Welcome to the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas.
This site provides a wealth of information and informed commentary about the Center, its programs, and science fiction in general.

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.

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.

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

Breaking News

Campbell and Sturgeon Award Winners Announced!

KU Libraries acquire the last works of legendary author
William S. Burroughs.

SF author and NASA physicist Les Johnson
presented a KU colloquium on
advanced space propulsion at KU.

Gary K Wolfe presented
"Asking the Next Question: Science Fiction and the Rational Imagination."
Click here for full details. Text and photos to come.

Long-time friend of the Center Frederik Pohl dies at age 93.
Read the Center's memorial here.


CSSF-ication of Galaxy magazine's December 1951 cover,
art by Ed Emshwiller

 

Celebrating Science Fiction Since 1982

      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 message 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 program 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 Center for the Study of Science Fiction offers a large and growing variety of SF-related programs. This includes for-credit and professionalization courses at the University of Kansas, including workshops, seminars, MA and MFA studies, and a writing retreat; gives annual awards for both international SF and student writing, and scholarships to study SF at KU; hosts the annual Campbell Conference; operates an educational-outreach and speaker-finding program through AboutSF; houses research and reading libraries; provides a wide diversity of SF resources at KU as well as sharing SF news and resource links to the broader SF culture; and administers the new James Gunn's Ad Astra publication. We regularly expand and improve our offerings to serve the science fiction community, so let us know what we can do to enhance the 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.

      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. Professor James Gunn established it as a focus for the SF programs he offered at KU, beginning in 1969 with one of the first regular 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 its 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 (and the new edition from 2013). Also in 1975, the University held its first Intensive English 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 Campbell Conference uses the round-table discussion format with associated readings, signings, and so forth. In 2004, the Conference tested a presentation-and-dialogue format with much success. 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. 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!

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. In 2004, the Center formed a Board of Advisors consisting of luminaries from the SF field, the Center's Directors, and the English Department Chair. In 2007, the Center moved for the first time to a physical space at the University of Kansas, and in 2009 it opened a comprehensive library of SF books and magazines that is now available for browsing and borrowing. In 2011, KU acquired Theodore Sturgeon's papers, greatly expanding our already strong science fiction special collection available for researchers to use.

      Courses      

The J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is a University of Kansas Center associated with and housed in the KU English Department, and most courses are offered for undergraduate and graduate English credit - but all are also available for non-degree-seeking scholars and writers who wish to enhance their professionalization in the field. The Department offers a creative writing option at the undergraduate level and an MFA at the graduate level, which allows work in SF. 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 offers the following:

The Center continues to offer, within a four-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 Bradley Denton and Andy Duncan; a two-week intensive Novel Writers Workshop offered by multiple award-winning author Kij Johnson; and a two-week intensive science-fiction literature course. These workshops and Institute run for two weeks on either side of the Campbell Conference and Awards dinner.

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction's statement on educational diversity.

      Who We Are      

Founding Director James Gunn - author, editor, scholar, and teacher of SF - is a SFWA Grand Master and has served the Center since he established it in 1982... and for 13 years before it was even a designated research center. After a decade of association with and assisting the summer program, SF author and scholar Chris McKitterick joined the KU faculty in 2002 and was named Associate Director, then was named Director in 2010. Also after nearly a decade of association with and assisting with the summer program, Kij Johnson began serving as Associate Director in 2004, then joined KU as Assistant Professor of creative writing in 2012. 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.com and created the AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator position to serve it. 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. A diverse group of authors, scholars, reviewers, and editors serve on the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award nomination committees and juries. And we wouldn't be able to do anything without the energy and commitment of our students, friends, and volunteers - a heartfelt thanks to everyone!

We invite you to become part of the Center, as well - if you're interested in volunteering, fill out the contact form over at AboutSF.com, or just drop us an email.

For more information about the Center or any of our programs, write cssf@ku.edu or directly contact Chris McKitterick (cmckit@ku.edu), Kij Johnson (kijjo@ku.edu), or James Gunn (jgunn@ku.edu). Or use our physical mailing address:

Center for the Study of Science Fiction
c/o Department of English
University of Kansas
1445 Jayhawk Blvd
3001 Wescoe Hall
Lawrence, KS 66045

      Diversity      

Everyone enjoys equal access to the Center's offerings. Click here to see our diversity statement.

In Memoriam

2013 saw the loss of two great friends of the Gunn Center:
 

Frederik Pohl

Frederik Pohl was associated with CSSF Founding Director James Gunn since the 1940s, eventually becoming involved with what later became the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. Here he presented many talks, recorded a discussion about "The Ideas in Science Fiction" in 1973 Literature of Science Fiction lecture series, served the Intensive Institute on Science Fiction and Science Fiction Writing Workshop, and lent his understanding to the Center in countless other ways.

We cannot begin to express how much we will miss his help, insight, and friendship.

The 2014 Campbell Conference will honor Fred's life, work, and ideas.

Frederik Pohl died on September 2, 2013. 

Larry Martin

Larry Martin was Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Kansas. He was a discoverer of the American Cheetah, Miracinonyx; the sabertoothed cats, Barbourofelis and Xenosmilus; the earliest beaked bird, Confusciusornis; and was a leading authority on saber-toothed carnivores, fossil rodents, birds from the age of dinosaurs, and the fossil history of disease.

With his wife Jean and daughter Amanda, Larry graciously hosted regular "Science Fiction Sunday" gatherings at his home on the last day of the Campbell Conference for several years, and was a regular Conference attendee. Jean and Amanda have graciously offered to continue this tradition in 2014.

Larry Martin died on March 9, 2013.
 

Thank you for everything, Fred and Larry.
 

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.
Click here to use our logos.

Site last updated 9/17/2014. Check back for frequent updates.

SFWA logo

This Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site
is owned by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick. Webmaster is Chris McKitterick. Recent site navigation and editing by Brent Burton.

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