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Sci-Fi Books Media

J.G. Ballard Dies at Age 78 162

Posted by timothy
from the not-left-blank dept.
jefu writes "J.G. Ballard, an author (of science fiction and other fiction) has died. His works include some of the strangest and most compelling novels ever, including 'The Crystal World,' 'Crash' and 'The Atrocity Exhibition.' For a truly weird read, try his 'Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race," compared with Alfred Jarry's "The Crucifixion Considered as an Uphill Bicycle Race.'" Here is Ballard's obituary at the BBC.
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J.G. Ballard Dies at Age 78

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  • by linzeal (197905) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:00PM (#27640227) Homepage Journal
    All of his works are on Piratebay and since copyrights should be nullified upon death, enjoy.
    • by 4D6963 (933028) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:11PM (#27640311)
      Yes! Copyrights nullified upon death! Intellectual property vultures rejoice, the author is dead, let the feast begin!
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        That way when an author starts to suck we can sacrifice him to memory of his former glory and enjoy his works for free! Genius!
      • by tripmine (1160123)
        I don't want to get into the morality/legality of this but I do agree. What GP said does sound fucked up.
      • The Author is dead! Long live the Public Domain!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:16PM (#27640337)

      No, they should not be nullified upon death. What if the author dies a day after his work is first published? The publisher still has to pay their bills. Copyright should be restored to its original condition as laid down by the founding fathers; 14 years is more than fair in this day and age.

      • by Mprx (82435) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:03PM (#27640583)

        14 years is excessive, as improved distribution methods mean more people can access the work soon after publication than was possible when copyright was originally designed. Additionally, improved communications technology increases the pace of meme distribution, and as a great deal of value of a copyrighted work is in the novel social interactions it enables this shortens its time of highest value.

        An automatic copyright of 5 years, with an extension of another 5 years available on paying a several thousand dollar fee sounds reasonable.

        • by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:23PM (#27640709) Homepage Journal

          Some of us take more than 14 years to finish our creative works. Sorry if your flash animations aren't as hard as painting a building sized mural by yourself or writing a field guide on all known North American bird species. While we can certainly adjust it so that when you're finished is when the clock starts, going from one project to another if it takes more than 5 years to complete is not very economical. I assume for a steady income we'd like to have royalties for at least as long as it takes us to make another project that can produce steady income.

          I'd argue 5 years for corporate entities, and 20 years for individuals. With no extensions possible. If you need to protect your work for more than 5 years, you'll have to figure out a way to tie trademarks into it and protect it the hard (and expensive) way.

          • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

            by Mprx (82435)
            The clock should start from date of first publication. A few thousand dollars isn't much spread over 10 years if your project is profitable. If your next project will take an unusually long time to complete and you can't afford to finance it yourself then you'll have to convince people to invest in it.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Narpak (961733)
            I think a system a bit better than simply Copyright should be implemented. If I was a writer I would hope to maintain rights to my own work for as long as I live at least to a certain extend. While I can see the merit of letting people copy and publish your work unrestricted after some numbers of years (twenty-thirty years after original publication maybe) I would say that should only go for pure copies of the book/image. If say someone wanted to make a movie or TV adaptation of the work then as long as the
          • by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @10:38PM (#27641697) Journal
            I am so not going to illegally copy your building sized mural. Promise.
            • by unitron (5733)

              Is that due to the bandwidth demands of downloading an entire building, or just a commentary on the quality of his work?

            • by instarx (615765)

              Really? You've never heard of photography?

            • You likely can't publish photographs of it without my permission either.

              Of course if it's a stupid mural, then what's the point. Wasted time and paint.

            • by AioKits (1235070)

              I am so not going to illegally copy your building sized mural. Promise.

              I tried to illegally copy it, but I think they got suspicious of me when they noticed I was building an identical wall as to what the mural was painted on only with wheels and a mere 20ft from it...

          • by Polumna (1141165) on Monday April 20, 2009 @12:43AM (#27642137)
            In these arguments about copyright terms, I am always stricken by two things: the general assumption that all copyrights should be identical and that copyright is binary.

            We could have different copyright terms on different creations... entertainment software could be 5 years, serious commercial trade software like CAD/CAM or 3DS Max could be 15. Reference materials like your guide on N.A. bird species could be the life of the author or 25 years for the publisher. Textbooks similar. Movies 10 years. Etc.

            Further, copyright doesn't have to be absolute. As in my above example, after 3 years, all entertainment software could go id-style where the engine is pretty much free and mod-able, but the art remains under control for the duration of the 5 years. Another case that comes to mind were the lawsuits over Harry Potter guides. Say Harry Potter's copyright is 12 years, but after 6, all of this control over derivative works goes away.

            I'm not really asserting that this is the right way to go or anything, but it seems obvious to me that a lot of these problems are the result of lumping all copyrightable material into one set of rules. Should flash animation be legally the same as a mural in this context? I don't ever see anybody really asking these questions directly.
            • by u38cg (607297)
              IAAL, and my wallet is extremely interested in your proposals and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
            • My game is commercial entertainment for the serious trade of fragging noobs.

              One of the problems with a system that has different rules for different content is that it quickly becomes warped as various groups have more powerful lobbyists than others. Music might start off at 5 years, but then end up being 50 years because those guys are way better at this game than the reference book authors.

              It can be a little easier to defend the laws from extensions if they are applied "fairly" from the start. Although fa

          • by SeaFox (739806)

            I'd argue 5 years for corporate entities, and 20 years for individuals. With no extensions possible.

            If you make it different terms, especially ones this far apart in length, corporations will just have one of their chief officers register all the companies work as an individual and grant a perpetual license to the corporation to use them.

            • And they absolutely can, but a company might find it a little dangerous to grant a CxO or even a board member an easy way to extort the company for 20 years. In many cases it would be easier/safer to just let your competitors get access to it after 5 years.

              If you start a new company, you might have few employees, and the founder can be trusted not to extort his own fledgling company. If you have a big company with thousands of employees and public investors, then the decision to go with a copyright controll

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Miseph (979059)

          If you make the time too short, then you can actually encourage people to just wait. Even 14 years will likely be short enough for the vultures (ie. large publishers, film studios, the chronically unhip and cheap) to opt out of bothering until the copyright runs out and they can do whatever they want.

          Let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

        • by 4D6963 (933028)

          You realise that when you spend years writing a book based on an entire lifetime's work, after all the struggles of publishing and promoting a book, 5 years seem like a blink of an eye to reap the fruits of your hard work.

          You're aware that most book writers are little guys who hardly can even make a living out of it and wouldn't do what they do if it wasn't for the hope that their work could benefit them and their family durably? You realise that few book writers are Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, right? I d

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vidarh (309115)

            You're aware that most book writers are little guys who hardly can even make a living out of it and wouldn't do what they do if it wasn't for the hope that their work could benefit them and their family durably?

            If they do it for the "hope that their work would benefit them and their family durably", then they are fucking stupid. As you say, most can hardly even make a living out of it. Yet they still do it, and they still did it BEFORE copyright even existed. Even today, people still write to self-publish AT A COST with no hope of even recouping the printing cost.

            My contention is that the number of people who write primarily because they hope for a major monetary reward is vanishingly small. Even those that dre

          • You realise that when you spend years writing a book based on an entire lifetime's work, after all the struggles of publishing and promoting a book, 5 years seem like a blink of an eye to reap the fruits of your hard work.

            You're aware that most book writers are little guys who hardly can even make a living out of it and wouldn't do what they do if it wasn't for the hope that their work could benefit them and their family durably? You realise that few book writers are Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, right? I don't even think you consider that side of things, I think you only consider your interests. (Disclaimer : my parents were book writers and struggled.)

            And do you realize that overwhelming majority of books make the majority of their money within the first year of release? Long copyright terms generally benefit the King's and Rowling's far more that it does the average author...

            That said, 5 years *is* a bit short. 20 years, or life of the author plus 10 years, whichever is *shorter*, sounds reasonable to me...

            • 20 years, or life of the author plus 10 years, whichever is *shorter*, sounds reasonable to me...

              Me too, but as a professional assasin my opinion is probably biased.

        • 14 years is excessive, as improved distribution methods mean more people can access the work soon after publication than was possible when copyright was originally designed

          Lower barriers to entry, improved print technology, second printings, and other improvements since the 19th century mean there is a lot more competition, meaning it takes longer to make a profit on a work. This suggests longer terms, not shorter terms.

          Five years is especially ridiculous if we take into account adaptations of the work in

          • by Mprx (82435)
            In the unlikely case that the novel is still popular after five years the author will be able to afford an extension. If the novel is not popular after five years then adapting it into a movie is a risky proposition. If the adaptation succeeds anyway then clearly those who adapted it are responsible for the success. Encouraging authors to sit on their monopolies hoping for this unlikely scenario does not give greatest benefit to the public.
    • by ZosX (517789) <zosxavius@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:34PM (#27640447) Homepage

      Yeah, because maybe his family shouldn't get a windfall from the surge in book sales his titles are about to recieve. Funerals are expensive too. Maybe when you die you won't care if you leave your kids with anything, but seeing as how many authors are broke most of their life, I'm sure he would just be ok with his family getting nothing. I mean, the guys not even in the ground yet and suddenly his life's work should be free? Your logic fails me. I could see maybe like 10 to 20 years or something, but jeez, copyright exists for a period of time after death for a whole bunch of reasons.

      • Yeah, because maybe his family shouldn't get a windfall from the surge in book sales his titles are about to recieve. Funerals are expensive too. Maybe when you die you won't care if you leave your kids with anything, but seeing as how many authors are broke most of their life, I'm sure he would just be ok with his family getting nothing. I mean, the guys not even in the ground yet and suddenly his life's work should be free? Your logic fails me. I could see maybe like 10 to 20 years or something, but jeez, copyright exists for a period of time after death for a whole bunch of reasons.

        Gasp! People are not getting money for something they didn't do! Can't the state do something?

        Oh wait.

      • by aztektum (170569) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:27PM (#27640729)

        Doesn't mean those reasons are right. Copyright shouldn't allow someone to collect forever for working once. And it really shouldn't be relied on as a gift to for their family after death. If I die my family doesn't luck into some extra cash because from users of the network and computers I support.

        • by ZosX (517789)

          Yeah, but if I die, my artwork might be one day worth something and my family would have something to sell. This is why intellectual property exists, so there is something that is tangible that can be transferred. In the eyes of the law it is my property. Like it or not, I can do what I want with my property after I die as defined by my will. I disagree with the excessively long times that copyright can be extended for now, and I think 10 years or so is really kind of fine. There are other reasons that copy

          • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

            In the eyes of the law it is my property.

            That doesn't mean the law is right.

            The original purpose of copyright was not to define ownership. It was, like patents, intended to provide a temporary monopoly on a work. And it was designed, not so you could make a profit, but to give you an incentive to create the work in the first place -- with the hopes that it will be in the public domain eventually.

            If I produced sculpture all my life, should my sculpture be suddenly public domain at death? How is writing or anything else that takes intellectual effort any different other than it exists in easily reproduced forms?

            That is pretty much it. It comes back to this:

            The sculpture is a physical object. Physical objects can be property. No one can take your sculpture from yo

            • OT comment WRT your new signature:

              Heh. Your rural life in Iowa isn't quite so idyllic? That sucks. :(

        • by Macthorpe (960048)

          Copyright shouldn't allow someone to collect forever for working once.

          You're absolutely right. I can't think of a single compromise we could make between "expires on death" and "never expires at all".~

          (My theory has always been this: 15 years. You either have 15 years or death of the author, whichever comes later. Allows people to collect off their work until they shuffle off this mortal coil, but ensures if they do die very early that the family still sees something from it. I would find that acceptable, though most of the people here probably wouldn't)

          • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Sunday April 19, 2009 @08:58PM (#27641165) Journal

            I wouldn't, mostly because I see no reason why you should keep getting a check for something you did 15 years ago. Surely you could have produced something new by then?

            Yes, you could retire and live off the royalties, and it'd be great. But why should copyright be special that way? In other jobs, you set aside money for retirement. Do that with copyright -- set aside money for retirement, then you won't be penniless when your works expire.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Macthorpe (960048)

              I see no reason why you should keep getting a check for something you did 15 years ago

              Mainly because that assumes that whatever I created spontaneously jumped out of my mind one day 15 years prior.

              The large majority of things that this covers would take time to make that people aren't being paid for, e.g. books/music. If it takes you a large amount of unpaid time to write something, why shouldn't you get paid for that time after you wrote it?

              As far as I'm concerned, it balances itself out, and I feel 15 years isn't so long it's ridiculous, but not so short it ceases before your work's popula

      • by Tweenk (1274968) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:32PM (#27640775)

        Maybe when you die you won't care if you leave your kids with anything

        I'd rather put money in the bank while I was alive rather than leave them at the mercy of the society's interest in my works. Copyright is NOT supposed to be a life insurance.

        An even better solution would be to tie copyright to first publication date instead of the author's death date. For instance, it would be MUCH easier to determine whether a given book is in the public domain, because the first impression's publication date is usually printed on the second page. The authors' death dates on the other hand may be unobtainable, especially for obscure works.

        I mean, the guys not even in the ground yet and suddenly his life's work should be free?

        The guy's family did not write the things that were under copyright. Giving them money for someone else's work will not cause them to create more, which is supposed to be the purpose of copyright. It may be cruel not to give money to a family in mourning, but this is what life insurance is for.

        • My seven year old son didn't write the code which earns money for both of us. If I died he would still benefit from my pay, insurance, etc. Copyright lasts a long time by comparison, but writers earn their money at a slow rate. A month for me may equate to ten years for an author.
        • The guy's family did not write the things that were under copyright. Giving them money for someone else's work will not cause them to create more, which is supposed to be the purpose of copyright.

          I doubt the author is planning to die. However even if he were, the fact that his kids will be provided for is as much (or more) of an incentive to create as getting the money himself.

          Pity about your shitty upbringing, if that's the reason you don't grok human nature.

          • by Tweenk (1274968)

            I doubt the author is planning to die. However even if he were, the fact that his kids will be provided for is as much (or more) of an incentive to create as getting the money himself.

            While we're at it, we could provide him with 100 virgins to increase the incentive. The point is whether the bargain is acceptable to society. The untimely death factor would be catered for if copyright was tied to publication date: even if he died before the book was published, his relatives could inherit the income, while preventing unreasonably long copyright terms.

            Pity about your shitty upbringing, if that's the reason you don't grok human nature.

            Your ad hominem is rather tasteless. I just don't buy into purely emotional arguments often presented by copyright advocates.

      • by vertinox (846076)

        Yeah, because maybe his family shouldn't get a windfall from the surge in book sales his titles are about to recieve.

        No, they shouldn't because the intent of copyright was never intended for a revenue stream for surviving family members.

        If they feel so inclined they can write their own works or invest in an insurance policy like the rest of us.

        Oh and considering my estate will be taxed upon my death, if you really want copyrights to be treated as property that can be inherited then a tax needs to be levied

    • Or take a different route. [amazon.com]

    • So if I just kill you I can start publishing all your work? You can't hand it off to your children who might need the income due to your untimely death?

      I'm not arguing against shorter copyright durations, I'm all for that, but just pointing out the naivety of your statement.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        How to provide for my family in case of my untimely death.
        1) Set aside a percentage of my paycheck into savings (cds,savings accounts,mutual funds,stocks... etc), and make sure that my written will is up to date
        2) Perpetual copyright
        3) Stuff matress full of scratch off lotto tickets
        4) Government Bailout
        I'm leaning toward three, what do you think?
    • by rolfwind (528248)

      All of his works are on Piratebay and since copyrights should be nullified upon death, enjoy.

      Yup, can't see any potential for abuse there.

      How about just 20 years? I can't see any reason why it should depend at all on death or not.

  • by jd (1658) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:09PM (#27640293) Homepage Journal

    They get abducted by Government agents when their books get too close to the truth. (Tinfoil hats at half price, today only.)

    • by sharkey (16670)
      All my stories are bullplop. Bullplop!!
    • by Repton (60818) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @07:39PM (#27640805) Homepage

      They get abducted by Government agents when their books get too close to the truth.

      Hmm, both Stanislaw Lem and Robert Anton Wilson "died" recently. I'm not sure which worries me more :-/

    • Tinfoil hats at half price, today only.

      Bob Heinlein seemed to know so much about L Ron Hubbard. It was his bet with Hubbard which initiated Scientology. I always wondered if they could actually be the same person, of if Hubbard was an invention of Heinlein.

      • I always wondered if they could actually be the same person, or if Hubbard was an invention of Heinlein.

        If he were, I think Hubbard would have been a better writer.

        "What price salvation? Remarkably cheap! For only a low initial payment..." -- Stranger in a Strange Land

  • Ya know, that's really not what I read sci-fi for.

    • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      "...and most compelling"

      Ya know, that's what I like most about sci-fi actually.

    • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd[ ]org ['ot.' in gap]> on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:54PM (#27640537)

      So you are the type of guy that all those unimaginative books and series are made for? Where every goddamn alien looks like a human with some patch on his nose and an unusual haircut, and you can see stranger things on underwater nature tv shows. Where they are in the future and/or in space, and do the same boring shit that they could do in a historic novel. And where you just think: "My god, this is all the futuristic stuff you can come up with?"

      No offense. If you like it, be happy. :)
      But I for one, just wonder why you read sci-fi then? If the weird futuristic stuff does not matter, and you even dislike it...?

      I know that many people create a false dichotomy, that goes like this: Well, the story matters. Not all the weird things.
      But in reality, nothing stops you from writing a good story that also includes the weirdest things. In fact there is no reason why that should not add something to it.

      "Truely weird in a futuristic way" is the very point of sci-fi, in my eyes. (Good stories are what I expect in any genre anyway, and does not need being specially mentioned.)

      • So you are the type of guy that all those unimaginative books and series are made for? Where every goddamn alien looks like a human with some patch on his nose and an unusual haircut, and you can see stranger things on underwater nature tv shows. Where they are in the future and/or in space, and do the same boring shit that they could do in a historic novel. And where you just think: "My god, this is all the futuristic stuff you can come up with?"

        Wow. I'm not sure how you managed to draw that conclusion from what the GPP said. Personally, I don't read science fiction for the "truly weird" stuff. I read it for the imaginative science, and to me, what science does is take the weird and bizarre and make it reasonable and understandable.

        There is so much crap science fiction out there, full of weirdness for weirdness sake: aliens with "weird" numbers of eyes, limbs, methods of communication, etc., most of which are weird simply to be different. It is ama

        • by chthon (580889)

          I think that most of the best science-fiction is firmly grounded in logic, and that is where most fantasy literature fails.

          If you really want to compare bad science-fiction with weird, you should read the works of R.A. Lafferty.

        • You're painting a false dichotomy here. The distinction is not between "science" and "weird", it is between fiction that is derivative and tedious, and fiction that explores interesting ideas.

          The "weird" stuff you're complaining about falls into the former category. The latter category consists of the hard sci-fi that you enjoy, which explores various aspects of science, and other forms of sci-fi, which explore other ideas.

          JG Ballard, for instance, was a genius who displayed an incredible aptitude for explo

  • Cartographer of the inner future. http://www.jgballard.com/ [jgballard.com]
  • by cybrpnk2 (579066) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:37PM (#27640463) Homepage
    Among his other works, JG Ballard's short story The Voices Of Time [wikipedia.org] had a huge impact on me as a teenager and has haunted me thru this very day. IMHO the VERY BEST SF story depicting man's place in an uncaring universe. Farewell, JGB, and thanks for your works.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Terminal Beach is my favorite J.G. Ballard short story. All of his sci-fi stuff is great, much of it dark and disturbing. If you like the music group Joy Division, then you may know that Ian Curtis was heavily influenced by Ballard, and even named a song, Atrocity Exhibition, after a Ballard story.

    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      I have not heard of this guy, and while I usually think whoop diddly bang whop another bloke is dead, in a bit of a sing-songy voice, right near, but not actually in, the back of my head, no, I mean closer to the front, this guy seems like a hoot and I'm happy the internet brought me something new today.

      Update: captcha = hooted.

    • by Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) on Sunday April 19, 2009 @10:06PM (#27641517)
      "Concrete Island" is the work of his that I most remember reading back then.
  • by meehawl (73285) <meehawl,spam&gmail,com> on Sunday April 19, 2009 @06:43PM (#27640495) Homepage Journal
  • Crash--a cautionary tale about our love of technology, and a science fiction novel written in the present, with no fictional technology, blew my mind and changed my life. A worthwhile read for anyone (it takes some guts sometimes), but especially for tech people. Give it a shot.
  • The movie adaption is half decent.

    • by in_fla (849388)

      Am watching DVD of it tonight in honor.

    • by The_Myth (84113)

      Ironically I only knew him from Empire of the Sun and its sequel Kindness of Women. Both of these two were in a way supposedly quasi-autobiographical of his own experiences at the time.

      • by j1m+5n0w (749199)
        Same here, I didn't know he wrote science fiction. I've only read Empire of the Sun, which is well worth reading, and I liked the movie too ("There are Frigidaires falling from the sky, it's kingdom come!").
    • by Björn (4836)
      IMDB has a movie [imdb.com] based on the novel High Rise [wikipedia.org] listed as coming out in 2011.
  • I think "Vermillion Sands" has to be one of his best novels ever. in fact it's one of the best SciFi novels I ever read!

    From the back cover :

    Vermillion Sands is J.G Ballard's fantasy landscape of the future - a latterday Palm Springs populated by forgotten movie queens, temperamental dilettantes, and drugged beachcombers, with prima donna plants that sing arias, cloud sculptures, dial-a-poem computers and ravishing, jewel-eyed Jezebels......"

    RIP J.G. Ballard.

  • I loved this guy's work - I've got lots of his novels, and the RE:SEARCH books as well.

    I liked 'Concrete Island' a lot. 'Crash' was just a bit too perverted for me.

  • I had to study these two at school. Such study normally sucked the life out of almost every text, these two I still remember as good stories, despite having to analyse every subtext to death. Running Wild was especially interesting.
  • .. that this guy was the author of The Crystal Empire:

    http://www.amazon.com/Crystal-Empire-L-Neil-Smith/dp/031294070X [amazon.com]

    That was a horrible book.

    But Poor Ballard.. oh well.

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