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Approaching the near future through the fictional landscapes of J.G. Ballard

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

Dr Mark Hardiman (Speaker), 5 Jul 2017

Scientists are increasingly predicting disruptive climatic changes over the next century and a world landscape which will be significantly altered. It has been noted that some climate scientists engaged in making these predictions are increasingly dealing with the psychological toll of the implications of their work, suffering a “surreal existence” or even “pre-traumatic” stress under the weight of the increasingly bleak outlook. Can these pressures be mediated through the representations of climate change in literature?

JG Ballard’s fiction is deeply imbued with geographical thinking, often re-ordering the space and time within his stories. This is particularly true of Ballard’s early novels The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964) (later extended and released as The Drought in 1965) and The Crystal World (1966). Ballard landscapes are complex, The Drowned World, for example can be read as emplacing a warmer Triassic world onto the present. The Crystal World is concerned with the present and the attainment of some form of timelessness, whereas The Burning World considers a future where precipitation ceases to occur. Ballard’s often marries his changing landscapes to the psychological shifts being undertaken by his lead characters and, rather uniquely, these characters often embrace their new worlds however different they are to what came before, in this sense Ballard could even be described as unapologetically pro-apocalypse.

This paper explores JG Ballard’s early work through the eyes of a scientist and concludes that this and similar fiction may be used to mediate and even inspire scientific thinking.
5 Jul 2017

Event (Conference)

TitleMediating Climate Change
Web address (URL)
LocationUniversity of Leeds
CountryUnited Kingdom

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