Robert Holdstock (1948 – 2009)
Robert Paul Holdstock was born in a remote corner of Kent, sharing his childhood years between the bleak Romney Marsh and the dense woodlands of the Kentish heartlands. He received an MSc in medical zoology and spent several years in the early 1970s in medical research before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. His first published story appeared in New Worlds magazine in 1968 and for the early part of his career he wrote science fiction. However, it is with fantasy that he is most closely associated.
1984 saw the publication of Mythago Wood, winner of the BSFA and World Fantasy Awards for Best Novel, and widely regarded as one of the key texts of modern fantasy. It and the subsequent ‘mythago’ novels set in Ryhope Wood (including Lavondyss, which won the BSFA Award for Best Novel in 1988) cemented his reputation as one of modern fantasy’s most original and important voices.
1991 was a signature year, with the publication of the acclaimed dark fantasy novel, The Fetch,an exploration of a child’s unusual powers (hailed as ‘magnificent’ by The Times), story collection The Bone Forest, and novella, ‘The Ragthorn’, written with friend and fellow author Garry Kilworth. All of these would find themselves on award shortlists the next year, with ‘The Ragthorn’ winning the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and the BSFA Award for Short Fiction.
Holdstock’s interest in Celtic and Nordic mythology was a consistent theme throughout his works and is most prominently reflected in the acclaimed Merlin Codex trilogy – consisting of Celtika, The Iron Grail and The Broken Kings – published between 2001 and 2007. This series took Merlin out of his Arthurian context and pitched him into an even older narrative alongside such mythological figures as Jason and Medea.
In addition to the Mythago and Merlin sequences for which he is best known, Holdstock published several collections of short stories, a series of occult thrillers (Night Hunter), television novelisations, The Emerald Forest – based on John Boorman’s film of the same name – and many works under pseudonyms. With Malcolm Edwards, he co-wrote Tour of the Universe, which was the basis for a space shuttle simulation ride at the CN Tower in Toronto, and with Chris Evans, he edited the ‘Other Edens’ series of anthologies, showcasing emerging British talent.
Robert Holdstock died in November 2009, just four months after the publication of Avilion, the long-awaited, and sadly final, return to Ryhope Wood.
Praise for Robert Holdstock:
‘Robert Holdstock is Britain’s best fantasist’
‘The finest writer of metamorphic fantasy’
The Washington Post
‘No other author has so successfully captured the magic of the wildwood’
‘Rob Holdstock’s is one of the voices at the very heart of modern fantasy’
Guy Gavriel Kay