea in their bones. Needless to say, I totally exclude Baudrillard (whose essay on Crash I have not really wanted to understand)-I read it for the first time some years ago. Of course, his Amerique is an absolutely brilliant piece of writing, probably the most sharply clever piece of writing since Swift- brilliancies and jewels of insight in every paragraph-an intellectual Alladin’s cave. But your whole “postmodernism” view of SF strikes me as doubly sini- ster. SF was ALWAYS modern, but now it is “postmodern”-bourgeoisifica- tion in the form of an over-professionalized academia with nowhere to take its girlfriend for a bottle of wine and a dance is now rolling its jaws over an innocent and naive fiction that desperately needs to be left alone. You are killing us! Stay your hand! Leave us be! Turn your “intelligence” to the iconography of filling stations, cash machines, or whatever nonsense your entertainment culture deems to be the flavor of the day. We have enough intellectuals in Europe as it is; let the great USA devote itself to the spirit of the Wrights-bicycle mechanics and the sons of a bishop. The latter’s modesty and exquisitely plain prose style would be an example to you- especially his restrained but heartfelt reflections on the death of one of his sons, a model of the spirit animating SF at its best. But I fear you are trapped inside your dismal jargon.”

J. G. Ballard, “A Response to the Invitation to Respond”. Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3, Science Fiction and Postmodernism (Nov., 1991). p. 329.

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