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

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas has been a safe space for inquiry into, education about, and celebration of the genre. This site long provided a wealth of information and informed commentary about science fiction and related programs, 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

 

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


Science Fiction Summer 2021 (online only) is a wrap: 

Kij Johnson's SF&F Novel Writing Workshop
Apply in February for next summer's traditional and "Repeat Offenders" events.

Chris McKitterick's Spec-Fic Writing Workshop
Apply in February for next summer's traditional and "Repeat Offenders" events.

Chris McKitterick's Intensive Institute on Science Fiction: the SF Short Story
Apply in February for next summer's event to reserve your spot and start reading.

We hope to move the next Conference and Awards to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE. Stay tuned.


James Gunn endows the James E. and Jane F. Gunn Professorship in Science Fiction
to support the center's future educational mission.


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
(and James Gunn's final stories)

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.

Celebrating Science Fiction Since 1969

      Vision      

We're 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 offered a comprehensive 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 offered a large variety of SF-related resources, awards, events, educational outreach, and other programs. This included courses (and service on MA, MFA, and PhD committees in Science Fiction Studies) at the University of Kansas, especially professionalization courses including workshops, seminars, and a writing retreat; hosted annual awards for international SF and student writing, and scholarships to study SF at KU; hosted an annual Conference; operated 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, and resources connections to the 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 our educational offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. Click here to see the Director'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 outreach 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. Mostly an independent research center, the Center eventually was established under the KU Lifetime Institute, now folded into the Hall Center before becoming independent again but affiliated with several KU departments and centers.

Gunn also began his Science Fiction Lecture Series in 1969 as an outreach program, when the University Libraries also 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, Gunn held his first Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction, which became an annual event that McKitterick still offers today. In 1979, Gunn presented the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (established in 1973) for the best science fiction novel of the year for the first time at KU as part of a weekend conference devoted to the teaching and writing of SF. Gunn's annual Conference long used a round-table discussion format with associated readings, signings, and more, and we have retained this interactive feature while expanding. 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, Gunn first offered his Writers Workshop in Science Fiction, with McKitterick serving as guest author beginning in 1995, leading his Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop since 2010. 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 her Novel Writers Workshop in conjunction with the center, and recently added a "Repeat Offenders" Novel Writers Workshop. Chris McKitterick and Physics Professor Philip Baringer began offering their "Science, Technology, and Society" course in 2006, also available for KU credit through English and Humanities as an Honors course. The first issue of 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, Center Directors began expanding our interdisciplinary relationships, forming a group of Faculty Affiliates from many KU departments and research centers - expect to see more offerings as we build on our collaborations! McKitterick and Johnson have continued to develop and offer more SF Studies courses for KU credit and professionalization.

We were founded as an Endowment-supported organization independent of departmental or college politics, 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 the first endowment supporting James Gunn's educational and outreach efforts, and his center 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 future of Science Fiction Studies. 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 available for browsing and borrowing - also thanks to generous donors. In 2011, KU acquired Theodore Sturgeon's papers, greatly expanding an already strong science fiction special collection available for researchers.

      Courses      

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction was a University of Kansas Regents Center, the first of its kind in the world. We affiliated with many KU departments and research centers, including the KU English Department (where our board of directors - Gunn, Johnson, and McKitterick - have worked), which offered a creative writing option at the undergraduate level and an MA, MFA, and PhD, that allowed academic and creative work in SF. We offered most of our courses for KU undergraduate and graduate credit, as well as for professionalization. In addition to for-credit KU students, we worked with non-degree-seeking scholars and writers to enhance their professionalization in the field, and our affiliated residential SF Summer program had always been the centerpiece of our course offerings. Alumni of Johnson's and McKitterick's courses, writing workshops, and teaching institutes often go on to SF publication or professional and academic careers - alums of McKitterick's Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop have the highest alumni publication record in the field!

Based on our interdisciplinary relationships at KU and with other universities, we worked to greatly expand opportunities to study SF at KU - stay tuned for more!

Center directors and affiliates offer these Science Fiction Studies courses:

  • 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 (professionalization, or 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!

Center staff offered, during a 4-8 week period in the summer, a two-week intensive Writers Workshop established in 1985 by SF Grand Master James Gunn and led by SF author and scholar Chris McKitterick since 1995, 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 ran on either side of the 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 enjoyed equal access to most offerings under the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center's umbrella, and we actively encouraged 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 by community members (if space is available). Click here to see the Director'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 and beyond. 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. Gunn named him Associate Director in 2002 when he joined the KU faculty, and he 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 began forming its Board of Advisors, which included 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, we helped establish AboutSF and created the AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator position to coordinate our and others' educational-outreach missions.

In 2013, we formed the 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, chaired by friends of the center.

And, of course, we wouldn't have been 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, just drop us an email. For more information about the Center or any of our programs:

cmckit.SF@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.

- Christopher McKitterick

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 Director's Diversity Statement.

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


SF Conference

Campbell Award

Sturgeon Award

Campbell and Sturgeon Trophies

Science Fiction Hall of Fame


James Gunn Named Grand Master!

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

 

We believed 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!

This organization was associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), several organizations within the University of Kansas, and more. 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.

Site last updated 6/18/2021
Course syllabi change regularly