A Grand Master's Transcendental Gift
Even at 91 years of age, internationally renowned Grand Master of Science Fiction,
SF Hall of Fame inductee, and KU Professor Emeritus James Gunn continued to focus not only on the future of the world, but also on the future of KU.
In 2014, Gunn made a $1.5 million gift to KU Endowment to create the James E. and Jane F. Gunn Professorship in Science Fiction
to be associated with the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and to
support its educational and scholarly mission. The professorship is named for Gunn and his late wife, Jane; both earned bachelor's degrees in journalism from KU in 1947. James Gunn earned a master's in English in 1951.
Gunn's career as a science fiction author began in the late 1940s. He sold his first science fiction story, "Paradox," to the magazine
Thrilling Wonder Stories.
Gunn started his career at KU in 1955, teaching remedial English. He later edited
the KU Alumni Magazine, wrote features for the KU news bureau, and served as administrative assistant to the chancellor for University Relations, all the while teaching part-time in the English Department. In 1970, he became a full-time lecturer and taught the first science fiction course at KU,
which was also one of the very first SF courses taught at a major university. Four years later, he was promoted to full
Among other achievements, Gunn established the center
and began offering his Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction in 1974 to help teachers learn how to teach science fiction.
In 1982, he established his Science Fiction Writers Workshop. Both the Institute
and Workshop - now offered by center Director Chris McKitterick - have long attracted authors, educators, scholars, and readers to KU from around the world.
Even into his 90s, Gunn continued to work several days a week in his office in Wescoe Hall, and
in the year of this donation published
Transcendental, his 14th novel,
and Paratexts: Introductions to Science Fiction and Fantasy,
bringing his book total to 42. He said science fiction assumes that changing humanity's environment, which is increasingly technological, also changes humanity itself.
"One of the things that I've become convinced of over the years is that science fiction has certain special qualities in discussing contemporary issues in ways that allow writers and readers to explore possible outcomes," said Gunn. "It isn't that it is concerned with prediction, but it's concerned with creating scenarios that explore possibilities which may arise, particularly from technological and scientific developments."
Gunn said he hopes his gift will encourage and enhance KU's science fiction
program, allowing it to do even more for the university than it has. "I think
it's important, both for the university and for the world."
Thank you, Jim, for your long-term support of our mission - and for
all you've done for science fiction!
James Gunn in 2014, holding two of his earliest
James Gunn's novel, from Tor Books. Click to read more on Amazon.
James Gunn's nonfiction, from Scarecrow Press. Click to read more on Amazon.