Hubble Telescope image of a nebula, with text on top that reads, KU and Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction

Welcome to the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas,
a safe space for inquiry into, education about, and celebration of the genre. This site provides a wealth of information and informed commentary about science fiction and the Center's programs, including awards, course syllabi, writing resources, and much more.

(If you're looking for our prior top and left-side navigation links, scroll down - we've updated for greater accessibility.)

The best current site, without question, is that sponsored by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas. It contains a treasure of information and links to other resources. It is the one place to start for anyone seeking information about teaching science fiction.
- Dennis M. Kratz, ANATOMY OF WONDER

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James Gunn, the Center's founder, has died (Dec 23, 2020). Brief illustrated memorial here.


Science Fiction Summer 2021 (online only) now taking applications:

Kij Johnson's SF&F Novel Writing Workshop
Apply in February for the summer's traditional and "Repeat Offenders" events, online this year.

Chris McKitterick's Spec-Fic Writing Workshop
This year's special-guest author: Pat Cadigan.
Apply in February for the summer's traditional and "Repeat Offenders" events, online this year.

Intensive Institute on Science Fiction: the SF Short Story
Apply in February for the summer's event to reserve your spot and start reading, online this year.

Scholarships in Science Fiction Studies at KU
Thinking of attending SF Summer 2021? The Mark Bourne Speculative Fiction Writing Scholarship is again available. Apply if you have need.


We hope to move the 2021 Gunn Center Conference and Awards to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE, for a few special announcements. Stay tuned.


Congratulations to the 2020 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalists!

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited book availability, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award award committee will release the 2020 and 2021 novel award finalists as soon as we can as a "Best of the Pandemic" list, with top honors presented at the 2021 Gunn Center Conference.

Congratulations to the 2019 winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award!
(press release here)


James Gunn endows the James E. and Jane F. Gunn Professorship in Science Fiction

Thanks to all who attended the 2019 Gunn Center Conference and Awards, June 28-30. The year's theme was, "Gender, Sexuality, Race, Class, Love, Empathy, and Style in Science Fiction: The Legacies of Theodore Sturgeon." Fantastic discussions, presentations, and guests!

2019 John W. Campbell Memorial Award finalists
(pdf press release here)

2019 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalists
(pdf press release here)


Center Director Chris McKitterick wins the AnLab Readers' Award.

Center Associate Director Kij Johnson wins both the Hugo and Nebula Awards

Sheila Williams publishes Asimov's essays on CSSF

Theodore Sturgeon Papers donated to SF Library Collection


The Feminism+SciFi Forum (a joint venture with the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity) meets monthly in the KU Memorial Union, KU Bookstore, Jayhawk Ink Lounge. Participants analyze and discuss science and speculative fiction from an intersectional feminist perspective. You can also join the Facebook group for at-home participation.


James Gunn's Ad Astra Magazine


Our founder, James Gunn, released his 50th book in 2019: Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction.

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Celebrating Science Fiction Since 1969

      Vision      

We are working to save the world through science fiction! This is only partly hyperbole, as we believe that the more people have the opportunity to become educated about the core messages of science fiction, the better our world can be - and the better-prepared we are, as a species, to face the future. To help achieve this, we offer a comprehensive and ever-growing set of courses and other resources to serve SF students, educators, scholars, readers, and fans, and through collaboration extend the influence of the literature of change, ideas, and the human species to the world at large.

"The most powerful works of SF don't describe the future - they change it" - Annalee Newitz, io9.

      Mission      

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction offers a large and growing variety of SF-related resources, awards, conferences, and other programs. This includes serving as an umbrella for courses (and service on MA, MFA, and PhD studies in Science Fiction) at the University of Kansas, and especially professionalization courses including workshops, seminars, and a writing retreat; gives annual awards for both international SF and student writing, and scholarships to study SF at KU; hosts the annual Gunn Center Conference; operates an educational-outreach and speaker-finding program through AboutSF; research and reading libraries; a wide diversity of SF research and educational resources at KU and beyond; SF news, social media, and resource connections to broader SF field; James Gunn's Ad Astra, now operating independently; and much more. We regularly expand and improve our offerings to serve the science fiction community, so let us know what we can do to enhance the Gunn Center and this website as a resource for you.

"Science-fiction writers and readers didn't put a man on the Moon all by themselves, but they created a climate of opinion in which the goal of putting a man on the Moon became acceptable" - James Gunn, New York Times.

      Diversity      

Everyone enjoys equal access to the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center's offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement.

      History      

The Center was founded in 1982 as a Kansas Board of Regents Center at the University of Kansas, the first such organization at a major university. James Gunn, then a Professor in the KU English Department, established it as a focus for the SF programs he offered at KU - particularly what has grown into our many-faceted SF Summer program - beginning in 1969-1970 with one of the first science-fiction courses ever offered at a major university.

That is also when the Science Fiction Lecture Series began, and when the University Libraries made their first major acquisition in the field. Since then, SF has become the KU Libraries' fastest-growing special collection, mostly through gifts. Special Collections provided most of the illustrations for Gunn's Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, published in 1975 (with a new edition in 2013, and another revised Chinese edition in 2020). Also in 1975, the Center held its first Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction, which became an annual event. In 1979, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science fiction novel of the year was presented for the first time at KU as part of a weekend conference devoted to the teaching and writing of SF. The annual Gunn Center Conference long used a round-table discussion format with associated readings, signings, and more, and we have retained this interactive feature. In 2004, the Conference tested a presentation-and-dialogue format with much success, and have since made this a new feature. The Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short SF of the year was first given in 1987. In 1985, the Center first offered its Writers Workshop in Science Fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, presented in cooperation with the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, was presented during the Conference Awards Ceremony from 1996-2004.

In 2005, Kij Johnson first offered the Novel Writers Workshop, and recently added a "Repeat Offenders" Novel Writers Workshop. Chris McKitterick and Physics Professor Philip Baringer began offering the "Science, Technology, and Society" course in 2006, also available for KU credit through English and Humanities. The first issue of the new James Gunn's Ad Astra, a multidimensional journal of fiction, nonfiction, essays, reviews, and multimedia, launched in June 2012 - and is now open for submissions. In 2013, the Center began expanding its interdisciplinary relationships, forming a group of Faculty Affiliates from many KU departments - expect to see more offerings as we build on our collaborations!

We are an Endowment-supported organization, with faculty and other staff from many walks of life. In 1991, Dr. Richard W. Gunn, a retired physician in Kansas City and Professor Gunn's brother, created an endowment for the Center, and it was renamed the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center in honor of their parents. McKitterick began building this website the next year. In 2004, the Center began forming a Board of Advisors consisting of luminaries from the SF field, the Center's Directors, and others invested in the Center's future. Over the next year, we co-founded AboutSF, an educational-outreach program especially serving educators, librarians, and others interested in SF pedagogy and helping get SF into the hands of young people, supported entirely by donations. In 2007, the Center moved for the first time to a physical space at the University of Kansas (where Gunn enjoyed his first and only corner office), and in 2009 opened a comprehensive library of SF books and magazines now available for browsing and borrowing - also thanks to generous donors. In 2011, KU acquired Theodore Sturgeon's papers, greatly expanding our already strong science fiction special collection available for researchers.

      Courses      

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is a University of Kansas Center, and the first of its kind in the world. We affiliate with many KU departments and research centers, including the KU English Department (where our Directors - Gunn, Johnson, and McKitterick - have worked), which offers a creative writing option at the undergraduate level and an MA, MFA, and PhD which allow work in SF; and we offer most of our courses for undergraduate and graduate English credit. In addition to for-credit KU students, we work with non-degree-seeking scholars and writers who wish to enhance their professionalization in the field, and our residential SF Summer program has always been the centerpiece of our course offerings. Alumni of the writing workshops and teaching institute often go on to publication or careers in the field.

Based on our growing interdisciplinary relationships at KU and with other universities, we are working to greatly expand opportunities to study SF at KU - stay tuned!

Currently, the Center serves as umbrella for the following courses in Science Fiction Studies:

  • Science Fiction and the Popular Media in full semesters (for credit as ENGL 203).
  • Intensive Institute on Science Fiction in summers (professionalization; also available for credit as a courtesy to the English Department as ENGL 506/790). Alternates between the short story and novel.
  • Science Fiction Literature in full semesters (for credit as ENGL 506/690). Alternates between the short story and novel.
  • Science, Technology, and Society most spring semesters (for credit as ENGL 507, 690, or 998; or HUM 510 for Honors credit).
  • Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop in summers (professionalization; also available for graduate credit as a courtesy to the English Department as ENGL 757, and for undergraduate credit with special permission).
  • Speculative Fiction Novel Writing Workshop in summers (professionalization only), by Kij Johnson.
  • Advanced "Repeat Offenders" Novel Writing Workshop each summer (professionalization only), by Chris McKitterick.
  • Advanced "Repeat Offenders" Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop each summer (professionalization; also available for graduate credit as a courtesy to the English Department as ENGL 757).
  • Young-Adult Novel Writing Workshop in summers (professionalization only), by special-guest authors.
  • Undergraduate directed study and advising in speculative fiction literature and genre creative writing.
  • Graduate study, directed readings, and thesis and dissertation advising in speculative fiction literature, scholarship, and creative work.
  • Interdisciplinary courses offered through the Center's Faculty Affiliates from various KU departments and other universities.
  • And more - watch this page for course information and links to syllabi.

The Center continues to offer, during a 4-8 week period in the summer, a two-week intensive Writers Workshop established by SF Grand Master James Gunn and now offered by SF author and scholar Chris McKitterick, featuring brilliant guest authors such as Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, and John Kessel; a two-week intensive Novel Writers Workshop by multiple award-winning author Kij Johnson; a two-week intensive science-fiction literature course especially for teachers; a one-week Young-Adult Novel Writing Workshop; and two advanced "Repeat Offenders" writing workshops (each at least two weeks). The summer courses usually run on either side of the Gunn Center Conference and Awards Banquet so our residential attendees can enjoy this unique offering and have the opportuntity to meet and make connections with other SF professionals, scholars, educators, and fans.

Everyone enjoys equal access to most offerings under the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center's umbrella, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. Many courses offered by Gunn Center affiliates are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement.

      Who We Are      

Founded by James Gunn - author, editor, scholar, teacher of SF, and SFWA Grand Master and Hall of Fame inductee - to serve as an umbrella for his science fiction activities at KU. He served the Center's mission from when he established it in 1981 until his death in December 2020. And 13 years before the organization was designated as a research center, he was one of the very first to bring the study of SF to academia.

SF author and scholar Chris McKitterick has served the Center since 1992. He was named Associate Director in 2002 when he joined the KU faculty, and has served as Director since 2010.

After nearly a decade of assisting with the summer program, Kij Johnson began serving as Associate Director in 2004. She joined KU as Assistant Professor of creative writing in 2012 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2018.

In 2004 the Center formed its Board of Advisors, which includes long-time friends of the Center, the Directors, and many of SF's leading lights.

In 2005, with donations from publishers, conventions, SFRA, SFWA, and notable people in the field, the Center established AboutSF and created the AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator position to coordinate our and others' educational-outreach mission.

In 2013, we formed the Gunn Center Affiliates, an interdisciplinary group of faculty and university professionals interested in the intersection of their fields with SF.

In 2015, we formed the International Consortium of Science Fiction, a cooperative of science-fiction research and degree-granting programs from around the world.

In 2018, our first Christopher Gunn Memorial Graduate Research Assistant began supporting the Center's mission.

A diverse group of authors, scholars, reviewers, and editors serve on the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award nomination committees and juries.

And, of course, we wouldn't be able to do anything without the energy and commitment of our students, friends, support staff, and volunteers - a heartfelt thanks to everyone!

We invite you to become part of the Center, as well - like SF itself, the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center is a community of people. If you're interested in volunteering, let us know via AboutSF.com, or just drop us an email. For more information about the Center or any of our programs:

Gunn.SF.Center@gmail.com, CampbellConference@gmail.com, or AboutSF@gmail.com.

For personal matters, you may directly contact Chris McKitterick or Kij Johnson.

Our physical mailing address:

J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction
University of Kansas
1445 Jayhawk Blvd
3001 Wescoe Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045

Science fiction is the literature of the human species encountering change, and the literature of ideas and philosophy; it is multi- and interdisciplinary; and at its heart is a community of thinkers and creatives.

Like the scientific method, science fiction provides an approach to understanding the universe we live in. It provides the tools, tropes, and cognitive framework within which we can explore ideas and safely run thought-experiments where we cannot or ought not in real-world experiments. By dramatizing such scenarios, populating them with believable characters, and providing the background necessary for the audience to willingly suspend disbelief, SF brings ideas to life.

In Episode 5 of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, Neil deGrasse Tyson says, "Science needs the light of free expression to flourish. It depends on the fearless questioning of authority, and the open exchange of ideas... The nature of scientific genius is to question what the rest of us take for granted, then do the experiment." Replace "science" or "scientific" with "science fiction" in these statements, and you concisely define what SF does - and the value of its study becomes apparent.

In her speech at the National Book Awards, when she was awarded the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, Ursula K. Le Guin said, "Hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries, the realists of a larger reality."

This is science fiction.

For a fuller discussion of these points, plus more perspectives on defining the field of SF Studies, check out this page.

Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement.

In Memoria for some of the greats who served the Center here.


J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center Conferences and Awards

Conference and Awards

Sturgeon Award

Campbell and Sturgeon Trophies

James E. Gunn Award

Science Fiction Hall of Fame

Scholarships in SF Studies


Science Fiction in Lawrence

CSSF Staff

Educational Program

Lawrence SF Club

Lawrence Area Activities and Museums


Resources and Multimedia

A Basic Science Fiction Library

SF Websites and Other Resources

SF Essays and Articles

Sturgeon Collection

CSSF Research Resources

CSSF Research Center

SF Multimedia


James Gunn

James Gunn's Biography

Essays by James Gunn

James Gunn
Keynote Talk on Asimov
New Book by James Gunn: Reading Science Fiction

James Gunn Named Grand Master!


Other CSSF Links

Essays and Talks

Youth Program

Donate and Volunteer

Diversity Statement

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In the background:
An early science fiction woodcut depicts Cyrano de Bergerac
being lifted to the Moon on bottles of dew.

Top banner:
The Center's logo against a Hubble Space Telescope
photo of the Great Orion Nebula.

We believe strongly in the free sharing of information via digital humanities such as this website, so you'll find a lot of content - including all of McKitterick's course syllabi and many materials from our classes - on this and related sites and social networks as part of the Center's educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study, or to adapt it for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to this website. We'd also love to hear from you if you use our materials!

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center is associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), the KU English Department and other organizations within the University of Kansas, and more, and all content is owned by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick. Web developer and creator of most content since 1992 is Chris McKitterick.

This website and its contents are copyright 1992-present by Christopher McKitterick except where noted, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. (Feel free to use and adapt for non-profit purposes, with attribution. For publication or profit purposes, please contact Chris McKitterick or other creators as noted.)

Creative Commons License
Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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AboutSF Saving the World Through Science Fiction

Site last updated 3/18/2021
Check back to pages that interest you for frequent updates.
Course syllabi change regularly.