banner with text that reads, J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, vintage design by McKitterick

This is part of an archived version of James Gunn's original Center for the Study of Science Fiction website, designed, built, and managed by McKitterick. The Center was run by Gunn, Johnson, and McKitterick 1992-2021, then taken over by the KU English department in 2022.

CSSF history overview 1969 - 2022

All content (except where otherwise noted) copyright Christopher McKitterick, 1992-2022.
Creative Commons License


Chris McKitterick, Kij Johnson, and James Gunn of Gunn's original Center for the Study of Science Fiction (1982-2021, the first of its kind in the world) managed the Campbell Conference / Gunn Center Conference until the Center was taken over (thus the timeline ending with the 2019 event). The new English SF Center does not own or manage the Conference, and we are seeking a new host organization friendly with our history and mission.

Campbell Conference
(renamed in 2018 "Gunn Center Conference")
1978 - 2019

  Thanks to everyone who attended the Conference over the years - we had a great time and made so many wonderful connections.
Congratulations to the winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards.
Ad Astra! 

For the final Conference, we had hoped to host - in person! - the 2022 conference and awards presentations as a collaborative event with ConQuesT 53 on Memorial Day Weekend at the Sheraton Crown Centerin Kansas City, MO. "Imaginative Reasoning" was the signature idea of our academic program director's mission statement. Unfortunately, after the KU English Department took over the Center in 2021-2022, the summer Conference was officially ended.

We will begin announcing guests beginning this spring after working out the organizational transition from the existing directorship to the upcoming center director appointed by the KU English Department chair.

In addition to exploring our theme and remembering James Gunn, we had hoped to celebrate the winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel (see the finalists here) and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF (see the finalists here), and host a reception for our attending Guests of Honor.

About the Conference

Held annually (after 1978, often at the University of Kansas, except for the special joint event in 2007 with SFRA, the Heinlein Centennial, the 2016 academic-programming track for MidAmeriCon II, and at this coming ConQuesT) until 2019, the Conference provided a setting for intelligent discussion about SF centered around the presentation of these science-fiction honors:

  • Since 1978, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the best science-fiction novel of the year.
  • Since 1987, the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short science fiction of the year.
  • From 1996–2004, the induction of honorees into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.
  • In 2013, the "Lifeboat to the Stars" Award.
  • Due to COVID-19, the 2019 Conference was the final live event.
  • After the KU English Department takeover of the Center in 2021-2022, the Conference was officially put to rest.
    What follows is the final event posting; we have also archived every past Conference back to 1996, linked from the bottom of this page.

We invite winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon awards (and often their editors) to the event. These Guests of Honor take home lucite trophies, and their names are also engraved on the permanent trophies that remain with the juries.

When McKitterick and Johnson headed Jim's Center, the Conference unofficially began on either Thursday evening with a guest talk, or Friday afternoon with an informal discussion about the profession of SF writing as the concluding event of their Writing Workshops and the kickoff of McKitterick's Intensive Institute in Science Fiction. After a break, we gathered for the Awards Ceremony and Banquet on Friday evening, followed by a reception to congratulate the winners. Saturday morning was devoted to a discussion (often round-table) centered on our theme. The afternoon often offers more discussion, readings, presentations, or other events, a group book-signing event, and an evening reception to gather and talk more intimately about what was said (or left unsaid) in the large groups. When we held Sunday events, it usually opened with a morning discussion between the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award winners and the other special guests, and then we often wrapped up with an informal afternoon get-together.

With this coming transition, this and future years' events are TBA.

Conference book signing from 2008
Kij Johnson, James Gunn, Chris McKitterick, and Frederik Pohl.

This Year's Speakers and Special Guests

In addition to regional authors and other guest authors and editors, the Conference usually brought the winners of the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award as Guests of Honor. Founding Director James Gunn was our permanent Special Guest of Honor until his death in 2020.

When we held an autograph session, the bookstore had available many works from these fine folks for you to purchase and get signed.

In Memoriam.

James Gunn was a science fiction author and historian, KU professor emeritus of English, SFWA Grand Master, and Founder of the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. He served as a past president of both SFRA and SFWA, chaired the Campbell Award jury from 1978-2018 to select the best science-fiction novel of the year, and served on the advisory board of the SF Hall of Famefor a number of years. See his page for a bibliography and a fuller bio, and this memorial tribute for some photos and several stories honoring his life.

Ruth Lichtwardt has worked with Jim's Center since its earliest days, and currently serves as Events Coordinator for the Conference and related events. As a KU student, Ruth took several of Gunn's writing classes and later initiated the tradition of the annual Conference book-signing 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 AboutSF as the recipient. She has also held various positions at several WorldCons including Hugo Awards administrator, and served as Chair of MidAmeriCon II, the 74th Worldcon, in Kansas City. Her day job has nothing to do with science fiction but helps feed the habit.
Contact Ruth for all your Conference needs: 

Chris McKitterick is an author, editor, and faculty at the University of Kansas, where he teaches, serves as juror and chair on the Campbell Memorial Award jury, and directs the new Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination (launch announcement here) and the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (1995-2022). His short fiction, nonfiction, and essays have been published in a number of magazines and anthologies, and his debut novel, Transcendence, was published by Hadley Rille Books. Chris teaches SF and creative writing at KU and elsewhere, and offers workshops and masterclasses around the world.

Michael Page co-chairs Academic Programming for the Conference and is a Research Fellow working with the Center. Mike teaches science fiction and holds an administrative position in the English Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Mike just published Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher, Scholar, the first critical study of James Gunn. His previous book, Frederik Pohl, was also released from the University of Illinois Press in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series. He's 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.

The Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award winners are always invited to be present to receive their awards, and their editors often attend, as well.

More guests TBA!

Keep your eye out for talks and readings by and about these special guests! We will continue to update the guest list until shortly before the Conference begins. Award winners and Hall of Fame inductees
Special Guests from 2004
George Zebrowski (Campbell Award 1999 winner and Sturgeon Award juror), Frederik Pohl (the only two-time Campbell winner, 1978 and 1985), Gregory Benford (Campbell 1981), Jack McDevitt (Campbell 2004), Brian Aldiss (1983 Campbell winner, SF&F Hall of Fame inductee, and First Fandom Hall of Fame inductee), and Hall of Fame inductee Harry Harrison. Aldiss and Harrison created the Campbell Award in 1972. Photo courtesy Karen Gunn.

Schedule of Events

Stay tuned!

Registration and Costs

Stay tuned for costs to attend this year's special event. If COVID is still raging, We hope to offer both traditional live gathering and streaming Zoom event.

Contact Ruth Lichtwardt for all your conference questions or needs, or to make a last-minute Awards Banquet reservation: Award winners and James Gunn at 2007 Heinlein Centennial Gala
Campbell and Sturgeon winners from 2007
James Gunn, Campbell Award winner Ben Bova, and Sturgeon Award winner Robert Charles Wilson.
Photo courtesy Keith Stokes.



Feel free to drop Ruth Lichtwardt a line with any Conference questions or needs.

Award winners at the 2009 Campbell Conference Awards Banquet
Cory Doctorow, Ian MacLeod, James Alan Gardner (James Gunn in background). Photo by Keith Stokes.

The conference is the central feature of the local summer SF program, and it often concludes Chris McKitterick's Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop and Kij Johnson's Novel Writing Workshop, and kicks off an Intensive Institute on Science Fiction Literature, a Young Adult Writing Workshop, and two advanced "Repeat Offenders" writing workshops that follow.

2021 Event

We hope to offer the Conference at the ConQuesT SF convention in Kansas City.

Photos from Past Conferences

Click the links below to see Keith Stokes' MidAmerican Fan photo-archives of previous years' activities.

2015 Conference

2014 Conference

2013 Conference

2012 Conference

2011 Conference

2010 Conference

2009 Conference

2008 Conference (by Ed Carmien)

2007 Conference

2006 Conference

2006 Conference (by Tracy Majkol)

2005 Conference

2004 Conference

2003 Conference

2002 Conference

2001 Conference

2000 Conference

1998 Conference

1997 Conference

1996 Conference