Center for the Study of Science Fiction
Conference 2021-2022
Imagined Worlds, Imaginative Reasoning:
Honoring James Gunn


Location TBA

Connect with SF authors, scholars, editors, and fans while celebrating the best SF of the year.
In an intimate setting, discuss topics relevant to the human condition and the science-fiction field.
Since 1974.

About the Conference

Special Guests

Schedule of Events


Airport Transportation

         Updated March 4, 2021

  Thanks to everyone who attended last event - we had a great time and made lots of connections.
Congratulations to the winners of the Campbell and Sturgeon Awards. Ad Astra! 

This year's Conference will be a collaborative event with local SF organizations, where "Imaginative Reasoning" is the signature idea of our academic program director's mission statement.

We hope to host - in person! - the Conference this year in Spring 2022 (likely at the ConQuesT SF convention in Kansas City). Though we have held the event all over the world for various special occasions, we usually host most activities in Lawrence, Kansas, including a group signing by attending author and editor guests. We will begin announcing our guests beginning this fall and continue adding more throughout the winter as plans firm up.

In addition to exploring our theme and remembering James Gunn, we'll 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 winning Guests of Honor.

About the Conference

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

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

Usually, the Conference unofficially begins 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 McKitterick and Johnson's Writing Workshops and the kickoff of McKitterick's Intensive Institute in Science Fiction. After a break, we gather for the Awards Ceremony and Banquet on Friday evening, followed by a reception to congratulate the winners. Saturday morning is 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 is followed by an evening reception to gather and talk more intimately about what was said (or left unsaid) in the large groups. When we hold Sunday events, it usually opens with a morning discussion between the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award winners and the other special guests, and then we often wrap up with an informal afternoon get-together.

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 brings to Lawrence the winners of the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award as Guests of Honor. CSSF Founding Director James Gunn was our permanent Special Guest of Honor until his death in 2020.

During the autograph session on Saturday, the bookstore will have 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 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 on this website for his bibliography and a fuller bio, and this memorial tribute for some photos and several stories honoring his life.

Kij Johnson's fantasy and SF novels and short stories have won the Sturgeon Award (which she now serves as juror), World Fantasy Award (which she also serves as juror), Nebula Award (three times), IAFA Crawford Award, and Hugo Award. Kij is Associate Director of the SF Center, teaches her Science Fiction & Fantasy Novel Writing Workshops as well as a number of other regular-semester writing and fantasy-related courses at KU, where she is Assistant Professor of Fiction Writing in the English Department.

Ruth Lichtwardt has worked with SF Centersince its earliest days, and currently serves as Events Coordinator for the Conference and other SF Center events. As a KU student, Ruth took several of Jim 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 SF Center's 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 Center 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.

Campbell 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. 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:

Campbell 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 SF Center's 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.

Transportation to the 2021 Event

We hope to offer this year's 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

Giselle Anatol and other SFRA speakers at the 2008 Conference
KU and other SFRA speakers at the 2008 Conference.