The winner of multiple literary awards and accolades, most recently The Golden PEN award (2009) and an honorary Posthumous Doctorate (2009), Ballard’s work is recognised as being so distinctive within the science fiction genre that the term ‘Ballardian’ has been assigned to describe subsequent works of fiction that are thematically experimental or descriptive of dystopian modernity.
Ballard was established as part of the ‘New Wave’ of science fiction early in his career owing to the experimental nature of both the form and the content of his work. He focused mainly on apocalyptic narratives or post-apocalyptic worlds and widely commented on new technologies and mass media and the role these played in the world. His work is sometimes considered to belong to the postmodernist movement which could arguably be linked with Ballard’s childhood growing up in World War Two and his response to the post-war society he inhabited.
Ballard’s greatest achievement and most celebrated novel in the science fiction genre is Crash (1973). In this novel, cars are symbolic of the mechanisation of the world and humans’ ability to destroy themselves by becoming obsessed with it. The novel was deemed controversial, but established Ballard as an eminent figure in the sub-genre of dystopian fiction. His most significant work of short fiction is noted to be the short story collection Vermillion Sands (1971), which centralises around the role of technology in a future which is set on Earth as opposed to on distant planets.
The strength of his work lies in his distinctly dystopian narratives which provided the ability to render knowable a future that was not implausible to his readers but which centralised around the changing world at the time of the novels’ publication: a notion which is still relevant in the ever shifting, increasingly technological culture of today.