11.08: Wonder as a Subgenre

If the Element of Wonder is the driving force behind “sense of wonder” science fiction and fantasy, then that same element can be used to give wondrous flavor to stories whose driving force lies among the other elemental genres. We talk about how to use wonder at smaller scales, how to create it with context, and how you might use it in support of the other themes of your story.


Take a story you’re working on, a story in which Elemental Wonder isn’t a driving force, and add that wonder to some aspect of it.

Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer

6 thoughts on “11.08: Wonder as a Subgenre”

  1. Another good example of wonder is Brandon’s Reckoner’s Trilogy. Each book is set in a single, bizarre city. First it’s the city of steel, then Manhattan of canals, glowing fruit, and magical radios, and finally a traveling city of salt.

    And that’s not even mentioning the general wonder attached to Epic powers.

  2. *Mistborn 1 spoiler tag*

    Wait…Mistborn didn’t promise us 16 metals…it promised us 10, and gave us 12.
    We get Iron and Steel, Tin and Pewter, Zinc and Brass, Copper and Bronze as the basic 8, Gold and Atium as the higher metals that only Mistborn can use, the Eleventh Metal, and Aluminum. It also told us a lot of lies about the latter 4 of these metals. (Lies because Brandon knows better, not because the characters actually present in the story who might be willing to tell Vin do).

    On a different subject, I have to admit, I kinda think Ringworld got its order of scales wrong…though in fairness, it was kinda impossible to not do so. The most impressive things in that book, in my opinion, are the Ringworld itself (a construct more practical but on similar scale to a Dyson sphere), and that alien solar system that was being used as a vehicle. It had a pentagonal orbit construct that Niven went into with a surprising amount of detail, which I found really cool (my brother was, at the time, a PhD student studying orbits along those lines). Once they landed on the Ringworld, yeah things looked big, but the Himalayas look bloody impressive to someone standing in Northeastern India, too. I’d actually suggest that the currently-featured space station in Schlock Mercenary (whose name I will not even attempt to spell), with its hurricanes that are larger than planets and jungles growing off of the support struts for the central column, is doing a better job of maintaining that sense of wonder, because the characters exploring and now inhabiting it have maintained the ability to show off its scale in a way that trudging across the Ringworld just doesn’t allow. Note the recent couple of strips that concluded that a research team has to enter the hurricane in question; their AI’s response is to offer them an 8 km wide hemisphere to use as a mobile shelter.

    But then, it could just be a pacing thing. I have a lot of trouble with Niven’s generation of science fiction because of the ponderous pacing.

  3. I did a little experiment. I took all the elemental genres (as far as I understand them) and filtered stories through them –first some movies: Matrix ended up Wonder/Idea/Adventure as dominating, but I think ALL of these genres are present (even horror).

    Then, as an exercise, I did the same for the barest of story ideas I have in my head. The result makes me giddy. I ended up (by accident) with a workable outline for a novel –emphasizing various genres at different times then remixing.

    I haven’t felt this excited about a story idea in a long time. :)

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