last updated March 12, 2021

 Founder James Gunn has died.

  LAWRENCE, KS - December 23, 2020
  by Chris McKitterick
  for immediate release

After calling to be taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital with trouble breathing on Friday night, James Gunn was tested for (and found clear of) COVID, instead diagnosed with congestive heart failure. 

Over the next few days, doctors couldn't get his heartbeat under control, though oxygen assisted his breathing to keep him comfortable. 

This morning at around 11am Central Time, SF Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame inductee, Founder of the Center, and "Science Fiction's Dad" died. 

The center's Associate Director, Kij Johnson, and I offer our deepest condolences to everyone who cared about Jim, whose lives he touched - and there were many - and whose careers he influenced, which amounts to almost everyone in our field today, whether they're aware of his intellectual parentage or not.

McKitterick wrote for Michael Page's biography (Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher, and Scholar):

"He has taught so many teachers, scholars, and educators that his reach is immeasurable. Jim's mentoring has shaped the genre into what we enjoy today, making him one of the most influential figures in SF. His is a life devoted to science fiction, and without him, the field would not be the same, nor the world as aware of both the peril and potential of human endeavor."

Just eleven days ago, Kij Johnson submitted his final short story to Sheila Williams at Asimov's SF Magazine. Of course he kept writing, and publishing, until his final days. Of course he kept coming up with new things he wanted Kij and me to work on for the Center for the Study of SF, and new writing projects on which to collaborate with him, and on and on. 

He's survived by his son Kevin, with whom we've remained in close contact (especially over these last months), and his cat Annie. And by so many of us, for whom he served as mentor and friend. I've written so much about Jim that I don't know what I can say that I haven't already. This sort of sums it up (also from my intro to Michael Page's book): 

"He's a gentleman, endlessly courteous to even the most difficult human beings; polite, thoughtful, and generous with his time, energy, intelligence, gentle wisdom, and money. In order to help 'Save the World Through Science Fiction,' he helped found AboutSF, the Center's educational-outreach mission to make our future a better place through helping others teach SF. He's leaving most of his savings to found a Professor of Science Fiction at KU. And a thousand other such generosities. Most of us will never get to meet a true gentleman, and I suspect they were nearly as rare in the past.

"He's a good friend to many, always warm and welcoming and ready to apply his deep understanding in whatever way he can to help others. When you first meet Jim, you could ask him to come speak at your school or library half way across the country, health allowing. On his request, dozens of science fiction's luminaries have made the trek to Kansas to do interviews or talks for his Literature of Science Fiction series, our annual Conference, or his classes. Fred Pohl and Betty Anne Hull came down for the Workshop and Teaching Institute and then - like so many of us - continued to do so for more than 20 years.

"He's a full-time mentor. When he was teaching - and for at least a decade after retiring - Jim would go to his office each day and write there, door open to passers-by. If anyone had a question, he'd pause in his work and welcome their questions. I once asked him if I had what it takes to become a writer, because it's a difficult and painful calling. He asked me why I keep doing it if I felt that way. I said that if I don't write, I get grumpy and unhappy, and then went on to excitedly explain what I was trying to say in my newest story. As I spoke, he smiled, then nodded and said, 'Anyone who can be discouraged from becoming a writer should be. The rewards are small and delayed, few people will ever care about your work, and there are no guarantees. Only those who cannot be discouraged find success. You have what it takes.'

"His advice was never solely scholarly in nature: In response to a question about how he, a handsome, best-selling author who attended conventions without his wife (who suffered social anxiety), avoided unwanted advances from fans, he chuckled and said, 'A gentleman doesn't notice unwanted attention.' He's patiently offered advice on relationships, work, and a thousand other things, then calmly returned to what he was doing before.

"Mentoring is his approach to life. Everything Jim does is to help others, and he expects others to do the same, and helps guide those who listen into becoming better people through service to the greater good. His rationality and intellectualism stem from deep emotional investment in the betterment of the human species. His devotion to the field inspires the SF community to reach higher, grow deeper, and become ever-more humane.

"Tireless dedication to not only to writing or teaching, but to mentoring and building community, defines him. This form of mentorship - his warm, open helpfulness - is, I believe, the essence of James Gunn, and why so many of us think of him as Dad."

I'll write a proper obit later, the feelings are just too raw right now. Jim was like a father to me - the most Dad-like person I ever met - and I'm having difficulty imagining the world without him.

Ad Astra, dear friend

Hugs to everyone who cared about Jim.

A few recent photos:


Portrait from October 2018 by Andy White for a Scientific American piece.


Selfie of Jim, Kij, and me having social-distanced July 4 breakfast in Jim's screened patio, summer 2020.
(Kij was unmasked because she was in Jim's bubble, often helping Jim with daily needs)


Selfie with alum Karen Hellekson and Jim in November 2018.


Portrait of James Gunn by John C. Tibbetts, from Nickelodeon Magazine, No. 1, 1975.


Photo Kij took of a June 2018 watercolor portrait by two fans from India, Srinivas Mouni and his younger brother Gandhi.

In years that weren't such a dumpster-fire, Kij and I (and sometimes other friends) saw Jim weekly for Saturday breakfast.

To say I miss him is an understatement. The world feels so much less... complete, less full of SF's long living history, than it did yesterday.

And I guess that's true: Jim was, perhaps, the last of Those who Were There at the start of SF as a genre and field. And family.

Goodbye, James Gunn, Grand Master and mind-father of science fiction.

- Chris McKitterick    

A few news stories about Jim:

"James Gunn, Prizewinning Science Fiction Author, Dies at 97," The New York Times

"James Gunn (1923-2020)," Locus Magazine. Locus also ran a series of tributes in their print magazine, including a few they've also published on Locus.com including by the editors, "James Gunn," by Andy Duncan, and "Goodbye Dad," by Chris McKitterick.

"In Memoriam - James Gunn," SFWA

"James E. Gunn, Science Fiction Author and Scholar, Dies at 97," the Hollywood Reporter

"Letter From the Editor – Gunnisms," James Gunn's Ad Astra

"James E. Gunn Dies: Prolific Science Fiction Author and Editor Was 97," Deadline

"James Gunn, the 'Dad of Science Fiction,' dies at age 97," the Lawrence Journal-World

"SF Grandmaster & Hugo Winner James Gunn Dead at 97," SciFi Fandom Radio

"Science fiction author James Gunn, KU professor emeritus, dies Wednesday at age 97," the Kansas City Star 

"RIP James E. Gunn (1923-2020)," Bradbury Media

  

James Gunn Memoir:
  "Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction"
  Book-Launch Event on Friday, Dec 1

  LAWRENCE, KS - November 5, 2017
  Story by Rick Hellman
  for immediate release

His characters have traveled the galaxies. He has traversed the globe, creating, studying and promoting science fiction. Now, at age 94, the dean of science-fiction authors, University of Kansas English Professor Emeritus James Gunn, has written a memoir detailing his long life in letters.

Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction (McFarland, 2017) contains Gunn's reflections on a career that spans from science fiction's Golden Age to the present. The genre's biggest names - Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke - are all there because they were Gunn's peers and colleagues.

"I got the title from a late novel written by H.G. Wells," Gunn said. "It's a non-science fiction-like novel - a very quiet, earthbound discussion among ordinary people - one of whom has the conviction that people are being taken over by aliens or influenced in certain ways. It ends on a very surprising note that this narrator comes to believe that he himself is star-begotten, and that it's all probably a good thing in changing human nature in a better way."

Gunn recalls hearing Wells speak in 1937, when the father of sci-fi came through Gunn's hometown, Kansas City, Missouri, on a lecture tour.

"My uncle John took my brother and me to Municipal Auditorium to hear Wells talk," Gunn said. "I guess it made a great impression on me in spite of the fact he was a short, dumpy man at that time in his life with a high, squeaky voice. I don't recall what he said, but the very fact that I was there hearing him say it may make me sort of star-begotten. I remember pushing forward through the crowd as Wells was coming through the audience, and I reached out to shake his hand, but he rushed by me without noticing. I hope maybe he's looking down saying, 'Maybe I did some good there.'"

Gunn has certainly had a noteworthy career in science fiction, starting in the pulp-fiction era, publishing short stories in such magazines as Astounding Science Fiction, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Galaxy Science Fiction. He went on to write 28 novels, starting in 1955 with "Star Bridge"(with Jack Williamson, for Gnome Press) and continuing through 2017 with the finale of his trilogy: Transcendental, Transgalactic, and Transformation (Tor Books).

As if that weren't enough, Gunn maintained a career as an academic, teaching science fiction at KU starting in 1969. In 1982, the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction was established at the university, hosting the annual Conference, giving out awards and otherwise serving as the genre's home at KU. This year's Conferencewas dedicated to Gunn's work, and former students and editors participated.

Then there has been Gunn's nonfiction work, perhaps most notably his 1975 Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction (Prentice Hall; soon to be a new edition). He won a Hugo Award for his 1982 work Isaac Asimov: The Foundation of Science Fiction (Oxford University Press). And this century he edited a six-volume series titled The Road to Science Fiction (Signet, White Wolf, Scarecrow), collecting milestone works in the genre.

Nor has his output ceased. In addition to Gunn's memoir, McFarland will also publish his 1951 thesis, Modern Science Fiction: A Critical Analysis (after 67 years), and a revised and updated edition of Alternate Worlds that Gunn is working on presently.

In 2007, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named Gunn a Damon Knight Grand Master for lifetime achievement, and in 2015 he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. He was the guest of honor at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2013. 

Gunn has traveled the world, spreading the gospel of science fiction, too. He visited the former Soviet Union, Iceland, Romania, Singapore, Taiwan and elsewhere as part of Cold War-era cultural-exchange efforts sponsored by the United States Information Agency.

It's all been part of the ethos Gunn refers to as "Saving the World Through Science Fiction," which is the title of Michael Page's 2017 biography of him, also from McFarland. It means imagining new possibilities of being, preparing mankind to face the future.

Despite the volume of work he has produced, Gunn said he has never found writing to be easy.

"I have often made the point that writing is really hard work," he said. "Lots of times I've sat in front of my typewriter or computer and felt really I'd rather be out mowing the lawn, doing manual labor, than trying to wrench ideas out of my head.

"But there is also the feeling that sitting there and turning concepts into language that is suitable is what I was cut out to do. I've told people that I feel I earn my place here on Earth each day when I am able to create something that wasn't there before, and, in turn, some of these things enter stories that influence people.

"Just yesterday," he said, "I was reading a Facebook comment by a reader who was listing something like his 10 best unrecognized reading experiences, and among them, I was pleased to see, was my 1955 novel This Fortress World. It's that sort of thing, the realization that you may not have a best-seller, but somewhere out there are people who really respond to the kind of language that you put on the page to tell stories with, and I suppose here in my latter years I am still trying to earn my day on Earth by creating something."

Book Launch Event:

James Gunn will make a few remarks about the challenges of writing and publishing an autobiography, read the preface, do a Q&A, and autograph copies of Star-Begotten at a launch event ​sponsored by the Center and KU Bookstores:

When:

4:00pm to 5:30pm
Friday, December 1

Where:

Jayhawk Ink bookstore
Kansas Union
KU campus in Lawrence, KS

 

Center Associate Director Kij Johnson
  Wins 2017 World Fantasy Award!

LAWRENCE, KS - November 5, 2017
for immediate release

Our own Kij Johnson has just won the 2017 World Fantasy Award for Best Long Fiction for her stand-alone novella, The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe.

Full list of winners here.

Congratulations, Kij!

 Dual Book-Launch Event:
  Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher, Scholar
  Little Green Men - Attack!
  April 6, 2017

LAWRENCE, KS - March 18, 2017
for immediate release

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and Jayhawk Ink are delighted to help celebrate the launch of two new books: Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher, Scholar, by Dr. Michael Page (with an introduction by Chris McKitterick), and Little Green Men - Attack! edited by Robin Wayne Bailey and Bryan Thomas Schmidt (with a story by Gunn). The authors and editors will be on hand to sign copies, and the bookstore has copies of both these books (and others by the authors on hand).

The event is free and open to the public.

When
Thursday, April 6, 2017
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Where
Jayhawk Ink Bookstore
Kansas Memorial Union, Level 2
University of Kansas campus
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost
Free

Everyone is welcome!  

  Karen Joy Fowler to Speak at KU:
  "Exploring and Expanding Gender in Speculative Fiction: The Tiptree Award at 25."
  March 14, 2017

LAWRENCE, KS - March 1, 2017
for immediate release
.pdf poster here

The J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and the University of Kansas Department of English are delighted to bring world-renowned author Karen Joy Fowler to KU to offer this year's Richard W. Gunn Lecture, "Exploring and Expanding Gender in Speculative Fiction: The Tiptree Award at 25."

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of author of six novels and three short story collections. Her most recent novel, WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES, won the 2013 PEN/Faulkner, the California Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2014. She has won the Nebula and World Fantasy awards, and this year she will be the Guest of Honor at World Fantasy in San Antonio.

Among her many achievements, Fowler co-founded the James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award, first announced at the 1991 WisCon, the world's only feminist-oriented science fiction convention. For 25 years, the Tiptree prize has been awarded annually to a work of science fiction or fantasy that contemplates shifts in gender roles in ways that are particularly thought-provoking, imaginative, and perhaps even infuriating. The lecture will provide an extraordinary opportunity to hear from a pioneer thinker about the relation between feminism, gender, and speculative fiction, from one of the most important and accomplished writers working in the field today.

She lives in Santa Cruz, California where she is currently pretending to write a new book.

The event is free and open to the public.

When
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
7:00pm  - 8:00pm

Where
Jayhawk Room
Kansas Memorial Union
University of Kansas campus
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost
Free

Everyone is welcome!  

  Yaqteenya: The Old World:
  A science fiction novel from Saudi Arabia

LAWRENCE, KS - Dec 1, 2016
for immediate release

Speaker: Yasser Bahjaat

Science fiction writer and promoter Yasser Bahjaat reads from his 2015 novel, Yaqteenya: The Old World, which posits an alternate history for Islamic society. The world of Yaqteenya is facing its first civil war, and so to save it from this disastrous future, young Al-Baz must risk breaking the law to leave home and search for truths that the rulers of the land have been keeping well hidden.

Yasser Bahjatt is a Saudi computer engineer, writer, publisher, tech whiz and entrepreneur who set up Yatakhayaloon â€" or the League of Arabic SciFiers â€" with the purpose of investigating in greater detail his belief that science fiction and science fact are intrinsically linked. Yasser insists that there is "a distinct correlation between a culture's exposure to science fiction and the amount of scientific thought â€" experiments, inventions, patents and so on â€" that take place." While Yasser acknowledges that the Middle East "has been near to zero on both fronts in recent years," and that his position as an engineer and scientist, "can't really increase scientific activity to a meaningful degree," on its own, he hopes that his work will "increase the exposure of science fiction," in the region.

Mr. Bahjat's Ted Talk: "How Arab Sci-Fi Could Dream a Better Future."

The event is free and open to the public.

When
Monday, December 5
5:00pm  - 7:00pm

Where
University of Kansas Law School Library
Green Hall on the KU campus
1535 W 15th St
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost
Free
Refreshments provided (including Saudi food at the reception, the specialty of a doctoral Law student).

Everyone is welcome!  


The 2016 Conference served as the academic track for MidAmeriCon II: The 74th World Science Fiction Convention on August 17-21, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri.


  James Gunn's Transgalactic
  Book Launch Set for April 12

LAWRENCE, KS - March 30, 2016
for immediate release

The book launch for Transgalactic, by award-winning author and Grand Master of science fiction James Gunn, is scheduled for 5:30pm on Tuesday, April 12, at Jayhawk Ink in the KU Bookstore. The event, co-sponsored by Jayhawk Ink and the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, will include a reading and book signing.

The second book in Gunn's trilogy, Transgalactic (link goes to an excerpt) is the first sequel he's ever written. The end of the first novel, Transcendental, leaves Asha and Riley on two different planets after using the matter transmission device known as the Transcendental Machine. Unaware of each other's destination, and in a galaxy with billions of planets, the task of finding each other seems impossible. Yet, if they succeed, they know they can change the galaxy.

The event is free and open to the public. Transgalactic is published by Tor Books and is available now.

When
Tuesday, April 12
5:30pm 

Where
Jayhawk Ink Bookstore
Kansas Union 2nd floor
University of Kansas
1301 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost
Free

Everyone is welcome!  

  Book Launch Event for Mission: Tomorrow

LAWRENCE, KS - November 2, 2015
for immediate release

Mission: Tomorrow is a new original anthology with stories by many of the genre's greats - and three local SF authors: Robin Wayne Bailey, James Gunn, and Christopher McKitterick.

When
Monday, Nov. 16
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Where
Jayhawk Ink Bookstore
Kansas Union 2nd floor
University of Kansas
1301 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost
Free
Baen Books is also providing light refreshments.

Everyone is welcome!

  Gregory Benford
  to Speak and Sign at KU

LAWRENCE, KS - Sept 1, 2015
Sept 27 update: time change
for immediate release

"Interplanetary Economics in the 21st Century"


Gregory Benford is coming to KU to give a talk and do a signing. Benford is an SF author and professor of physics at the University of California, Irvine, where he has been a faculty member since 1971.

Benford is the author of more than twenty novels, including Jupiter Project, Artifact, Against Infinity, Eater, and Timescape. A two-time winner of the Nebula Award, Benford also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for which he now serves as a juror), the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1995 Lord Foundation Award for achievement in the sciences, and the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature.

Many of his best known novels are part of a six-novel sequence beginning in the near future with In the Ocean of Night, and continuing on with Across the Sea of Suns. The series then leaps to the far future, at the center of our galaxy, where a desperate human drama unfolds, beginning with Great Sky River, and proceeding through Tides of Light, Furious Gulf, and concluding with Sailing Bright Eternity. At the series' end the links to the earlier novels emerge, revealing a single unfolding tapestry against an immense background.

His television credits, in addition to the series A Galactic Odyssey, include Japan 2000. He has served as scientific consultant to the NHK Network and for Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As a physicist, Benford conducts research in plasma turbulence and in astrophysics. He has published well over a hundred papers in fields of physics from condensed matter, particle physics, plasmas and mathematical physics, and several in biological conservation.

When
Friday, October 2
2:00pm - 3:30pm (Note: new time)

Where
Jayhawk Ink Bookstore
Kansas Union 2nd floor
University of Kansas
1301 Jayhawk Blvd.
Lawrence, KS 66045

Cost
Free

Everyone is invited!

  James Gunn Inducted into the
  Science Fiction Hall of Fame

LAWRENCE, KS - June 18, 2015
for immediate release

J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction founding director James Gunn has been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

The class of 2015 induction also includes author Kurt Vonnegut, filmmaker Georges Méliès, and artists John Schoenherr and Jack Gaughan. Gunn is in elite company with Theodore Sturgeon, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, and other SF greats.

"Twenty years ago, when Robin Wayne Bailey came to me and said science fiction needs a hall of fame," Gunn said at the induction ceremony, "it never occurred to me that I would be standing here in Seattle joining this illustrious group."

Gunn's career spans eight decades, starting in the 1940s, and he's not done yet. Two new short stories have just been accepted for publication. "New Earth" will be published in Asimov's Science Fiction, and "Saving the World" will be published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It seems fitting that in the year Gunn enters the Hall of Fame, Analog will publish one of his short stories; Astounding (as it was then called) was one of the first to publish his writing.

Among the honors bestowed upon Gunn are the Pilgrim Award from the Science Fiction Research Association and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master of science fiction from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is a past president of both organizations. Gunn said the Science Fiction Hall of Fame induction is a signal honor.

"I've had a great many honors in the science-fiction world," Gunn said, "and this represents the final honor to wind up a career."

But don't take that quote to mean his career is over by any stretch of the imagination. Gunn's most recent novel, Transcendental, is the first in a trilogy. The sequel, Transgalactic, is due out in Spring 2016, and he just received a contract for the third volume.

"Writing is what I do," Gunn said, "and as long as I can do it well enough that publishers are willing to publish it, I will continue to do what has brought a central core of meaning to my life."

  In Memoriam:
  Sculptor Elden Tefft

LAWRENCE, KS
February 19, 2015
For immediate release

 

The center remembers Professor Elden Tefft, the sculptor who designed and cast the Award trophies, and left an indelible mark on University of Kansas culture.

Tefft was Professor Emeritus of art and the artist behind two of the Lawrence campus' signature sculptures: "Academic Jay," perched outside Strong Hall; and "Moses," outside Smith Hall, where it faces a stained-glass window of a burning bush. Moses and the burning bush play prominently in the university's seal (see image at right). In 2008, a replica of Tefft's "Academic Jay" was installed on the KU Edwards Campus.

Tefft died Tuesday, Feb. 17, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"I join the KU community in mourning the loss of Elden Tefft and in offering sympathies to his family, friends and colleagues, as well as alumni who remember the talents he shared with them in the classroom," said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. "Elden's pieces are such an integral part of Mount Oread - pieces such as 'Moses' and 'Academic Jay' - that it's nearly impossible to imagine our campus without them. The university is privileged to be a home for these iconic works and to have had Elden as part of our Jayhawk community." 

Services will be handled by Warren-McElwain Mortuary. 

Photo: "Moses," by Elden Tefft.

  An Evening with Margaret Atwood

LAWRENCE, KS

"Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
The Arts, the Sciences, the Humanities, the Inhumanities, and the Non-Humanities. Zombies Thrown in Extra."

The KU Commons is pleased to present Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?: The Arts, the Sciences, the Humanities, the Inhumanities, and the Non-Humanities. Zombies Thrown in Extra, through the support of the Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture fund.

Literary icon Margaret Atwood, celebrated for her prescient vision and poetic voice, discusses the real-world origins of her speculative fiction and the roles of art, science and imagination in her creative process. A winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Atwood is the bestselling author of more than thirty volumes of poetry, children's literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid's Tale, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Her non-fiction book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, was recently made into a documentary. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages. In 2004, she co-invented the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows someone to write in ink anywhere in the world via tablet PC and the internet. Born in 1939 in Ottawa, Atwood grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

When: 7:00pm Monday, February 2, 2015
Where: Kansas Union, Ballroom

A reception and book-signing will follow the talk.

The Lawrence Public Library and KU Libraries selected Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale as the first Read Across Lawrence book for 2015. Find out more about programs, activities, and opportunities to get involved in the conversation here.

Scholar Gary K. Wolfe
Presents KU Bold Aspirations Lecture

LAWRENCE, KS - February 22, 2014

"Asking the Next Question: Science Fiction and the Rational Imagination"

Gary K. Wolfe presents KU's newest Bold Aspirations talk. Wolfe has been a contributing editor and reviewer for Locus magazine since 1991. He is a Professor of Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he has also served as Dean of University College and Dean of Graduate Studies.

Wolfe's recent work includes Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature and Sightings: Reviews 2002-2006. His earlier studies include The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction (won the Eaton Award); David Lindsay; Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy; Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever (with Ellen R. Weil); Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 (won the British Science Fiction Award, Hugo nominee); Bearings: Reviews 1997-2001 (Hugo nominee). Wolfe received the Science Fiction Research Association's Pilgrim Award, International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts' Distinguished Scholarship Award, and the World Fantasy Award for criticism and reviews.

He edited Up the Bright River (2011), the first posthumous collection of Philip José Farmer stories; and American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s (Library of America, 2012); he co-edited with Jonathan Strahan The Best of Joe Haldeman (Subterranean Press, 2013). Wolfe serves on the editorial boards of Science Fiction Studies and The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and has served as manuscript reviewer for Oxford, Indiana, Illinois, and Wesleyan University Presses.

Since 2010, Wolfe and Australian editor Jonathan Strahan have also hosted the weekly Coode Street Podcast on science fiction, which has been nominated for four different awards in 2011 and the Hugo Awards in 2012 and 2013.

The title of Wolfe's talk borrows from Theodore Sturgeon's motto, "Ask the next question," which he referred to when signing his name with a Q and an arrow running through it, and described as: "...the symbol of everything humanity has ever created, and is the reason it has been created" (more on that here).

Abstract for Wolfe's Talk

While recent studies in cognitive science suggest that imaginative thought follows principles very similar to that of rational decision-making, science fiction literature has been demonstrating much the same thing for nearly two centuries. But science fiction as a mode of rational imagination has suffered from its reputation as pulp literature, from its somewhat degraded representations in film and media, and even from its own advocates. Using writer Theodore Sturgeon's dictum of "ask the next question," this presentation represents an effort to begin to outline both the narrative spaces encompassed by science fiction, represented by two widely disparate stories, and to suggest the importance of "science fictional thinking" as a mode of rational imagination.


A reception in the Spooner Hall Commons immediately follows Wolfe's talk, from 5:00pm - 6:00pm. Wolfe is a dynamic and fascinating speaker - don't miss this event!

When
Monday, March 10
4:00-5:00pm

Where
Spooner Hall Commons
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS

Cost
Free

KU Libraries Acquire
William S. Burroughs Collection

LAWRENCE, KS - February 6, 2014
Official KU press release here

The University of Kansas Libraries has acquired the last works of legendary author William S. Burroughs. James Grauerholz, executor of Burroughs' estate, Lawrence resident and KU alumnus, has donated the author's final personal journals, type scripts, and editing materials to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. The materials were the source for Last Words: The Final Journals of William S. Burroughs, published in 2000, which Grauerholz edited. Grauerholz had multiple reasons for donating the journals to KU.

"William spent his last years, wrote his last books, painted his (first and) last paintings and jotted-down his last words in Lawrence, Kansas," Grauerholz said. "So the city of Lawrence, and the University of Kansas, which is the heart of our community, deserve to have the last word on Burroughs' life and works."

Burroughs, the often-controversial author, is perhaps best known as the author of Naked Lunch and numerous other novels, including Junkie, Nova Express, the Cut-Up Trilogy, and Cities of The Red Night. His work was highly influential on both American and international literature, and he was once described by Norman Mailer as "the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius." His work and influence were recognized professionally as well. He was inducted into the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and received numerous other professional honors.

Burroughs lived in Lawrence from 1982 until his death in 1997. While they were his final years, they were far from retirement. In fact, they were among his most productive, in which he wrote his final seven major books, created hundreds of artworks and worked on several multimedia projects, including The Black Rider, an avant-garde opera with Tom Waits and Robert Wilson, plus audio and music recordings with U2, REM, Laurie Anderson, and others; as well as film projects with directors such as Gus Van Sant and Howard Brookner.

The donation of materials marking the end of Burroughs' life coincides with the centenary of his birth, February 5, 1914. He was associated with many cities around the world, including New York, Mexico City, Paris, London, and Tangier, Morocco. But the fact that his Lawrence years were among his most creative and important led Grauerholz to donate the 10 journals, type script, and editing materials to KU Libraries. Several of the journals will be on display in the library throughout February.

"This is long overdue for the Burroughs estate to work with the Kenneth Spencer Research Library," said Grauerholz, who attended KU from 1969 to 1973 and taught American studies in the 2000s. "I'm grateful the University will be able to make these materials available to the community of scholars, here and worldwide. Now anyone with a good reason to read them will be able to."

The donations will add the libraries' already noteworthy holdings of Burroughs materials. Among the materials are contributions to periodicals and first editions of many of his works, including Naked Lunch, and a manuscript collection containing materials from the 1950s and '60s, including letters by Burroughs as well as letters written to him by Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, publishers, and others. There are also several short typescripts and "cut-ups" by Burroughs, written for Jeff Nuttall's My Own Mag and others by writer and artist Claude Pelieu. The collections also include audio recordings of Burroughs made in the early 1960s purchased from Melville Hardiment at that time, including Burroughs speaking on "A Day in the Life of a Junkie."

The materials will be cataloged and made available upon request to inquirers who wish to read or study them. Elspeth Healey, special collections librarian, said the donation will be of great scholastic and cultural value for a broad population.

"Research in the humanities depends on access to writers' papers and other primary sources. Burroughs' last journals will open up new avenues of scholarship for this significant cultural figure and shine a light on the Lawrence chapter of his life and creative output," Healey said. "We are pleased that the University of Kansas will be able to make these unique artifacts available to students, scholars and the public."

News items:
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