Nascence is a compilation e-book of short stories by Tobias Buckell, who is perhaps best known for his installment in the Halo universe series of books. But this is not just any compilation – they are all unpublished stories that were rejected for publication. What also sets the e-book apart is Buckell’s autobiographical notes and his explanations behind the reason for their unpublished state.
The stories in themselves aren’t unreadable, really, but those who are at least a little experienced in fiction writing, particularly sci-fi and fantasy (and maybe even some who are not), may notice the unprofessional flubs that dot, and often are strewn generously in every paragraph, across a writer’s early work. This is not a subjective, preferential criticism coming from me — Buckell freely admits where his publication-killing mistakes sat with each story.
Still, as with any accomplished writer, there are hints from their amateur days of pockets of greatness, and these don’t pass by unnoticed. In “The Arbiter” there’s an outline of complex socio-political intrigue, and in “Closed Cycles” — a story that Buckell says is a conglomeration of “all of [his mistakes], at once, in a story” — there are some scenes and turns of dialogue that I found interesting.
This is an e-book more for aspiring sci-fi and fantasy writers more than casual fans of the genre or of Buckell himself. The real value seems to sit with Buckell’s frankness about the struggle with his craft, even as his career began to blossom. The retrospection isn’t something well-known writers tend to expose, either from the threat of deflating their reputation to simple sheer embarrassment (the account of his first experience being “published” and having crudely-drawn genitalia accompany his story makes for a good chuckle). I know little about writing this genre but there is great weight placed on different things, like believable world-building, that other genres do not need or emphasize as much. Buckell provides a good introduction into what the task is for a beginning sci-fi author.