Center for the Study of Science Fiction

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The Center for the Study of Science Fiction is an endowed educational institution associated with the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, that emerged from the science-fiction (SF) programs that James Gunn created at the University beginning in 1968. The Center was formally established through an endowment in 1982 as a focus for courses, workshops, lectures, student and international awards, a conference, fan groups, and other SF-related programs at the University of Kansas.


In 1968, James Gunn filmed a series of interviews, talks and lectures as resources for his course and for other science fiction courses.[1] The next year, Gunn offered his first science fiction course at the University of Kansas.[2] Several years later in 1975, Gunn and a colleague held the first Intensive English Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction,[3] originally as a four-week course covering the history of SF in both short fiction and novels. as of July 2018, it has continued as an annual two-week event, alternating each year between the SF novel and the SF short story.

The Center expanded when, in 1978, the Campbell Conference was established as a venue to present the Campbell Award.[4][5]

The Center was officially founded in 1982, and 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 Campbell Conference until 2004, when the Hall of Fame moved to Seattle to become part of the EMP Museum.

The Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture Series was established by an endowment from Richard W. Gunn's estate in 2004.[6] This year's lecturer was Cory Doctorow.

In 2007 the KU English Department provided the Center with its first office for CSSF's collection of more than 30,000 volumes of science fiction books, publications and multimedia materials.[7] The University of Kansas' Spencer Research Library also has 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 recent major acquisition of Theodore Sturgeon's papers), and more.


SF Courses[edit]

In 2005, Gunn, McKitterick, KU Physics Professor Phillip Baringer, and KU Economics Professor Mohamed El-Hodiri first offered the regular-semester course Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens at KU, which As of March 2013 Baringer and McKitterick continue to offer annually.[8]

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 and Kij Johnson also both offer other regular-semester courses in fantasy, science fiction media, and speculative-fiction writing.

Campbell Conference[edit]

The Campbell Conference is an academic science fiction event put on yearly by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. The Campbell Conference is the concluding event of the CSSF Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop and the SF/F/H Novel Writer's Workshop, and kicks off the Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction. Held regularly at the University of Kansas since 1973 (except for the joint event in 2007 with the Science Fiction Research Association and the Heinlein Centennial), the conference offers a round-table discussion on a single topic as well as live readings, movie screenings, and book-signings by attending authors, and provides a setting for the presentation of science-fiction honors:[9]

The winners are brought to Lawrence, Kansas for the event. Beginning in 2004, winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards receive trophies.


In 2005, with donations from SFRA, SFWA, publishers, conventions, and individuals concerned with the field, the Center established AboutSF.[10] AboutSF is the educational outreach arm of CSSF. Its primary goal is to engage and encourage educators to teach science fiction.[11]

AboutSF has hosted Teaching Science Fiction workshops at several cons in the past. This August, AboutSF will hold a workshop at this year's WorldCon, LoneStarCon.[12]

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.[13] Ad Astra was founded in 2012 by James Gunn and former AboutSF Volunteer Coordinator Isaac Bell, and published its first issue in July 2012.

Writing Workshops[edit]

In 1985, Gunn established the Science Fiction Writers Workshop (since renamed the Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop),[14] as of June 2018 an annual event. He led it on his own (with appearances from Sturgeon Award- and Campbell Award-winning authors) until 1996, when author and CSSF Director Christopher McKitterick began co-teaching. Kij Johnson also co-taught the Science Fiction Writers Workshop from 1996-2002. McKitterick has led the Workshop since 2011 with guest authors, including Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, and John Kessel (with appearances from Sturgeon Award- and Campbell Award-winning authors).

In 2005, Kij Johnson established the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel Writers Workshop,[15] offered during the same two-week period as the short-fiction workshop. Starting in 2010, she began offering a Repeat Offenders follow-up workshop for alumni, as did McKitterick beginning in 2016.

Starting in 2015, the Center has offered a Young Adult Writing Workshop, led first by Tessa Gratton and Natalie C. Parker, and most recently by Tina Connolly.


James Gunn is Founding Director of the Center. Christopher McKitterick is the current Director, and was formerly an Associate Director from 2002 to 2010. Kij Johnson has served as Associate Director since 2004. A number of students and other volunteers comprise the full staff.[16]


  1. ^ Literature of Science Fiction Lecture Series Archived September 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Top Gunn: Renowned science fiction author finds fresh ways to cultivate genre [1], Lawrence Journal-World, April 11, 2008
  3. ^ "CSSF SF Institute". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  4. ^ "The John W. Campbell Award". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Campbell Conference and Awards Ceremony". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction News and Events". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  7. ^ "CSSF Resource Center". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  8. ^ CSSF Courses
  9. ^ "Conference page". Retrieved January 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ AboutSF Archived March 9, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ About Us Archived June 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Teaching SF: A Workshop for Teachers, Librarians and Parents Archived August 20, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ About Ad Astra Archived November 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  15. ^ "CSSF SF Novel Writers Workshop". Retrieved 31 August 2018.
  16. ^ "CSSF Staff and Volunteers". Retrieved 31 August 2018.

External links[edit]