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.

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“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.

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