Founded by SFWA Grand Master  and Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductee James Gunn, the 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. 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 the Gunn Center 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 current director, and Kij Johnson is associate director.
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.
The next year, Gunn offered his first Science Fiction Studies course at the University of Kansas.
Beginning in 1975, Gunn and a colleague held the 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[update], 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, presented annually during the Center's Campbell Conference and Awards (renamed the Gunn Center Conference in 2019).
The Center expanded when, in 1978, the Gunn Center Conference (then named "the Campbell Conference") was established as a venue for authors and scholars to discuss the genre and to present the Campbell Award.
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 Campbell 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. Lecturers in SF have included Michael Dirda, Cory Doctorow, Karen Joy Fowler, China Miéville, Nöel Sturgeon, Gary K. Wolfe, and many others. The Center has also directly brought other guest speakers to Lawrence.
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. 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.
In 2015 the Center established its first branch office at St. Teresa's College in Ernakulam in Kerala, India, with Professor Latha Nair as director.
Since 1979, the Center for the Study of Science Fiction has managed and presented the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year.
Since 1987, it has also managed and presented the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year.
From 1996 to 2004, the Center hosted the induction of honorees into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
Since 2005, the Center offers the James E. Gunn Award for Science Fiction Writing, a student writing prize established in honor of the Center's founder.
Since 2009, the Center offers the Scholarship in Science Fiction Studies, a financial scholarship for studying or writing science fiction at the University of Kansas.
Since 2010, the Center presents the Silver Lining Award, a tongue-in-cheek distinction to recognize the 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.
Since 2016, the Center has offered the Mark Bourne Speculative Fiction Writing Scholarship, to honor a man who dedicated his life to speculative fiction.
The Gunn Center Conference (formerly called "Campbell Conference and Awards" until 2019) is an academic science fiction event put on yearly by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. The Gunn Center Conference is normally the concluding event of the Center's writing workshops and the kickoff events for the advanced writing workshops and 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, the Heinlein Centennial, and MidAmeriCon II in 2016, the conference offers a round-table discussion on a single topic as well as live readings, academic presentations, movie screenings, and book-signings by attending authors, and provides a setting for the presentation of two science-fiction honors: the John W. Campbell Memorial Award and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.
The Center brings the award winners (and sometimes their editors) to Lawrence, Kansas for the event. Beginning in 2004, winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards receive take-home trophies. Permanent trophies remain with the Center and make an appearance at the conference and other events.
In 1985, Gunn established the Science Fiction Writers Workshop (renamed the Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop when McKitterick began leading), as of June 2020[update] 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 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 alumni.
In 2005, Kij Johnson established the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel Writers Workshop, 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, the Center has offered a Young Adult Speculative-Fiction Writing Workshop, led first by Tessa Gratton and Natalie C. Parker, and most recently by Tina Connolly.
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 May 2020[update] Baringer and McKitterick continue to offer annually.
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.
In 2005, with donations from SFRA, SFWA, publishers, conventions, and individuals concerned with the field, the Center established AboutSF. AboutSF is the Center's educational outreach arm. Its primary goal is to engage and encourage educators to teach science fiction.
AboutSF has hosted Teaching Science Fiction workshops at several conventions in the past, notably for the LoneStarCon.
James Gunn's Ad Astra is an online and print magazine that publishes both fiction and scholarly articles in the field of science fiction. 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[update], Ad Astra is a going concern that has published seven issues.
James Gunn is the founder of the Center. Christopher McKitterick is the Director, 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.