A Sense of Wonder: John McHale, from Sci-Fi to Future Studies

  • Juliette Bessette Sorbonne University


In his article “‘I wonder...’, A short history of amazement,” the art historian John Onians dissects the multiplicity of meanings of this expression. He explains that “to feel wonder” means to be aware of the impact that an “extraordinary sensory experience” has on us (Onians, 1994, p. 11), and also links the wonder with questioning and curiosity, hence its inherent tension towards the future. Indeed, the “sense of wonder” concept is widely used in science fiction circles where it catalyzes the blend of pleasure, excitement, and apprehension felt by a viewer when seeking to imagine that which is as yet unknown. This article details how this feeling serves as a guiding thread in the journey of artist and researcher John McHale, both for artistic experiments in the 1950s, and then for future studies research methods in the 60s and 70s. Investigating this historical moment, it bridges the gap between the reception of science fiction as a popular genre and the recognition of the methodological richness contained in the creative process that underpins it.