|Illustrator||J. L. Patterson|
|Genre||Science fiction Literary criticism|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction is a collection of critical essays by American writer Damon Knight. Most of the material in the original version of the book was originally published between 1952 and 1955 in various science fiction magazines including Infinity Science Fiction, Original SF Stories, and Future SF. The essays were highly influential, and contributed to Knight's stature as the foremost critic of science fiction of his generation. The book also constitutes an informal record of the "Boom Years" of science fiction from 1950-1955.
In the opening chapter, Knight states his "credos", two of which are:
That science fiction is a field of literature worth taking seriously, and that ordinary critical standards can be meaningfully applied to it: e.g., originality, sincerity, style, construction, logic, coherence, sanity, garden-variety grammar. That a bad book hurts science fiction more than ten bad notices.
One essay in the book is "Cosmic Jerrybuilder: A. E. van Vogt", a review of the 1945 magazine serialization of A. E. van Vogt's The World of Null-A, in which Knight "exposed the profound irrationality lying at the heart of much traditional science fiction".
In 1956 Knight was awarded a Hugo as "Best Book Reviewer" based largely on the essays reprinted in this book.
In Search of Wonder was originally issued by Advent:Publishers in hardcover in 1956. Advent reissued it in both hardcover and trade paperback in 1960. The second, expanded, edition was published by Advent in hardcover in 1967, with trade paperback reprints following in 1968 and 1974. The second edition was more than 120 pages longer and included six added chapters. Advent published a third, further expanded edition, nearly 100 pages longer than the second edition, in 1996. The third edition adds roughly 30,000 words of text and augments the bibliography and index; it incorporates six new chapters and expands Knight's discussion of longtime editor John W. Campbell Jr.. Orion released an ebook edition in 2013.
On defining science fiction:
On science fiction writers:
On science fiction novels:
On British writers:
Following is a list of chapters in the first edition (1956).
The second edition (Advent, 1967) included the additional chapters:
The third edition, published 1996, interwove additional chapters, including personal reminiscences:
Anthony Boucher described the original edition as "a comprehensive picture of the book publication of science fiction in the 1950s, valuable as a historical record, stimulating as a detailed analysis of faults and virtues, and delightful simply as good reading matter in its own right", P. Schuyler Miller reviewed the book favorably, saying that Knight "applies his rules honestly and mercilessly", although he also noted that Knight's close focus on technical aspects of writing sometimes ignored an author's ability to "cast a spell . . . even if the carpentry and design is shoddy".
Reviewing the second edition, Algis Budrys declared that "Damon Knight sets an as yet unequalled standard" for sf criticism, and praised Knight both for "his exact appreciations of the well done" as well as "how influential [he] was when summing up the subtle but suddenly obvious flaws in work that had seemed pretty good". Barry Malzberg wrote that "Damon Knight is probably our field's first and best critic and . . . this book is the most important nonfiction ever published in the category".