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Near Vermilion Sands: The Context and Date of Composition of an Abandoned Literary Draft by J. G. Ballard

Chris Beckett (notes)

Abstract

The literary archive of J. G. Ballard at the British Library includes an unpublished story set in the environs of Vermilion Sands, a fictional desert resort that is the exotic location of nine stories Ballard wrote between 1956 and 1966. The stories were subsequently collected and published as Vermilion Sands (1971 and 1973). The unpublished story in the archive – which has no title, is not dated, and was eventually abandoned as a composition – comprises seventeen closely typed pages that were revised and annotated on more than one occasion (in red and blue ink). When was it written? Why was it abandoned? This study attempts to answer these questions by assessing a range of evidence, beginning with the identification of textual clues to the date of composition. The draft story’s thematic relationship to the stories of Vermilion Sands is then considered, particularly its relationship to ‘The Screen Game’, a story with which it has much in common. Finally, and rewardingly, the physical evidence of the document itself is assessed, the distinctive paper on which the story was typed.

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