In its specific sense, associated chiefly with Sam Moskowitz. See also sensawunda n.
The scene of the mountains and of the prairie are widely different. The one grand and full of life, but impressing the first beholder with a sense of beauty; the other silent, grand, sublime, and impressing its first beholder with a sense of wonder and awe, but alike suggestive of the thought that none but God, One, Almighty, Allwise, could make them, and with wonder that anyone could doubt it, or believe that they came into existence by chance, by evolution or the aggregation of sentient particles of matter. ]
Its fairy-tales will be the literary expression of its particular sense of wonder, its individual conception of delight.
For three years in short these papers have been an enormous amusement to me, for crude, illiterate, slangy as most of the stories are, they do none the less represent a stirring of the ancient sense of wonder, the human love of magic, in a continent poor in legends and peopled by aliens from all over the world. These amazing magazines call themselves ‘science fiction.’ But they are nothing in the world but America’s fairy-tales.
You couldn’t understand it yourself. You tried it, and it was beyond you. You're not flexible. Your logic isn’t flexible. It’s founded on the fact that a second-hand registers sixty seconds. You've lost the sense of wonder. You've translated to [sic] much from abstract to concrete. I can understand entropic logic. I can understand it!
The sense of wonder.
Science fiction exists to provide what Moskowitz and others call ‘the sense of wonder’: in more precise terms, some widening of the mind’s horizons, in no matter what direction—the landscape of another planet, or a corpuscle’s-eye view of an artery, or what it feels like to be in rapport with a cat…any new sensory experience, impossible to the reader in his own person, is grist for the mill and what the activity of science-fiction writing is all about.
Sense of wonder (Moskowitz), that which characterizes stfnists (def. 2) in general; and, the quality in science-fiction that arouses their admiration. Much jeering at SaM’s expense has accompanied his proclamations of need for/discovery of this commodity, and many doubt that the phrase really describes anything more definite than the glow of enjoyment.
SAM MOSKOWITZ: No, I think the conversation has been very good, very lucid, and very entertaining. I have just been sitting back here taking it all in. I was a little surprised to find, through the years, that this term had caught on. I didn’t create the term, ‘Sense of Wonder,’ I just used it. And it’s been defined by Rollo May in his book, Man’s Search For Himself, as a sort of opening attitude, a feeling that there is more to the universe than has been yet observed and that of an awakening attitude. The only thing I can add is that I always felt that modern times science fiction was written for jaded old fans like me.
Technological extrapolation, the enthronement of reason, the ‘cosmic viewpoint’, alien contact, and a ‘sense of wonder’ achieved largely through the manipulation of mythic symbolism are all important elements in this visionary novel.
When I was a kid I used to wonder why people in sf stories always wrote with a stylus; I was curious what a stylus was and what made it different from a pencil or a pen. Imagine the damage to my sense of wonder when I realized that a stylus was a pencil or a pen, that all those exotic-sounding cold drinks were martinis or beer, that all those interesting hot drinks were coffee or tea.
A sense of wonder, awe at the vastness of space and time, is at the root of the excitement of science fiction.
Mars offered us good old-fashioned sense-of-wonder sf, with the politics fairly well in the background.
The conflict seems an internal one to the genre as well, reappearing year after year in new garb, whether as cries bemoaning the loss of the ‘sense of wonder’ or cries to reanimate Heinlein’s serious term ‘speculative fiction’.
We would still like citations for this phrase in a science fiction context earlier than 1936.
Last modified 2022-01-15 18:20:31
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.