Science Fiction, LMC3214: New Wave Lecture and Three Story Discussion

Today’s class was like an exclamation point in two ways. First, there was the long stroke of lecture. I lectured on the origins of the New Wave in New Worlds, Judith Merril’s England Swings SF, and Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions. I gave my students background on semiotics, modernity/postmodernity, and modernism/postmodernism to anchor the New Wave (alas, arguing for a grand narrative while saying there ain’t such a thing). I talked more in-depth about the writers whose work we had read for today: J.G. Ballard, Harlan Ellison, and Samuel R. Delany. It was a long lecture, but it was material that I felt was important. Then, the hard dot fell after the pen raised from that long stroke! Students loved, “Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman.” Other students hated it. Students loved, “The Cage of Sand.” Other students hated it. We had a knock-down drag out discussion. It was a beautiful conclusion to a week of lectures, readings, and film viewings. Next week, we continue the New Wave. I will talk about other New Wave writers and we will watch the original Star Trek episode, “The City on the Edge of Forever.” Looking further ahead next week, we will discuss Feminist SF and watch James Cameron’s Aliens (1986).

J. G. Ballard, 1930-2009

Paul Kincaid sent a message to the SFRA and IAFA email lists this morning alerting everyone to J.G. Ballard’s death.  The BBC have a short announcement (with an anti-SF slant) here.  And, Ballard’s Wikipedia entry has already been updated–read it here.

I searched the New York Times, but they haven’t posted the new or an obituary yet.  Though, I did turn up the no-byline review of Ballard’s Crash from 1973 here.  It concludes:

Perhaps J.G. Ballard was traumatized at a drive-in theater. One would like to be sympathetic: the man has talent. But a partial list of his previous titles doesn’t reassure: “The Disaster Area,” “The Terminal Beach,” “The Atrocity Exhibition.” Though it is dangerous to infer creator from character, even when — as in “Crash” — they have the same name, I don’t think I’d care to meet J.G. Ballard. I certainly won’t read further in the Ballard oeuvre.

Unlike the unattributed reviewer, I would have cared to meet J.G. Ballard when he was alive–drive-in traumatization or not.  Today, the world has lost one of the few persons capable of elucidating the terrors of the postmodern paradigm charging with all cylinders firing and a deadening roar of exhaust from the dark highways of the mid-Twentieth Century.