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Before They Were Giants: First Works from Science Fiction Greats (Planet Stories (Paizo Publishing)) Paperback – August 24, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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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From Booklist

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
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Product Details

  • Series: Planet Stories (Paizo Publishing) (Book 28)
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Paizo Publishng Inc. (August 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1601252668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1601252661
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
These stories will probably not change anyone's opinions of the authors involved. The ones I already respected had pretty decent- though sometimes a bit rough- first published stories; the ones I have less respect for had worse ones. I was quite impressed with the quality of the first published works by most of the authors I have come to respect! And there's at least one author I've not been reading regularly that I will check out based on his story here.

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.
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Format: Paperback
I think that if you like science fiction, or the craft of writing, or want to be an author, or like authors, or wondered if all authors started out as amazing writers, then this book is for you.

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.
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While the quality of writing this working isn't always spectacular - this is, after all, the very first works of most of these authors - this collection is remarkable for three reasons. First, the choice of authors - Greg Bear, Ben Bova, William Gibson, Joe Haldeman, China Mieville, Charles Stross, etc - is a hit list of Sci Fi Authors That You Simply Must Read, and their first works are indicative of their huge talent. Second, each story is followed by an interview with its author, who wax nostalgic on their first published story, their experience in print publication, advise to new authors, etc. Finally, this book is published by the remarkable Paizo Publishing, a group of terrifically talented people working out of Washington State who have set the bar in terms of quality role playing game publishing.
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short storiesf sy fi not a novel
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Before They were Giants is an anthology without a theme, a collection of the "first published" works of a wide range of living SF writers. There are 15 short stories in about 200 pages, which includes a brief questionnaire with answers by each author (itself generally two or three pages long). As a result, there is a real grab-bag of things here, with "sci-fi" being pretty widely interpreted and the authors involved ranging from Piers Anthony to China Mieville.

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.
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