|James Graham Ballard was born in Shanghai to English parents; when he was 11, the family was interned in a civilian prison camp nearby, an experience that formed the basis for his most widely known book, the semi-autobiographical novel, EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1984). Moving to England after the war, he studied medicine at King's College, Cambridge but left without a degree to join the Royal Air Force, where he served as a pilot from 1954 to 1957. He began his writing career with short stories--mainly science fiction--in the 1950s; his first novel, THE WIND FROM NOWHERE appeared in 1961. He was married in the mid-1950s but, 11 years later, his wife died suddenly of pneumonia, an event he found deeply disturbing. In the few years between 1960 and the death of his wife, Ballard had published four novels and four short story collections, but in order to raise the couple's three children, he had to drastically scale back the pace of his writing. With THE ATROCITY EXHIBITION collection (1970)--which contained such stories as "Notes Towards a Mental Breakdown," "The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race," and "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan"--Ballard's short fiction writing became wildly experimental; he called the stories "compressed novels," most dispensing with traditional notions of plots and character. His novels from this period--the notorious CRASH and its companion pieces, HIGH-RISE and CONCRETE ISLAND--move away from the science fiction tropes of his earlier work (though they were never "conventional" science fiction by any means) and into a kind of social criticism punctuated by extreme violence and sexual imagery that has tended to brand these books as pornography among those prone to branding things. In the 1980s, Ballard reached his widest audience with EMPIRE OF THE SUN (and its 1987 filmed adaptation). With subsequent titles like RUNNING WILD (1988) and SUPER-CANNES (2001), his writing continued to perform the literary equivalent of a living autopsy on the prevalent social conventions of the consumer age, all the while retaining the kind of imagery that has become known as typically "Ballardian"-- wind-swept escarpments, drained swimming pools, and downed aircraft skeletons.