Robert Holdstock in Épinal, 2004
2 August 1948|
Hythe, Kent, UK
|Died||29 November 2009 (aged 61)|
|Notable works||Mythago Wood|
Robert Paul Holdstock (2 August 1948 – 29 November 2009) was an English novelist and author best known for his works of Celtic, Nordic, Gothic and Pictish fantasy literature, predominantly in the fantasy subgenre of mythic fiction.
Holdstock's writing was first published during 1968. His science fiction and fantasy works explore philosophical, psychological, anthropological, spiritual, and woodland themes. He received three BSFA awards and won the World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Novel of 1985.
Robert Holdstock, the oldest of five children, was born in Hythe, Kent. His father, Robert Frank Holdstock, was a police officer and his mother, Kathleen Madeline Holdstock, was a nurse. At the age of seven Robert started attending Gillingham Grammar School in the Medway Towns. As a young adult he had jobs including banana boatman, construction worker and slate miner. He also earned a Bachelor of Science from University College of North Wales, Bangor, with honours in applied Zoology (1967–1970). He continued his education, earning a Master of Science in Medical Zoology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 1971. He conducted research at the Medical Research Council in London from 1971 to 1974, while also doing part-time writing. He became a full-time writer during 1976 and lived out the rest of his life in North London. He died in hospital at the age of 61, following his collapse with an E. coli infection on 18 November 2009.
During the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s Holdstock wrote many fantasy and science fiction novels along with a number of short stories, most of which were published under a pseudonym. Robert Holdstock's pseudonyms included Robert Faulcon, Chris Carlsen, Richard Kirk, Robert Black, Ken Blake, and Steven Eisler. During this same period he wrote "Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons," a series of essays about the various tropes of science fiction, interspersed with colour reproductions of space art.
Holdstock wrote a novella, The Dark Wheel, which was included with the best-selling computer game Elite in 1984. Holdstock also wrote The Emerald Forest, based on the film of the same title directed by John Boorman, and novelised episodes of the Granada television series Bulman.
Between 2001 and 2007 Holdstock produced a trilogy of fantasy novels, the Merlin Codex, consisting of Celtika, The Iron Grail and The Broken Kings.
Holdstock wrote, edited or contributed to a number of non-fiction works, including Alien Landscapes, Tour of the Universe, Horror: 100 Best Novels and an Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (not The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction).
In 2013 a joint volume of poetry with Garry Kilworth was published by PS Publishing, Poems, Peoms and Other Atrocities.
David Pringle described Eye Among the Blind, Holdstock's first science fiction novel, as a "dogged, detailed, somewhat slow-moving planetary mystery". Ursula K. Le Guin called the same novel "As strong a treatment of a central theme of science fiction – alienness, and the relation of the human and the alien – as any I have read."
According to Michael D. C. Drout, Holdstock's Ryhope Wood series is a significant part of the fantasy genre, displaying the power and aesthetic standards of Tolkien’s fantasy without being either a "close imitation of" or a "reaction against" Tolkien. Drout considers Holdstock, along with Ursula K. Le Guin, a worthy inheritor of the fantasy tradition created by Tolkien. Patrick Curry placed Holdstock in a quartet of noteworthy fantasy authors, alongside Le Guin, John Crowley and Marion Zimmer Bradley, for writing fantasy books that come close to Tolkien's breadth and depth of imagination, and "in some respects surpass Tolkien".
David Langford offers praise for most of Holdstock's work, but regarded Merlin's Wood less highly: "the overall narrative is flawed, distorted by its weight of undeserved loss and inaccessible healing".
The covers of Holdstock's books were produced by a variety of notable illustrators. The original UK and US covers of Mythago Wood were illustrated by Eddi Gornall and Christopher Zacharow, respectively; Geoff Taylor illustrated the original UK covers for the Mythago Wood sequels Lavondyss, The Bone Forest, The Hollowing and Merlin's Wood. Illustrators of subsequent covers and editions include Jim Burns, Tom Canty, John Howe, Alan Lee, John Jude Pallencar, Larry Rostant, and Ron Walotsky. John Howe stated: "Holdstock is to me one of the best Celtic fantasy authors alive today."
- The novella Mythago Wood won the BSFA Award for Best Short Story in 1981 along with the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella in 1982.
- The novel Mythago Wood won the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 1984 along with the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985. Mythago Wood was published as part of the Masterpieces of Fantasy series by Easton Press, who describe themselves as releasing 'works of lasting meaning, beauty and importance.'
- Lavondyss won the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 1988.
- The Bone Forest was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Collection in 1992.
- The Ragthorn, coauthored with Garry Kilworth, won the World Fantasy Award in the category of Best Novella in 1992 and was nominated for the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 1994.
- The Fetch won the HOMer Award for horror novel in 1992.
- The Iron Grail won the Czech Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Award in the category of Best Novel in 2002.
- La Forêt des Mythagos, i.e. the Mythago Wood collection, won the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire in the category of Prix spécial in 2003.
- The short story “Scarrowfell” in Dans la vallée des statues & autres récits (Denoël, 2004), translated into French by Philippe Gindre, won the Imaginales award (Prix Imaginales) in the Short Story category in 2004.
- Celtika won the Grand Prix de l'Imaginaire in the Foreign Language Novel category in 2004.
Ryhope Wood series
- Mythago Wood
- The Bone Forest, a novella and short story collection
- The Hollowing
- Merlin's Wood, a novel and two short stories (only published in the UK)
- Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn
Merlin Codex series
- The Iron Grail
- The Broken Kings
Night Hunter series (as Robert Faulcon)
- The Stalking
- The Talisman
- The Ghost Dance
- The Shrine
- The Hexing
- The Labyrinth
- Eye Among the Blind
- Where Time Winds Blow
- In the Valley of the Statues (short story collection)
- The Emerald Forest (film novelisation)
- The Fetch (also published under the title Unknown Regions)
- Ancient Echoes
- The Dark Wheel computer game novella included in Elite (video game)
- Holdstock, Robert Eye Among the Blind (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1976), back flap.
- Newman, Kim St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, ed. David Pringle (Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1996), page 285.
- Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 445.
- "Locus Roundtable: Robert Holdstock." Locus Online: The Website of The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. <http://www.locusmag.com/Roundtable/2009/11/robert-holdstock.html>.
- Moorcock, Michael Horror: The 100 Best Books, eds. Jones, Stephen and Newman, Kim (New York, NY: Carrol & Graf, 1998), page 326.
- The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle (London: Grafton Books, 1990), page 111.
- The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, editors John Clute and John Grant (New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1997), page 474.
- Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 446.
- The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle (London: Grafton, 1990), page 111.
- The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle (London: Grafton, 1990), page 111.
- Drout, Michael D.C. Of Sorcerers and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature, China: Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2006, page 56.
- Curry, Patrick Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity, New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2004, pages 132–133
- Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 450.
- Jude, Dick Fantasy Art Masters: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Artists and How They Work, London: HarperCollins, 1999, page 43.
- Clute, John (1997). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1st ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-19869-5.
- Curry, Patrick (2004). Defending Middle Earth" Tolkien" Myth and Modernity (1st ed.). New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-618-47885-9.
- Drout, Michael (2006). Of Sorcerers and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature (1st ed.). China: Barnes & Noble. ISBN 978-0-7607-8523-2.
- Holdstock, Robert (1976). Eye Among the Blind (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday & Company. ISBN 978-0-385-12681-6.
- Holdstock, Robert (1984). Mythago Wood (1st ed.). London: Victor Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-03496-3.
- Holdstock, Robert (1988). Lavondyss (1st ed.). London: Victor Gollancz. ISBN 0-575-04374-1.
- Holdstock, Robert (1991). The Bone Forest (1st ed.). London: Grafton. ISBN 978-0-246-13833-0.
- Holdstock, Robert (1993). The Hollowing (1st ed.). London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-224201-X.
- Holdstock, Robert (1994). Merlin's Wood (1st ed.). London: Harper Collins. ISBN 0-00-224603-1.
- Holdstock, Robert (1997). Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn (1st ed.). United States of America: Roc Books. ISBN 978-0-451-45570-3.
- Jones, Stephen (1998). Horror: The 100 Best Books (2nd ed.). New York: Carroll & Graf. ISBN 978-0-7867-0552-8.
- Jude, Dick (1999). Fantasy Art Masters: The Best Fantasy and Science Fiction Artists Show How They Work (1st ed.). London: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-8230-1636-6.
- Langford, David (2003). Supernatural Fiction Writers (2nd ed.). Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 978-0-684-31251-4.
- Morse, Donald E.; Matolcsy, Kalman (2011). The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction (1st ed.). London: McFarland & Company, Inc. ISBN 978-0-7864-4942-2.
- Newman, Kim (1996). St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers (1st ed.). Detroit: St. James Press. ISBN 978-1-55862-205-0.
- Pringle, David (1990). The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction (1st ed.). London: Grafton Books. ISBN 978-0-88687-536-7.
- Bibliography at SciFan
- Robert Holdstock page at Gollancz Imprint's publishing group, Orion Publishing
- The Science Fiction Weekly Interview with Robert Holdstock at the Wayback Machine (archived January 17, 2009)
- Robert Holdstock at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Robert Holdstock at Fantasy Literature
- Robert Holdstock's website