1.17.2004

sensasomethin

There's an intriguing effect that comes with watching a birth take place, of participating in the bringing forth of new life. Afterward, no matter how much sleep you need, no matter how run down you might be, you still find yourself cruising high on a strange mixture of adrenaline, excitement and joy.

But there's something else buried in as well, which I find absolutely fascinating.

It's a sense of accomplishment, mingled in with a healthy dose of potential. There's a strong feeling of newness, of vitality and vigor that just screams out possibility. It feels like you can do absolutely anything without mucking it up.

In a lot of ways, it parallels the old phrase "sense of wonder", which has been so important in speculative fiction for the last few decades.

David Hartwell once provided a wonderful working definition of "sense of wonder" in Age of Wonders:

"A sense of wonder, awe at the vastness of space and time, is at the root of the excitement of science fiction. Any child who has looked up at the stars at night and thought about how far away they may be, how there is no end or outer edge to this place, this universe - any child who has felt the thrill of fear and excitement at such thoughts stands a very good chance of becoming a science fiction reader.

"To say that science fiction is in essence a religious literature is an overstatement, but one that contains truth. SF is a uniquely modern incarnation of an ancient tradition: the tale of wonder. Tales of miracles, tales of great powers and consequences beyond the experience of people in your neighborhood, tales of the gods who inhabit other worlds and sometimes descend to visit ours, tales of humans travelling to the abode of the gods, tales of the uncanny: all exist now as science fiction.

"Science fiction's appeal lies in its combination of the rational, the believable, with the miraculous. It is an appeal to the sense of wonder."


Which is all fine and dandy.

But if I divorce myself from from my friends and take a look back, it's actually been a loooong time since I've experienced the sense of wonder in SFF.

Let me clarify: it's been a long time since I've experienced the sense of wonder in modern SFF. I still find it in the classic works written by Lord Dunsany, William Hope Hodgson, David Lindsay, REH, HPL... and even in early
SFF by people like Vance, Van Vogt, PKD, etc. etc.

The question, then, is whether it is I or the field that has 'lost' the sense of wonder.

If you need me, I'll be contemplating.

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