The author of 15 novels and scores of short stories, Ballard grew up amongst the expatriate community in Shanghai.
During World War II, at the age of 12, he was interned for three years in a camp run by the Japanese along with his parents and younger sister.
Surreal though the early novels undoubtedly were, they paled beside The Atrocity Exhibition, a collection of stories and fragments that may prove to be Ballard's most influential work. Ostensibly a fever-dream taking place in the mind of a deranged psychiatrist, this was a work of violent postmodernism, drawing on the war in Vietnam, the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and the world of advertising to create a terrifying and uproarious new form of satire. Prescience was everywhere at work: he noted Ronald Reagan's habit of using "the smooth, teleprompter-perfect tones of the TV auto-salesman to project a political message that was absolutely the reverse of bland and reassuring", while a frightening comic piece about focus groups analysing the "optimum sex-deaths" of female celebrities in automobile accidents not only looked forward to his later novel Crash but ensured that the newspapers besieged Ballard for comment when Diana died.