Keith Roberts

(September 20, 1935 — October 5, 2000)

Keith John Kingston Roberts was a British SF author and artist who was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, UK. He was educated at Northampton School of Art and received a National Diploma in Design, in 1956. He attended the Leicester College of Art, 1956-1957. Trained as an illustrator, Roberts worked as a background artist in an animation studio before entering the advertising business.

In the 1960s he turned to SF writing, illustrating, and editing, sometimes under the pseudonyms of Alistair Bevan, John Kingston, and David Stringer. First SF publications: “Escapism” and “Anita,” both in the same issue of Science Fantasy (September/October, 1964); First SF novel: The Furies (Berkley, 1966); First SF collection: Machines and Men (Hutchinson, 1973).

Honors/Awards: BSFA (Short Fiction) for “Kitemaster” in 1983 and for “Kaeti and the Hangman” in 1987; British Fantasy (Short Story) for “Kaeti and the Hangman” in 1986; BSFA (Novel) for Grainne, 1988; other awards, including a BSFA (Best Artwork) for “The Clocktower Girl” in 1987.

Pavane/ (1968), an alternate history novel in which Elizabeth I was assassinated and Britain fell under Spanish rule, is a fixup-novel of six interconnected stories; it listed in David Pringle’s Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels.

His story "The Lordly Ones" received a nomination for the 1981 Best Novelette Hugo.

As an illustrator, Roberts did much to change the appearance of SF magazines in the UK, especially Science Fantasy and New Worlds. He was associate editor of Science Fantasy (1965-1966), and its managing editor (1966-1967) when it became Impulse (later SF Impulse).

In addition to Grainne (Kerosina, 1987) and// Pavane// (Hart-Davis, 1968), his most popular books have been Anita (1970), The Inner Wheel (1970), The Chalk Giants (1974), Molly Zero (1980), and Kiteworld (1985). Anita features a spirited female protagonist, as do many of Roberts’ stories. A massive historical novel, The Boat of Fate, was published in 1971. The Grain Kings (1976), The Passing of the Dragons (1977), Ladies from Hell (1979), The Lordly Ones (1986), Winterwood and Other Hauntings (1989), Kaeti & Company (19xx), and Kaeti on Tour (1992) are additional collections of his short fiction.

Works of non-fiction include The Natural History of P. H. (1988), and Irish Encounters (1989); a mystery, The Road to Paradise, was published in 1989. The story "The Event" also appeared in 1989 in a limited edition paperback format.

Roberts’ work has been described as eloquent and breathtakingly visual, due perhaps to his training in art. His first magazine cover painting illustrated his own story, “The Furies,” which appeared in the July 1965 issue of Science Fantasy. He worked as an artist throughout his life, illustrating some of his own books in the 1980s, writing a series of monographs on art and individual artists, and producing covers for books by Philip K. Dick and John Brunner.

One of the last works by Roberts was his “semifictionalized autobiography,” a mixture of fiction and autobiography that covered publishing in England in the 1960s, Lemady: Episodes from a Writer’s Life (1997). Roberts was interviewed in the September, 1986, issue of Locus (“No Free Tea”). References: Keith Roberts — British Science Fiction Writers, Volume Two, edited by Paul Kincaid & Geoff Rippington (1983); Keith Roberts by Phil Stephensen-Payne (1993).

GoHships:

For more on his career, see http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/roberts_keith