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<nettime> New Space Operas as Ejector Seat
d.garcia on Mon, 17 Nov 2014 20:18:40 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> New Space Operas as Ejector Seat

Space Opera as Ejector Seat: JG Ballard's Inner Space

We are currently being invited to revisit the heroic era of Science fiction 
in the classic form of the space opera.

The launch of Christopher Nolan?s sci-fi blockbuster, Intergalactic, which gamely 
reboots a Kubric like fusion of inner and outer space coincides with the 
extraordinary real-world feat of landing the Philae robot on the comet 67P, 
half a billion km from earth. And as if that weren?t enough, tragedy and 
farce combined catastrophically in Branson?s playboy folly, with Virgin 
Galactic's Icarus like, fall to earth.

Whatever the enormous gulf separating these projects, all three are connected 
by a noteworthy thread, the most addictive dream of the old 20th century; the 
Concept of Unlimited Possibility.

In 1974 the writer JG Ballard proposed an alternative rout for Science 
Fiction, in his introduction to the French edition of his novel Crash. This 
potent manifesto repudiates the genre?s traditional themes ? of outer space 
and the far future. Ballard goes on to compare Kubric?s Space Odyssey to 
Gone With the Wind, as a nostalgic watershed marking the end of the 
heroic period of modern science fiction.

In place of -outer space- Ballard favored of a terrain which he christened 
-inner space-.. a zone -where the inner world of the mind and the outer 
world of reality meet and fuse?? But unlike the surrealists (who Ballard 
frequently sites as an influence) he felt no need to look inwards as his 
was the first generation to inhabit the space of total media saturation 
which he insists is the unconscious, extruded and externalized into a new 
kind of landscape; the media landscape -ruled by fictions of every kind... 
soft drink commercials that coexist in an overlit realm ruled by advertising 
and pseudo-events, science and Pornography-.

Importantly he goes on to identify the key fault-line that remains highly 
relevant and clearly separates Ballard from most of his peers, when he declares 
that - Despite McLuhan's delight in high-speed information mosaics we are still 
reminded of Freud's profound pessimism in Civilization and its Discontents. 
Voyeurism, self-disgust, the infantile basis of our dreams and longings - 
these diseases of the psyche have now culminated in the most terrifying 
casualty of the [20th] century: the death of affect-.

Only Warhol?s chilly and exploitative post-humanism surpasses Ballard?s 
forensic examination of the consequences of technology?s collision with 
celebrity. A generation later the cyberpunks extrapolated from Gibson?s 
concept of Cyberspace a Ballard like space, where once again -the 
inner world of the mind and the outer world of reality meet and fuse. 
But it was Manuel Castells who more accurately theorised that what had 
occurred was a new kind of spatiality that was no longer dependent on 
proximity; the space of Flows-.

Those scientists leaping for joy last week and the accompanying delirious 
media coverage, enabled us to re-live (if only for a few moments) the dangerous 
delusion that we still have limitless alternative futures, a narrative that also 
dominates Nolan?s movie Interstellar? Its an ethos Ballard described more 
than four decades ago as exhibiting -the social and sexual philosophy 
of the ejector seat-.

More on this at: http://new-tactical-research.co.uk/blog/space-opera-ejector-seat/


d a v i d  g a r c i a

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