James Gunn
CSSF Founding Director


James Gunn in 2010.

James Gunn was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1923. He received his B.S. degree in journalism in 1947 after three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and his M.A. in English in 1951, both from the University of Kansas. He also did graduate work in theater at KU and Northwestern. In 1969 at the University of Kansas, he taught one of the first courses in science fiction.

In 2007, Gunn was named "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master." Read the story - and see lots of photos - here. He was Guest of Honor at the 2013 WorldCon in San Antonio, Texas; Special Guest at the same year's Eaton/SFRA Conference in Riverside, California; and of course permanent Special Guest at the Campbell Conference in Lawrence, Kansas.

Gunn has worked as an editor of paperback reprints, as managing editor of KU alumni publications, as director of KU public relations, as a professor of English, and now is professor emeritus of English and director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. He won national awards for his work as an editor and a director of public relations. He was awarded the Byron Caldwell Smith Award in recognition of literary achievement and the Edward Grier Award for excellence in teaching, was President of the Science Fiction Writers of America for 1971-72 and President of the Science Fiction Research Association from 1980-82, was guest of honor at many regional SF conventions, including SFeracon in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and Polcon, the Polish National SF convention, in Katowice; was presented the Pilgrim Award of SFRA in 1976, a special award from the 1976 World SF Convention for Alternate Worlds, a Science Fiction Achievement Award (Hugo) by the 1983 World SF Convention for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction, the Eaton Award in 1992 for lifetime achievement, and named Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America in 2007; was a KU Mellon Fellow in 1981 and 1984; and served from 1978-80 and 1985-present as chairman of the Campbell Award jury to select the best science-fiction novel of the year. He has lectured in Denmark, China, Iceland, Japan, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union for the U.S. Information Agency.

At 91, Gunn has just finished writing his first draft of the sequel to Transcendental, entitled Transgalactic.

Gunn started writing SF in 1948, was a full-time freelance writer for four years, and has had nearly 100 stories published in magazines and books; most of them have been reprinted, some as many as a dozen times. He is the author of 26 books and the editor of 18; his master's thesis was serialized in a pulp magazine. Four of his stories were dramatized over NBC radio's "X Minus One"; "The Cave of Night" was dramatized on television's Desilu Playhouse in 1959 as "Man in Orbit"; and The Immortals was dramatized as an ABC-TV "Movie of the Week" in 1969 as "The Immortal" and became an hour-long series in 1970-71. His stories and books have been reprinted in Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Scandinavia, South America, Spain, Taiwan, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia.

In 2014, James Gunn created a $1.5 million Endowment for the James E. and Jane F. Gunn Professorship in Science Fiction in the KU English Department, to ensure the long-term legacy he established in SF Studies here.

He is also a championship bridge player.

Go here to read a tribute to James Gunn by former student, John Kessel, presented at Gunn's Grand Master induction ceremony.

Gunn's publications are listed below. He recently sold three more books, including his newest novel, Transcendental (2013), published by Tor Books. Campbell Conference and SF Writers Workshop attendees have heard excerpts from this new book.

Co-authored with Jack Williamson in 1954 and originally published in 1955, Star Bridge will be published in Tor Books' classic reprint series.

Together the two novels, almost 60 years apart, bookend a career and in some ways the space epic itself. Also reprinted in 2013 was Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, in China by the Beijing Division of the Shanghai Century Publishing Company. By a marvelous serendipity, the book was translated by Sasha Jiang, the Center's 2011-2012 visiting scholar from China.

Jim's motto
James Gunn's Birthday cake from 2004:
"The uninspected belief is not worth holding," Jim's take on the saying, "The uninspected life is not worth living."

Published Books

James Gunn with vintage SF magazines, 2008

James Gunn's newest novel, out now
from Tor Books. Click for full-size slipcover art (.pdf).

James Gunn's newest nonfiction,
out now from Scarecrow Press.

Contact Information

KU mailing address:

James Gunn
English Department
University of Kansas
Wescoe Hall
1445 Jayhawk Blvd, Room 3001
Lawrence Kansas 66045-7590

Email address: jgunn@ku.edu 


Office address: Room 3039, Wescoe Hall

Go to this page to meet other people at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.

updated 12/2/2014

SF luminary James Gunn

The Center for the Study of
Science Fiction is:

Founding Director James Gunn.
Associate Director Kij Johnson.
Director Chris McKitterick.
AboutSF Coordinator Christina Nelson.
...and many more!

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