"The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary."
- Ursula K. Le Guin
Speculative fiction has long been the most popular form of storytelling. Humankind is living in the future, now, a world changing incredibly, incomprehensibly, fast. What if? What's next? What else? What does it mean to be human in a universe filled with other forms of life? What's "human," anyway? SF explores these and other questions through art that informs, entertains, extrapolates, and inspires. (More about this in "Defining Science Fiction.")
The Ad Astra Institute is a non-profit bringing creators, readers, educators, and fans of SF together with STEM professionals to study and create speculative fiction. At its heart, Ad Astra is a community: The people we work with create and teach art that opens minds and imaginations, reaching for the stars and "Saving the world through science fiction!"
Our award-winning staff and faculty have been involved in SF for decades - running conventions, conferences, workshops, and research centers, as well as publishing in the field. Ad Astra is the spiritual successor of SF Grand Master and Hall of Fame inductee James Gunn's original Center for the Study of SF, established at the University of Kansas in 1983. Our directors began working with Jim in the 1990s and served his center until shortly after his death, when it was subsumed into a college department. In 2021 we founded the KU Ad Astra Center as an umbrella for our workshops and educational outreach. A new rule in 2023 made us re-establish as the independent Ad Astra Institute for SF & the Speculative Imagination, where we're building the comprehensive program we always dreamed of!
We believe stories grow empathy - necessary for creating a livable future. They touch hearts and souls and bring us closer, and the unique perspectives of SF deepen empathy so the Other becomes someone we can care about.
We bring the "two cultures" - STEM and the arts - together to help prepare for what's to come, bridging the divide by showcasing cutting-edge research while helping creatives engage with forces rapidly re-shaping our world. Through expert talks, creative workshops, masterclasses, teacher-education and public-interest courses, social-media outreach, media and textual inspiration, and more that you'll find on this website, we seek to educate and enrich creatives and the broader public alike. And we're always looking to partner with creative educators and STEM professionals to grow our offerings.
We actively encourage people from diverse backgrounds to collaborate in the creative process. Most of our course offerings are available in-person and streaming to enable people from around the world to participate whether or not they can attend in person, and our content gets posted to our YouTube and other social media, and throughout this website. We offer scholarships to give people of all economic situations equal access.
Join us in working to save the world through science fiction!
Stay tuned for our blog, announcements, and lots more! In the meantime...