Letter from J G Ballard to Michael Butterworth about the future of fiction, 16 January 1967


Dated 16 January 1967, this letter was written by J G Ballard to Michael Butterworth, a science fiction author associated with New Wave SF in his early career. It is from a collection of correspondence between Ballard and Butterworth that dates from the 1960s–70s, when Butterworth was in his late teens and early twenties. Ballard, then prose editor at Ambit, largely provides feedback and editorial assistance for Butterworth’s writing.

In this letter, Ballard discusses his views on the future direction of fiction and refers to his article 'Notes from Nowhere' recently published in SF magazine, New Worlds. He writes, ‘I feel that the retrospective novel of social relationships is dead’. He suggests that fiction should now address the future, but, crucially, ‘Not the far distant future of traditional science fiction – this is as remote + uninteresting to most people now as the past – but to the immediate future – say 10 years’. This is an approach that Ballard takes in his 1973 novel Crash, as well as later works such as Super Cannes (2000) and Kingdom Come (2006) which probe human behaviour and psychological states in a recognisable yet dystopian near future of gated communities and shopping centres.

Ballard goes on to restate the views on narrative structure that were explored in the New Worlds article: 'Linear sequences belong above all to the recapitulation of long chains of past events. These are out. Non-linear structures, quantified events, are needed. In my recent stories I've made a small step in this direction'.

Full title:
Michael Butterworth and J G Ballard Correspondence: 1965-1975
16 January 1967; whole volume 1965–75, Shepperton, Surrey
Manuscript / Letter / Ephemera
J G Ballard
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Letter to Michael Butterworth, 16 January 1967, by J. G. Ballard © J. G. Ballard. Reproduced by permission of the J. G. Ballard Estate. All rights reserved. You may not use this work for commercial purposes and the copyright holder must be credited.

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