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 Blogs Ad Astra Institute Workshops and Courses Donate to the Ad Astra Institute Ad Astra Institute Resources for Speculative Fiction Writers, Educators, and Fans

"Science into Fiction"
Writing Workshop Series

Series #4: Fall 2024

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

To the Stars Through Stories


Workshop Overview


How to Apply




Diversity, Inclusivity, and Commitment to Equity

Lawrence and Ad Astra

Related SF-Writing Workshops and Resources

Series #1 inspirational talk: "The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe"
Series #2 inspirational talk: "Creativity and the Brain"
Series #3 syllabus - "Writing in (& about) the Age of Artificial Intelligence"
Series #4 syllabus: "Six great stories and what makes them work: The science of SF writing"

Ad Astra is preparing for our fourth third speculative-fiction writing cycle, "Six great stories and what makes them work: The science of SF writing." It begins in Fall 2024, starting October 9 and running through December 8, both online and in-person in Lawrence, Kansas.

We recently wrapped up our third cycle, "Writing in (& about) the Age of Artificial Intelligence" (Sept - Dec, 2023). The syllabus will remain available for autodidacts working through it on your own.

We continue to offer our traditional (two-week residential) Spec-Fic Writing Workshops each summer, but with these "Science into Fiction" Workshops we offer an ongoing, year-round series of interdisciplinary workshops, talks, seminars, directed readings, discussions, write-ins, and more led by our faculty and often enhanced by a diversity of experts from many fields - a program designed to help writers gain what we hope is the most well-rounded workshop experience offered anywhere!

Writers in our SiF workshops have participated from five cities across the USA and Australia, including half who attended with McKitterick and Baringer in the Ad Astra office (or "shrine to science fiction," as one attendee described it). All the AdAstranauts in Series 1 and 2 completed the full course of workshop events (and a couple Series 3 stragglers will turn in their stories soon), and their projects turned out fantastic - so far, three stories written for the series have been honored in Writers of the Future contests, and at least two have sold for publication.

Workshop Overview

Starting with Series #3, we begin - as inspiration - by studying a set of reading and viewing material listed in the course syllabus followed by discussions of both science and creative topics spurred by these materials. We hold a brainstorming and story-development weekend often get to work with subject-matter experts, then do about six weeks of AdAstranaut write groups and check-ins as participants create a new piece during the workshop.

The SiF workshops culminate in a weekend of critique sessions where we'll help make your story the best it can be, and we'll check in afterward to see how it's going. All activities are hybrid - we get together both in-person and online - and events take place on evenings and weekends to further improve accessibility for those who cannot get away during weekdays or take time off as with traditional workshops. We use a nice microphone and speaker setup for our meeting room to accomodate those who cannot attend in person.

Discussion sessions follow recommended reading (and viewing, listening, etc) to provide a deep-dive into the scientific, technological, creative, and other topics listed in the workshop's syllabus. We'll usually have two sessions per week, either live or asychronous. I encourage all participants (whether enrolled or self-guided) to write a response paper for each topic to help order your thoughts, generate ideas, guide discussions, and reflect on the materials.

Developmental and brainstorming 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 6-8 weeks. Most AdAstranauts from the SiF series complet the full course of workshop events, and their projects turn out fantastic - and at least three stories have already found publication!

After planning your story, participants are invited to participate in regular write groups (in person and online) with their cohort and other writers for mutual support, to encourage accountability, and to provide a productive atmosphere to complete your project in time to be critiqued during our final workshop weekend.

We'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. Attending SiF workshops throughout the year also prepares you with a portfolio of finished stories ready for the summer's intensive, residential Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop, should you choose to dive deep.

We 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!

"I'm so excited to launch the year-round AdAstranaut program!" says McKitterick, workshop leader and Ad Astra Institute director. "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, because tech allows us to offer these things globally and asynchronously."

We send all enrolled participants complete workshop guidelines and process well in advance of discussion and workshop sessions. We'll use Ad Astra's #AdAstranaut Discord channel for those who need to or would like to participate online. Participants needn't develop or write stories that specifically use each 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 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!


After this workshop series, we'll continue to offer more expert talks and other opportunities to learn more about spec-fic, STEM topics, and writing. Every few months we plan to offer a new "Science into Fiction" Workshop cycle, 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!

AdAstranauts earn points for attending workshops, talks, write groups, and more and track their progress to the stars - we'll provide certificates of completion and other fun things (as well as scholarships for future workshops and masterclasses) as participants virtually reach the Moon, Mars, and beyond in your writing journey!

As always, when a new syllabus is complete we'll share it with everyone who wants to participate on their own or do self-guided learning, and the reading / viewing discussions and public presentations are open to everyone who asks to listen.

We passionately believe in accessibility and freedom of information, so we are as open, transparent, and sharing as possible. We strive to enable everyone who wants to participate in our programs to do so regardless of financial status, so we offer several scholarships and are constantly seeking donations to support more. These, we believe, should be core tenets of the academy.

Our ultimate goal is for everyone who wishes to study with us to be able to do so at no cost, or without having to live nearby or go to our physical locations, or even having to enroll in our courses! Autodidacts are welcome, as are educators and others seeking independent lifelong learning.

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 and several-night adventure; it's a community!

2018 Workshoppers in our scholarship-hall lounge
McKitterick's 2018 Spec-Fic Workshop cohort.
Sitting: Pat Cadigan, Julian Richardson. Standing, left to right: Achilles Seastrom, Jean Asselin, Mary Fluker, Kathy Kitts, Theodore Nollert, Sarah Worrel, Patricia Crumpler, Sanna Breytberg, Ian Martinez-Cassmeyer, Chris McKitterick.


Christopher McKitterick
Workshop Leader

Award-winning author, educator, and Ad Astra Institute director Chris McKitterick leads the "Science into Fiction" Workshops, participating from before the application period opens through the end of the cycle and beyond, helping develop and critique every story, giving short talks on the topics and writing, and checking up afterward to see how everyone's revisions and submission process is going.

Chris has been taking professional writing and science workshops (and university courses) across the country since the 1980s. He's led the intensive summer Spec-Fic Workshop since 2010, and co-taught it since 1995. In 2016 he founded the "Repeat Offenders" Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop (advanced workshop for returning alums), and founded the AdAstranaut SiF workshop series in 2022.

Read more about Chris here (or go here for the formal bio), or hang out with him online: Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Xitter | YouTube |

edited frame from the 
Tank Girl comic that says, This story can be wonderful. We can be magnificent. We can turn this shit around.

Special Guests

Stay tuned for the announcement of our next Special Guest

We began the tradition of inviting special guest instructors to our workshops to help provide diverse perspectives on what makes great spec-fic, and in the case of the SiF Workshops, scientific and technological expertise. Our workshoppers also often enjoy the writing advice and camaraderie of visiting authors and editors. Attendees have many opportunities to socialize with one another live and online, and many build life-long relationships.

Previous special guests include experimental particle physicist, physics professor, and science-fiction expert Philip Baringer, PhD, who participated throughout the Series #1 and #3 SiF workshops. Phil has more than 35 years of teaching and research experience. He's Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy who's received numerous awards for his teaching, including the Department Undergraduate Teaching Award, the Kemper Award for Teaching Excellence, and the University Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) Excellence in Teaching Award, chosen by graduate students in Physics and Astronomy. 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.

For the Series #2 SiF Workshop, Dr. Barbara Kerr gave her talk, "Creativity and the Brain," at the Lawrence Public Library and in the Ad Astra library (video available to watch on the Ad Astra YouTube channel), and gave a demonstration of virtual-reality and realtime brain-analysis technology. Barbara 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. 

How to Apply

To have enough time to give proper attention to everyone's work, enrollment is limited to 10 active participants, though any number of additional participants are welcome to self-study using the syllabus and participate in online discussions of the assigned materials. If you wish to attend, develop a story, and have it critiqued by your instructor and cohort, apply early! Positions go quickly. We'll post the online signup form in the summer.

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.

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


Full-price cost to attend the "Science into Fiction" Speculative Fiction Writing Workshops is $500.

Several scholarships are available, so don't let costs be a barrier to applying - just let us know if you are interested in being considered for a scholarship (and how much you need) when you apply. We try to price our courses fairly, and those who can afford to pay full cost help subsidize those who cannot. We also seek donations to help offer more scholarships, so if you'd like to help someone attend our programs, consider donating!

Repeat attendees (of either the residential summer workshops, short Ad Astra workshops, or both) are eligible for additional scholarships. To recieve this financial support, be sure to mention you're an AdAstranaut in your application (and if you're requesting the $50 or $100 AdAstranaut scholarship). By making our offerings affordable to those who might not otherwise be able to attend, we hope to increase accessiblity to all while offering a broad, diverse set of writing instruction for AdAstranauts dedicated to growing their creative skills and STEM understanding.

Please complete your registration and make all payments before you begin, unless you make special arrangements. After you are accepted into the workshop, we will send payment instructions. We accept Zelle (use to make a payment or scholarship donation), PayPal (which takes an additional fee), or checks; please send checks to:

Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination
1809 Indiana St.
Lawrence, KS 66044

Fall 2023 Workshop cohort
Fall 2023 SiF Workshop cohort.
Top: Alisha Ashley, Chris McKitterick, Lucinda Wise. Middle: Melissa K. Tolliver, Philip Baringer, Starlit Swan. Bottom: Tom Slee. Not pictured: Jalyn Fiske, Jude-Marie Green, Rachelle M. Smith, Mary Wilson.

Winter 2022 Workshop cohort
Winter 2022 SiF Workshop cohort.
Top: Chris McKitterick, Jalyn Fiske, Mary Wilson, Philip Baringer. Bottom: Courtney Farr, Alisha Ashley, Melissa K. Tolliver, Starlit Swan.

Join the Ad Astra community and reach for the stars!

Young Gunns 2013 in our scholarship-hall lounge
Summer 2012 Spec-Fic Workshop cohort.
Front: Joan Slonczewski, Sheila Williams (editor of
Asimov's SF Magazine), 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.


Generous supporters enable us to offer scholarships for those in need to attend our workshops and other courses. We are deeply grateful to our donors who help make our educational program available to worthy writers, educators, and scholars who might otherwise be unable to pursue their professional education - thank you!

Financial support for SiF workshops can range from $50-$250, with occasional full tuition scholarships. We especially encourage people from historically under-represented groups to apply. In order to be considered for a partial or full scholarship, you must request one when applying, and how much you might need in order to attend. As-listed costs for our workshops and other events are for those who can afford full price; those able to pay the full fees help support those who cannot.

SFWA Givers Grant Scholarship

Thanks to the SFWA Givers Grant, we have been able to offer several scholarships for writers to attend our workshops. SFWA Givers Fund Grants are intended to aid projects that align with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association's mission to promote, advance, and support science fiction and fantasy writing around the world. This fund is made possible with the generosity of donors from the speculative-fiction writing community and partnerships within the publishing landscape. If you’d like to donate to this endeavor or another SFWA charitable fund, you can do so here.

ConQuesT and KaCSFFS Scholarship

The Kansas City Science Fiction & Fantasy Society (KaCSFFS) has long supported our educational outreach programs, and we hold an annual fundraiser at their ConQuesT SF convention in Kansas City. If you'd like to help support Ad Astra, consider supporting our local fan organization and attend this fun event!

AdAstranaut Scholarship

Finally, thanks to individual donors and Ad Astra staff, repeat attendees can also earn scholarships for both our summer residential workshops, year-round Ad Astra Presents "Science into Fiction" short workshops, masterclasses, residential workshops, seminars, and more designed for speculative-fiction writers, educators, and fans, led by our staff and a variety of other SF authors, editors, scholars, professors, and experts to provide participants with deeper understanding of SF and the vast array of human expertise necessary to stay on top of the ever-accelerating change that shapes human civilization - and even what it means to be human.

We offer micro-scholarships for repeat attendees (of either the residential summer workshops, short workshops, or both): Repeat participants enjoy an additional $50 scholarship after their first full workshop and $100 scholarship after their second. To recieve this scholarship, be sure to mention you're an AdAstranaut or Young Gunn (a couple names alums call ourselves) in your application, and if you're requesting the $50 or $100 AdAstranaut scholarship. By making our offerings affordable to those who might not otherwise be able to attend, we hope to increase accessiblity for all while offering a broad, diverse set of writing instruction for AdAstranauts dedicated to growing their creative skills and STEM knowledge.

To the Stars Through Stories
Winter 2023 SiF Workshop cohort.
Top: Chris McKitterick, Courtney Farr, Mary Wilson. Bottom: Starlit Swan, Thomas Slee. Not pictured: Barbara Kerr.

If you'd like to support further scholarships for our attendees, let us know! Our goal is to be able to offer our educational program to everyone, regardless of their financial status.

The Ad Astra Institute is a registered nonprofit 501(c)3 educational, arts, and research organization chartered in Kansas, so your donation is fully tax-deductible. If you wish to support our activities by making a charitable donation to help others attend the workshops who might otherwise not be able to, or to support our educational outreach, contact McKitterick ( We can accept Zelle (use to make a direct donation), PayPal (which takes an additional fee), and checks; please send checks to:

Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination
1809 Indiana St.
Lawrence, KS 66044

We also partner with Farbeyond Books - a fantastic spec-fic bookstore - which donates at least 50% of all sales to Ad Astra, so if you have books you'd like to donate, let us know.

Thank you so much to our donors and supporters! You make all this possible.

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.

Diversity, Inclusivity, and Commitment to Equity

Everyone enjoys equal access to our offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study. We especially encourage people from historically under-represented groups to apply for our courses and scholarships. Many of our other courses are available to be taken in hybrid format (if space is available) to help enable those who might not be able to attend in person to participate, and we happily make accommodations to enable everyone to enjoy the fullest experience. We also make accomodations for those who cannot attend in person.

At Ad Astra, we also believe that earning a creative education should not depend on financial privilege, so we offer several scholarships to enable everyone to participate. If you wish to help support others to enroll, please consider donating to our scholarship fund (the Ad Astra Institute is a not-for-profit organization). Many of the most promising writers don't enjoy the same privilege as those who do, so 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 to participate in our educational programs, and equal access to our activities. We want everyone to enjoy the same opportunity to become a professional speculative-fiction writer! We work to be a safe space for those who come to our events and educational programs. 

Click here to read our thoughts on diversity and inclusivity and our commitment to equity.

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 and Ad Astra

For anyone who hasn't visited, Lawrence is a wonderful, lively, small city in the Kaw River valley, filled with art, events, and activities. Lawrence and the University of Kansas are about 30 miles west of Kansas City and 20 miles east of Topeka. Summers can be hot and winters cold, but meeting and housing spaces are air-conditioned.

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. Nighttime opportunities include dinners, games, movies, live concerts, star-gazing sessions, and of course discussion about writing and more.

View of KU from the Ad Astra library.

The Ad Astra Institute holds a beautiful collection of speculative-fiction books and writing and science reference libraries, plus a great deal of SF historical paraphernalia - one of our attendees describes it as a "shrine to science fiction." For two years, our office and library lived on campus overlooking Potter Lake and KU's central park. We bring selected works and custom displays from this wonderful collection to many of our events. This is where we've held some of our writing workshops plus some write-ins and other events, as well as in KU scholarship and residential halls, the Lawrence Public Library, and elsewhere.

Part of the Ad Astra library and SF artifact collection.

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, or by arrangement through Ad Astra staff. 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 lovely Kansas Highway 10.

We request that attendees demonstrate vaccination status and stay away if feeling signs of illness - many of our events stream live via our YouTube and Discord channels, so you won't miss out even if sick. We want to help keep our AdAstranauts healthy!

James Gunn's 1992 SF Workshop - what first brought Ad Astra director McKitterick to Kansas.
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"
  Fall 2024 Series 4: "Six great stories and what makes them work: The science of SF writing"

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


Connect with Ad Astra

Ad Astra on Facebook Ad Astra on Tumblr Ad Astra on Twitter Ad Astra blog Ad Astra YouTube channel Sign up for the Ad Astra mailing list

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 use 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.

This site does not use cookies and is free from tracking.

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

updated 3/2/2024