Robert Holdstock

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
Holdstock in Épinal, 2004
Holdstock in Épinal, 2004
Born2 August 1948
Hythe, Kent, England
Died29 November 2009 (aged 61)
Science fiction,
Notable worksMythago Wood


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.[1] 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.[2][3] He died in hospital at the age of 61, following his collapse with an E. coli infection on 18 November 2009.[4][5]


Holdstock's fantasy novel Lavondyss with cover art by Alan Lee.

Robert Holdstock's first published story, "Pauper's Plot", appeared in the magazine New Worlds in 1968.[6] His first novel was a science fiction work, Eye Among the Blind, published in 1976.[7]

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.[8] These included some adaptions of television scripts for novelisations of television series including The Professionals.[9] 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, swords and socrcery), accompanied by colour reproductions of related artwork.

In 1980 Holdstock wrote Tour of the Universe with Malcolm Edwards. The rights were subsequently sold for a space shuttle simulation ride at the CN Tower, also called the Tour of the Universe.

Holdstock's novel "The Dark Wheel",was included with the best-selling computer 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's breakthrough novel Mythago Wood was published in 1984. It began the Ryhope Wood series,[10] which continued until the appearance of Avilion in 2009.

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).

In 2013 a joint volume of poetry with Garry Kilworth (with whom he collaborated on the award-winning novella "The Ragthorn") was published by PS Publishing, Poems, Peoms and Other Atrocities.[11]

Critical reception

David Pringle described Eye Among the Blind, Holdstock's first science fiction novel, as a "dogged, detailed, somewhat slow-moving planetary mystery".[12] 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."[13]

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.[14] 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".[15]

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".[16]

Book covers

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 Pallencar, Larry Rostant and Ron Walotsky. John Howe stated: "Holdstock is to me one of the best Celtic fantasy authors alive today."[17]


  • 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.

Select bibliography

Ryhope Wood series

Merlin Codex series

  • Celtika
  • 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

Other novels

  • Eye Among the Blind
  • Earthwind
  • Necromancer
  • 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


  1. ^ Holdstock, Robert Eye Among the Blind (New York: Doubleday & Company, 1976), back flap.
  2. ^ Newman, Kim St. James Guide to Fantasy Writers, ed. David Pringle (Detroit, MI: St. James Press, 1996), page 285.
  3. ^ Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 445.
  4. ^ "Locus Roundtable: Robert Holdstock." Locus Online: The Website of The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Field. Web. 29 Nov. 2009. <"Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 December 2009. Retrieved 29 November 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)>.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Moorcock, Michael Horror: The 100 Best Books, eds. Jones, Stephen and Newman, Kim (New York, NY: Carrol & Graf, 1998), page 326.
  7. ^ The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle (London: Grafton Books, 1990), page 111.
  8. ^ The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, editors John Clute and John Grant (New York, NY: St. Martin's Press, 1997), page 474.
  9. ^ Pixley, Andrew: The Professionals MkIV Viewing Notes, Network, 2016. [Paperback book included with Blu-ray release]
  10. ^ Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 446.
  11. ^ Kilworth, Garry; Holdstock, Robert (2013). Poems, Peoms and Other Atrocities. Stanza Press. PS Publishing. ISBN 978-1848636378. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  12. ^ The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle (London: Grafton, 1990), page 111.
  13. ^ The Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction, David Pringle (London: Grafton, 1990), page 111.
  14. ^ Drout, Michael D.C. Of Sorcerers and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature, China: Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2006, page 56.
  15. ^ Curry, Patrick Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien: Myth and Modernity, New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2004, pages 132–133
  16. ^ Langford, David Supernatural Fiction Writers, Second Edition, Volume 1, ed. Richard Bleiler (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2003), page 450.
  17. ^ 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: 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.

External links

Angus Wells

Angus Wells (26 March 1943 – 11 April 2006) was a British writer of genre fiction, including fantasy and westerns. Wells wrote under numerous pseudonyms, including Andrew Quiller (with Kenneth Bulmer and Laurence James), James A. Muir, Charles R. Pike (with Kenneth Bulmer and Terry Harknett), William S. Brady (with John Harvey), J. D. Sandon (with John Harvey), Charles C. Garrett (with Laurence James), Richard Kirk (with Robert Holdstock), J. B. Dancer (with John Harvey), and Ian Evans.


Avilion is a fantasy novel by British author Robert Holdstock. It was published in the United Kingdom on July 16, 2009. It is his first Ryhope wood novel since Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn was published in 1997. Avilion is Tennyson's term for Avalon in Idylls of the King. Avilion is described by Tennyson as an island valley with ideal weather and fertile land.

The novel Mythago Wood introduces tropes, terminology and a backstory that are built upon in Avilion.

BSFA Award

The BSFA Awards are literary awards presented annually since 1970 by the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) to honour works in the genre of science fiction. Nominees and winners are chosen based on a vote of BSFA members. More recently, members of the Eastercon convention have also been eligible to vote.

British Fantasy Award

The British Fantasy Awards are awarded annually by the British Fantasy Society (BFS), first in 1976. Prior to that they were known as The August Derleth Fantasy Awards (see August Derleth Award). First awarded in 1972 (The Knight of Swords by Michael Moorcock) only for novels, the number of award categories increased and in 1976 the BFS renamed them collectively the British Fantasy Awards. The current award categories are Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award), Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award), Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Independent Press, Best Artist, Best Anthology, Best Collection, Best Comic/Graphic Novel, Best Non-Fiction, and Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award), while the Karl Edward Wagner Award for "important contribution to the genre or the Society" is given at the discretion of the BFS committee. The membership of the BFS vote to determine the shortlists of the awards, the winners being decided by juries.

Christopher Evans (author)

Christopher Evans (born 4th April 1951 in Tredegar, Wales) is a British science fiction writer and children's author. His novels include Capella's Golden Eyes (1980), The Insider (1981), Mortal Remains (1995) and Ice Tower (2000). He is the co-editor (with Robert Holdstock) of three original SF anthologies, Other Edens (1987), Other Edens II (1988) and Other Edens III (1989).

Evans won the BSFA award for the 1993 novel Aztec Century, which Iain M. Banks described as 'intelligent, finely written, and towards the end, absolutely nail-biting.'

In addition to his works for younger readers, he wrote the tie-in novelisation of the film Innerspace (1987). Evans published these books using a pseudonym.

His book Omega, an alternate history thriller, was released by PS Publishing in 2008. It was his first novel for adults in a decade.

Europe in Winter

Europe in Winter is a 2016 science fiction novel by English writer Dave Hutchinson. Is the third novel in The Fractured Europe series. In 2017 Europe in Winter won the BSFA Award for Best Novel. Rudi, the former chef-turned-spy, returns on a mission to uncover the truth—in a fractured Europe utterly changed by the public unveiling of the Community.

Garry Kilworth

Garry Douglas Kilworth (born 5 July 1941 in York) is a British science fiction, fantasy and historical novelist. Kilworth was raised partly in Aden, South Arabia, the son of an airman. Having an itinerant father he travelled widely, both in Britain and abroad, and attended over 20 different schools before the age of 15. He later went to military school and subsequently was himself in the Royal Air Force for 18 years. In 1962 he married Annette Bailey, the daughter of an R.A.F. Catalina aircraft pilot.

On demobilisation he joined Cable and Wireless, an international telecommunications company, leaving them to become a full-time writer in 1981. His science fiction and fantasy does not fit any set formula, being more interested in the enigmatic and strange, with roots in folk lore. He states that his one great passion is the short story, at which he is most adept. However, an eclectic writer he has produced novels in several genres including science fiction, fantasy, horror, historical, children's fiction, war and literary novels (his 'Witchwater Country' was longlisted for the Booker Prize). He has also written several books of short stories and two volumes of poetry (the second with the novelist and short story writer, Robert Holdstock, with whom shared a lifelong friendship and collaborated). Garry Kilworth is now in his seventies but continues to produce novels and short stories, and has recently brought out his autobiography under the title 'On My Way To Samarkand', detailing among other things his vast travelling experiences over the globe.

Kilworth is a graduate of King's College London. He has published one hundred thirty short stories and over seventy novels. His most recent books are Dragoons, a historical war novel set in South Africa, and Attica, a dark quest set in an attic the size of a continent which is currently under production with Johnny Depp's film company, Adfinitum Nihil. Recently a new collection of stories came out under the generic title 'The Fabulous Beast'.

Kilworth has twice been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal for children's fiction and won the Lancashire Children's Book of the Year Award for his short novel 'The Electric Kid'. Kilworth's novel Rogue Officer won the 2008 Charles Whiting Award for Historical War Literature. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, won the World Fantasy Award in 1992.

Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn

Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn is a fantasy novel by British author Robert Holdstock. It was originally published in the United States in 1997 (and in the United Kingdom under the title Gate of Ivory in 1998.) The story is a prequel to Mythago Wood and explores Christian Huxley's quest into Ryhope Wood and the apparent suicide of his mother, Jennifer Huxley. The title of the book refers to the gates of horn and ivory described in both Homer's Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.

Geoff Taylor (illustrator)

Geoff Taylor (born 1946 in Lancaster) is an English fantasy artist.Taylor has illustrated books for famous fantasy writers such as Robert Holdstock, Philip K. Dick, David and Leigh Eddings, Graham Edwards, Raymond E. Feist, Katharine Kerr, J. R. R. Tolkien, Roger Zelazny, and David Zindell. Taylor is also known for his illustrations for Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, and the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness. Since 1991 he has painted some of the rich imagery for Games Workshop and their unique Warhammer World, in addition to painting covers for the Black Library, an offshoot of Games Workshop, and gaming cards for Sabertooth Games.


Lavondyss also titled Lavondyss: Journey to an Unknown Region is a fantasy novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, the second book in his Mythago Wood series. Lavondyss was originally published in 1988. The name of the novel hints at the real and mythological locales of Avon, Lyonesse, Avalon and Dis; within the novel Lavondyss is the name of the remote, ice-age heart of Ryhope wood.Despite having a new primary character, Lavondyss is a sequel to Mythago Wood because several characters provide links between the novels; the events in Mythago Wood set into motion events that drive the protagonists' actions in Lavondyss.

Lavondyss has won, or been nominated to, several fantasy literature awards.

Merlin's Wood

Merlin's Wood; or, The Vision of Magic is a short novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, first published in the United Kingdom in 1994. The novel is considered part of the Mythago Wood cycle, but takes place in Brittany, France instead of Herefordshire, England. The work has all new characters and focuses on the mythical birthplace and burial site of Merlin, the magical wood Brocéliande. Brocéliande is a smaller version of Ryhope wood where British myth predominates.In addition to the short novel, Merlin's Wood, the 1994 edition features two tales, "Earth and Stone" and "The Silvering". The 2009 edition contains the tales "Scarrowfell, "Thorn", "Earth and Stone", and the novella "The Bone Forest".

Mythago Wood

Mythago Wood is a fantasy novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, published in the United Kingdom in 1984. It won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1985. It served as the first in a series of novels known as the Mythago Wood or Ryhope Wood cycle. It belongs to a type of fantasy literature known as mythic fiction. It has received critical acclaim for the quality of its prose, its forest setting, and its exploration of philosophical, spiritual and psychological themes.


Orbitsville is a science fiction novel by British writer Bob Shaw, published in book formin 1975. It is about the discovery of a Dyson sphere-like artefact surrounding a star.

The novel had previously appeared in three instalments in Galaxy Science Fiction, in June, July and August 1974. After its publication as a book it won the British Science Fiction Award for the best novel in 1976.

Shaw wrote two sequels, Orbitsville Departure (ISBN 0-671-69831-1), published in 1983, and Orbitsville Judgement, published in 1990.

Pyramids (novel)

Pyramids is a fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, published in 1989, the seventh book in his Discworld series. It won the BSFA Awards in 1989.

Robert Holdstock bibliography

This is a bibliography of fantasy author Robert Holdstock.

The Bone Forest

The Bone Forest is a collection of fantasy short stories by British writer Robert Holdstock, published in 1991 (UK) and 1992 (US). It opens with a novella of the same name, followed by seven short stories. The novella is a prequel to the entire Mythago Wood cycle. According to the author it was written "to fill in the background and back-story to Mythago Wood" at the request of a screenwriter who was working on a planned movie version of Mythago Wood.The 1991 and 1992 editions of the book contain seven short stories in addition to the novella The Bone Forest., after which the volume takes its name. The additional stories in The Bone Forest bear little relation with either time or events in the Mythago Wood cycle, yet the short stories are largely influenced by the fantasy realm created as part of the Mythago Wood cycle.The Bone Forest has both won and been nominated for fantasy literature awards.

The Hollowing

The Hollowing is a fantasy novel by British writer Robert Holdstock, the third in the Mythago Wood series written . It was originally published in 1993. The title refers to a magical pathway, or hollowing, an archaic English term for a sunken lane or hollow-way. The Hollowing was inspired by the story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.Despite primarily featuring new characters, The Hollowing is a sequel to Lavondyss because a handful of characters provide a link between the two novels. The events in the previous novel set into motion the events that drive the actions of the protagonist in The Hollowing.

The Jonah Kit

The Jonah Kit is a 1975 science fiction novel by English writer Ian Watson. In 1977, The Jonah Kit won the BSFA Award for Best Novel.

Tour of the Universe

Tour of the Universe was a space shuttle simulation ride located in the basement level of the CN Tower. Operating between 1985 and 1992, it was the world's first flight simulator ride.The ride was the idea of Moses Znaimer and designed by SimEx. The name of the ride, Tour of the Universe, and its content were adapted from a work of the same name cowritten in 1980 by Robert Holdstock and Malcolm Edwards, who sold the rights for the ride.Construction began in 1984 and the ride began operations in 1986. Built by Showscan Film, the ride used two Boeing 747 simulators designed and built by Redifusion Ltd in Crawley, UK. Showscan designed and built the spacecraft themed cabin that seated the 40 passengers. Director, special effects expert and Showscan owner Douglas Trumbull produced the show film. The ride system and its controls were later the basis for Disneyland's Star Tours ride.The ride was replaced in 1992 with a similar attraction entitled "Space Race." It was later dismantled and replaced by two other SimEx rides in 1998 and 1999.

Similar rides were proposed for Japan and Australia.

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