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Chris McKitterick bio

Hello!IN RETROSPECT, Chris' diverse experiences and education seem to have been tailored for a life in science fiction. A childhood spent moving from town to town and living in Korea for a year taught him to love and seek new places and people, and being the alien helped him to understand the notion of the "Other." His earliest idol was spaceflight pioneer Robert H. Goddard, which led him to (mostly failed) rocketry experiments. Autodidactic education in astronomy, paleontology, geology, and anthropology led to formal college coursework in astronomy, which he began teaching in high school. His first years at the University of Minnesota focused on astrophysics, until Chris recognized that his real passion was observational astronomy; this led him to work for the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire, where he served as planetarian in the Phillips Planetarium, as well as Assistant Director of the university observatory and Hobbs Observatory in Fall Creek. Also in his undergraduate years, a desire to understand people better drove him to study psychology and child development.

But his first love has always been expressing joy and wonder and hopes and fears in the form of fiction and poetry, so in his third year (of six) in college (not a lot of crossover credit), he shifted his goal of becoming an astrophysicist or therapist and embraced his true calling - writing - earning a BA in Creative Writing. After graduation, he served as the primary substitute teacher for a K-12 school in a tiny northeastern Montana town, where he wrote several stories, a book of poetry, and a novel. As much as he loved the dark skies, Badlands bristling with fossils, and endless prairie of this rough territory, he moved on to pursue studies in science fiction literature and writing under SF Grand Master James Gunn at the University of Kansas. This proved a pivotal experience, and several of the stories and papers he wrote for Gunn, as well as his thesis, saw publication. He became involved in Gunn's original science fiction center in 1992, returning after grad school to continue studying and apprenticing with him, co-teaching their unique, month-long, literature-and-fiction-writing summer SF program. Meanwhile, Chris worked for a number of gaming and tech companies in the Seattle area, finally landing as a technical writer, editor, and documentation project manager for Microsoft. After seven years away, he returned to Kansas to teach writing and SF, and succeeded Gunn as the final director of his original center. (The summer 2022 Spec-Fic Workshop marked his 30th anniversary of teaching the SF Summer program.)

In 2015, he was invited to attend his first workshop in decades purely as a student: The Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction, hosted by the Joint Quantum Institute. This intensive workshop provided an in-depth "crash course" in quantum physics for science fiction writers through three days of lectures and discussions with the world's top quantum-physics researchers, guided tours of JQI's labs, and off-campus events with NASA officials and other scientists. In 2019, he was invited to the LaunchPad Astronomy Workshop, another intensive workshop for science fiction writers, hosted by the University of Wyoming and led by Mike Brotherton, Jim Verley, and others.

In 2021, after KU-English declared an intention to take control of Gunn's original SF center and subsume it into departmental and KU academics, Chris announced his resignation and launch of the KU Ad Astra Center to pursue our vision of "Saving the world through science fiction" and carry on and grow our shared educational-outreach legacy. It began operations in 2022, marking Chris' 30th annniversary of serving SF at KU [omg]. Here's the press release. In 2023, new KU rules prompted him to expand Ad Astra into the independent, not-for-profit Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination to focus on educational outreach and serving under-served audiences.

To pay forward the unique and humbling learning opportunities provided him over the years, McKitterick makes it his mission to offer, through Ad Astra, one of the most outstanding, holistic SF educations available anywhere in the world today, and shares as much of his teaching materials as possible here and elsewhere.

Chris' award-winning creative work has appeared in Abyss & Apex, Aftermaths, Analog, Captain Proton, E-Scape, Global Warming Aftermaths, James Gunn's Ad Astra, Mission Tomorrow, Mythic Circle, NOTA, Ruins: Extraterrestrial, Sentinels: In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke, SFRA Review, Synergy: New Science Fiction, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Top Deck magazine, various TSR publications, Visual Journeys: A Tribute to Space Art, Westward Weird, a bowling poem anthology, and elsewhere. A poem or two became lyrics for songs. His "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust" made the Tangent Recommended Reading List and won the Analytical Laboratories Readers Award (AnLab) for best novelette.

His debut novel, Transcendence, is widely available in its second edition, plus as a free download on his Patreon. He recently finished the far-future novel Empire Ship and the first book in The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella, and has several other projects on the burners, including the next Jack & Stella book, a collection of short fiction, a poetry collection, a book on SF writing, and Stories From a Perilous Youth - a humorous memoir of surviving childhood and the Cold War.

His scholarly writing has appeared in many publications including Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Argentus, The Astounding Analog Companion, Extrapolation, Foundation, James Gunn's Ad Astra, Libraries Unlimited, Locus, NOTA, Saving the World Through Science Fiction, Sense of Wonder, SFRA Review, various TSR publications, and World Literature Today. McKitterick was honored to be guest editor (and webmaster) of the special World Literature Today "International Science Fiction" issue, with much internet-exclusive content available online. He also wrote several pieces for the issue and developed the website.

Other writing projects have included a weekly astronomy newsletter, science articles, and software-related documentation and advertising materials. When he lived in Seattle, he served as editor, writer, and documentation manager for the Microsoft Windows Resource Kits, which technically made him a best-selling author. He doesn't like to think too much about that. On the other hand, his contributions to those projects helped win a bunch of STC awards in technical communication, which he thinks is kinda cool.

He recently launched a Patreon, so follow to see all kinds of works in progress, new things, and general blog fun. Thanks to generous patrons, almost everything there is free for all! If you'd like to support Ad Astra, he set up a couple of tiers specifically for that.

Chris has been director (with invaluable help from Kij Johnson and a bunch of volunteers) of two SF centers and an institute, including the first science-fiction center in the world! We offer a ton of stuff, including a diversity of SF literature and writing courses and programs to get science fiction into the hands of young people. If you're interested in helping keep our genre vital through the influx of new readers, and you want to help youngsters enjoy the thrill and sense of wonder you remember, get involved! He also helped launch the educator-focused outreach and resource program, Other science fiction duties include organizing and serving as nominations director for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF story of the year from 1993-2016, and as nominations director and juror for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year (Chair since 2018). In 2016, he was asked to organize and head up the academic-programming track of the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City (MidAmeriCon II). He's served as an auctioneer for the annual ConQuesT SF convention in Kansas City since 2017.

Chris was honored to be guest editor (and webmaster) of the special May/June 2010 World Literature Today "International Science Fiction" issue, with much internet-exclusive content available online. Check it out! He is a regular speaker on SF, science, teaching, and writing, and was stoked to be give the keynote talks at the 2012 UCO Liberal Arts Symposium (keynote on SF as the mythology for a changing age); the 2014 Southwest Philosophical Society Conference (keynote on SF and philosophy); the 2015 University of Iowa Medical Science Training Program retreat (keynote on "Positive Feedback Loops: Science Fiction and Science"); and to serve as Special Guest at the China SF Convention in Beijing, where he taught SF writing workshops, spoke on panels, and gave radio and TV interviews.

As a young'un, Chris started the Ortonville space program - whose most successful launch only reached about 30 feet - as part of the Ortonville Science Society (the OSS, natch), and edited the monthly journal. He has built nearly 100 telescopes. Currently, he teaches science fiction, creative writing, and editing at the Ad Astra Institute, University of Kansas, and beyond.

He lives with a parade of little housemates including a cat (Miette Kitty), a tree frog, a snake, several fancy bugs and fish, some rescue mice, Sylvie and Agnes the rescue squirrels (now living outdoors with their babies), GusGus the rescue possum, three cockatiels, and dozens of outdoor pets. He's shared his home with many other pets including cats: Tatsuko (aka "Neko no tatsuko shikibu," who had her own LJ) and a three-legged terror (Sanju, a.k.a. Peep); a silver mouse (Sophia); a hamster (Hammie-Boy, who followed Chloe, who also had her own LJ); Fetish-Kitty; a German Shepherd dog (a.k.a. "Sid, Dog of Peace"); a collie-dog Hope, who was rescued from the Lawrence Humane Society (here's another shot of Hope with a little monster he fostered for a while); Helen kitty (aka "The Great Helen of Peerless Whose Face Could Launch a Thousand Combines"); Spot the Mouse and other lovely mice; and Kosmo the aquatic frog. Somehow he never lived with a monkey.

Visit Chris' Tumblr me or selfies tags if you want to see pics of him (and other tags for lots of other photos); here to see his Facebook photos page, here to see links to more photos, and his old LiveJournal still hosts photo-gallery pages. And of course he posts tons more on his Tumblr, Instagram, and Patreon blogs.

Want to see his ridiculously long (work made me do it) C.V.? Here it is (pdf).

Chris lives in Lawrence, where he teaches science fiction and writing at the University of Kansas and beyond (see his classes here), dwells amid thousands of books and dozens of critters, restores old vehicles, watches the sky, and enjoys life with the best wife in the history of ever. Current hobbies include fostering critters, doing astronomy, blogging, gaming with friends, building and restoring ridiculous vehicles, and many other things he'd like to be doing but hasn't had time to do. But ain't that always the case.

One of his happiest claims to fame is one of his stories being quoted in a medical journal: "Anecdotal evidence is legitimate if it appears in sufficient quantity."

Come say hello at one of Chris' online hangouts:

       Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination


       Facebook (pretty active)



        The Internet Speculative Fiction Database

       James Gunn's original Center for the Study of Science Fiction




       SFWA Speaker's Bureau

       Tumblr (main online hangout)




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We believe strongly in the free sharing of information, so you'll find a lot of content - including course syllabi and many materials from our classes - on this and related sites and social networks as educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study, or to adapt it for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to this website. We'd also love to hear from you if you used our materials!

This site is associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), AboutSF, and other organizations, and its contents are copyright 1992-present Christopher McKitterick except where noted, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License: Feel free to use and adapt for non-profit purposes, with attribution. For publication or profit purposes, please contact McKitterick or other creators as noted.

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Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

updated 11/19/2023