Thursday, September 20, 2018


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The Drought, J G Ballard, Berkley Books, 1964, 192 pp
Do you realize that authors have been writing climate fiction for a long time? J G Ballard was one of those authors. I have read three of his, The Wind From Nowhere, The Drowned World, and now I have read The Drought. All were classified as science fiction in the 1960s but these days would be practically contemporary fiction.
The Drought was originally titled The Burning World when first published in 1964. Ballard then expanded the story and retitled it The Drought. No rain for years, shrinking rivers and shorelines, and the resultant fires, violence and insanity provide the milieu. 

The main characters are residents of one neighborhood in one city and their reactions to the burgeoning catastrophe provide the plot. As you might expect, no one behaves well but Ballard seems always to provide at least one rugged or determined character who one way or another prevails.

The cause of the drought is industrial waste changing the atmospheric conditions over the oceans. In actual fact that implicates most of humanity. In our current times, over 50 years later, this is the worst it has ever been, if you believe science. I do. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to run out of water, Ballard makes it quite real.

Basically a whole lot of people die along with animals and plants, the rest fight over shrinking food supplies, hoard water or go quietly insane. I suppose this type of story would not appeal to many readers but it made me consider how I would conduct myself in such a scenario.

Someone on Goodreads complained that J G Ballard's writing is hysterical. That is what I like about him. Anyone who lives in this world and does not get hysterical from time to time is barely alive!

For further related reading try The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi and Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins, both of whom get hysterical!!

(The Drought is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)


  1. This all sounds utterly prescient. As you say, much of what was categorized as science fiction in the '60s seems ripped from today's headlines. It's rather scary when you contemplate the "science fiction" that is being written today...

  2. It does sound as if it had been written today. That's what good science fiction is all about. Not so good for humanity, I guess.

    1. I think science fiction writers mostly mean to warn about what could happen. Not so good for humanity if humanity doesn't heed the warnings.

  3. Yeah if there's no water to live on -- I'd get pretty hysterical. Sounds like you've got the drought genre covered.

    1. Well you know, drought is never far from my mind here where I live-:(

  4. The Drought feels very relevant in today's world. I would have thought it was a recently written novel had you not stated that it was written in the 1960s.