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Conquest, Robert

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author, Critic, Editor.

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(1917-2015) UK-born Anglo-American author, poet, critic and editor, in the US from 1981; he was a member of the Diplomatic Corps 1946-1956, and was later literary editor of the Spectator. He was made an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in 1956 and a CMG (Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George) in 1996, and as an esteemed Conservative controversialist was awarded the American Presidential Medal of Honour in 2005. As an sf figure he was most active as an editor from 1961 to 1966, producing with Kingsley Amis (whom see for details) the Spectrum Anthologies, beginning with Spectrum (anth 1961) and concluding with Spectrum V: A Fifth Science Fiction Anthology (anth 1966). Several essays and reviews of sf interest appear in The Abomination of Moab (coll 1979), a nonfiction collection which also includes four of Conquest's verse epigraphs for Spectrum. The most famous of these, in Spectrum II: A Second Science Fiction Anthology (anth 1962), pinpoints a long-entrenched literary attitude:

"Sf's no good," they bellow till we're deaf.
"But this looks good." – "Well then, it's not sf."

In addition to much poetry, criticism and political history, Conquest also published A World of Difference: A Modern Novel of Science and Imagination (1955). This sf tale – set in the early twenty-first century, a few decades after World War Three – has a complicated and discursive plot combining political (see Politics) speculation with a remotely told scientific adventure centred on a new "photon drive" which is destined to give humanity a chance to reach beyond the solar system. There is some incidental comic speculation about a poetry-writing Computer whose effusions are quoted with relish (see Wordmill); other in-jokes include Spaceships named for poet friends, e.g. the Amis, Gunn and Larkin, plus a cameo appearance of the Interplanetary Society's very aged president "Sir Arthur" – Arthur C Clarke, prophetically anticipating his eventual knighthood. A cabal of Marxists is routed. Earth is saved from a follow-up war.

The comic novel The Egyptologists (1965) with Kingsley Amis is non-sf, though with several sf references; the learned Library of the story's fake Egyptology society includes The Book of Ptath (October 1943 Unknown; 1947; vt Two Hundred Million A.D. 1964; vt Ptath 1976) by A E van Vogt. [JC/DRL]

George Robert Acworth Conquest

born Great Malvern, Worcestershire: 15 July 1917

died Stanford, California: 3 August 2015

works (highly selected)


works as editor



individual titles as editor


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