Knowing Rob Holdstock

By Lisa Tuttle

Robert Holdstock was a friend of mine for thirty years.

I could tell lots of stories about him, starting with the first time I met him, at the Worldcon in Brighton in 1979.  No sooner had we been introduced than I was treated to a classic Holdstock faux pas. He was famous for them, I learned; well-known for putting his foot in it, for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.

But this was a sort of a myth, a story he told about himself, and even if there was some truth in it – because myths are usually built on some truth, as Rob knew very well – the mistakes he made were rarely offensive, or even embarrassing to anyone except Rob himself.  Those faux pas sprang from his enthusiasm and his affection and his curiosity, all things that made him such a good writer, and such a great friend to those of us who were lucky enough to know him.

I saw a lot of Rob in the 1980s, when I lived in London, but a lot less since moving to Scotland nineteen years ago.  One of the things I’ll be forever grateful to Rob for is that he brought me and Colin together, although I’m sure he never expected us to run off to Scotland and stay there.

Distance is hard on friendships, but Rob valued his friends, and made sure we stayed close, even if we only met a couple of times a year.

Howard Morhaim, Rob’s literary agent and mine, said that it sometimes seemed like the whole world had a crush on Rob – maybe because he had a crush on the world.

I have, as I know we all have, so many good memories of Rob.  It’s very hard to accept that there won’t be more to come, only the times we had, the memories and the books, but what we have is not insignificant.

Now I want to read some lines from Walt Whitman, reflecting on his own mortality.  Although I’m an American, and read some Whitman when I was at school, I really hadn’t paid that much attention to his poetry until the last few years, when Rob’s enthusiasm for Whitman sent me back to read it.  These lines are from “As the Time Draws Nigh”:

I shall go forth,
I shall traverse the States awhile, but I cannot tell whither or how long.
Perhaps soon some day or night while I am singing my voice will suddenly cease.

O book, O chants!  must all then amount to but this?
Must we barely arrive at the beginning of us? – and yet it is enough, O soul;
O soul, we have positively appear’d – that is enough.