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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.

Best wishes

JG Ballard”

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.



  1. I have an old friend who replies to my occasional emails via postcard.

    Long live postcards I say

    p.s. Happy New Year!

    Dan Farrow - 19th January 2013 @ 14:48

  2. Great little story… JG was fast with the postcards! I can help you with the photo, tho… that’s truly a Buddhist Temple, but in Empire of the Sun the Japanese set up their flak guns in a Buddhist Pagoda… a completely different structure… how do I know this? Because I made the pilgrimage to Shanghai myself in 2007 and visited Lunghua:

    Rick McGrath - 19th January 2013 @ 18:20

  3. Thanks for the clarification Rick!

    Gyrus - 19th January 2013 @ 19:15

  4. One other funky fact: both this postcard temple and the original pagoda JG knew as a child were ripped down during the cultural revolution, which started in shanghai… during the early 1990s the chinese decided tourism was good and ruins bad, and by 1995 they had pretty well rebuilt all the temples and historic buildings they had decimated years earlier. The pagoda JG refers to in Empire was actually rebuilt some distance from where the original stood… history is hard to trust

    Rick McGrath - 19th January 2013 @ 21:00

  5. I sold a card to someone today who was replying to her grand-daughter’s first text messages by snail mail. Lovely!

    Halo - 29th January 2013 @ 19:25