Friday, January 24, 2014

The news is very Ballardian these days

The news has been very Ballardian recently.

First, we have the news that Hispaniola, a huge tropical island, is sinking - not under the sea, but into a lake of freshwater that's mysteriously swelling.  The lake in the Dominican Republic (one half of the island of Hispaniola, along with Haiti) is rising and swallowing towns and farms. Dead palms stand in the shallows of Lago Enriquillo which inexorably rises.  It seems like the classic Ballard scenario.

However, despite the mysterious water source, the beaches, the iguanas, the tropical palms and the drowned buildings, it doesn't quite have that J G Ballard swing. The Crystal World was set in a slowly-petrifying jungle; The Day of Creation tracked the source of a mysteriously-appearing African river, but The Drowned World with its carefully watching iguanas was set in a sunken, tropical London.

So, despite that fact that the replacement housing looks fearfully like the concrete blocks that litter atomic atolls in Ballard's fiction, I'll reluctantly scratch that one.

But how about this?

It appears that a cruise liner broke its mooring years ago, and is now afloat on the oceans, threatening to run aground, crewed only by cannibal rats. The Lyubov Orlova, named, in quite a Ballardian fashion, after a film starlet, was being towed to the Dominican Republic (I sense a pattern here) to be broken when it came loose.  Apparently there have been some false alarms before, but currently Ireland is thought to be within the sights of the rat privateers.

Picture from the Guardian article, attributed to Serge Sauvage, FlckrVision

Now if the ship had been filled with English cruise passengers, ranging from upper middle class men luxuriating in balconied staterooms to lower middle class aspirants in windowless below-deck cabins, eventually abandoned by their captain and crew and left to fend for themselves with the cannibal rats, I think that would have made quite a blockbuster latterday Ballard novel.

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