PRINT October 2009

Clark Coolidge

From his balcony Mallory watched

the ancient biplane circle the

rusty gantries of Cape Kennedy.

—J. G. Ballard, “Memories of the Space Age” (1982)

I FIRST ENCOUNTERED J. G. BALLARD in the epigraph to an essay by Robert Smithson. “Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space,” which appeared in the November 1966 issue of Arts Magazine, begins with a brief but intriguing quote from “The Overloaded Man,” a story in Ballard’s 1962 collection The Voices of Time: “Without a time sense consciousness is difficult to visualize.” Such titles weren’t easy to find in the San Francisco area of the late ’60s, but I did manage to track down a tattered copy along with the novels of his early elemental-cataclysm tetralogy: The Wind from Nowhere (1962), The Drowned World (1962), The Burning World (1964), and The Crystal World (1966). These works would open realms I had never come across in fiction.

I had spent

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