The People of the
Center for the Study of Science Fiction

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is a lot of things, but what it comes down to is a bunch of human beings dedicated to science fiction and the possibilities it offers. Here's an introduction to some of the people of the Gunn Center.

The Center's leadership stems from James Gunn's vision, and his "Founding Director" position is honorary - he's the first and will remain the only such! When needed, the Center's Board of Advisors (which includes leaders from affiliated organizations, including the KU English Department and others) can appoint any appropriately qualified SF scholar and/or author to the position of Director. Associate and Assistant Directors, as well as Division Heads, are usually appointed by the Director, and all of these people are responsible for attracting and retaining "Science Fiction Agents" - our volunteers! All of these positions are currently unpaid - those who serve do so out of love for SF! - and subject to ongoing review by the Board and other stakeholders.

James Gunn is a science fiction author and historian, KU professor emeritus of English, SFWA Grand Master, and founder of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. He is a past president of SFWA and is chair of the Campbell Award jury to select the best science-fiction novel of the year. During its formative years, Dr. Gunn served on the advisory board of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame, which named him to their Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2015. At 91, he is still active and writing - now working on the third book of a new trilogy that began with Transcendental.


Christopher McKitterick is an author, scholar, editor, and teacher at the University of Kansas. He teaches creative writing, the Speculative Fiction Writers Workshop, the Intensive Institute on the Study of SF, a number of regular-semester writing and science fiction courses at KU, and serves on numerous thesis and dissertation committees. His short fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and essays have been published in a number of magazines, journals, and anthologies, and his debut novel, Transcendence, was published by Hadley Rille Books. After an association with the Center since 1992 and assistant-teaching the summer program since 1995 - and after the English Department recruited him to teach full-time in 2002 - Gunn named him Associate Director of the Center. In 2010, Gunn and the Board of Advisors promoted him to Director, and he continues to serve in this role.


Kij Johnson's fantasy and SF novels and short stories have won the Sturgeon Award (which she now serves as juror), World Fantasy Award (which she has also served as juror), Nebula Award (three times), IAFA Award, and Hugo Award. Kij teaches the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel Writing Workshop, a number of regular-semester writing and fantasy-related courses at KU, serves on numerous thesis and dissertation committees, and is Assistant Professor of Fiction Writing in the University of Kansas English Department. Kij first served the Center as a volunteer from 1995-2002, when she was named Associate Director. KU hired her full-time as Assistant Professor of creative writing in 2012.


The Gunn Center's Division Heads are in charge of our various activities, without whom our offerings would be a pale shadow of what they are today and what they'll become in the future. They're also the ones who know most about Center operations and history, and have long associations with the organization. They have the authority to organize events and people, sign contracts under the Center's authority, make tactical decisions and strategic plans - and recruit and mentor our growing group of "Science Fiction Agents."

Want to become Science Fiction Agent for the Gunn Center? Awesome! We're just getting started on this new program, so contact one of our Division Heads to express your enthusiasm, and they'll help you find where you can best apply your skills and interests. Without volunteers, the Center is only an abstract: You make it possible for us to offer all we do!

Lydia Ash works as the secretary for graduate student concerns in the English department at KU and assists the Center with its administrative tasks in addition to her official job duties. The least academically-inclined of the CSSF staff and volunteers, Lydia eagerly awaits the day when she can converse via reaction gifs and emoticons in physical space as well as on the internet.

Lydia is the person who ensures that our summer program attendees have a place to live, and she also takes care of a million other important tasks that make everyone's lives happier, so be sure to express your appreciation when dealing with her!

Contact Lydia at: 

Dan Dutcher discovered his love of books when his mother started buying him illustrated classics in elementary school. After that, he read everything he could find. He started writing his own stories in eighth grade, and wrote for the yearbook and newspaper all four years of high school. In 2013, he graduated from the KU School of Journalism and Mass Communications and is now the district manager for the Lawrence Journal-World. Science fiction and fantasy are his favorite genres, especially if they include time travel or astronomy. His current favorite SF book is The End of Eternity, by Isaac Asimov.

Hemmingsen wrote her Master's thesis on post-1968 dystopian novels. It's been half a year now and she's still obsessed with the genre, among her other SF paramours. She serves as the Poetry Editor for James Gunn's Ad Astra and runs the SF club out of Lawrence, and is one of the co-chairs for the 2016 Campbell Conference at WorldCon in Kansas City.

Have something to say about a dystopian novel? Get in touch:

Ruth Lichtwardt is administrator of the Campbell Conference and Division Head for Events. As a KU student she took several of Jim Gunn's writing classes, and later initiated the tradition of the annual Campbell Conference booksigning while working as a trade book buyer in the KU Union bookstore. She is active in Kansas City and Lawrence-area SF clubs and conventions, including ConQuesT, where she runs the benefit auction with the Gunn Center's AboutSF as the recipient. She has also held various positions at several Worldcons including Hugo Awards administrator. Currently Ruth is co-chairing MidAmeriCon II, the 74th Worldcon, which will be held in Kansas City, MO, in August 2016. Her day job has nothing to do with science fiction but helps feed the habit.

Contact Ruth at: 

Michael Page teaches science fiction and holds an administrative position in the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His association with the Gunn Center began in 2007 when he attended the Intensive Institute on the Study of SF. In 2013, Mike organized a panel in honor of James Gunn at the joint Eaton/SFRA conference in Riverside, CA, which also included tributes by Chris McKitterick, Nathaniel Williams, and Marleen Barr. His book, Frederik Pohl, is scheduled for a fall 2015 release from the University of Illinois Press in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. He's the editor of a collection of stories, The Man with the Strange Head, by Miles J. Breuer, an early science fiction pioneer. His critical study, The Literary Imagination from Erasmus Darwin to H.G. Wells: Science, Evolution, and Ecology, explores the intersections between literature and science in the nineteenth century. His latest essay on Golden Age science fiction and ecology appears in Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction, edited by Gerry Canavan and Kim Stanley Robinson.

Mike was the contact person for the 2015 Campbell Conference, a special symposium on the current state and future directions in SF education for the 21st century: "From the Fringes to the Classroom: What's Next in SF Education?" He is also one of the co-chairs for the 2016 Campbell Conference at WorldCon in Kansas City

Contact Mike at: 

Want to volunteer and become a Science Fiction Agent for the Gunn Center? Awesome! We're just getting started on this new program, so contact one of our Division Heads (listed above) to express your enthusiasm, and they'll help you find where you can best apply your skills and interests. Each time they participate in a Center event under one of our Division Heads, our SF Agents earn credit toward things like membership to the Campbell Conference, the Conference Awards Banquet, and SFnal swag - details coming soon!

Without volunteers, the Center is only an abstract: You make it possible for us to offer all we do!

Web Developers / Designers: Patrick Flor, Nick Simmons.

Librarians: Bruce Sherwood, Tommy Triplett, and many friends who have helped organize our lending library.

Photographers: CJ Harries, Keith Stokes.

Many more to come!

...and you!

The Board of Advisors to the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction provides advice and advocacy on ongoing and new initiatives and programs offered and sponsored by the Center, on sources of material support, on its structure and goals, and on subjects for the Campbell Conference and other pursuits. The Board is encouraged to make suggestions on any of these aspects at any time to the Directors or other Center personnel, individually and collectively. We stay in contact through annual or bi-annual reports, and ask directly for advice on occasions. Should the need arise, the Board is responsible for appointing replacement directors.

We are currently expanding and re-defining the Center's Board of Advisors as we develop official bylaws. Our current Board:

  • Perry Alexander, Director and Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at KU.
  • Elizabeth Bourne, author and SF patron of the arts.
  • David Brin, author and SF activist.
  • Pat Cadigan, author, editor, and former Center student.
  • Matthew Candelaria, author and former Center student.
  • Karen Hellekson, SF scholar and former Center student.
  • Elizabeth Anne Hull, author, scholar, Professor, long-time friend of the Center, and writer-in-residence of the Intensive SF Institute for many years.
  • John Kessel, scholar, award-winning author, creative-writing Professor, and former Center student.
  • Pamela Sargent, award-winning author and editor.
  • Thomas Seay, author and former Center student and AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator.
  • Nathaniel Williams, author, scholar, professor, and former Center student and AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator.
  • George Zebrowski, award-winning author and editor.

Also the following organizational leaders:

  • The current Presidents of SFRA, SFWA, and ICFA, in honor of their strong support and encouragement.
  • The current Chair of KU's English Department, in honor of the Department's long-time support.

SFWA Grand Master Frederik Pohl was one of our most trusted and valued advisors, from the Center's foundation until Fred's death in 2013.

We also consult regularly with the Center's diverse group of Affiliated Faculty.

The Gunn Center's educational-outreach arm is AboutSF. It's led by one or two Volunteer Coordinator student employees working to promote and expand the educational resources for teaching and studying SF. Check the website for regular updates from our Coordinators on the happenings at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and to sign up to become an AboutSF Agent!

When his father exposed him to reruns of The Twilight Zone in the early days of the Sci-Fi Channel (not the SyFy Channel - there is a difference), Adam knew he was hooked on science fiction and its speculative kin. He is now in the second year of his PhD studies at KU in creative writing and literature, having previously received a BA in creative writing and an MA in English from Missouri State University, in addition to an MFA in popular fiction from the Stonecoast Writing Program based out of the University of Southern Maine. Adam served as Managing Editor for Weird Fiction Review Online from 2012 to 2014, during which time WFR was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. Here at KU, Adam writes his own original fiction and studies science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction and film. 

Contact Adam at:

Fall 2014 - Summer 2015: Christina Lord

Spring 2013 - 2014: Meagan Kane and Mackenzie VanBeest

Fall 2011 - Fall 2012: Isaac Bell

Fall 2010 - Fall 2011: Benjamin Cartwright

Summer - Fall 2010: Kristen Lillvis

Spring 2010: Samantha Simmons

2007 - 2009: Nathaniel Williams

2005 - 2007: Thomas Seay

TBA - In 2014, we began organizing a group of faculty who offer courses relevant to those studying SF. It's comprised of faculty at KU... and elsewhere! Stay tuned.

Last updated 3/3/2016.

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