Sense of Wonder

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(Were you looking for the John Robinson fanzine?)

From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959
(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.

Sometimes (lovingly) written sensawonder or sensawonda.

Moskowitz has been vindicated, as most people see “Sense of Wonder” as a very important component of all fantastic literature. At Chicon III in 1962, SaM commented, as recorded in The Proceedings Chicon III:

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.

Clemence Dane may have been first to use the phrase about the genre. In 1936, she employed it in a couple of essays lauding the prozines and what she called “American Fairy Tales” in Fortnightly (April 1936) and North American Review (Autumn 1936), writing in the latter:

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.

The term wasn’t widespread enough by 1944 to make it into the first Fancyclopedia, but Henry Kuttner helped it on its way two years later in Absalom (Startling Stories, Fall 1946):

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.

Fanspeak Reasonator 1936
This is a fanspeak page. Please extend it by adding information about when and by whom it was coined, whether it’s still in use, etc.