Friday, March 18, 2016

FFB: Wondrous Beginnings -- Steven H. Silver & Martin H. Greenberg, editors

I can't seem to get off this short story kick I've been on for the FFB posts lately, but this one is different because I'm not going to talk much about the stories in Wondrous Beginnings.  I've mentioned before that I sometimes enjoy the introductions to stories in collections and anthologies as much as the stories themselves, but this book is the first one I ever bought mainly for those introductions.

I'd read a few of the stories before and enjoyed them, but what I was really interested in was the introductions.  The stories are all preceded by a piece by the authors, who tell how they came to write and see published their first work of science fiction.  There's one exception.  Murray Leinster, the author of the first story in the book, was dead when the book was published (2003), so that introduction was written by his daughter.  

Leinster's story, by the way, is one of those I'd never read before, despite having heard of it for most of my reading life.  So of course I read it, and it's still quite readable even though it was first published in 1919, back in the days before there were laws against using adverbs and showing instead of telling.  It's about a skyscraper and a slight earthquake that causes it to drop into a hole, not in the ground but in time.  Makes perfect sense.

The introductions to the stories vary in length.  Arthur C. Clarke's is too short.  Orson Scott Card's is longer than some of the stories in the book.  They were all great fun for me to read because I'm fascinated by how writers come up with ideas and how they break into print for the first time.  If that kind of thing interests you, too, you can't go wrong here.  And the stories I've read are pretty good, as well.  I'll be reading more of them soon.

Murray Leinster, The Runaway Skyscraper, 1919
L. Sprague de Camp, The Isolinguals, 1931
Anne McCaffrey, Freedom of the Race, 1953
Hal Clement, Proof, 1942
Arthur C. Clarke, Loophole, 1946
Gene Wolfe, The Dead Man, 1965
Barry N. Malzberg, We're Coming Through the Windows, 1967
George R.R. Martin, The Hero, 1971
Howard Waldrop, Lunchbox, 1972
Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game, 1977
Jack McDevitt, The Emerson Effect, 1981
Jerry Oltion, Much Ado About Nothing, 1982
Lois McMaster Bujold, Barter, 1985
Stephen Baxter, The Xeelee Flower, 1987
Catherine Asaro, Dance in Blue, 1993
Michael A. Burstein, TeleAbsence, 1995
Julie E. Czerneda, First Contact, Inc., 1997


George said...

I have a copy of WONDROUS BEGINNINGS somewhere. Now I need to find it and read it! Like you, I've been reading a lot of SF anthologies lately. Great stuff!

Todd Mason said...

This, and its two companions similarly collecting fantasy and horror first stories and commentary, and certainly such congruent books in other fields as the one or couple Lawrence Block has put together, and at least two contemporary/mimetic volumes I too-dimly recall at the moment, and at least one earlier similar anthology in speculative fiction, by other hands...are all fascinating to me,as well. But all of us looking in or writing up the Forgotten Books are the natural audience for such productions, as we wonder about the creative paths others took to get where they went, and sometimes still go...

Bill, did you mean to write, about the Leinster, "to drop into a hole, not into the ground but in time"? Missing word if so.

Man, though, a book such as this is always a good idea.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the correction, Todd. I'll fix it.

Jeff Meyerson said...

These older anthologies really appeal to me.

Rick Robinson said...

I've read about a third of the stories - or more but I don't remember - and based on that this one sounds good. Your description of the Leinster made me think of "Timequake" before I realized it must be "Runaway Skyscraper".

Don Coffin said...

Had to buy it...OP, but available (I love ABE)

Anonymous said...

The "earlier similar anthology" Todd half-recalls is probably FIRST FLIGHTS, ed. Damon Knight. / Denny Lien

Unknown said...

Thanks, Denny. I have that one, but Todd mentions a couple of others I might need.

Todd Mason said...
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Todd Mason said...
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Todd Mason said...

That was definitely one whose title I couldn't pull. Along with the two, at least, contemporary-mimetic anthos. Knight did a later expansion of that book as First Voyages. While First Fiction edited by Kiernan and Moore is one of the c-m anthos, including Dashiell Hammett and all sorts of interesting folk.

Horrible Beginnings and Magical Beginnings are the other two from the set with Wondrous.

LB's two books, oddly not mentioned on his own site, are Opening Shots and Opening Shots 2.

Unknown said...

Horrible and Magical are the two I'm planning to pick up, Todd. No doubt they'll eventually show up here.

Don Coffin said...

Both the LB edited volumes appear to be OP, but available used.