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Before They Were Giants: First Works from Science Fiction Greats Paperback – Aug 24 2010
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I also want to point out that of the 15 "giants" included here, exactly one of them is a woman. I would say that Le Guin, for example, is far more a "giant" than, say, R. A. Salvatore, just as an example. But no- only one female "giant" was included (Nicola Griffith, whose work I admire.. but still- only ONE???). I read a lot of f/sf written by women who are at least as good as some of the male "giants" here. This is an ongoing problem in the field, and Sutter- the editor- did pretty much nothing to bring us a broader scope.
In short: this book has serious flaws, only some of which were obvious from the premise. If one is a huge fan of several of the authors included, one will probably want to read it, since most of these stories are otherwise hard to find. Else? skip it.
When I was a teenager I read many of these authors pretty religiously, including Greg Bear, Piers Anthony, and a few others. What I didn't realize until reading this collection, though, was that I knew almost nothing about their short stories, having read mostly novels.
This collection is fantastic at doing three things. First, it connects you with some authors you have probably heard of but might not have read, it exposes you to some pretty great short stories, and it confirms what most of us have suspected. Most of these guys and girls DID start out as amazing authors. But that's not to say that some of the stories, or sections within stories, weren't a bit rough.
But that's what I loved most about it. It made the authors more human, and really laid bare the craft of writing that these people were developing and honing. A few of the stories I didn't care for at all (I won't name names so as not to offend) but unlike other anthologies where I'd feel slighted, here it was illustrative and interesting. Some of these authors had no idea what they were doing at all and were still writing compelling stories!
Editor James Sutter does a good job in the foreward of setting the expectation-level by introducing the collection as the first published short stories by these amazing sci-fi writers. A few had already published novels, or written elsewhere, but these were their first published shorts, which many novel-writers struggle with even after they are professional/succesful.
Each story also has a standard/structured Q&A where the authors answer questions about where they were in their life when they wrote the story (that was fascinating) and what led them to want to be writers, why this story, etc.
Like I said, it's not your usual polished collection of high-level authorship, but that's exactly the point. It's a more down-to earth look at short stories by writers who would go on to greatness, and I find that infinitely more engaging than when they've already made it and are just churning out more of the same great stuff.
As a result, by operation of the simple law of averages, there are bound to be a few things here you like. The bad news is, its probable there will be quite a bit more you either dislike or are indifferent to. Its also billed as a primer for aspiring writers - which it may very be of some use as, I have no idea - but as a result it also straddles into teachiness in places at the expense of fun. Throw in the fact that this is, by definition, the rawest works of the authors involved, and the book becomes of more use as a curiosity striving for "importance" than a book trying to be "fun".
Two and half stars might be fairer than two, but I cant rate in half stars, and can't give it three stars just for meaning well and trying hard.