“The Cage of Sand,” J. G. Ballard, 1962 – An architect, Bridgeman, fails to be chosen to design the new colony on Mars, and becomes a bit obsessed. He finds himself at the ruins of Canaveral, where Martian soil has been imported to offset the mass removed from the Earth in launches and exportation of mass to Mars. There he meets up with two familiar faces, one a failed astronaut who couldn’t face his first launch, and the wife of a dead astronaut, whose capsule orbits the earth in a grim constellation along with a few others. The Martian soil contains an alien disease and it’s illegal for them to live in the abandoned city. The police attempt to remove the interlopers from the ruins, but give up and decide to build a fence around the territory to cage them in. At the conclusion, they’re captured and Merril digs into the Martian sand, imagining that in a sense he’s reached Mars after all. He shouts: “We made it!”
Comments: Read in Ruins of Earth. Themes of obsession, alienation, isolation. Some familiar sf themes from this era: A story set in an abandoned, museum-like city. A (self-sacrificed) astronaut in orbit around Earth. See The Man Who Didn’t Need to Walk on the Moon for a discussion of how the story relates to the theme of space travel. See Umberto Ross’s article, “A Little Something About Dead Astronauts.” Also, see Jeremy Adam Smith’s comments:
“[Ballard’s] first short masterpiece … codified his distinctive prose style: a disciplined, hypnotic rhythm; the accumulation of surgically described detail; the sweeping, free associative similes; and humor so dark that most readers are never able to see it.” Jeremy Adam Smith. Evolution of a Moralist: J.G. Ballard in the 21st Century.
Author: Wikipedia: “James Graham “J. G.” Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction” and the author of Crash. There are several blogs devoted to Ballard’s fiction, including Ballardian and J. G. Ballard’s short stories.