Here's another interesting tribute by Simon Reynolds in Salon to recently deceased J.G. Ballard:
Earlier this week a literary colossus made his exit, after a long struggle with cancer. The ovation that accompanied J.G. Ballard's departure was fully deserved. He was a visionary, one of the few fiction writers of our era with an imagination so singular that he was granted the suffix treatment: the attachment of an - esque or -ian to their surname, à la Kafka-esque or Dickensian.
But in death as in life, Ballard never quite got his full due as a thinker as well as a storyteller; he was a penetrating and endlessly provocative theorist about the intersections between culture and technology, media and desire. This tendency to think of him only as a fabulist is understandable to an extent, given that he never wrote a full-length book of nonfiction that condensed and focused his ideas. Instead his insights, speculations and polemical barbs are scattered across a panoply of reviews, columns, memoiristic essays, think pieces and single-topic commentaries written for or spoken to newspapers looking for theBallardian take on some current event, issue or innovation. (Thankfully, a decent-size heap of J.G.'s wit and wisdom has been shoveled into a single spot by the esoteric San Francisco publisher RE/Search: The 2004 "JG Ballard: Quotes" is a pocket-portable collection of mind-bomb aphorisms and pithy observations. "A User's Guide to the Millennium," a scrappy but absorbing anthology of essays and reviews, is currently out of print.)
Of course Ballard's ideas are also present in his novels and short stories, and arguably at their most potent there. He was drawn to science fiction as the preeminent literature of ideas of our time, the only form of fiction that could take the measure of the 20th century. At his most full-on, Ballard transformed SF into a kind of theory-fiction, his short stories and novels functioning in a manner similar to Marshall McLuhan's "probes," the latter's term for speculative aphorisms as opposed to fully developed theories backed up by research and empirical data. McLuhan is an apt comparison because his primary concern -- mass communications and man's increasingly symbiotic relationship with technology and media -- overlapped with one of Ballard's key zones of obsessive investigation: the post-WW2 culture of media overload, what he called "our perverse entertainment landscape." In a 1983 interview he characterized it as "a completely new thing, a parallel world which we inhabit," presciently anticipating the virtual and post-geographical realm of Web culture.