Steven H. Silver &
Martin H. Greenberg, editors,
Wondrous Beginnings
(DAW, 2003)

These are the stories that launched the careers of science fiction masters L. Sprague de Camp, Arthur C. Clarke, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Lois McMaster Bujold, Stephen Baxter, Hal Clement, Barry N. Maltzberg, Murray Leinster, Howard Waldrop, Jack McDevitt, Jerry Oltion, Catherine Asaro, Michael A. Burnstein and Julie E. Czerneda. Whew!

Each story has an introduction by the author (Murray Leinster's daughter provides the background for his opening time-traveling tale, "The Runaway Skyscraper"). There is variety in the length and subject matter of these fledgling tales that allowed their authors to spread their wings, and in some cases dominate the often strange skies of science fiction.

I must admit to feeling a bit cheated, despite its cunning little twist in the tale, that Anne McCaffrey's "Freedom of the Race" was under 1,000 words -- the shortest in the book. The criteria, however, is not length, but the author's first published story, or story accepted for publication. Another favourite author, Arthur C. Clarke, gives a similarly brief introduction to "Loophole" and an only slightly longer story -- its style of telling making it seem all the more fleeting. Jack McDevitt and Gene Wolfe's first publications are less science fiction, more spiritual fantasy; both are thought-provoking, especially the latter.

"Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card is a compelling novelette, while Bujold's "Barter" is, by comparison, a rather frothy piece and, though entertaining, seems the least mature publication of those included in this anthology. I thought it a pity that out of the 17 selected authors, only four were female, despite a goodly number of highly recognizable female authors in the genre; and wonder what deciding forces were at work for the shortlist of Wondrous Beginnings.

This anthology is an interesting and surprisingly diverse compilation of tales; some too short, others robust little novellas. All have their merits, and it is difficult to choose a favourite. Wondrous Beginnings is an ideal "dipping" book for anyone curious about the early work of these authors or the general subject matter, despite not all being pure science fiction.

- Rambles
written by Jenny Ivor
published 31 May 2003

Buy it from