Center for the Study of Science Fiction
2016 - 2018 Courses and Education

The University of Kansas continues its role as the leader in science fiction education.
I can do no greater service to teachers than to repeat the advice that I gave in
Anatomy of Wonder 4:
you should attend one of the Intensive English Institutes on the Teaching of Science Fiction offered at the University of Kansas.

-Dennis M. Kratz, Anatomy of Wonder 5

Thesis and Dissertation Advising
Fall Semester
Spring Semester
Science Fiction Summer

    Statement on Diversity
    SF Scholarships and Awards
    Interdisciplinary Courses
    Occasional and Upcoming SF Courses

Each year we offer the following courses and educational events at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. Click the titles or links below for full information about the science-fiction programs available through the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and the University of Kansas. Where available, you can find the syllabus linked from each page: We see it as the Center's duty to be open-source about our educational opportunities - after all, we're working to "Save the world through science fiction!"

Note that unforeseen circumstances might affect availability of courses more than six months out, but this schedule outlines our current plan.



Year-round, we offer thesis and dissertation advising, chair thesis committees, and serve on dissertation committees for MA, MFA, and PhD students studying speculative fiction.

Contact Kij Johnson or Chris McKitterick directly if you wish to work with them on your project. The Center is also connected to a broad diversity of affiliated faculty from other disciplines with interest in science fiction who have served on SF literature and writing committees.




Explore the future through reading and discussing nonfiction and extrapolative work. Since 2005.

Science and technology offer countless benefits to individuals and to societies while presenting new challenges. In this course we read and discuss nonfiction and science fiction to explore the past, present, and possible future effects of science and technology on society and humankind. The only thing certain about our future is that it will be different than today! Participants write weekly reading responses, a mid-term paper, a research paper or creative work as final project, and take part in a group presentation. Everyone leads at least one session's discussion. This is a capstone course for the major, officially satisfies the Humanities requirement and KU Core Goal 6, and is a featured Honors course. Listed as ENGL 507 for the English capstone, HUM 510 for Honors students, and ENGL 690 or ENGL 998 (Investigation and Conference) for graduate students.

Click here for the poster. Click here for more details and a version of the syllabus.

Join SF author Chris McKitterick in a journey of exploration as we investigate how science fiction changes and evolves as it embraces (and is embraced by) various media forms. Since 2014.

Through readings, viewings, and other interactive experiences, this course examines science fiction across a range of media, including film, television, literature, comics, gaming, fanfic, and more. We will survey the genre's history, trace its development across multiple media as new generations of creatives have taken advantage of new tools to respond to changing social conditions, and discuss the effects that - through various media forms - SF has on today's expression of what it means to be human living through ever-accelerating change. Students write weekly responses as they read a diversity of materials, view films and other multimedia expressions, participate in discussions, explore their unique understanding and interpretation of the genre, and then create and share personal visions through multimedia responses. Offered as ENGL 203.

Click here for the poster. Click here for more details and a version of the syllabus.

Both Gunn Center Director Chris McKitterick and Associate Director Kij Johnson offer regular-semester fiction-writing workshops, so if you're a KU undergraduate spec-fic writer looking to get the most relevant feedback on your fiction from professional writers, enroll in these courses!

      English 351: Fiction Writing I   (McKitterick)      

Through applying effort, drive, and passion - and mastering the fundamentals - anyone can become a published author.

Learn how to write engaging short stories with science-fiction author and Campbell Award juror Chris McKitterick as we cover a wide range of subjects including character, dialogue, expectations for various popular-fiction genres, idea generation, micro-writing, openings, plot, point of view, scenes, setting, structure, voice, and publication strategies. Practice self-editing by reading, critiquing, and discussing successful stories as well as each other's fiction. Students write fragments and two complete short stories, plus revise one (or submit a third story, with instructor permission) for the final project. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realist, and other speculative-fiction genres welcome!

Click here for the poster. Click here to see a version of the syllabus.

      English 551: Fiction Writing II: Science Fiction and Fantasy   (Johnson)      

This course advances an understanding and application of craft to the development and writing of short fiction.

While not limited to science fiction and fantasy, attention will be given to topics of special relevance to the speculative fiction, including plotting, world building, immersion strategies, and story types. Students will read and engage in discussions about short fiction of note, which will be made available online; workshop student stories through critiquing, written comments, and mark-up; develop detailed revision strategies and tools; and generate new work through exercises and as major assignments.

Instructor Kij Johnson's fantasy and SF novels and short stories have won the Sturgeon Award, World Fantasy Award, Nebula Award (three times), IAFA Award, and Hugo Award.

Text: Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern.


Learn how to write SF that sells. Using the short-story form, we help you master the elements that create great stories. Since 1985.

Using the short-story form, this annual two-week residential writing workshop has helped writers who have just begun to publish or who need the final bit of insight or skill understand how to master the elements that create great stories that editors want and readers love. Become part of the writing community: Author, SF scholar, and CSSF Director Christopher McKitterick has led the workshop since 2010, and we also bring in guest authors (for 2016, it is Andy Duncan and James Gunn; for 2015, John Kessel and Gunn) to expand the discussion. Many alums build long-lasting bonds with other writers that last a lifetime! Can be taken for professionalization, for undergraduate credit in special circumstances, or for graduate credit as ENGL 757.

Click here for the poster. Click here for more details.

Learn how to transform your book idea into a successful project. Since 2004.

Award-winning author, KU Professor, and CSSF Associate Director Kij Johnson leads this annual two-week residential novel-writing workshop, during which attendees generate the best possible chapters and an outline for a writer's submission packet, learn what's necessary to complete or revise the novel with an eye toward publication, and build long-lasting bonds with other members of the writing community.

Click here for more details.

Learn how to write SF and fantasy successfully for a younger audience. Since 2015.

Popular YA fantasy authors Tessa Gratton and Natalie C. Parker lead this new, one-week, residential YA-writing workshop. The Young Adult genre has been growing for decades. It has received wide recognition as a genre all its own since the turn of the 21st century when bookstores began creating specific YA sections, while at the same time, major awards began to split YA awards off from the rest of children's literature, and the community saw the rise of culture-shifting YA books and major movies. Writing in this genre comes with its own specific challenges, rewards, and controversies. During this workshop, you'll learn what makes YA unique and how to do it well.

Start planning your June now! Click here for more details

Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce the lessons from your last workshop, and reconnect with other alums. Since 2010.

This annual follow-up workshop to Kij Johnson's annual two-week residential writing workshop is offered to alums of that program only.

Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce the lessons from your last workshop, and reconnect with other alums. New for 2016.

This new follow-up to Chris McKitterick's annual two-week residential Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop is offered as an advanced workshop to alums of that program only. Repeat Offenders is an opportunity to work with similarly trained writers on whatever projects everyone has underway. We alternate between critique sessions and project-development sessions, with morning "Write Group," a daily progress check-ins, and afternoon workshopping. Bring a work-in-progress that we'll collaboratively and intensively develop, a couple of short pieces to critique, or just something you hope to complete during your time here!

Assuming we get enough interest, we'll offer this again in 2017. Interested? Contact McKitterick now!

Become fluent in SF by studying some of the most-influential stories that shaped the genre. Since 1975.

This annual two-week intensive course alternates between the SF short story and novel, and is intended to give teachers, scholars, and interested students a solid background in the development of the genre's literature.

For summer 2016, we study the SF novel; in 2015, we studied the SF short story. Can be taken for professionalization, or for KU credit as ENGL 506 (undergraduate) or ENGL 790 (graduate).

Click the image for the poster. Click here for more details and this year's syllabus.

James Gunn teaches this 3-week course as part of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Kansas.

"We live in a science-fiction world," Isaac Asimov said, and Arthur C. Clarke added, "Science fiction is the only realistic fiction, because it is the only fiction that incorporates the basic fact that the world is changing." This course discusses what science fiction is, how it got to be that way, how it differs from mainstream fiction and even fantasy, and how to read it for the greatest understanding and enjoyment.

Offered usually in June in Lawrence, Kansas. The Osher Institute is committed to creating accessible and innovative learning environments throughout Kansas and the Greater Kansas City area, with special focus on participants age 50 and over, although anyone can participate. Sign up through the Osher Institute.

Connect with other SF authors, scholars, editors, and fans while celebrating the best SF of the year. In an intimate setting, discuss topics relevant to the human condition and the science-fiction field. Since 1979.

The Campbell Conference is the core of our annual summer program and features intelligent and informed discussion as well as readings, signings, and talks by a variety of important SF authors, editors, and scholars. It is the venue for presenting the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year. This event is one of the genre's best-kept secrets!

For 2016, the Campbell Conference serves as the academic track for the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, MidAmeriCon II!



Become fluent in SF by studying some of the most-influential novels that shaped the genre. Since 2012.

Like the summer version of this course, this regular-semester version also alternates between the SF short story (link goes to 2014 syllabus) and the SF novel (link goes to 2015 syllabus).

Listed as ENGL 506/690 in the regular semester (506/790 in the summer), and graduate students can also petition to enroll through Investigation and Conference (ENGL 998).

Click the image for the poster. Click here for more details on the class in general and links to both the short-fiction and novel versions of the syllabus.

Define and hone your scholarly approach to SF. Since 2015.

Speculative-fiction scholars need to confidently wield a variety of critical tools for research and publication in the field. Having a solid foundation in traditional and emerging critical approaches is vital for the publishing and research futures of advanced SF scholars.

This graduate seminar prepares students planning to undertake serious scholarship on speculative fiction. It surveys the top SF scholars (Aldiss, Atteberry, Gunn, Hartwell, Kessel, Kelly, Mendelsohn, Moskowitz, Panshin, Pohl, Scholes, Suvin, Vandermeer, Wollheim, and more) and their approaches to the major SF movements (Pulps, Golden Age, New Wave, Cyberpunk, New Space Opera, New Weird, and more). Students read and discuss a variety of critical essays and pieces of fiction, then apply these approaches to the fiction. To prepare for professional work in the field, students are encouraged to submit their papers to the important critical SF journals and present them at relevant conferences.

Available for the first time since 1993 as ENGL 998.

Join a philosophy professor and an SF author on a journey of exploration as we use science fiction to investigate the philosophical questions that lie at the heart of SF literature.

This new, interdisciplinary course is planned to be offered for the first time in Spring 2017 or 2018, led by Professor John Symons, Chair of KU's Philosophy Department, and SF author Chris McKitterick, Gunn Center Director.

To remain vital, philosophy needs to be nourished by outside disciplines. In this course, we will use SF's "What if?" tools to explore concepts of the posthuman, death and immortality, life extension, what counts as important and real, non-anthropomorphic senses of value, and other unexplored territory.

Thought-experiments exist before experiment. Science fiction helps us think outside of traditional frameworks - and ourselves - offering new, creative engines for researchers. Class format is 13 weeks centered around various themes followed by two weeks of student presentations. Students write weekly reading responses, two papers using the techniques and craft of both philosophy and literary analysis, and a final research paper, demonstrating they have what it takes to be a philosopher. In the first half of thematic class, the instructors present materials, pose arguments, and model philosophical approaches through question, response, and so on; students bring objections and arguments, and participate in vigorous and collaborative debate. After break, we'll have more open discussion.

Check back for updates and a syllabus.

Offered for the first time in the 2013–2014 academic year, this new course for seniors and graduate students studies literature in the fantastic mode and genre, from foundational works such as Beowulf and Apuleius's The Golden Ass through modern works by China Miéville, Donald Barthelme, and others. Listed as ENGL xxx (TBA).

This new freshman-sophomore honors seminar (taught by award-winning fantasy author Kij Johnson) studies the ways animals are used in literature, including mainstream, SF/F/H, and children's works. Offered as ENGL 205.

In the near future, we hope to offer the Science Fiction Youth Summer Camp, sponsored by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. Check back for updates. If you are interested in helping organize or participate in this event, let us know!

More to come - stay tuned!


Professor Tony Bolden
"A central element of my pedagogy on a music and aesthetic called funk involves Afrofuturism. In fact, the musician George Clinton was engaging the concept long before the term was coined. Jimi Hendrix, whose music influenced Clinton, was also interested in SF. My PhD is in literature, so much of my approach is literary. But much of my independent research has been in musicology, ethnomusicology, and dance and performance. So I combine of these approaches when I engage music critically."

Want to study the origin, evolution, and future of life across the universe? KU is one of the few places you can do that! Here's a quick intro:

      Astrobiology Minor (Undergraduate)      

Starting in late 2009, the KU Physics Department has offered a minor in astrobiology. The minor is open to KU undergraduates, but is especially appealing to students already majoring in one of the key core areas identified in the program: Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and Physics. KU is only the third university in the country to offer this minor. Astrobiology is conventionally concerned with the nature and detectability of life outside the Earth, but has grown considerably in the era of Mars rovers and the detection of planets orbiting other stars. Another aspect, and the one emphasized in the related research done at KU, concerns the effects of extraterrestrial events such as Solar flares on the Earth and its biota. This subject is inherently multidisciplinary, so the coursework for a minor reflects this. This makes it a good companion for natural science and hard-science fiction majors who want a broad foundation in the other natural sciences, while picking up some upper-division work at the same time. Research in astrobiology is an option. This minor is certified in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Center personnel are affiliates.

Click here to see the program overview (.pdf), and here to see complete program requirements (.pdf).

      Astrobiophysics (Graduate)      

Astrobiophysics is concerned with the effect of astrophysical processes on life on Earth, as well as effects on possible life elsewhere, as distinguished from astrobiology, which is concerned with finding extraterrestrial life. A wide variety of research areas meet here, including astrophysics, astronomy, biochemistry, evolutionary biology, paleontology, atmospheric science, and a host of others. One current KU Astrobiophysics project is funded by NASA.

Click here to see the KU Astrobiophysics Working Group page.

      ENGL 203: "Wings as Weapons from The Iliad to Iron Man"      

PhD GTA Aaron Long

"The syllabus is still in flux, but currently includes Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, and of course The Iliad (the epic poem) and Iron Man (the film)."

      ENGL 750: "Strange Stories: Victorian Literature and Evolutionary Science"      

Professor Anna Neill
"It is common to think of the Victorians as hawkish social Darwinists who used the theory of natural selection to support imperialist and eugenicist ambitions. However both scientific and imaginative writers of the period offer enormously diverse accounts of biological and social development, and often foreground literature as a special sort of symbolic communication that has the power to shape human destiny. In contrast with the efforts of scientific racism to provide biological evidence for "primitive" and "advanced" characteristics among different human groups, these writers portray a fluid evolutionary process in which fantastic landscapes not only map out possible evolutionary futures but also aim to shape how readers navigate social environments of the present. With extraordinary boldness, they also aim to influence how behavioral and cognitive human traits either flourish or decline. Through its focus on evolutionary theory, this course will bring a key preoccupation of the Victorian period to bear on both cultural and disciplinary tensions of our own time. What complexities in the history of evolutionary thought are overlooked when we subordinate culture to biology? What role can literary studies play in the investigation of human development? In order to address such questions, we will read a combination of: 1) evolutionary science texts; 2) children's literature that explores the impact of imaginative forms on development; 3) speculative fiction that depicts the evolutionary outcomes of particular social behaviors; and 4) a combination of critical articles and cognitive and evolutionary approaches to the analysis of literary texts. Evolutionary science readings will include extracts from works by Charles Darwin, J.B. Lamarck, Herbert Spencer, Samuel Butler, T.H. Huxley, and Ernst Haeckel. The novels and stories we will read are as follows: Edwin Abbott, Flatland; Samuel Butler, Erewhon; Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories; Charles Kingsley, The Water Babies; George Macdonald; The Princess and the Goblin; William Morris, News from Nowhere; H. G. Wells, The Time Machine and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Participants will offer a presentation and two short essays leading to a final research paper."

      Creative-Writing Workshops Open to SF      

Professor Joseph Harrington
"I always welcome spec-fic writers in my workshops."

      FRENCH 900: "French Science Fiction"      

Professor Paul Scott
Details coming soon.

      SLAV 679: "Russian, Polish, and Czech Science Fiction; 19th Century to Present"      

Professor Vitaly Chernetsky
Details coming soon.

Check back soon for updates about upcoming, interdisciplinary course offerings of interest to KU students who seek to study speculative fiction or other disciplines that extrapolate about and explore the social, scientific, technological, and expressive future of our world.

If you are interested in listing your course here, let us know! Contact Chris McKitterick at and give me your course name and number, a description, and any relevant links to syllabus or other online materials.


To assist students and scholars coming to the University of Kansas to study or write science fiction, the Gunn Center currently offers several scholarships and awards. See this page for instructions to apply and more information.

Donate! If you would like to donate to support SF studies at KU - either to honor a loved one or just to help students in need - please contact us, and we'll be more than happy to work with you! Please send Gunn Center Director Chris McKitterick a note at with any questions. We use KU Endowment accounts to ensure that all donations are safe and are used entirely and exclusively for the designated purpose.

Thanks to generous donors, we regularly expand financial support for SF studies at KU - stay tuned for more!


Everyone enjoys equal access to the Gunn Center's offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. All courses offered by Gunn Center faculty are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes (if space is available).

Click here to see the Center's full Diversity Statement

Last updated 8/16/2016


We believe strongly in the free sharing of information about science fiction, so you'll find a lot of content - including all of McKitterick's course syllabi and many other materials from our classes - on this site as part of the Center's educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study or adapt them for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to the Center's website.

This Gunn Center site is associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the University of Kansas, and others, and is owned by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick. Webmaster is Chris McKitterick.

This website and its contents are copyright 1994-2016 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 James Gunn or Chris McKitterick.)

Creative Commons License
Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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