International Space Station image of an aurora over Earth, 
with Mars and Venus shining bright behind the words Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination
About the Ad Astra Institute   Ad Astra Institute Blog   Ad Astra Institute Workshops and Courses   Ad Astra Institute News   Ad Astra Institute Resources for Speculative Fiction Writers, Educators, and Fans

"Creativity and the Brain"
Inspirational talk Nov 3, 2022 (and a second demo)
Developmental session Nov 12-13
Critique session Dec 17-18

"Science into Fiction" Writing Workshop Series #2

Using STEM-expert talks and the short-story form, we help you develop ideas and master the elements that create great stories.
Since 2022.


Series #1 inspirational talk video: "The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe"
Series #2 inspirational talk and tech demo video: "Creativity and the Brain"

Sign up now to apply for the Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination's second speculative-fiction writing cycle! We'll continue to offer our traditional (two-week residential) Spec-Fic Writing Workshops each summer, but with the AdAstranaut "Science into Fiction" Spec-Fic Writing Workshop Series we're offering an ongoing, year-round series of interdisciplinary bi-monthly workshops, seminars, talks, write-ins, and much more led by McKitterick and a wide diversity of experts in many fields designed to help writers gain what we hope is the most well-rounded workshop experience offered anywhere!

Award-winning author, spec-fic educator, and Ad Astra Center director Chris McKitterick leads the workshops. After Dr Barbara Kerr's talk, "Creativity and the Brain," on Thursday, November 3 at 6:30pm Central (in person at the Lawrence Public Library with the video now also available on our YouTube channel), events for our second spec-fic writing workshop cycle will run for six weeks, both online and in-person in Lawrence, Kansas. Writers in our first AdAstranaut workshop participated from three cities across the country, including half who attended with McKitterick and Baringer in the Ad Astra Center's office (or "shrine to science fiction," as one attendee describes it).

Workshops begin with idea and story-development sessions on the weekend of November 12-13, continue through AdAstranaut write groups each week, and culminate with story-critique sessions on the weekend of December 17-18. Sessions begin at noon (US Central time) and - depending on how many participants enroll - run 4-5 hours each day (ending by 4:00 or 5:00pm on Saturday and Sunday).

For the Series #1 workshops, experimental particle physicist, physics professor, and spec-fic fan Philip Baringer - our first Ad Astra Presents speaker - joined us to offer expert advice. Watch Phil's inspirational talk - "The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe: Facts, Speculation, and the Story of a Little Ripple with a Big Bang" on the Ad Astra YouTube channel now.

Similarly, Barbara Kerr hopes to participate in the workshops, as well. Dr Kerr is co-director of the Center for Creativity and Entrepreneurship Education at KU, a Distinguished Professor of Counseling Psychology, and an American Psychological Association Fellow. She specializes in psychology of creativity; issues of gender, privilege, and talent development; and innovations in counseling and therapy.

We host workshop sessions for those attending in-person via the Ad Astra Institute space, which sports a library, SF memorabilia, and a wall of windows overlooking the University of Kansas' beautiful Potter Lake at the center of campus. Weekend and evening parking is free beside our building when football games are not in session. Write groups will take place there as well as in downtown coffee shops. All activities are hybrid, and also run simultaneously online as needed - we have a nice microphone and speaker setup in the room to accomodate those who cannot attend in person.

Developmental sessions are designed to help writers brainstorm and develop ideas and fictional worlds, deepen characters and their relationships, map out story structure, and address other elements so they can have a complete story in the next 4-5 weeks. Participants are encouraged but not required to turn in a finished story for the critique session - that is, you can apply to only get developmental feedback for something that might take you longer to write. All Series #1 writers did the full course of workshop events, and the projects turned out fantastic.

For critique sessions, we'll use the process I've found most useful over the years: Everyone reads and critiques everyone else's stories, then we discuss them in a round-robin format, and I'll offer my thoughts last, usually with a short talk on some relevant aspects of writing. We offer time at the beginning for authors to ask specific questions they'd like us to address, and after each set of critiques we hold open discussion. I prefer this over random discussion or lectures because writers learn as much from critiquing others' stories as from hearing critiques of their own work. It also makes for a much more interactive, lively, and involving discussion for all.

Participants are invited to participate in regular Ad Astra Institute write groups (in person and online) with their cohort and other writers, for support, to encourage accountability, and to provide a productive atmosphere to get writing done.

I've designed this extended workshop cycle to empower participants through the full process of inspiration through idea through drafting through finished story in just six weeks - to give you a taste of working like a professional author, and to help folks get writing done! We're scheduling workshop sessions only over weekends and write groups mostly at night to improve accessibility for those who cannot get away during weekdays.

I'm so excited to launch the year-round AdAstranaut program! It's designed to provide the deepest, broadest, most comprehensive education for folks who want to learn how to write, understand, and teach spec-fic available anywhere - essentially, we've designed the optimal program I would have wanted for myself when I first began my journey into the SF universe (only better now because tech allows us to offer these things globally and asynchronously). AdAstranauts earn points for attending talks, workshops, write groups, and more and track their progress to the stars - we'll provide certificates of completion and other fun things (as well as discounted fees on future workshops and masterclasses) as participants virtually reach the Moon, Mars, and beyond in your writing journey!

I firmly believe that the modes of inquiry speculative fiction enables offer our best hope for understanding the diversity of human experience and helping build a better shared future. If you don't need an MFA (and good luck finding one that specializes in speculative fiction - or even allows or understands it), consider taking our workshops and becoming an AdAstranaut!

McKitterick will send all enrolled participants complete workshop guidelines and process well in advance of both sessions. We'll use the Ad Astra Center's #AdAstranaut Discord channel for those who need to or would like to participate online. Participants needn't work on stories that specifically use this cycle's inspirational-talk topic - all ideas and spec-fic subgenres are welcome! - but try to take full advantage of the talk and other materials we'll share with participants for inspiration and to get the most from our expert's ideas. For example, thinking about how our universe is structured helps with worldbuilding for any genre!

 

Everyone comments on every story, we analyze each story for publishability, and encourage writers to submit their work for publication.

After this workshop series, we'll continue to offer more expert talks and other opportunities to learn more about spec-fic and writing. Every two months we plan to offer a new "Science into Fiction" AdAstranaut Workshop Series, and we'll host a writing-journey tracker for those who continue to engage with cutting-edge research, writing workshops, and popular media. Track your path to the stars and earn certificates that show your dedication to the art!

We encourage participants to remain in regular contact, continuing participation in future AdAstranaut workshops series and write-ins, supporting one another's writing careers, and even continuing to critique one another's work. The AdAstranaut experience is more than a two-weekend adventure; it's a community!

Instructors

Christopher McKitterick
Workshops Leader


Selfie of Chris McKitterick reflected in an astronaut helmet at NASA's Mission Control, Johnson Space Center.

McKitterick leads the workshops, helping develop participants' work, critiquing stories, and giving short talks on writing. He's been taking writing and science workshops across the country since the 1980s, and has taught residential writing workshops, masterclasses, and full-semester courses at the University of Kansas and around the world since 1992.

He launched the Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination (announcement) in 2021 after having directed James Gunn's original Center for the Study of Science Fiction with Gunn and Kij Johnson from 1995-2022. 

Chris' short work has appeared in markets including Aftermaths, Analog, Argentus, Artemis, Captain Proton, Discovery Channel Magazine, E-Scape, Extrapolation, Foundation, James Gunn's Ad Astra, Libraries Unlimited, Locus, Mission Tomorrow, Mythic Circle, NOTA, Ruins: Extraterrestrial, Sentinels, Sense of Wonder, SFRA Review, Synergy, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Top Deck magazine, various TSR publications, Visual Journeys, Westward Weird, World Literature Today, a bowling poem anthology, and elsewhere.

His "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust" made the Tangent Recommended Reading List and won the AnLab Reader's Award for best novelette - his first major fiction-writing honor. He regularly publishes nonfiction about SF and other writings, including a poem or two that became lyrics for songs. His debut novel, Transcendence, is in its second edition. He recently finished a couple more novels, Empire Ship and The Galactic Adventures of Jack and Stella, and has several other projects on the burners.

En route to becoming an SF scholar, writer, and educator, McKitterick studied astrophysics, education, and psychology. He earned his BA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he ran two observatories and a planetarium. He spent a year teaching at a K-12 school in the Montana Badlands, then began formal SF writing and literature studies in 1992 with James Gunn through his Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, where he earned his MA in creative writing and continued post-graduate studies ever after. For nearly a decade, he worked for gaming and tech companies in Seattle, spending summer vacations co-teaching an SF Workshop and SF Institute. In 2002, KU recruited him to teach SF and writing full-time, and to direct Gunn's original SF center, where he developed many other offerings before launching Ad Astra.

 

Read more about Chris here, or visit him online: Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr |  Xitter | YouTube | Christopher-McKitterick.com

How to Apply

To have enough time to give proper attention to everyone's work, enrollment is limited to 10 active participants. So if you wish to attend, apply early! Positions go quickly.

To reserve a spot for the AdAstranaut Spec-Fic Writing Workshop Series #2:

  1. By November 11, apply for the story-developmental session (November 12-13)

  2. By December 5, apply for the critique session (December 17-18).

    You can apply separately or together for the developmental session and/or the critique session (doing both = fee discount, and successive workshop series include further discount). Ideas and stories you wish to work on need not be tied directly with the inspirational talk (but do check it out!).

    As with my residential workshops, my goal is to build a productive, supportive cohort by selecting a diversity of writers whose approaches and writing styles I feel will work well together, so please let me know a little about you and your writing philosophy and creative goals. We're likely to fill our ranks quickly, so don't delay! I accept applications during this period on a first-come, first-considered basis - be aware the Workshop usually fills by April. I continue a rolling series of acceptances until the workshop fills or as we get late drops and additions. If you are not accepted, I'll provide suggestions about how to improve your chances of getting in during the rolling-acceptance period, or for next year.

  3. If you are accepted into the developmental session, be prepared to discuss your ideas, characters, setting, narrative structure, and so forth. We can help you brainstorm a bare-bones idea, but the more you're prepared, the more you'll get out of the session. McKitterick will send you dev-session guidelines as soon as you're accepted.

  4. If you are accepted into the critique session, plan to turn in your story that you wish to have critiqued by December 12 (in proper manuscript format and 8-1/2" x 11" layout) to give everyone time to read and consider it. Submit only complete stories, maximum length 6000 words (common for many publications; book chapters are difficult to critique out of context of the rest of larger work, so none of those, please - and shorter is better). McKitterick will contact you in advance about how and where to submit your story, and how to prepare for the experience.

Age 18 and older only, please (we plan to offer youth programs soon!).

Young Gunns 2013 in our scholarship-hall lounge
McKitterick's 2012 Spec-Fic Workshop cohort.
Front (left to right): Joan Slonczewski, Sheila Williams (editor of
Asimov's), Sheila Finch. Back: Abigail Godsell, Laurie Walker, Marcy Arlin, Andrew Genova, Evan Mielke, Chris McKitterick. Not pictured: Andy Duncan, Sarah Fischer, James Gunn, Chris Kelworth, Kathy Kitts, Chuck von Nordheim.

Join the Ad Astra community and reach for the stars!

2016 Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
McKitterick's 2016 Spec-Fic Workshop cohort.
Front (left to right): Sarah Worrel, Caitlin Rogers, Andy Duncan, Andrea Corbin, Christopher McLucas. Back: M. Luke McDonell, Izzy Wasserstein, Gregory Scheckler, Shawn Frazier, Dylan Henderson, Laura Wilson Anderson, Chris McKitterick. Not pictured: James Gunn.

Join the Ad Astra community and reach for the stars!

Diversity and Inclusion

Everyone enjoys equal access to our offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study. All my courses are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). We also make accomodations for those who cannot attend in person. Click here to see our thoughts on diversity and inclusivity.

At the Ad Astra Center, we believe that earning a creative education should not depend on financial privilege, so we offer a sliding-scale fee structure to enable everyone to participate. If you wish to help support others to enroll, please consider donating to our scholarship fund. (KU and the Ad Astra Institute are not-for-profit organizations.) Many of the most promising writers don't enjoy the same privilege as those who do - we strive to level the playing field so everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, income, nationality or immigrant status, physical ability status, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or marital, parental, and veteran status has equal opportunity for admission to our educational programs, and equal access to our activities. We work to be a safe space for those who come to our events and educational programs. can enjoy the same opportunity to become a professional speculative-fiction writer! (See our full diversity statement here.)

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 when working with us.

Lawrence, KU, and the Ad Astra Center

For anyone who hasn't visited, Lawrence, Kansas, is a wonderful, lively, small city in the Kaw River valley, filled with art, events, and activities. The University of Kansas (in Lawrence) is about 50 miles from Kansas City International Airport (MCI), 40 miles from Kansas City, and 20 miles from Topeka. Summers can be hot and winters cold, but everything is air-conditioned.


View of KU from the Ad Astra library.

Among its many amenities, the University of Kansas contains a large science-fiction collection (including a number of single-author paper and manuscript collections, such as Theodore Sturgeon's) and other great reference collections; museums of natural history and art; and sports, theater, and lots more. Lawrence offers many excellent restaurants and shopping and recreational opportunities. The Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination's office - where we've held in-person workshops, masterclasses, and eductor courses - contains a beautiful spec-fic library adorned with SF paraphernalia - a "shrine to science fiction" as one of our attendees describes it. Nighttime opportunities include movies, dinner, live concerts, star-gazing sessions, and of course talk about writing and more.


Part of the Ad Astra library.

The nearest major airport is Kansas City International (MCI), about 50 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) or K-10. The I-70 West Lawrence interchange is closer to campus. Lawrence can also be reached along the lovely Kansas Highway 10.

The Ad Astra Institute's office and library lives in Joseph R Pearson Hall, looking down over Potter Lake and the central park of the University of Kansas. Free parking is available right behind the building after 5pm on most weekdays and all day most weekends (except for when the football team is hosting games), and accessible parking is available in front and in the rear. Our space holds a great collection of books and speculative-fiction paraphernalia, and we have strong internet connection for hosting online events.

This is where we'll hold the in-person aspect of our writing workshops plus some write-ins and other events, but space is limited so be sure to check in advance before showing up! We ask that attendees demonstrate their vaccination status and stay away if feeling signs of illness - all our events stream live via our YouTube and Discord channels, so you won't miss out even if sick. We want all our AdAstranauts to stay healthy!


James Gunn's 1992 SF Workshop - what first brought McKitterick to KU.
Back: Frederik Pohl, Chris McKitterick, John Ordover, James Gunn. Front: Tom Crice, Dan Gollub, Rebecca Bates, Sheila Hartney, and?

"Science into Fiction" Spec-Fic Writing Workshops:
  Series 1: "The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe"
  Series 2: "Creativity and the Brain"
  Series 3: "Writing in (and about) the Age of Artificial Intelligence"

Chris McKitterick's Spec-Fic Writing Workshop & Repeat Offenders Workshop

Kij Johnson & Barbara Webb's SF&F Novel Writing Workshops and Masterclasses

Speculative-fiction writing resources

Scholarships

Connect with Ad Astra