|Born||2 August 1948|
Hythe, Kent, England
|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 broke into print in 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 eldest 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 and producing a science fiction fanzine. He became a full-time writer during 1976 and lived out the rest of his life in North London. He died in hospital on 29 November 2009 at the age of 61, having been in intensive care since 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. These included some adaptions of television scripts for novelisations of television series including The Professionals. During this same period he wrote the text for Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons, a large format book in which he provided essays concerning the tropes of science fiction (and, in one chapter, sword and sorcery), accompanied by colour reproductions of related artwork.
Holdstock wrote "The Dark Wheel", the first novella to be included for distribution with a video game, Elite, in 1984. He wrote an adaptation of The Emerald Forest, a film directed by John Boorman, and novelised episodes of the Granada Television series Bulman.
Holdstock was guest of honour at the annual Novacon in 1984, and a limited-edition chapbook featuring his fantasy story 'Thorn' was presented to the first 500 attendees.
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 nonfiction works, including Alien Landscapes, Tour of the Universe, Horror: 100 Best Novels and Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (a different publication than The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction published in 1979, edited by Peter Nicholls).
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 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 Palencar, Larry Rostant and Ron Walotsky. John Howe stated: "Holdstock is to me one of the best Celtic fantasy authors alive today."
Ryhope Wood series
Merlin Codex series
Night Hunter series (as Robert Faulcon)