Mission and History

CSSF Mission

Since 1982, the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) has offered courses, classroom resources, writing awards, and public events focused on shared inquiry, celebration, and creation of genres such as science fiction, fantasy, Afrofuturism, fabulist fiction, horror, fan fiction, speculative poetry, neo-Gothic narratives, and posthumanism.

At CSSF, we believe that through our encounter with different worlds, we come to know the one we all share; we also become better equipped to create new possibilities within it. Our ongoing mission is to foster a global community of students, scholars, artists, educators, and enthusiasts who are interested in exploring the limitless potential of the human imagination, whether that be to question, to play, or to dream the future.

A Brief History of CSSF

The Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (CSSF) was established by the Kansas Board of Regents in 1982 at the University of Kansas by Prof. James E. Gunn (1923 – 2020). It was the first such organization established at a major university, and envisioned as a focus point for the outreach Gunn began in 1969 with his Science Fiction Lecture Series. Although it finds its administrative home in the KU Department of English, it draws from the expertise of faculty, staff, and students throughout the university as well as SF aficionados from Lawrence, KS, the greater Kansas City area, and around the world. In 1991, a generous endowment by Dr. Richard W. Gunn, James Gunn’s brother, allowed further expansion of CSSF’s activities and prompted its re-naming as the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, in honor of the siblings’ parents.

Over the decades, events and offerings have included the administration and presentation of the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (est. 1987) for best short SF of the year; the presentation of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (est. 1973) for best science fiction novel of the year (now administered by the Kansas City Science Fiction & Fantasy Society); an annual summer Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction; the annual workshops on crafting science fiction and speculative fiction; the launch of James Gunn's Ad Astra, a multidimensional journal of fiction, nonfiction, essays, reviews, and multimedia; AboutSF, an educational-outreach program serving local educators and librarians interested in SF pedagogy to help get SF into the hands of young people; and undergraduate and graduate courses in the departments of English, French & Francophone Studies, and Slavic & Eurasian Languages & Literatures.