Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard

Simon Sellars J.G. Ballard

Extreme Metaphors started life as a spinoff from the website Ballardian. On Ballardian, I’d been publishing an increasing number of archival interviews with Ballard. Some I’d unearthed myself, and many were sent to me by contacts in the Ballardosphere, including David Pringle, Mike Holliday, Mike Bonsall and Rick McGrath. The bulk of these interviews had been published in obscure fanzines in the 70s and 80s, some with very limited print runs.

It was a great thrill to publish these. Apart from very recent interviews towards the end of his life, the only Ballard interviews most people were familiar with were the ones published by RE/Search in their excellent publications RE/Search 8/9: J.G. Ballard and J.G. Ballard: Quotes and Conversations.

What we published on Ballardian was just the start. We were now beginning to unearth many more. This momentum gave me the idea to approach Ballard’s regular publisher, HarperCollins, with a proposal to collect them in a wide-ranging volume covering most of Ballard’s career.

HarperCollins agreed, and publication was agreed with their imprint, Fourth Estate. Dan O’Hara, who’d been a contributor to Ballardian, also discovered Ballard interviews that had only appeared in French and German. I asked him to collaborate as co-editor and he set to work translating those interviews. They appeared in English in Extreme Metaphors for the first time.

Extreme Metaphors: Interviews with J.G. Ballard 1967-2008 was published by Fourth Estate in 2012. Of course, Ballard started writing professionally well before 1967, however, his interview with George MacBeth from that year was the earliest we could find. Surprisingly, it seems no one had bothered to interview him before then.

My approach with the volume was to use the interviews to explore each key phase of his career. If you’re a dedicated Ballardian, you could do worse than read Extreme Metaphors at the same time as you revisit Ballard’s fiction. His comments on his novels and short stories are highly illuminating and bring a deep understanding of his work. In my introduction to the book, I wrote about this in greater detail.

While I wanted to include as many obscure interviews as possible, I also wanted to include Ballard conversations with ‘big guns’ like Iain Sinclair, Will Self, the RE/Search team and so on. I wanted to demonstrate how Ballard’s appeal crossed boundaries from mainstream popularity to ongoing ‘cult’ relevance.

Extreme Metaphors gathered great press and reviews. In 2012, it was a Guardian Book of the Year, 3AM Magazine’s Non-Fiction Book of the Year and a BSFA nominee for best non-fiction work.