the art of fiction – no.85

No one does interviews quite like The Paris Review. In a 1984 interview, Thomas Frick asked English novelist and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction, JG Ballard, how a book took shape for him. Ballard’s reply follows:

“That’s a vast topic and, to be honest, one I barely understand. Even in the case of a naturalistic writer, who in a sense takes his subject matter directly from the world around him, it’s difficult enough to understand how a particular fiction imposes itself.

But in the case of an imaginative writer, especially one like myself with strong affinities to the surrealists, I’m barely aware of what is going on. Recurrent ideas assemble themselves, obsessions solidify themselves, one generates a set of working mythologies, like tales of gold invented to inspire a crew.

J.G. Ballard

I assume one is dealing with a process very close to that of dreams, a set of scenarios devised to make sense of apparently irreconcilable ideas. Just as the optical centers of the brain construct a wholly artificial three-dimensional universe through which we can move effectively, so the mind as a whole creates an imaginary world that satisfactorily explains everything, as long as it is constantly updated. So the stream of novels and stories continues . ..”

Download a PDF of the full interview

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