Abyssal chthonic resonator
November 30, 2009 4:59 AM   Subscribe

RIP Robert Holdstock, writer of the Mythago Wood series and many other award winning fantasy novels.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (33 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
That's a shame. Mythago Wood had quite the impact on me as a fantasy reader, and I suspect he had way more of an impact on fantasy than most US readers realize.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:30 AM on November 30, 2009

Oh, no. E.(vil) coli.

I just re-read The Bone Forest a few weeks ago. Excellent stuff. Why would US readers not recognize his contributions, exactly?
posted by HopperFan at 5:35 AM on November 30, 2009

Oh, that's a shame. I came across 'Where Time Winds Blow' last night and thought I should give it a re-read.
Don't forget he wrote 'The Dark Wheel' novella that shipped with Elite too.

Are the sequels to Mythago Wood any good? Lavondyss was a bit of a let-down after 'Mythago', but its over a decade since I read either.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 5:47 AM on November 30, 2009

I just love the "Night Hunter" books that Robert Holdstock wrote under the pseudonym "Robert Faulcon."
posted by razorian at 6:09 AM on November 30, 2009

Oh no! The man was one of my favourite writers! I carry Mythago Wood around like a talisman.
posted by dhruva at 6:38 AM on November 30, 2009

Why would US readers not recognize his contributions, exactly?

I rarely see him discussed in this country. He doesn't appear on people's favorite lists, that kind of thing. I see echoes of him in a lot of British authors (Banks, Miéville, and MacDonald come to mind), but his impact on US fantasy seems more diluted.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:50 AM on November 30, 2009

Are the sequels to Mythago Wood any good?

I didn't even know there were any until just recently. That there are so many of them triggers my sense of wariness - I've been bitten that way before by less well known sequels to fantasy classics.
posted by Artw at 7:02 AM on November 30, 2009

GenjiandProust, I completely agree. I am a hardcore fan of British Fantasy and I have friends that like Banks, Miéville, or M. John Harrison but none of them have even heard of Holdstock.

RIP, you were a master of the art.
posted by nikitabot at 7:05 AM on November 30, 2009

I really enjoyed Mythago Wood, this is a total bummer.

posted by schyler523 at 7:05 AM on November 30, 2009

posted by Ber at 7:11 AM on November 30, 2009

"I rarely see him discussed in this country."

I've seen him discussed quite often, I think - that's one reason I finally caught on to his works, plus those of other authors such as Barry Hughart, etc... I don't have any proof of this, though, I just remember his name always coming up in lists of must-read fantasy.
posted by HopperFan at 7:14 AM on November 30, 2009

I never met the guy personally but I've heard from others that he was one of the nicest blokes in the business.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:14 AM on November 30, 2009

Ooh, been poking around on the Holdstock site, and here's an article he wrote on the Elite novella.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 7:15 AM on November 30, 2009

posted by ottereroticist at 7:27 AM on November 30, 2009

Like a lot of other books, I shelved this at the library. I always thought the title was kind of stupid and never gave it a second thought.

But today, sober and more open-minded, the premise of this sounds fascinating and I can't wait to check it out. Actually, I will have to wait to check it out, since no library in the county seems to own it. :(
posted by marxchivist at 7:32 AM on November 30, 2009

US-ian fantasy reader here who's never heard of him until now. Will definitely be looking up Mythago Wood.

posted by papercake at 8:26 AM on November 30, 2009

Lavondyss is arguably the weakest of the series (that I've read - I've never found a copy of Merlin's Wood or the most recent one on this side of the Atlantic). The sequels shake the premise up a bit - The Hollowing jumps the action forward a few decades to a new, unrelated protagonist in the sixties; Gate of Ivory features the nerd-gasm concept of a minor Arthurian figure organizing his own mythago army. And then there are bits like the star-crossed lovers who originate from different versions of the same myth; evil Jason and the Argonauts; a crack team of European linguo-historians who are tentatively trying to apply some science to the whole shebang... Really, any fan of the mythic should give him a try.

And yeah, I never encounter people who know him over here.

posted by ormondsacker at 8:29 AM on November 30, 2009

I just put the most recent one on my Amazon wish list a few days ago. Mythago Wood and its sequels have provided me with many hours of delight over the years. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that I'm not alone in my love for them, because like everybody else, I don't usually find people who've ever heard of him.

posted by immlass at 9:06 AM on November 30, 2009

This is terrible. The Mythago series had such an impact on me when I was younger, but more recently, the Merlin Codex series, while frequently confusing and almost dreamlike in parts, had a fantastic concept. He was also an incredible short story writer. To this day, I am still haunted by The Time Beyond Age from The Bone Forest.

posted by quakerjono at 9:18 AM on November 30, 2009

I read Mythago Wood as an assignment in a college Fantasy Lit course. It's the only "textbook" I kept from 4+ years of school and I've re-read it over and over again. So, I'm sad.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:41 AM on November 30, 2009

Stateside fan of Holdstock here; very sorry to learn of his demise. Have only read Lavondyss and Mythago Wood, loved both. So...I really *do* want to know how well the sequels hold up. Enlighten me.
posted by dorgla at 10:25 AM on November 30, 2009

Oh dear - count me as another hardcore Mythago Wood fan. Holdstock's output varied in quality and the other books didn't hold me to the same extent, but Mythago Wood is a work of genius - one really good (and somewhat Lovecraftian) concept mixed with solid, well developed characters.

Though he's classed as a fantasy writer and that describes most of his output well, Mythago Wood is more like speculative fiction which employs fantastic motifs. I often wonder why it's never been developed into a film, as it has a depth and power that transcends its genre.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:36 AM on November 30, 2009

> Why would US readers not recognize his contributions, exactly?

What US readers? I love Mythago Wood and have read every follow-on or related Holdstock volume I could find. Damn I'm sorry to hear he's gone. I hope there's some stuff still in the pipeline.
posted by jfuller at 10:55 AM on November 30, 2009

RIP indeed. I was just thinking about rereading Mythago Wood the other day. It is one of my all time favorites (and I'm in the U.S.).
posted by gudrun at 10:57 AM on November 30, 2009

Got Lavondyss in SF Book Club edition ages ago and it stunned me. I love Mythago Wood and all the sequels. This news makes me very sad. Especially that he died of something so stupid and preventable.

posted by irisclara at 11:08 AM on November 30, 2009

posted by TheophileEscargot at 11:31 AM on November 30, 2009

Huh. I have a proof copy of Mythago given to me by a friend, who I believe was a friend of Holdstock.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:19 PM on November 30, 2009

"What US readers?"

Aw, this just makes me sadder and sadder. I really never imagined he was such an unknown gem here.

dorgla, I haven't gotten to the others yet, but The Bone Forest is very good.
posted by HopperFan at 1:08 PM on November 30, 2009

Oh, whoops, didn't see that the original post had been modified. jfuller, the suggestion had been made that US readers weren't aware in general of his contributions to the genre.
posted by HopperFan at 1:12 PM on November 30, 2009

Oddly, I remember reading Mythago Wood and liking it very, very much.... but I can't remember the plot at all. So, yay, I get to reread it. :)

I'm sorry the author passed away. I didn't even realize he was still out there. I'd certainly have bought more if I'd linked Mythago Wood with his later books. For whatever reason, I bought just that one, loved it, and then never bought any more. :(
posted by Malor at 2:27 PM on November 30, 2009

posted by Foosnark at 6:14 PM on November 30, 2009

In praise of Robert Holdstock


In 1980 he and Malcolm Edwards wrote Tour of the Universe, making them, Rob claimed, the first writers to sell "theme park rights" from a book. (A space shuttle simulation ride, based on the book, was built below the CN Tower in Toronto.)

I remember having a copy of that, bought it remaindered. It was one of those books where they took a big handful of random SF illustrations and wrote a story to link them all together, it was great.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:15 AM on December 5, 2009

I just read Mythago Wood - what a pleasure. I'm sorry it took me until his death to hear of it.
posted by chinston at 9:21 PM on December 15, 2009

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