I suppose the death of J G Ballard wasn't unexpected, in that he'd been ill for some time. But somehow Ballard seemed so quintessentially to embody the modern world that it's surprising that he's no longer part of it.
I can't really claim Ballard as an influence on my writing (although, when I think about it, my depictions of the decaying factories in The Shadow Walker perhaps owe more than I realised to Ballard's characteristic post-industrial landscapes). But, when I read him as a teenager, he was one of the authors who first made me want to write - I wanted to be able to evoke a world in the way that he did.
I suspect that, in time, Ballard may be seen as among the best and most under-rated British writers of the 20th century - and perhaps as the author who most effectively delineated the second half of that century. The Guardian todays carries a fascinating series of short articles tracing Ballard's influence on other art forms. Incidentally, various commentators (including the BBC and The Guardian again) have highlighted Ballard's influence on popular music. But I've not seen any reference to the song which seems to me to capture, whether deliberately or not, the essence of one strand of Ballard's work - the Mekons's wonderful 'Ghosts of American Astronauts'.