Chris McKitterick is an author, editor, technical writer, teacher, amateur astronomer, and back-yard engineer. After Founding Director James Gunn, McKitterick is only the second director in the Gunn Center's 30-year history, which he began serving in 1992. In 1995 he was named Assistant Director. When the University of Kansas English Department recruited him to teach full-time in 2002, he was named Associate Director. The Board and Gunn named him Director when Gunn stepped down in 2010.
McKitterick lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where he dwells amid thousands of books in the Center's lending library, restores old vehicles, and watches the sky.
Education and History with the Center
In retrospect, McKitterick's experience and education seem tailored for a life in science fiction. A childhood spent moving from state to state (and living in Korea for a year) taught him perspective about diverse places and people, and being the alien helped him understand the notion of the "other." His earliest idol was spaceflight pioneer Robert H. Goddard, which led to (mostly failed) rocketry experiments.
He earned his BA in English-Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, but his studies began at the University of Minnesota. Among other topics, he studied astronomy, astrophysics, education, and psychology on his route to SF scholar, writer, and teacher. Early college years focused on science; this led to work as planetarian, astronomy teaching assistant, and observatory assistant-director. Eventually his focus shifted to writing and editing.
After his undergrad years, McKitterick taught at a tiny school in northeastern Montana, where he began publishing professionally. As much as he loved the state's dark skies, endless prairie, and badlands, in 1992 he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, to learn from science-fiction Grand Master and Hall-of-Fame honoree James Gunn. This decision proved pivotal in his life, launching a decades-long relationship with Gunn, the University of Kansas, and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.
There being no better place to study pure science fiction literature and writing in the world - and nowhere to earn a PhD in the field (still true today!) - he pursued the best available opportunity by earning the equivalent of an MFA in creative writing with a strong emphasis in science-fiction scholarship and literature at KU, under Gunn's mentorship, who offered all his science-fiction literature, scholarship, and writing courses during this time. But that wasn't the end of McKitterick's education in SF.
After earning his graduate degree in 1995, McKitterick has continued post-graduate studies ever since. For at least a month each year during the Gunn Center's annual summer Science Fiction Literature Institute and SF Workshop, he apprenticed under Gunn's mentorship. The summer program also provided the unique opportunity to study under a diverse, ever-changing series of SF scholars and authors, including Brian Aldiss, Paolo Bacigalupi, Stephen Baxter, Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Cory Doctorow, Andy Duncan, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Joe Haldeman, Kij Johnson, John Kessel, Nancy Kress, Geoffrey A. Landis, Ian MacLeod, Jack McDevitt, China Miéville, James Morrow, Claire North, Frederik Pohl, Pamela Sargent, Robert J. Sawyer, Charles Sheffield, Joan Slonczewski, Vernor Vinge, Robert Charles Wilson, George Zebrowski, and many other guests of the Center.
Attending the Gunn Center's annual professional workshops and teaching institutes for decades, working with Gunn and other SF experts, engaging in regular discussions and correspondence, plus co-teaching with the best in the field, McKitterick feels more fortunate in his opportunities than he can express. It has been a great honor to work with Gunn, perhaps the world's foremost expert on SF literature and writing. He could not have gotten a deeper or more-immersive education in SF anywhere, at any level of education, than he did at KU.
After graduation, McKitterick moved to Seattle where he worked for gaming and high-tech companies - always returning each year to study with and assist Gunn during the Center's month-long summer SF program. After seven years away, in 2002 he was recruited to teach writing and SF full-time at KU. He served as co-instructor with Gunn until 2010, when he succeeded Gunn as Center Director and took over the summer program (except for Kij Johnson's Novel Writing Workshop). As Gunn had before, McKitterick now invites the nation's best SF writers and scholars to the annual Conference and to co-teach the workshop as Guest Authors - and as a side-effect, continues perpetual study in the genre!
Starting in 2002, McKitterick has also served as a juror for the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel, and was named Chair in 2018. Though a sometimes overwhelming task - the jurors read upwards of 100 novels/year - serving the Award keeps him current on the state of SF publishing, benefiting not only his studies but those of his students, as well.
In 2015, he was invited to attend his first workshop in decades purely as a student: The Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction, hosted by the Joint Quantum Institute (a combined initiative of the University of Maryland and NIST). This grant-funded, intensive workshop provided an in-depth "crash course" in quantum physics for science fiction writers through three full days of lectures and discussions with the world's top quantum-physics researchers, guided tours of JQI's labs, and off-campus events with NASA officials and other scientists. In 2019, he was invited to the LaunchPad Astronomy Workshop, another grant-funded workshop for science fiction writers, hosted by the University of Wyoming and led by professors Mike Brotherton (also an SF author) and Jim Verley.
To pay forward the unique learning opportunities provided to him over the years, McKitterick makes it his mission to ensure that the Center continues to offer one of the most outstanding, holistic SF educations available anywhere in the world today, and share as much of his teaching materials as possible here and elsewhere.
Since first seeing print in 1984, McKitterick's short work has appeared in markets including Abyss & Apex, Aftermaths, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Argentus, Artemis, The Astounding Analog Companion, Captain Proton, Discovery Channel Magazine, E-Scape, Extrapolation, Foundation, Global Warming Aftermaths, James Gunn's Ad Astra, Libraries Unlimited, Locus, Mission: Tomorrow, Mythic Circle, NOTA, Ruins: Extraterrestrial, Sentinels, Sense of Wonder, SFRA Review, Synergy, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Top Deck magazine, various TSR publications, Visual Journeys, Westward Weird, World Literature Today, a bowling poem anthology, and elsewhere. A poem of his was also set to music. His newest short fiction, "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust," was on the Tangent 2018 Recommended Reading List and won the Analytical Laboratories Readers' Award for best novelette of 2018 - his first major writing award.
His debut novel, Transcendence, is available in its second edition through booksellers everywhere, plus as a free download on his website. He recently finished a far-future novel, Empire Ship, and has several other projects on the burner, including The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella, a nonfiction book about James Gunn (with Michael Page), and Stories From a Perilous Youth, a humorous memoir of surviving childhood and the Cold War.
McKitterick was honored to be guest editor (and webmaster) of the special World Literature Today "International Science Fiction" issue, with much internet-exclusive content available online. He also wrote several pieces for the issue and developed the website.
Other publications include astronomy newsletters, science articles, manuals, and advertising materials. He regularly wrote for the Microsoft Windows Server Resource Kits series, where he was an editor, writer, and documentation manager; his contributions to these projects have earned a number of Society for Technical Communication (STC) awards. He's also a regular blogger and online commentator.
McKitterick's teaching began in high school, when he led a directed-studies astronomy course. Since then, he has taught many tutorials, lectures, workshops, and university courses in astronomy, writing, and SF. Before he took over leading the Center's intensive, residential SF Writers Workshop and SF Teaching Institute in 2010, he had co-taught these courses with James Gunn and Kij Johnson since 1995. In 2018, he was one of three finalists for the KU-wide H.O.P.E. (Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator) Teaching Award, the most prestigious teaching award given at the University (presented on the stadium field during the Homecoming game!).
In addition to managing the Center's programs, McKitterick teaches several regular-semester courses in science fiction and writing at KU (list of Creative Commons licensed syllabi at the bottom of this page), directs independent studies in SF, and serves on numerous thesis and dissertation committees. He is also a popular workshop instructor at other venues.
McKitterick speaks regularly about science fiction and writing for academic conferences, fan conventions, libraries, public events, schools, webcasts, and National Public Radio.
Some highlights include serving as keynote speaker at the 2012 UCO Liberal Arts Symposium XXIV, where he presented "Science Fiction: Mythologies for a Changing Age." In 2014, gave the plenary address about SF for the Southwest Philosophical Society Conference keynote speaker, and in August 2015 he delivered a keynote talk, "Positive Feedback Loops: Science and Science Fiction," at the University of Iowa Medical Scientist Training Program's annual research event. His first Special Guest convention appearance was In October-November 2019, he was a Special Guest See recent and upcoming appearances on his website.
McKitterick served as nominations director for the Theodore A. Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF story of the year from 1992–2015, when Kij Johnson took over the role. Starting in 2002, he has served as nominations director and juror for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year, and was named Chair in 2018. He also regularly serves on outside writing and awards juries.
Connect with Chris
Want to get in touch?
KU mailing address:
Office address: Room 3040, Wescoe Hall
McKitterick's Course Syllabi
For student convenience, educational outreach, community engagement, and multimedia interactivity, McKitterick always posts course syllabi online. Links to syllabi for courses he's taught in the past several years:
Fall and Spring Semesters:
Science Fiction Summer:
Technical Communication Courses (on hiatus):
The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is: