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"Mythago Wood" author dies


Robert Holdstock (photo by Peter Coleborn)

Robert Holdstock (1948 - 2009)

Author Robert Paul Holdstock died at 4:00 AM in Britain on Sunday, November 29th after being hospitalized since his collapse on the 18th due to an E. coli infection. He had just attended the GameCity Festival in Nottingham on the 12th where he did a reading for attendees. The author was only 61-years-old.

Although there are a variety of forms of the bacteria which lives in the digestive tract, some forms cause more than sickness resulting in severe anemia and kidney failure. The bacteria can be contracted from improperly cooked food containing the bacteria, in water supplies or transmitted by contact with another person carrying the bacteria.

MMPB Berkley Books edition of Mythago Wood (1986)

When I was a teen and first picked up a copy of the new novel Mythago Wood. I had a vague idea what it was from reading Holdstock's novella in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (Sept.1981 edition) which featured the novella that became the novel. Barbara Berger's art for the cover of the magazine was the only time her work was featured for that magazine. The novella was nominated for a 1982 World Fantasy Award but was beat out by Parke Godwin's "The Fire When it Comes."

The novel was released in the U.K. in 1984 and won the 1985 World Fantasy Award for "Novel," beating out some great authors, including Stephen King & Peter Straub's The Talisman. It also won a Locus Award for "Fantasy Novel" and the British Science Fiction Association Awards for "novel." Locus awarded the novel an All-Time Award for a "Fantasy Novel Before 1990" for the year 1984 as well as a few other awards.

I remember the writing of this mythic series was intelligent and a bit difficult, requiring paying a lot of attention to detail as the characters and elements within the ancient wood would change appearance. Holdstock was extremely good at what he did in both his Mythago mythos as well as his Merlin Codex. Charles de Lint's Yarrow was the only other fantasy paperback book of 1986 that came close to outshining Mythago Wood for me that year.

The author with his half-Siamese cat Harry.
(from the official Robert Holdstock website)

The author has been writing since 1969, becoming a full time author in 1975, sometimes writing under his real name and other times writing under the pseudonyms of Robert Faulcon (Night Hunter series), Robert Black (horror), Chris Carlsen (Berserker series) & Richard Kirk (Raven series). In addition to his fiction dealing with Nordic, gothic, mythic & horror subjects, Holdstock wrote or co-wrote a handful of non-fiction books dealing primarily with a variety of fantasy universes, realms & encyclopedias on Sci-Fi/Fantasy. He also worked as an editor for a few anthologies.

What is probably a screenplay for Mythago Wood is actually registered with the Library of Congress. It appears as though it was to be made by Jim Henson, the man behind The Muppets and Labyrinth. Although that may have been interesting, the technological advancements of today's film industry would greatly improve the aesthetics of the story. Who knows what the real reason was for not producing the film but budget and the technical issues with the massive fantasy story surely played a large part in the novel not being turned into a movie at the time.

Holdstock was acting as Master of Ceremonies when he had once introduced fantasy illustrator Bob Eggleton at a World Fantasy Convention. Eggleton said on Facebook that Holdstock was a "Great writer and a good man."

For more info:. Mythago Wood & its sequels are still either in print or in high rotation. If you love fantasy then I recommend you try the first book