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Intensive Institute on Science Fiction Literature

Become fluent in SF by becoming familiar with some of the most-influential works
that shaped the genre. Since 1975.

The University of Kansas continues its role as the leader in science fiction education. I can do no greater service to teachers than to repeat the advice that I gave in Anatomy of Wonder 4: you should attend one of the Intensive Institutes on the Teaching of Science Fiction offered at the University of Kansas each summer.

-Dennis M. Kratz, Anatomy of Wonder 5

Information Map
Reading List
Academic Credit
Housing for the Institute
Enrollment Information and Request Form
Diversity and Disability
Transportation from Airport to Lawrence
Lawrence in the Summer

The Intensive Institute on Science Fiction Literature normally runs for 12 consecutive days. James Gunn offered this course for professionalization since 1975, and in 2010 Chris McKitterick began leading it, making it available for KU undergraduate or graduate credit in addition to the professional offering.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend at least the Saturday and Sunday events of the SF Conference, which often runs the weekend before classroom discussion begins, and even consider attending the Thursday evening and Friday events. Basic Conference membership is now included free to all summer-program registrants; note that you are an SF Institute student when you register. You are also invited to attend the Awards Ceremony and Banquet on Friday evening, but you must still register and pay for the meal if you wish to eat. The Conference usually brings the winners of the Campbell Award and Sturgeon Award to the campus as guests, as well as other special guests, and it's a great way to meet professionals in the field.

Institute topics alternate each year between the short stories in the first four volumes of James Gunn's six-volume historical anthology, The Road to Science Fiction; and 25 novels. See below for the full syllabus of both versions. A variant version of the SF Institute is also available as a full-semester course, so that KU students may study both the long and short genres over the course of a single year.

We usually meet in the same lovely scholarship-hall lobby where the SF Workshops meet - KU Housing assigns space late in the Spring (information for out-of-town guests and students is also available below).

SF Institute members from 2014.

SF Institute members from 2008.

The purpose of the Institute is to provide an understanding of contemporary and future science fiction through studying the history of SF. We read a diversity of influential SF and discuss how the genre got to be what it is today by comparing stories and their place in the evolution of SF, from the earliest prototypical examples through recent work. Permission from Chris McKitterick must be obtained at least a month before the first session so that reading can be completed before the class begins.

Director Chris McKitterick co-taught the course with James Gunn from 1995-2010, then redesigned the course while he led it from then onward. We often hold evening get-togethers with attendees and review student papers as requested.

So as not to compete with other summer courses - which are almost all scheduled for the morning hours - in-person Institute sessions begin promptly at 1:00pm and normally end by 4:30pm, though sometimes discussions might run a bit longer, and attendees usually gather for dinner together each evening in beautiful downtown Lawrence. Class likely meets in a lounge in the same Housing facility where out-of-town guests stay. Classes meet on both Saturday and Sunday between the first and second weeks.

Housing and meals, if desired, can be arranged separately. The group usually gathers each evening for dinner at lovely downtown Lawrence restaurants. Information on housing and a form to indicate interest in the Institute or Workshop can be found below.

Try to complete all the readings before the course begins; students who fail to do so quickly fall behind, and everyone is expected to participate in the discussions. There are no exams, but students write short (one page or less) responses to each day's set of readings - in advance of the day's session - and a final project.

If taking the class for credit, your grade is based on attendance, participation, response papers, and a final paper due the week after the course ends. This paper may be one of the following:

  • An ambitious essay about a few books by one author, novels by varied authors discussing a single theme, or several short stories (recommended for SF scholars).
  • A course outline or lesson plan for an SF course, or a detailed study guide for a novel or set of stories (recommended for educators).
  • An original science-fiction short story or other creative work (recommended for aspiring authors).

Permission to enroll must be obtained from Chris McKitterick well before the course begins (at least one month) so you have time to read the materials in advance of our intensive meeting times.


For more details on how the course operates, full list of readings, and other information, ask to see the syllabi. You can find older versions of the SF Novels syllabus here, and the Short Fiction syllabus here.

We alternate between studying and discussing the short stories and novels from the reading lists below.

Short-Fiction Reading List

We read and discussed the first four (of six) volumes of The Road to Science Fiction anthology, edited by James Gunn:

Full details about which stories we'll be reading and discussing on each day is available in the syllabus. For further reading, Gunn has also edited two more volumes (recommended, but not required):

You can also order the revised editions of the first four volumes directly from Scarecrow Press. Use the Quick Search keywords "James Gunn"

You will find this handy Readings Guide very useful in finding the stories in our various volumes.

Novels Reading List

Here's the reading order for the novels version of the course:
  1. Session One: In the beginning: The Time Machine and Childhood's End
  2. Session Two: The alien peril: The War of the Worlds and The Puppet Masters
  3. Session Three: The human condition: The Caves of Steel and Dune
  4. Session Four: Thought experiments: Mission of Gravity and The Left Hand of Darkness
  5. Session Five: Evolution continues: The World of Null-A and More than Human
  6. Session Six: Invoking the social sciences: The Demolished Man and The Languages of Pao
  7. Session Seven: SF and the mainstream: The Sirens of Titan, Dying Inside The Handmaid's Tale, and The Listeners
  8. Session Eight: Dystopia and beyond: Stand on Zanzibar and Gateway
  9. Session Nine: Tinkering with history: The Man in the High Castle and Timescape
  10. Session Ten: The biological imperative: Darwin's Radio and Dawn (book one of the Xenogenesis trilogy)
  11. Session Eleven: Cyberpunk and the Singularity: Neuromancer and Accelerando (free download here)
  12. Session Twelve: Looking backward and forward: Perdido Street Station and Consider Phlebas

Some of these volumes might be difficult to find, so we urge you seek copies early and, when books are out of print, search used bookstores and online services (we provide links to two major online booksellers after each title, above). The Jayhawk bookstore tries to always have copies of these books on hand. 

Here is the full list of the novels. NOTE: This list has been updated over the years to reflect recent important works that helped shape the genre.

Here are the books that have been removed since McKitterick began revising the Institute in 2008 - still important and recommended works for understanding the history of the SF novel, but we only have so much time to discuss everything:

We hold a few copies of many of these books, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for our other summer programs, check with us to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and our library is supplied by previous students donating copies after completing their course.

Sessions are usually held in a lobby in residence hall. Classes meet every day of the period including Saturday and Sunday. Institute sessions begin at 1:00pm and normally end around 4:30pm. Students often gather for lunch beforehand, and for dinner, movies, and further discussions in the evening.

Academic Credit

We have recently made this course available for KU credit. The Institute offers three hours of KU undergraduate credit or for KU graduate credit. Write early if you wish to take the course for credit but are not a KU student.

This course has been offered for professionalization (not-for-credit, especially for teachers, librarians, and serious scholars) since 1975 directly through the Center, but you must first get permission from Chris McKitterick. Most non-KU students take this route.

Enrollment Information

To take this course for professionalization (not for credit), reserve your spot by contacting Chris McKitterick or my email ( between January and late May - earlier registration is better, as the space often fills! If you are accepted, we'll contact you with registration instructions. If required for a non-credit student, we can provide a certificate of completion for the course; just let us know.

If you are not a current KU student but wish to take the course for graduate credit, you need to apply as a non-degree-seeking graduate student. Fill out this KU application form and supply a copy of an official transcript showing proof of an undergraduate degree. On the application form is an area for comments/notes. Indicate that you wish to enroll only for the summer SF Teaching Institute (graduate credit). You must enroll using the KU online enrollment system, and you need a permission code sometime before May. You can officially enroll for graduate credit after you have the code, but be sure to enroll by June 1 or KU will charge a late-enrollment fee. If you have any questions about the application or enrollment process, please contact our administrative assistant or McKitterick.

KU undergraduate students register for and pay for this course as normal; this serves as a capstone to the major.

Contact us for any logistical help you might need in getting settled for your stay.


For credit-seeking students, the majority of your cost is University of Kansas tuition for 3 credits (undergraduate or graduate). Non-residents should expect to pay more for KU credit.

To take this course as normal (not-for-credit), contact us for details.

Because of new procedures change how the University makes housing available to summer programs, we have changed our rate structure, with a single flat rate that includes tuition, administrative costs, and housing, payable within a short time after acceptance (details in your acceptance letter). Please inform us as soon as possible if you have a roommate; we cannot find room-shares for you.

Make payments payable to University of Kansas. Please complete your registration and make all payments before you arrive.

Meals and incidental costs rise the longer you stay, of course, so plan appropriately.

As soon as you get approval to be part of the Institute, please send a check made out to the University of Kansas in the spring. We require that not-for-credit students send their reservation and payment by May 20, or we might not be able to reserve a position in the course. 


Our official dorm housing is likely to be one of the lounges in Rieger Scholarship Hall at 1323 Ohio Street, located near the Kansas Student Union, Oread Hotel, and downtown Lawrence.

Rooms share a bathroom, either with an adjacent room or down the hall (3 stalls and showers/bath per 6 rooms), and have a sink and counter space for a microwave or other small kitchen equipment. Other building amenities include a lovely wraparound porch with seating (including a chair-swing or two), basketball court, refrigerator, coffee and tea equipment, and many private study areas. We are conveniently located just down the hill from the KU Student Union and a few blocks' walk from lovely downtown Lawrence. Be sure to let us know if you have special needs.

Housing does not include meals, but these are available in the nearby Kansas Union and a variety of wonderful restaurants, and Lawrence offers at least one fine micro-brewery. Check out or Yelp's Lawrence page for a list of many of the local eating establishments. We head downtown most evenings for group dinners with all those interested!

The default housing arrangement is now a single room with a shared bath for each attendee. Some double rooms may be available for people who request them, but we will not be able to find roommates for you.

Housing cannot accommodate check-ins earlier than the Sunday before class begins or stays beyond the last day of class.

Logistical information collected over the years is available on our legacy LiveJournal.

Housing costs have gone up dramatically, but we do not wish to pass on the increase. If you'd like to help future attendees, please consider making a tax-deductible donation! Click the button below to give using a credit card, or write a check made out to Ad Astra SF and mail it or bring it with you. Thanks!

Diversity and Disability

Everyone enjoys equal access to my offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. All courses offered by Center faculty are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). Click here to see our Diversity Statement.

The Academic Achievement and Access Center (AAAC) coordinates accommodations and services for eligible KU students. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodation and have not contacted the AAAC, please do so as soon as possible. Their office is located in 22 Strong Hall; their phone number is (785)864-4064 (V/TTY). Also please contact us privately about your needs in this course.

Transportation from Airport to Lawrence


Here's a cropped map of the University of Kansas (click the image to see it in full-screen size):
 click for larger map

Here's a map showing where KU is located in Eastern Kansas:

University of Kansas map.

Kansas Union map (in .pdf format).

Lawrence bus routes and maps.

Google Maps centered on the KU Kansas Union.

Lawrence in the Summer

For anyone who hasn't visited, Lawrence is wonderful, a lively small city in the Kaw River valley, filled with art, events and activities. The location of the University of Kansas, Lawrence is situated about 40 miles from Kansas City and 20 miles from Topeka. Summers can be hot, but classrooms and housing are air-conditioned.

Among its many amenities, the University of Kansas has a large science-fiction collection and good reference collections; museums of natural history and art; and sports, theater, and concerts. Lawrence has many excellent restaurants and shopping and recreational opportunities. Kansas City is less than an hour away. Nighttime opportunities include movies, dinner, concerts, and star-gazing sessions.

The nearest major airport is Kansas City International, about 55 miles from Lawrence. Transportation to Lawrence from Kansas City International can be arranged through one of several airport shuttle services. By car, Lawrence is at the intersection of U.S. 59 and I-70 (Kansas Turnpike). The west interchange is closer to the campus. Lawrence can also be reached along the lovely Kansas Highway 10.

Find out all about Lawrence - its history, stores, museums, observatories, and SFnal activities - here.

Contact us for any logistical help you might need in getting settled for your stay:

Chris McKitterick (

Connect with Ad Astra

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.

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