From: Cypher [fanzine] no. 10 (October 1973): 53-54; a short postal interview about the novel.
Ballard on Crash:
Answers To Some Questions.
by James Goddard
You said in Cypher about two years ago that you had finished Crash, why was there such a long delay before Cape published it? Was there any question of waiting for the right climate?
Ballard: Crash was in fact delivered to my publishers in February 1972, and published in June 1973 -- a slightly longer interval than usual, but not particularly significant. There was absolutely no question of waiting for the right climate. Books such as Crash are the climate.
In putting yourself in the position of first person narrator in the novel, were you trying to exercise any fantasies of your own centred around sexuality and the automobile, or simply striving for a realism that could only come from firsthand -- or imagined firsthand -- experience?
Ballard: In making myself the narrator I was trying to achieve complete honesty -- and at the same time, in a paradoxical way, emphasising that the book is a piece of fiction.
Have you ever been directly involved in a car crash? If so, how do your feelings and memories relate to your fictional experiences?
Ballard: Two weeks after completing Crash I was involved in a serious car crash in which my car rolled over on a dual carriageway and crossed into the oncoming lane. This was an extreme case of nature imitating art. The experience was frightening and disturbing, in exactly the way I had described in Crash.
Why did you set Crash on your own home territory, rather than some undefined fictional location?
Ballard: I did this in order to achieve complete realism. I wanted the book to have complete authenticity. Also, the landscape around London Airport has very much the affectless character that I see as the hallmark of the future.
Sex and the motor car seems, on the face of it, rather an odd mixture, one a deep expression of humanity, the other a symbol of the machine age, why draw a correlation between the two when they seem so much like oil and water -- or spermatic fluid and anti-freeze?
Ballard: Crash is not so much about the motor car as about technology as a whole, and it is precisely the sinister marriage between sex and technology which is the book's subject. Sex x Technology = the future. A disquieting equation, but one we have to face. Incidentally, I do not see machines as necessarily forbidding or inhuman.
Your descriptions of sexual acts are written with an almost clinical detachment, rather like an engineer describing the relationship between cogs and gears. If you had allowed your descriptions to devolve into areas of popular sexual slang, you might have written a highly successful sex novel; so what made you choose the clinical approach?
Ballard: The clinical detachment is the essence of the whole thing. Crash is an investigatory book, analyzing its subject matter with, I hope, all the neutrality of a scientific investigation.
You have left out of your narrative most of the minutiae of everyday life, and this has the effect of showing the relationships between the characters and cars in bold relief. Events which have a significance in ordinary terms only seem to come into focus in the book when relative to the actual flow of narrative, and altogether the lives of the characters seem to be on a different plane -- almost a different planet -- to the common existence. Was this an effect you strived for?
Ballard: I don't feel that the lives of my characters are so far removed from ordinary experience. It seems to me that most people lead the sort of lives that I describe. Of course, the book is the description of an obsession, an extreme metaphor at a time when only the extreme will do.
This is, I suppose, the least traditionally science fictional of all your novels, have you now left the field, as defined by other writers and publishers, for good?
Ballard: It's hard to say -- if one limits one's definition of science fiction to its old specialist character, I suppose I have not written any science fiction for five years. However, I wouldn't accept this narrow definition. I am sure I shall write more SF. Among the ideas for short stories and novels I have in my mind are many SF ones.
Crash seems to me to be the pinnacle of your past five years work, and you may have run out of road in this particular direction. If this is so, where can you go from here?
Ballard: Since writing Crash I have completed another novel, Concrete Island, about a man marooned on a large traffic island, to be published next May; and I am now working on another, about a huge high-rise apartment building. I hope to continue writing an investigative and analytical fiction using many of the techniques of science fiction, but about the present day rather than the future.