Postcard from J.G. Ballard
In 1993 I moved to Leeds and quickly hit on the idea of starting a zine documenting and exploring dreams. I thought the title of J.G. Ballard’s wonderful The Unlimited Dream Company would be ideal. Slightly naive about publishing law and etiquette, and probably looking for a little approval from an idol, I decided to give Ballard a call and ask if he’d be OK with it. Having no landline, I went out and phoned directory enquiries from a phone box.
“I’m trying to get in touch with a friend, and I’ve lost their details,” I lied. “The name’s Ballard, and they live in Shepperton—if you have a look and if there’s only one that’s probably them.” I don’t think they were supposed to, but they gave me the number, which I called straight away.
“Is that J.G. Ballard?” I asked. “Yes,” came the clipped, confident accent. “The writer J.G. Ballard?” I asked, a little dumbstruck. He was very courteous and when I told him about my zine and asked for his address to send him a copy, he complied.
He sent me a nice postcard saying he was too busy to contribute but I was fine to use the title. (Contribute! To a completely unknown photocopied A5 cut-and-paste zine! I like the ambition that my naivety gave me.)
I was just watching some documentaries on the late author, and remembering how intensely inspiring he was and is. I thought I’d scan and post that postcard. It’s beautiful to have little physical mementos like this. Ten years later and this exchange may well have been an email—a nothing.
“Many thanks for your letter & all the best with your magazine but I’m afraid pressures of work are too great for me to be able to contribute. You’re welcome to use Unlimited Dream Co – there’s no copyright in titles.
The postcard image is the Longhua Buddhist Temple in Shanghai, which features in Empire of the Sun, being used by the Japanese as a flak cannon tower.