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November 29, 2009

Robert Holdstock, 1948-2009
Posted by Teresa at 12:06 PM * 58 comments

The first thing I saw when I started up Twitter just now was a message from John Jarrold:

John Jarrold feels numbed by Rob Holdstock’s death - one of my oldest friends. Nothing sensible to say, just love sent to Sarah and his family…
I’m stunned. I’d known he was seriously ill with an E. coli infection, but I never thought…


His Wikipedia entry.
His own website, Mythago Wood.
His ISFDB entry.

Comments on Robert Holdstock, 1948-2009:
#1 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 12:42 PM:

Oh, how sad! Condolences to everyone who knew him. He had a brilliant imagination.

#2 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 12:52 PM:

That is just wrong. I'm so damned sorry.

Love, C.

#3 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 12:57 PM:

I just saw this elsewhere and am stunned. What a tragedy, what a loss.


#4 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:00 PM:

I got a few twitters about it too. Damn. He'll be missed. I loved Mythago Wood. One usually doesn't think of e-coli infections as lethal, but they can be if someone is weakened by them, or it's a particularly dangerous strain.

Comforting wishes to anyone who knew him. I'd met him at least once, but not for longer than a "hello".

#5 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:08 PM:

I had never heard of him until now- condolences to all who had.

#6 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:13 PM:

Met but didn't know well -- the loss of his auctorial voice, though, is a loss I'll feel.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:13 PM:

Condolences to all who knew him.

#8 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Condolences. I think surprise makes it worse.

#9 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:19 PM:

Rob was a genuinely lovely human being. I'd only seen him a couple of times in recent years, but I have many fond memories of hanging out with him at cons and in pubs in the '70s and '80s. He will be greatly missed.

#10 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:28 PM:

What a loss to the field of fantasy, as well as to his friends and family. He had a unique imagination; no other writer could have delved down and pulled into daylight the startling creations of the Mythago Wood cycle.

#11 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:51 PM:

I am -- despite not knowing Rob particularly well -- deeply bummed out by this. Condolences to all concerned ...

#12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:58 PM:

I never read anything by him, but that's irrelevant. He was one of our Voices, now silent. I'm sorry to hear that.

#13 ::: Eileen Gunn ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 01:59 PM:

I am very sorry to hear this. My condolences to his family and his many dear friends.


#14 ::: Nina A ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:03 PM:

I will greatly miss his work. My condolonces to those who knew him.

#15 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:03 PM:


#16 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:04 PM:

Damn damn damn.

Mythago Wood and Lavondyss made an enormous impact on me - beautiful, strange, and deeply unsettling books that managed to make magic unearthly and weird while infusing it through a world that felt tangible and real and rooted in solid ground, a fairyland built of cold wet earth and sharp edges and animal smells. I hadn't encountered anything quite like them before, and I still haven't since.

The world will be poorer for his loss, and he will be missed.

#17 ::: Ken Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:07 PM:

Not good, not happy.

But even more saddened to note that, apparently, E. coli poisoning is not so uncommon as one might have thought.

#18 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:10 PM:

Condolences to all his friends, family, and fans.

#19 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:18 PM:

Like others, I'd been following the daily updates, yet am still shocked by today's news of Rob's death. I raise a glass in his honor.

#20 ::: Nicholas Rogers ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 02:49 PM:

I'm in an odd place, because I didn't actively know if Robert Holdstock was alive or if he'd already passed on into that "other place" where great imaginations exist.

As a reader only, I certainly never knew him, I can only think back to how I first encountered him, through the pages of Lavondyss. It was a gift for my high school graduation, and I was so compelled by it, I bought the prior novel that same weekend and read it cover to cover while flying to London.

His imagination, his storytelling source, was deeply rooted in the things that dance on the edge between what we almost see with our eyes in a verdant wood, and what we feel on the back of our neck on a windy moor.

He gave a voice to the things that sit on the edge of both worlds. Not a fantastical, shrill and shining voice; but the deep and honest voice of strange things; things that must be real, but can't be found.

For his family and friends who have lost a real and tangible person, my deepest sympathies. to my mind, winter is the worst season to face such thing.

But as a reader, as one of the ones who received a gift from the words he wrote and the paths of imagination he strode down, I'm confident that he's walking there again. He always seemed to know those places personally, and to those places I'm somehow sure he's returned.

#21 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:02 PM:

Oh, damn.

Wishing comfort to his grieving family and friends.

#22 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:14 PM:

Oh no! )-:

He was the one who got me reading fantasy again, after a long stretch of being convinced (quite wrongly) that there wasn't anything new to be had there.

My deepest sympathies to all his friends and family.

#23 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:30 PM:

Just heard this. Quite shocked. He was one of those people you imagine will always be there, and always friendly and full of life. Condolences to his family and friends.

#24 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:34 PM:

Sad and tragic. I enjoyed his work, and recently ordered Avilion from the UK. My condolences to his family and friends.

#25 ::: Kat Hankinson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:41 PM:

What a sad loss. My condolences to all who knew & cared for him.

#26 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 03:59 PM:

A misery. Good writers are cultural treasures and we're all made poorer by their loss. My condolences to those who knew and loved him.

#27 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:15 PM:

I heard the news about four hours ago, while in Whisperado bandmate Jon Sobel's car on the way out to Queens for a rehearsal. I know he was hospitalized with a serious infection, but I was still stunned. And am.

I barely knew him--he was a friend of several friends, and I doubt I actually met him more than two or three times--but I liked his work a great deal. I published his Merlin Codex (Celtika, The Iron Grail, and The Broken Kings) at Tor, and additionally brought his classics Mythago Wood, Lavondyss, and The Hollowing back into print. Despite disappointing US sales he was always decent and courteous in email. I'm sorry I didn't get to know him better.

Read his books. Start with Mythago Wood. It's called a classic for a reason: it's one the greatest works of mythopoeic fantasy since Tolkien. Only John Crowley's Little, Big and Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell are in the same league.

#28 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:44 PM:

Oh, crap. Why does this always happen to the best and nicest people? Why can't we rearrange things so that only nasty people die?

There are a lot of great authors out there who are complete gits in person. Rob Holdstock was not one of them. I met him only once, over a meal, and was quite charmed.


#29 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 04:56 PM:

Not a recommendation, Patrick -- I dislike the Crowley and Clarke. In fact, I wasn't able to get very far into them.

#30 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 05:28 PM:

Marilee #29: "Not a recommendation, Patrick -- I dislike the Crowley and Clarke. In fact, I wasn't able to get very far into them."

To the contrary, it was a recommendation; it just wasn't one that's useful to you. But thanks for putting me in my place all the same.

#31 ::: Wyman Cooke ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 07:22 PM:

Nix at 28: I hear you. When Chuck Jones passed I considered making a T-shirt which read "There's something wrong with a Universe where Chuck Jones is dead and Osama Bin Laden is alive."

I'm sorry to learn that Robert Holdstock is gone. Mythago Wood was in my mountainous to be read pile. I never got to meet him in person. My condolences to his friends and family.

#32 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 08:08 PM:

My condolences to his friends and family.

#33 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 08:11 PM:

I know I must have seen Rob Holdstock at a moment when he wasn't smiling, but I can't haul one up out of memory.

#34 ::: Velma ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 08:41 PM:

Ah, damn. My condolences to all who knew him.

#35 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 08:52 PM:

This is a major bummer. Oddly enough, I was just thinking a day or two ago that my daughter is now old enough to appreciate Mythago Wood, and that I should dig out a copy and give it to her. My condolences to everyone here that knew him.

#36 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 09:41 PM:

Just yesterday while at my parents' house, I was going through some boxes of my SF books from when I was a kid. (Since I have my own house now, my parents have been none-too-subtly encouraging me to take my own stuff with me). I found and leafed through a whole pile of Holdstock books -- Lavondyss, Mythago Wood, etc.

I never met him in person but he is definitely one of the chief influences on my own writing and how I think about constructing stories. He had a style and a mood that was unique to him.

Condolences to his friends and family. And to everyone who hasn't read his stuff, I'd strongly encourage you to pick up _Mythago Wood_.

#37 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2009, 10:14 PM:

As always nothing to say that does any good. Its terrible when people die.

Used to talk to him sometimes in the pub meets back in the 1980s. Didn't really think of him as much older than me. In my memory he has no grey in his beard.

When did 61 stop being old? I'm sure I thought my Dad was old when he was that age. It doesn't seem old now. It must just be because I'm not so far off it myself.

I can only say as so many others have, that if you haven't read the Ryhope Wood books yet, you should make a start on the journey soon.

#38 ::: hedgehog ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 01:11 AM:

Oh, drat.

Condolences to his family and friends.

#39 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 01:21 AM:

Am so sorry. This is so not how I want to get book recommendations. I want everyone to stay alive, maybe having a nice cup of tea while they open their mail in between pruning hedges and walking the cat. Isn't that what authors do? They shouldn't die, anyway. Makes it hard to drop a line to say how this book of theirs made me rethink every relationship I ever had, and how that other one shifted the sun so that it rose in the north and spun widdershins about the earth, and only settled back reluctantly into east-west courses a week after I'd finished it.

The dying part is wrong, and everyone should stop doing it now. Please.

#40 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 08:48 AM:

Condolences to all those who knew RH.

Tangential, but not unrelated: It's probably not appropriate in this thread, but I'd be interested in hearing some time what MLers think about the etiquette of posting news about someone's death on FB or twitter. Some ways of doing it seem appropriate; others less so.

(It's on my mind since a while back I heard the news about the death - at a terribly early age - of someone who had been a close friend but with whom I'd been in less close touch more recently via an acquaintance's status update on Facebook. It seemed... I'm not sure exactly, but not quite right somehow; but not right in a way distinct from the wrongness of either death itself, or tragically early death in particular)

#41 ::: Iorwerth Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 08:49 AM:

Damn. :(

I never knew him except through his excellent work. My condolences to his family and friends.

#42 ::: Alex Cohen ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 09:42 AM:

Is this an okay place & time to discuss his works further? I don't want to trample on anyone's grieving, but it also seems like a good opportunity to celebrate his work.

I like PNH's comparison of Mythago Wood to Crowley and Clarke; the works have a similar conception of and fascination with myth and tale. Stylistically they are quite different, though; Holdstock's work is the most readable of the three, I think, a much more traditional, almost early-20th century narrative style and structure. (This is not meant to at all slam Little, Big or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel, both of which I have enormous appreciation for; only that they are both fairly unusually structured and styled).

Mythago Wood won the World Fantasy Award for novel in 1985, along with co-winner Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. Two amazing novels that have stood the test of time -- it was quite a year.

#43 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 09:45 AM:

Just this morning, I also heard of the death of a second-cousin (one I hadn't seen for years) who was around Holdstock's age. She'd turned alcoholic, developed some disease, and been comatose for the last week or so. Damn shame.

Though I'm sorry for both families, as a reader I feel a bit of consolation knowing that his work (especially Mythago Wood) will live on and continue to thrill more of us in years to come.

#44 ::: UrsulaV ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 11:46 AM:

The Hollowing was a huge influence on me when I was around seventeen. Well, hell.

#45 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 12:26 PM:

I've just found The Hollowing on my bookshelf. Is it a standalone or the first of a series?

#46 ::: Jim Holdstock ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 01:17 PM:

He was a great brother -- He will be missed -- it was a great shock to our family - - still in disbelief ....

#47 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 01:31 PM:

What a shame. That's too young to die. I never met him; I didn't go to the right cons, but tended to think one day I would.

I will listen to the Tallis Fantasia tonight, because he named a character after it and had her meet the composer. And then I will start reading the books again.

#48 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2009, 01:34 PM:

#45: It's the third in the series. Start with Mythago Wood.

#49 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 11:04 AM:

Damn. I remember sitting up all night to finish Mythago Wood. Now I have to get my hands on the Merlin series...

#50 ::: Tony Richards ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 08:18 PM:

Those who the gods love, they take early. If there are gods, then brilliantly talented, charmingly friendly Rob must have been one of their special favourites.

#51 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2009, 10:54 PM:

I am so sorry.

#52 ::: Gardner Dozois ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2009, 05:54 PM:

A strong voice silenced too soon. A tragedy.

#53 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2009, 09:25 PM:

Marilee #29 I dislike the Crowley quite intensely -- one of the most irritating books I've ever tried to read. The Clarke I quite enjoyed, but not enough to understand all the fuss it engendered. But Mythago Wood was a far more interesting, inventive work, and beautifully written. I'd strongly urge you to give it a try.

I know Robert only through his writing, but feel quite striken by the loss. My condolences to his family and friends.

#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2009, 03:22 AM:

I read the Crowley at 16 and was bored; I tried it again at 32 and was enthralled. I loved the Clarke and wished it wouldn't end. (Fortunately it's very very long.) I have a copy of Mythago Wood but have never read it...I should do something about that.

#55 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:00 AM:

Here's Remembering Rob Holdstock, a supplement to Ansible 270.

#56 ::: Nicki ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2014, 07:00 AM:

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#58 ::: Mary Aileen sees undeleted spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2016, 04:12 PM:

#56 is old spam

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