Sutter's primary goal for this anthology is to show the humble beginnings of famous authors so new writers will be less embarrassed by their own early efforts. In this the results are mixed, since many of the 15 stories are impressive. China Miéville's "Highway 61 Revisited" and Nicola Griffith's "Mirrors and Burnstone" make deft use of familiar themes; Kim Stanley Robinson's "In Pierson's Orchestra" and Michael Swanwick's "Ginungagap" are legitimately masterful. More reassuring are the short interviews, which contain helpful advice and humanizing tales of rejection. Sutter limited his invitations to authors who were available to give interviews and hadn't contributed to similar compilations, like Martin Greenberg's recent Wondrous Beginnings and Magical Beginnings; readers may appreciate the lack of crossover but will bemoan the resulting lack of female authors in Sutter's TOC.
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A mighty name from the pulp era, Planet Stories, now revived, offers this anthology of the first published short stories of authors who are mighty names right now. Few of the stories are world-beaters, except for Spider Robinson’s “The Guy with the Eyes,” the first Callahan story. Otherwise, the real interest is the author interviews. Nicola Griffith describes changing the gender of two aliens in a moment of insight while actually on a panel. Larry Niven started off with a story of Known Space—and astronomical data that was obsolete before the story saw print. Joe Haldeman’s first story nearly didn’t see print at all, the entire issue of the magazine being trapped in a rail yard. And China Mieville is both proud and embarrassed that his first story was written when he was 12 and won a young people’s writing contest—but has not worn all that well. Really good reading about the start-up stages of many distinguished careers. --Roland Green