I have a distant memory of once reading a JG Ballard short story in which a character utters a phrase similar to:

"Listen, you can hear the quasars calling!"

or possibly

"Listen, can you hear the quasars calling?"

or something along those lines. Maybe it was actually "cosmos calling" or "galaxies calling" or "great spirals calling" or something.

For a long time I just assumed it must have been "The Voices of Time", but having reread that recently, it isn't (although I'm pretty sure the story I'm looking for has the same hallmark Ballard obsessions as TVoT, so maybe from the same era).

3 Answers 3


In the mini-story cycle ZODIAC 2000, The Sign of the Radar Bowl had a reference to "the great music of the quasars" and The Sign of the IUD had a "strange young woman, with her anonymous apartment and random conversation filled with sudden references to quasars". Is this it?

I have a PDF file of The Complete Stories and these are the only references using "quasar" or "quasars" that are close after scanning all 2,357 pages. Maybe it was a different author, or possibly it was from one of his novels.

As for this being from a similar era, Zodiac 2000 is from 1978 while The Voices of Time is from 1960. Still, like many great artists, writers / directors (David Cronenberg being a prime example, even adapting a Ballard novel for film) / etc, of speculative fiction, they stick to similar themes and have obsessions that span their entire career. Hope this helps.

  • Could the OP be remembering a line from a Ballard story in a magazine, which was altered or edited when it was reprinted in a book? Not being a Ballard fan, I don't know how likely this is.
    – user14111
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 19:47
  • Likely enough. Mike's answer has a different wording from my copy of Complete Stories. His answer is "listen to the time-music of the quasars" while my copy says "great music." These things happen. Philip K. Dick edited or rewrote stories, sometimes taking a short story and expanding it to a novel. Editing stories from magazine publication for inclusion in a book is not uncommon. Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 19:53
  • 1
    Yes indeed it was a heavily distorted by time remembrance of Zodiac 2000's "Sign of the Radar Bowl"; full extract in my answer scifi.stackexchange.com/a/46710/789
    – timday
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 0:56

"The University of Death", which is part of "The Atrocity Exhibition" and not in the Complete Short Stories, has the line "All night he watched the sky, listening to the time-music of the quasars."

"Zodiac 2000", which is in the Complete Short Stories, has the line "But at least he could look up at the sky and listen to the time-music of the quasars."

Searching for "quasars calling", I can't find anything, but you might look at the Ballard Concordance at http://bonsall-books.co.uk/concordance/

  • OMG the concordance is amazing! But it's also making me doubt my sanity; either my memory has seriously distorted the quote over time or it's not actually JGB. Will have to read some of the stories referenced here (I think I'm a Ballard completist in print) and see what fits.
    – timday
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 23:17

"Meat Trademark"'s answer pointed the way thanks (and I've accepted that; this is just to elaborate): I'm absolutely sure I'm remembering (badly, almost 3 decades on from when I read it I suspect) this section from Zodiac 2000's "The Sign of the Radar Bowl":

As they waited in the stationary traffic on the crowded deck of the flyover Renata fiddled impatiently with the radio, unable to penetrate the static from the cars around them. Smiling at her, he turned off the sound and pointed to the sky over her head. 'Ignore the horizon. Beyond the Pole Star you can hear the island universes.' He sat back, trying to ignore the thousand satellite transmissions, a barbarous chatter below the great music of the quasars.

No idea how I got from that to "listen" and "calling", although there is an obvious auditory theme. And it does have quasars, eventually.

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