Center for the Study of Science Fiction

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Founded by SFWA Grand Master [1] and Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductee James Gunn, the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction is an endowed research and educational institution that originated at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, with affiliations across the world. It is the first such research center.[2] It emerged from the science-fiction (SF) programs that Gunn created at the University beginning in 1968, and has been growing ever since. The Center was formally established in 1982 through gifts and endowments as a focus for annual workshops, lectures, student and international awards, and an annual conference; plus university courses, fan groups, and other SF-related programs at the University of Kansas and beyond. SF author, scholar, and educator Christopher McKitterick is the director, and Kij Johnson is associate director.

History[edit]

In 1968, James Gunn began filming a series of interviews, talks, and lectures as resources for his upcoming science fiction course and for others teaching science fiction.[3]

The next year, Gunn offered his first Science Fiction Studies course at the University of Kansas.[4]

Beginning in 1975, Gunn and a colleague held his first Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction, originally as a four-week summer course covering the history of SF in both short fiction and novels. as of June 2020, McKitterick has continued offering it as an annual two-week event, alternating each year between the SF novel and the SF short story.

In 1972, Gunn, Harry Harrison, and Brian Aldiss established the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best science fiction novel,[5] presented annually during the Center's Campbell Conference and Awards (renamed in 2019[6]).

The Center expanded when, in 1978, the Center's Conference was established as a venue for authors and scholars to discuss the genre and to present the Campbell Award.[7][8]

The Center was officially founded in 1982 by James Gunn through a monetary endowment and other gifts.

In 1987, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction was established by Gunn and the heirs of Theodore Sturgeon, including Sturgeon's partner Jayne Engelhart Tannehill and his children, as an appropriate memorial to one of the great short-story writers in a field distinguished by its short fiction.

In 1996 the Center and the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society established the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. The Chairmen were Keith Stokes (1996–2001) and Robin Wayne Bailey (2002–present). Four authors were inducted annually as part of the Center's Conference until 2004, when the Hall of Fame moved to Seattle to become part of the EMP Museum.

In 2002, authors Christopher McKitterick and Kij Johnson moved to Lawrence, Kansas to work more closely with Gunn, expand the Center's programs, and teach science fiction at the University of Kansas.

The Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture Series was established by an endowment from Richard W. Gunn's estate in 2004.[9] Lecturers in SF have included Michael Dirda, Cory Doctorow, Karen Joy Fowler, China Miéville, Nöel Sturgeon, Gary K. Wolfe, and many others. Center affiliates have also directly brought other guest speakers to Lawrence.

In 2007, KU provided the Center with its first office for a collection of science fiction books, publications and multimedia materials.[10] The University of Kansas' Spencer Research Library holds a significant science fiction collection, and since 1982 the SF Special Collection has become KU's fastest-growing research collection, mostly through gifts. The Spencer Research Library holds multimedia materials, ephemera, fanzines, magazines, original manuscripts and papers from a large number of authors (including a major acquisition of Theodore Sturgeon's papers), and more.

In 2015 the Center established its first affiliated office at St. Teresa's College in Ernakulam in Kerala, India, with Professor Latha Nair as director.[11]

In 2021 the Center's Director and affiliates established the Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination[12] as an interdisciplinary outreach and educational organization, supporting science fiction research and education at the University of Kansas and beyond.

Programs[edit]

Awards[edit]

Since 1979, the Center for the Study of Science Fiction has presented the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year.[13]

Since 1987, it has also presented the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year.[14]

From 1996 to 2004, the Center hosted the induction of honorees into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

From 2005-2020, the Center offered the James E. Gunn Award for Science Fiction Writing,[15] a student writing prize McKitterick established in honor of the Center's founder.

From 2009-2019, the Center offered the Scholarship in Science Fiction Studies,[16] a financial scholarship for studying or writing science fiction at the University of Kansas.

Since 2010, James Gunn and then Chris McKitterick have presented their Silver Lining Award,[17] a tongue-in-cheek distinction to recognize a Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop author for work that best demonstrates how well they internalized the workshop's concepts and who turned in the most-improved story over its original form. The honoree goes home with a shiny robot and gets immortalized on a permanent trophy.

From 2016-2019, the Center offered the Mark Bourne Speculative Fiction Writing Scholarship,[18] to honor a man who dedicated his life to speculative fiction.

Center Conference[edit]

The Center's Conference[19] (traditionally called "Campbell Conference and Awards") was an academic science fiction event put on yearly by Gunn, McKitterick, Johnson, and other affiliates of the center. The conference was once the concluding event of writing workshops and the kickoff event for advanced writing workshops and an Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction taught by center staff and affiliates. Held regularly at the University of Kansas from 1973-2019 (except for a joint event in 2007 with the Science Fiction Research Association, the Heinlein Centennial, and MidAmeriCon II in 2016), the conference offered a round-table discussion on a single topic as well as live readings, academic presentations, movie screenings, and book-signings by attending authors, and provided a setting for the presentation of two science-fiction honors:[20] the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

The Center usually brought award winners (and sometimes their editors) to the event. Beginning in 2004, winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards received take-home trophies. Permanent trophies[21] remain with the awards juries and make an appearance at the conference and other events.

Writing Workshops[edit]

In 1985, Gunn established his Science Fiction Writers Workshop (renamed the Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop when it became McKitterick's workshop),[22] as of June 2020 an annual event. Gunn led it (with appearances from Sturgeon Award- and Campbell Award-winning authors) until 1996, when author Christopher McKitterick began co-teaching. Kij Johnson also co-taught from 1996 to 2002. McKitterick has led the Workshop since 2011, also bringing in guest authors including Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, and John Kessel, with appearances from Sturgeon Award- and Campbell Award-winning authors. Starting in 2016, he began offering a Repeat Offenders advanced workshop for his alumni.

In 2005, Kij Johnson established her Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel Writers Workshop,[23] often offered during the same two-week period as the short-fiction workshop. Starting in 2010, she began offering a Repeat Offenders advanced workshop for alumni.

Starting in 2015, Center-affiliated staff have offered a Young Adult Speculative-Fiction Writing Workshop,[24] led first by Tessa Gratton and Natalie C. Parker, and most recently by Tina Connolly.

SF Courses[edit]

In 2005, Gunn, McKitterick, KU Physics Professor Phillip Baringer, and KU Economics Professor Mohamed El-Hodiri first offered their regular-semester course Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens at KU, which McKitterick continues to offer annually.[25]

McKitterick began offering a regular-semester course in The Literature of Science Fiction in 2012, alternating each year between the SF novel and short story. He also began offering a regular-semester course in Science Fiction and the Popular Media in 2014. He and Kij Johnson have both offered other regular-semester courses in fantasy, science fiction, and speculative-fiction writing.[26]

AboutSF[edit]

In 2005, with donations from SFRA, SFWA, publishers, conventions, and individuals concerned with the field, Center staff and affiliates helped established AboutSF,[27] an educational outreach organization whose primary goal is to engage and encourage educators to teach science fiction, and support them in their efforts.[28] As part of this effort, McKitterick makes all of his course syllabi available online for educators to reference.

AboutSF has hosted Teaching Science Fiction workshops at several conventions in the past, notably for the LoneStarCon.[29]

James Gunn's Ad Astra[edit]

James Gunn's Ad Astra is an online and print magazine that publishes both fiction and scholarly articles in the field of science fiction.[30] Ad Astra was founded in 2012 by Gunn, McKitterick, and former AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator Isaac Bell, and published its first issue in July 2012. as of June 2020, Ad Astra is a going concern that has published seven issues.

Staff[edit]

James Gunn was the founder of the Center, and served on the board of directors until his death in December, 2020. Christopher McKitterick is the Director, formerly an Associate Director from 2002 to 2010 and Assistant Director from 1995 to 2002. Kij Johnson has served as Associate Director since 2004. A number of students and other volunteers comprise the full staff.[31]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "SFWA Grand Master Award". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  2. ^ "James Gunn". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  3. ^ Literature of Science Fiction Lecture Series Archived September 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Top Gunn: Renowned science fiction author finds fresh ways to cultivate genre [1], Lawrence Journal-World, April 11, 2008
  5. ^ "The Golden Age of Science Fiction: The 1973 John W. Campbell Memorial Award: Beyond Apollo, by Barry N. Malzberg (plus Special Award to Robert Silverberg for Dying Inside)". blackgate.com. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  6. ^ "The Gunn Center Makes a Change, and Further Thoughts on the Reassessment of John W. Campbell". whatever.scalzi.com. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  7. ^ "The John W. Campbell Award". sfcenter.ku.edu. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  8. ^ "Campbell Conference and Awards Ceremony". sfcenter.ku.edu. Archived from the original on June 24, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  9. ^ "KU Center for the Study of Science Fiction News and Events". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  10. ^ "CSSF Resource Center". sfcenter.ku.edu. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  11. ^ "Latha Nair and James Gunn Centre Kerala". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  12. ^ "AAI Announces the Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and Speculative Imagination". aai.ku.edu. Retrieved November 25, 2021.
  13. ^ "John W. Campbell Memorial Award". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  14. ^ "Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award". Archived from the original on November 19, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  15. ^ "James E. Gunn Award for Science Fiction Writing". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  16. ^ "Scholarship in Science Fiction Studies". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  17. ^ "Silver Lining Award". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  18. ^ "Mark Bourne Speculative Fiction Writing Scholarship". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  19. ^ "Center Conference and Awards Ceremony". sfcenter.ku.edu. Archived from the original on June 24, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  20. ^ "Conference page". Archived from the original on June 24, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  21. ^ "John W. Campbell and Theodore Sturgeon Award Trophies". Archived from the original on November 19, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  22. ^ "Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  23. ^ "CSSF SF Novel Writers Workshop". sfcenter.ku.edu. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  24. ^ "Young Adult Novel Writing Workshop". sfcenter.ku.edu. Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  25. ^ "Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  26. ^ "CSSF Courses". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  27. ^ AboutSF Archived March 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ About Us Archived June 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Teaching SF: A Workshop for Teachers, Librarians and Parents Archived August 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "James Gunn's Ad Astra". Retrieved June 7, 2020.
  31. ^ "CSSF Staff and Volunteers". sfcenter.ku.edu. Archived from the original on July 2, 2018. Retrieved June 7, 2020.

External links[edit]

J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction official website