How did some of science fiction greatest authors get their start?
Collected in Wondrous Beginnings are the stories that launched the careers of such science fiction masters as Stephen Baxter, Orson Scott Card, Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey, and Gene Wolfe, among others. The collection spans nearly one hundred years! The first story included was written in 1919, “The Runaway Skyscraper” by Murray Leinster. It’s the only story of the seventeen without an introduction by its author; his daughter fills in. Since the anthology was published in 2003, this is quite understandable.
It is the introductions, however, that are perhaps the most fascinating part of this anthology. Each author gives readers a little backstory about their first published piece. Some are shorter than others; Clarke’s intro to “Loophole” is the shortest. Others give a more detailed glimpse of the excitement of selling that first story.
Many of these authors have crossed genres and written fantasy stories as well, which made me wonder if the collection might be a mix of scifi and fantasy. Unfortunately for me, the stories are all firmly in the science fiction genre. Not my favorite. However, for budding scifi writers this is a great resource for inspiration and learning. This could almost be considered a best of collection because—in many ways—an author’s first story has to be “that good” to garner publication and interest.
Included in the collection are: “The Runaway Skyscraper” by Murray Leinster, “The Isolinguals” by L. Sprague de Camp, “Freedom of the Race” by Anne McCaffrey, “Proof” by Hal Clement, “Loophole” by Arthur C. Clarke, “The Dead Man” by Gene Wolfe, “We’re Coming Through the Window” by Barry N. Malzberg, “The Hero” by George R. R. Martin, “Lunchbox” by Howard Waldrop, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card, “The Emerson Effect” by Jack McDevitt, “Much Ado About Nothing” by Jerry Oltion, “Barter” by Lois McMaster Bujold, “The Xeelee Flower” by Stephen Baxter, “Dance in Blue” by Catherine Asaro, “TeleAbsence” by Michael A. Burstein, and “First Contact Inc.” by Julie E. Czerneda.
The anthology was edited by Steven H. Silver and Martin H. Greenberg. Silver provides an overall introduction, citing three maiden voyages—of varying success—that have inspired the imagination.