Science Fiction

Empire of the Green Sun


J.G. Ballard, author of Crash, High Rise, and the immortal short story "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan," defines his politics:

Ballard considers himself a libertarian. "I'm all for free sex, alcohol and would liberalise the drug laws if some way could be found to protect adolescents."

In the same profile, Ballard endorses a character's comment that "Consumerism creates huge unconscious needs that only fascism can satisfy. If anything, fascism is the form that consumerism takes when it opts for elective madness." Which sounds a bit less Reasonesque, though it also brings to mind an essay the author wrote in 1971, collected in his book A User's Guide to the Millennium:

Could Ralph Nader, the consumer crusader and scourge of General Motors, become the first dictator of the United States? The question isn't entirely frivolous….Nader is unloading a powerful sense of anxiety and guilt on to a huge range of commonplace activities. Sooner or later, I would guess, these will crystalize around one major subject, a simple formula of antagonism, unease and wish-fulfillment that will play the same role in the technological landscape that cruder formulas played in the political landscape. Inevitably, I suppose, the consumer society must produce its own unique demagogue, but this sort of dictator may well be difficult to recognize and unseat.

[Hat tip: Joanne McNeil.]

NEXT: Stayed in Alabama a Day Too Long

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  1. We are all libertarians now!

  2. One of the greatest mysteries of publishing is why-oh-why JG Ballard hasn?t got a US publisher:

    Well, one reason might be for writing stories like this.

    Objectively, it’s not really much of a story, but before the Kennedy assassination receded into the misty recesses of ancient history, it was always great tool for outraging the sensibilities of Respectable People everywhere….

  3. High Rise was excellent.

  4. “High Rise” pissed me off. I was on the verge of putting it down every page. There was something fascinating about it that kept me reading it, yet it pissed me off the whole way. I much preferred “The Wind from Nowhere”, and earlier book which also had that “Incredible Shrinking Man” shtick of things just keep getting worse and worse for no apparent reason, but with a pulp sci-fi rather than Great Art feel.

  5. Could Ralph Nader, the consumer crusader and scourge of General Motors, become the first dictator of the United States? The question isn’t entirely frivolous

    Yes, yes it is.

  6. Loved me some Cocaine Nights. I think Mr. Ballard has a lot better handle on individuals’ herding instinct than most people give him credit for, probably because he always takes the end result to the absurd.

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