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.

Founder and Directors

Fellows and Division Heads

Board of Advisors

AboutSF Volunteer Coordinators

International Science Fiction Consortium

Affiliated Faculty

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! As needed, the Center's Board of Advisors (which includes leaders from affiliated organizations at KU and elsewhere) 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 our "Science Fiction Agents." 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 founded the Center for the Study of Science Fiction in 1982 as a Kansas Board of Regents research center at the University of Kansas, the first such organization at a major university. It was established as a focus for the SF programs he offered at KU, beginning in 1969 with one of the first regular science-fiction courses ever offered at a major university. Even at 96 years wise, he continues to advise and serve the Center to this day.

Gunn is a science fiction author, scholar, educator, and historian.  KU professor emeritus of English, SFWA Grand Master, and SF Hall of Fame inductee. 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.

In his 90s, Gunn is still actively writing, with 2017 his most-prolific year ever! Watch for new fiction in Asimov's SF Magazine and bookstores everywhere.


Chris McKitterick has been serving the Center in 1992, and was named Assistant Director in 1995. In 2010, Gunn and the Board of Advisors promoted him to Director, and he continues to serve in this role. He believes strongly in collaboration, so during his leadership we set up the Advisory Board, Division Heads, Affiliated Faculty, Fellows, and International Science Fiction Consortium groups, as well as branch offices, our AboutSF educational-outreach program, and more.

McKitterick leads the Center's Speculative Fiction Writers Workshop, the Intensive Institute on the Study of SF, a number of regular-semester creative writing and science fiction courses at KU, and serves on thesis and dissertation committees. His short fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and other work has been published in a number of magazines, journals, and anthologies; and his debut novel, Transcendence, was published by Hadley Rille Books. His newest short fiction, "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust," won the 2018 AnLab Reader's Award for best novelette.

He's also a popular public speaker on SF, writing, and the future. McKitterick built and maintains the Center's websites and social networks, organized the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award jury and ran the nomination process from 1994-2016, and currently administers and serves on the jury for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel jury.


Kij Johnson began serving the Center in 1995. In 2002, Gunn named her Associate Director. KU hired her full-time as Assistant Professor of creative writing in 2012, and promoted her to Associate Professor in 2018.

Kij's numerous fantasy and SF novels and short stories have won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (which she has served as juror since 1996, and now manages), World Fantasy Award (three times, and has since served as juror), Nebula Award (three times), IAFA Crawford Award, Gran Prix de l’Imaginaire, and Hugo Award. Her work has also been a finalist for many other honors.

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 Associate Professor of Fiction Writing in the University of Kansas English Department.


The Gunn Center's Fellows and 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!


Jason Baltazar coordinates the Center's social media (Facebook, LibraryThing, Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and elsewhere) and our AboutSF educational-outreach program, serves as Head Librarian for our lending library, and acts as a general Science Fiction Agent. He earned his MFA in 2019 and is a GTA and PhD candidate in the English Department at the University of Kansas.

Jason writes all manner of inter-genre fiction, with a particular fondness for dark fantasy and the Weird.


Isaac Bell serves as our all-around assistant, served as AboutSF educational-outreach coordinator, launched James Gunn's Ad Astra magazine, helped build our our lending library, and is an all-around vital part of the Center's operations. He recently earned his MA from the English Department at the University of Kansas, and currently teaches writing and rhetoric.

Isaac writes science fiction, and studied SF and SF writing through the Center and KU under James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and Chris McKitterick.


Emma Cook handles communications with international groups working with the Center. She has been a fan of science fiction for almost as long as she can remember, with a special interest in extraterrestrial and first contact stories.

Emma studied SF through the Center and KU under Kij Johnson and Chris McKitterick, and also studied Chinese literature at the US and abroad, and speaks some Mandarin.


Dan Dutcher writes some of our releases, news items, and other reports, and works with news services.

He 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.


Amanda Hemmingsen heads the Lawrence Science Fiction Club, co-Chaired Academic Programming for the 2016 Gunn Center Conference at WorldCon in Kansas City, serves as Poetry Editor for James Gunn's Ad Astra, and is an all-around vital part of the Center's operations.

She wrote her Master's thesis on post-1968 dystopian novels. It's been a few years now and she's still obsessed with the genre, among her other SF paramours.

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

Ruth Lichtwardt has worked with the Center since its earliest days, and currently serves as administrator of the Gunn Center Conference and Division Head for Events.

As a KU student, Ruth took several of Jim Gunn's writing classes, and later initiated the tradition of the annual Gunn Center 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 was Chair of MidAmeriCon II, the 74th Worldcon, held in Kansas City, MO, in 2016. Her day job has nothing to do with science fiction but helps feed the habit.


Latha Nair is the Director of the new Gunn Centre for the Study of Science Fiction at St Teresa's College in Ernakulam, Kerala (in India) - our first international office! Latha participated in the 2014 Gunn Center Conference and Intensive Institute on the Study of SF, and got government support to create the first branch Gunn Centre in 2015.

Latha is a Professor of English Literature at St Teresa's, where she teaches science fiction. She also headed the International Conference on World Science Fiction in India 2014, and leads SF writing workshops through Gunn Centre Kerala.


Dr. Michael Page co-Chaired Academic Programming for the 2016 Gunn Center Conference at WorldCon in Kansas City. Starting in 2015, he was the contact for the Gunn Center 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?" Since then, he's headed up academic programming for the Gunn Center Conference. He is also a Research Fellow and Affiliated Faculty, working with the Center, and is the incoming Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction in Lincoln, Nebraska, which begins operations in 2020.

Mike 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.

Mike wrote the first critical study of James Gunn, Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher, Scholar, published by the University of Illinois Press in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. His prior book, Frederik Pohl, was also released in the Modern Masters series. Mike is 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. 


H.C.H. Ritz is a science-fiction author who writes about finding hope in hopeless worlds. In 2012, Hilary finished her first novel, The Lightbringers, which became one of the first books acquired by indie publisher Grey Gecko Press. She now has two more books released through Grey Gecko Press, Absence of Mind and The Robin Hood Thief, serial novel Star's Tempest reaching its exciting conclusion at, several short published pieces, and a newly agented novel looking for a home. Hilary is a regular panelist and workshop leader at Comicpalooza and Houston-based sci-fi writing events as well as a freelance editor and writing coach.

Hilary is the contact for the upcoming Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction in Houston, Texas, which begins operations soon. Hilary participated in the 2017 Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop, the 2019 SF & Fantasy Novel Writing Workshop, and the Gunn Center Conference both years.


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 Gunn Center 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 Gunn Center 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 broad-based, international collaborations. Our current Board:

  • Perry Alexander, ITTC 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.
  • Andy Duncan, award-winning author and Professor of English at Frostburg State University.
  • Bruce Frey, Professor of Educational Psychology.
  • Karen Hellekson, SF scholar and former Center student.
  • M.H. Hoeflich, Distinguished Professor of Law at KU.
  • 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, SF scholar, award-winning author, Professor and Director of Creative Writing at NCSU, and former Center student.
  • Neal Kingston, Director of the Achievement and Assessment Institute, co-Director of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, and Professor of Psychology and Educational Research at KU.
  • Pamela Sargent, award-winning author and editor.
  • Thomas Seay, author, former Center student, and first 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 our long-time association.

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

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

The Gunn Center's educational-outreach division is AboutSF. Led by a committee of Volunteer Coordinators (formerly student employees), we're working to promote and expand educational resources for teaching and studying SF. Check the website - currently undergoing major renovation (stay tuned) - for regular updates on the happenings at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and to sign up to become an AboutSF Agent!


Fall 2016 - present: Jason Baltazar

Fall 2015 - Spring 2016: Adam Mills

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

During the ground-breaking 2015 Gunn Center Conference, we began organizing the International Science Fiction Consortium (ISFC). ISFC serves science-fiction research centers and SF degree-granting programs around the world, sharing ideas and resources, brainstorming, collaborating, spreading news about our various programs, and working to grow international cooperation to serve the field of SF studies.

The working group is now up to about 30 and growing! If you would like to collaborate with the Gunn Center on SF-related projects, co-develop grants, or otherwise work together for the field, drop us a note:

Our motto: Charting the future of science fiction research.

Stay tuned for more information. 

In 2014, we began organizing a group of faculty within KU and from the larger SF field with ties to the Gunn Center.

Our goal is to help facilitate opportunities collaboration across the traditional silos of department or school to develop interdisciplinary educational and research opportunities at KU, where the literature of change, ideas, and the future can help people working in many disciplines. Our goal is to take advantage of the Gunn Center's established history, contacts, events, and existing educational programs, and to identify ways that the Center can better serve KU students and faculty, as well as the larger community. Ultimately, we're looking forward with an eye toward developing a core of faculty and other educational professionals, plus curricula, to support what we hope will evolve into interdisciplinary studies programs, while finding ways we can all help support one another's related research and other work.

The working group is now up to about 30 and growing! If you would like to collaborate with the Gunn Center on SF-related projects, co-develop grants, or otherwise work together for the field, drop us a note:

Stay tuned for more information.

Last updated 12/24/2020.

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