Criticism of Wonder

Criticism of Wonder
The real definition of science fiction is not the genre that deals with the social consequences of physical science, but the genre that deals with theological questions in an age which, officially, has little use for theology.
--Thomas Bertonneau, Monstrous Theologies: The Theme of Anti-Sacrifice in the Sci-Fi Pulps

One of my goals here at With Both Hands is to grant fame and respect to the kind of books that people actually like to read. In order to do that, I need to sidestep the mid-twentieth century literary movements stripped adventure, wonder, and myth out of literature in the name of realism, purportedly in an attempt to appeal to the common man, and as a result people largely stopped reading. I don’t think much of this kind of literature because it is supposed to give you insights into how other people think, but all of its proponents made a huge own goal that drove people away from books into other kinds of entertainment.



Chesterton: Introduction to the Book of Job
G. K. Chesterton's essay on one of the strangest books of the Bible is also a primer on fantastic literature.

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
I argue is Foundation a bad story, but an influential one.

Fixing Herbert's Mistake
Dune is a tragedy, and most errors in interpretation start by not appreciating its form.

Art as Social Technology
Social technologies are used to organize and motivate. Art can be used to form our emotions and our imaginations.


Writers, Readers, and Critics
Readers provide fame [and money], other authors provide respect, and critics provide fame.

A Theology of Fiction
Scholarly attempts to look at Catholic fiction tend to ignore anything that isn't literary fiction.

Follow-up on a capsule history of English scifi and fantasy
The mid-twentieth century account of science fiction and fantasy offered by self-described fans has some notable lacunae.

The Death of the Character only Narrative
A recent trend in genre fiction is that the narrator as a character has been eliminated, which pushes style in certain directions.

The Power of Setting
I look at the analogy between Oswald Spengler's seasons and Northrop Frye's modes of heroic action.

Why Christians Should Read Adventure Fiction
The answer should be an obvious yes, but there is reluctance.


Book Reviews and the Great Conversation: What Readers Like Versus What Authors Like
What interests authors about other books can also be perpendicular to what makes books popular.

What readers like: Dune
Dune considered in isolation is a grand adventure of a classic type. Herbert wanted to do something far grander than this, and fans tend to bifurcate in just liking the first one, or liking the six books Herbert wrote.

Forgotten Ruin and Eucatastrophe
The military fantasy series Forgotten Ruin is in part an homage to Tolkien. This is my analysis of the role of providence in those books.

Pulp Stories and Character Death
Dungeons and Dragons is heavily influenced by popular adventure stories, yet there is an interesting difference in mode of heroic action between the game and the stories.

Science Fiction and Science Fantasy
About the best way to start a fight on the Internet is to attempt to define science fiction.


What authors like versus what readers like
The popularity of a work can be perpendicular to authorial intent, and when an author writes a sequel, it tends to be about what the author liked instead of what the readers liked.

Penny Dreadfuls
Something about popular adventure fiction has always set off a certain kind of person.

Emperor Norton Ponders Thick and Thin Descriptions
The most remarkable thing about most fantasy worlds is how empty they are.

The Emperor Ponders the Limits of Description
There are four broad categories of text you can write, exposition, narration, description, and dialogue.