Most people knew of JG Ballard from films like Crash or the story of his childhood in Empire of the Sun, but I first learned of him reading science fiction novels like 1962's The Drowned World, where "solar radiation has caused the polar ice-caps to melt and worldwide temperature to soar, leaving the cities of northern Europe and America submerged in beautiful and haunting tropical lagoons."
I am less familiar with his later work, and was not fond of his take on modern architecture in the Guardian a few years back. But David Peskovitz at BoingBoing says it for a lot of us when he eulogizes: "Ballard was one of my favorite writers ever and his thinking about culture, art, science, technology, and human behavior had a massive influence on me. He will be missed greatly."
J.G. Ballard, dead at 78.
UPDATE: A much better obit by Jeff VanderMeer, including this paragraph:
Writer and reviewer Paul Di Filippo began reading Ballard in U.S. science fiction magazines around 1967, when he was thirteen years old. "He stretched my adolescent mind to new permanent fractal dimensions, an effect he had on many of my generation, and on plenty of adults as well, both 40 years ago and for the next several decades of unfaltering artistic accomplishment. He was the truest prophet and journalist of everything we saw going down around us during those tumultuous days. His astringent yet joyous take on all our self-inflicted dooms, technological, sexual, and cultural, assured us that the future would be much weirder than any Arthur C. Clarke prediction, even if we never left the surface of the planet, but only delved deeper into his patented realm of 'inner space.' The world is now deprived of a vital voice we still need, possibly more than ever."