Robert Conquest – Obituary

While I added a comment to the Daily telegraph article Robert Conquest Historian Obituary :

Also, with Kingsley Amis, he selected and edited five anthologies of Science Fiction which were published by Victor Gollancz (paperback in Pan) between 1961 and 1966 as Spectrum 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5. The series featured a variety of authors including Isaac Asimov, Brian Aldiss, JG Ballard, James Blish, Philip Dick, Robert Heinlein, John Wyndham… (I have the 1971 Pan editions :-))

…I thought to myself, ‘I could say more than that. So I dug out my 45 year old editions.

It was in the field of SF that I first became acquainted with his work.

Robert Conquest, advocate of Science Fiction

He saw that the genre didn’t need to follow the literary rule-book to achieve its effect, in fact it could be an impediment to slavishly ape those tropes. With Kingsley Amis, he selected and edited a series of anthologies which took in fiction from across the genre and were published under the series title of Spectrum.  These were drawn from published stories over the previous two decades and were from a variety of sources. The collections read well and did a good job of illustrating the diversity of SF.

The Introductions to these volumes paint a picture of the genre in the early 60s. They help the reader to understand where SF came from, and give an insight into the then perception of the genre by the literary world. I found little in them to quibble with.
Volume 1 dwells on the criteria the joint editors (Conquest and Amis) employed: plausible, readable world building that did more than pander to literary fads, in stories that did not have wide circulation in the UK.
Volume 2 notes the de-ghettoisation of SF. In 1962!
Volume 3 dwells on the need for depth in SF and points out that simple errors of fact can impact on a work’s plausibility. It goes on to name check a pre-Michael Moorcock New Worlds (which was of course the premier monthly magazine for SF in the UK).
In place of a standard introduction, Volume 4 has a far-ranging conversation on Science Fiction between Brian Aldiss, Kingsley Amis, and CS Lewis, which was recorded not long before the latter passed away.
Volume 5 takes a look at common criticisms levelled against SF and puts the case for the defence.
By the time of Volume 5, things were changing in SF, Michael Moorcock had begun his grand experiment with the periodical New Worlds. A New Wave in SF was flowing.
The stories are well worth a read!

Volume 1:

Specturm-1a Specturm-1b
First Published Title Author
1959 F & SF The Homing Instinct of Joe Vargo Stephen Barr
1959 Astounding Special Flight John Berryman
1955 Astounding The Executioner Algis Budrys
1954 Galaxy Inanimate Objection H Chandler Elliott
1941 Astounding By His Bootstraps Robert Heinlein
1952 Astounding Unhuman Sacrifice Katherine Maclean
1951 Galaxy The Midas Plague Frederick Pohl
1956 Playboy Pilgrimage to Earth Robert Sheckley
1949 Startling Limiting Factor Clifford Simak
1951 Worlds Beyond Null-P William Tenn

Volume 2:

 Specturm-2a  Specturm-2b
1951 Galaxy Beyond Bedlam Wyman Guin
1952 Astounding Bridge James Blish
1956 New Worlds There is a Tide Brian W Aldiss
1953 Space SF Second Variety Philip K Dick
1958 Worlds of If The Feeling of Power Isaac Asimov
1955 Astounding Sense from Thought Divide Mark Clifton
1948 Astounding Resurrection AE van Vogt
1946 Astounding Vintage Season Henry Kuttner

Volume 3:

 Specturm-3a  Specturm-3b
1945 Astounding Killdozer! Theodore Sturgeon
1961 New Worlds The Voices of Time JG Ballard
1957 Astounding Call Me Joe Poul Anderson
1963 We Would See a Sign Mark Rose
1948 Astounding Dreams are Sacred Peter Philips
1956 Astounding Exploration Team Murray Leinster
1954 F & SF Fondly Fahrenheit Alfred Bester
1951 Avon The Sentinel Arthur C Clarke

Volume 4:

 Specturm-4a Specturm-4b
1951 Galaxy The Marching Morons CM Kornbluth
1962 Analog Gadget vs Trend Christopher Anvil
1962 F & SF Such Stuff John Brunner
1963 Galaxy The Sellers of the Dream John Jakes
1960 Fantastic Universe The Large Ant Howard Fast
1942 Astounding Barrier Anthony Boucher
1963 Galaxy The Great Nebraska Sea Allan Danzig
1954 Sunday Chronicle Compassion Circuit John Wyndham
1961 Galaxy A Planet Named Shayol Cordwainer Smith
1964 F & SF Into the Shop Ron Goulart
1962 F & SF The Secret Songs Fritz Leiber
1956 F & SF Stranger Station Damon Knight
1963 Galaxy Hot Planet Hal Clement
1952 Punch The Choice Wayland Young

Volume 5:

Specturm-5a  Specturm-5b
1953 Galaxy Student Body FL Wallace
1953 Astounding Crucifixus Etiam Walter M Miller
1952 Astounding Noise Level Raymond F Jones
1955 Astounding Grandpa James H Schmitz
1953 Astounding Mother of Invention Tom Godwin
1954 Astounding The Far Look Theodore L Thomas
1958 Astounding Big Sword Paul Ash
1953 Astounding Commencement Night Richard Ashby

Key & Stats

Publication Stories full name
Analog 1
Astounding 20 Astounding Science Fiction
Avon 1 The Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader
Fantastic Universe  1
F & SF  6 The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
Galaxy 9
New Worlds 2 New Worlds Science Fiction
Playboy 1
Punch 1
Space SF 1 Space Science Fiction
Startling 1 Startling Stories
Sunday Chronicle 1
Worlds Beyond 1
Worlds of If 1 If: Worlds of Science Fiction

Count of Stories by Year of First Publication, by Anthology

Year Total vol1 vol2 vol3 vol4 vol5
1941  1 1
1942  1 1
1945  1 1
1946  1 1
1948  2 1 1
1949  1 1
1951  5 2 1 1 1
1952  4 1 1 1 1
1953  5 1 4
1954  4 1 1 1 1
1955  3 1 1 1
1956  4 1 1 1 1
1957  1 1
1958  2 1 1
1959  2 2
1960  1 1
1961  2 1 1
1962  3 3
1963  4 1 3
1964  1 1

Robert Conquest, writer on Soviet Russia

born July 15 1917, died August 3 2015:

Started off like most champagne socialists, blind to the idiocies that ruined Russia. First you destroy the system then you destroy the people. Objectors to this lunacy became statistics. Stalin had a legion of useful idiots abroad, to help spread this lunacy to the West. Polemic helps to hide the truth from those who want to believe. Conquest was cured by postings in East Europe especially Bulgaria. Conquest worked hard to unpick the damage caused by Stalin’s many useful idiots; the mischief still goes on. His first landmark work was: The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (1968 — hardback: ISBN 0-19-505580-2, paperback ISBN 0-19-507132-8). The Guardian declined to obit him but back in 2003 they did a decent profile. See also New York Times Obit: Robert Conquest, Historian Who Documented Soviet Horrors, Dies at 98.

About Terence Park

Board games, US Comic books, SF Paperbacks, Vinyl records; I've plenty of them all. I write SF (the serious sort). I also do spreadsheets.
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2 Responses to Robert Conquest – Obituary

  1. Terence Park says:

    Conquest documented what we knew was happening (if you’re not one of the blinkered English).


  2. Pingback: Review: Spectrum I: A Science Fiction Anthology | Terence Park – Blog

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