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Chris McKitterick Bio

Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination
Founding Director (2023 -)
Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination, Founding Director, 2021-2023
James Gunn's Center for the Study of SF, Director, 1992-2022

Chris McKitterick is an award-winning author, editor, educator, amateur astronomer, and backyard engineer. He's probably best known for his short fiction and essays, his teaching, and for leading and creating three science-fiction research and educational organizations since the 1990s.

McKitterick lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where he teaches science fiction and writing at the Ad Astra Institute, the University of Kansas, and beyond (see his classes here); dwells amid thousands of books, restores old vehicles, watches the sky, and enjoys life with the best kitty, cockatiels, and wife in the history of ever.

Education and History with Science Fiction @KU
Publications
Appearances
Teaching
Awards Service
Contact Information
C.V.

Education and history with science fiction @KU

In retrospect, McKitterick's experience and education seem tailored for a life in science fiction. A childhood spent moving from state to state (and living in Korea for a year) taught him perspective about diverse places and people, and being the alien helped him understand the notion of the "other." His earliest idol was spaceflight pioneer Robert H. Goddard, which led to (mostly failed) rocketry experiments. 

He earned his BA in English-Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, though his studies began at the University of Minnesota in the summer before starting 11th grade. Among other topics, he studied astronomy, astrophysics, education, and psychology on his route to SF scholar, writer, and teacher. Early college years focused on science; this led to work as planetarian, astronomy teaching assistant, and observatory assistant-director. Eventually his focus shifted to writing and editing.

After his undergrad years, McKitterick taught at a tiny school in northeastern Montana, when he began publishing professionally. As much as he loved the state's dark skies, endless prairie, and badlands bristling with fossils, in 1992 he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, to learn from science-fiction Grand Master and Hall-of-Fame honoree James Gunn. This decision proved pivotal in his life, launching a decades-long relationship with Gunn, Gunn's original Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and the University of Kansas.

There being no better place to study pure science fiction literature and writing in the world - and nowhere to earn a PhD in the field (still true today!) - he pursued the best available opportunity by earning an MA (MFA equivalent) in creative writing with a primary emphasis in science-fiction writing, literature, and scholarship at KU under Gunn's mentorship, who offered all his SF and writing courses during this time. But that wasn't the end of McKitterick's education in SF.

Ever since earning his graduate degree in 1995, McKitterick has continued post-graduate studies. For at least a month each year during the Gunn's annual summer Science Fiction Literature Institute and SF Workshop, he served as co-instructor, apprenticing under Gunn's mentorship. The summer program also provided the unique opportunity to study under a diverse, ever-changing series of SF scholars and authors, including Brian Aldiss, Paolo Bacigalupi, Stephen Baxter, Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Cory Doctorow, Andy Duncan, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Joe Haldeman, Kij Johnson, John Kessel, Nancy Kress, Geoffrey A. Landis, Ian MacLeod, Jack McDevitt, China Miéville, James Morrow, Claire North, Frederik Pohl, Pamela Sargent, Robert J. Sawyer, Charles Sheffield, Joan Slonczewski, Vernor Vinge, Robert Charles Wilson, George Zebrowski, and many other guests.

Attending Gunn's annual professional workshops and teaching institutes for decades, working with Gunn and other SF experts, engaging in regular discussions and correspondence, plus co-teaching with the best in the field, McKitterick feels more fortunate in his opportunities than he can express. It was a great honor to work with Gunn, perhaps the world's foremost expert on SF literature, scholarship, and writing. He could not have gotten a deeper or more-immersive education in SF anywhere, at any level of education.

After graduation, McKitterick moved to Seattle where he worked for gaming and high-tech companies - returning each year to study with Gunn and co-teach his month-long summer SF program. After seven years away, in 2002 he was recruited to teach writing and SF full-time at KU. In 2004, David Brin, James Gunn, and he founded AboutSF.org, an educational-outreach program for educators and librarians. He served as co-instructor with Gunn until 2010, when he succeeded his mentor as the center's Director and began developing and teaching his own SF literature, teaching, scholarship, and writing workshops, courses, and seminars. As Gunn had before, McKitterick now invites the nation's best SF writers and scholars to co-teach as guest authors - and as a side-effect, continues perpetual study in the genre!

In 1995 Gunn named him Assistant Director of his original Center for the Study of SF. When the University of Kansas recruited him to teach full-time in 2002, McKitterick was named Associate Director. The Board and Gunn named him Director when Gunn stepped down in 2010. After the KU English department revealed plans to take over Gunn's center in 2021, McKitterick announced his resignation from that department and launched the KU Ad Astra Center to pursue our vision of "Saving the world through science fiction," making KU the only university boasting two very different SF research and educational centers. In 2023, new KU rules prompted us to expand Ad Astra into the independent, not-for-profit Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination to focus on educational outreach.

Since 2002, McKitterick served as a juror for the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel, and was named Chair in 2018. Though a sometimes overwhelming task - the jurors read upwards of 100 novels/year - serving the Award keeps him current on the state of SF publishing, benefiting not only his SF studies but those of his students, as well.

In 2015, he was invited to attend a workshop purely as a student: The Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction, hosted by the Joint Quantum Institute (a combined initiative of the University of Maryland and NIST). This grant-funded, intensive workshop provided an in-depth "crash course" in quantum physics for science fiction writers through three full 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 grant-funded, intensive workshop for science fiction writers, hosted by the University of Wyoming and led by professors Mike Brotherton (also an SF author), Jim Verley, and others.

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.

Publications

Since first seeing print in 1984, McKitterick's award-winning creative work has appeared in many markets including Abyss & Apex, Aftermaths, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Artemis, Captain Proton, Discovery Channel Magazine, E-Scape, Global Warming Aftermaths, James Gunn's Ad Astra, Mission: Tomorrow, Mythic Circle, NOTA, Ruins: Extraterrestrial, Sentinels: In Honor of Arthur C. Clarke, Synergy, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, Top Deck magazine, various TSR publications, Visual Journeys, Westward Weird, a bowling poem anthology, and elsewhere. A poem or two became lyrics for songs. His "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust" was on 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 (if you'd like to support Ad Astra, he set up a couple of tiers specifically for that). 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 publications include astronomy newsletters, science articles, manuals, grants, and promotional materials. He regularly wrote for the Microsoft Windows Server Resource Kits series, where he was an editor, writer, and documentation manager; his contributions to these projects have earned a number of Society for Technical Communication (STC) awards. He's also a regular blogger and online commentator.

Novels

  Transcendence
 
  Others in progress

Short Fiction Bibliography

Essays and Nonfiction Bibliography

Poetry Bibliography

McKitterick's C.V. (ridiculously long pdf based on KU's "Professional Records Online" format)

For more (including downloads of his debut novel), check out his personal website:

Christopher-McKitterick.com

Teaching

McKitterick's teaching began in high school, when he led directed-studies astronomy courses. Since then, he has taught countless tutorials, lectures, workshops, and university courses in astronomy, writing, science fiction, and teaching. Before he began teaching his intensive, residential Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop and Science Fiction Teaching Institute in 2010, he apprenticed with and co-taught similar programs with James Gunn and Kij Johnson since 1995. In 2018, he was one of three finalists for the H.O.P.E. (Honor for Outstanding Progressive Educator) Teaching Award, the most prestigious teaching award given at the University of Kansas (presented on the stadium field during the Homecoming game!).

In addition to managing two SF centers and an institute, McKitterick for 20 years taught several regular-semester courses in science fiction and writing at KU (list of Creative Commons licensed syllabi at the bottom of this page), directed independent studies in SF, and served on numerous thesis and dissertation committees. He is also a popular workshop instructor at venues around the world.

Appearances

McKitterick speaks regularly about science fiction, science, teaching, futurism, and writing for academic conferences, fan conventions, libraries, public events, schools, webcasts, and National Public Radio.

Some highlights include serving as keynote speaker at the 2012 UCO Liberal Arts Symposium XXIV, where he presented "Science Fiction: Mythologies for a Changing Age." In 2014, gave the plenary address about SF for the Southwest Philosophical Society Conference keynote speaker, and in August 2015 he delivered a keynote talk, "Positive Feedback Loops: Science and Science Fiction," at the University of Iowa Medical Scientist Training Program's annual research event. 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). His first Special Guest convention appearance was at Nebraska's ConStellation. In October-November 2019, he was a Special Guest at the China SF Convention in Beijing, where he taught SF writing workshops, spoke on panels, and gave radio and TV interviews. See recent and upcoming appearances on his website.

Awards service

McKitterick served as nominations director for the Theodore A. Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF story of the year from 1992–2016, when Kij Johnson and later Jason Baltazar took over the role. Starting in 2002, he has served as nominations director and juror for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year, and was named Chair in 2018. He also regularly serves on other writing and awards juries.

Connect with Chris

Want to get in touch?

Email: cmckit.SF@gmail.com

KU office address: JRP Hall

Academia.edu
Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination
Bluesky
Christopher-McKitterick.com
Cohost
Dreamwidth
Facebook
Goodreads
Instagram
The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
LinkedIn
Mastodon
SFWA Speaker's Bureau
Patreon
Pillowfort
Tumblr
    (writers: check out the "Writing Tips," "Science Fiction," and other tags listed in detail on his Writing Resources page)
Wikipedia
Xitter
YouTube

McKitterick's courses

For student convenience, educational outreach, community engagement, and multimedia interactivity, McKitterick usually posts course materials online. Courses he's taught in the past several years, most with links to syllabi:

Regular semesters: for-credit, with professional option for non-degree-seekers

"Science into Fiction" Speculative-Fiction Writing Workshops (professionalization only):
  "The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe"
  "Creativity and the Brain"
  "Writing in (and about) the Age of Artificial Intelligence"
  "Six great stories and what makes them work: The science of SF writing"

Science Fiction and the Popular Media

Fiction Writing (open to all genres, but with an emphasis on spec-fic)

The Literature of Science Fiction (grad/undergrad)
  The Science Fiction Novel
  The Science Fiction Short Story

Science, Technology, and Society: Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens (grad/undergrad)

Views of Science Fiction: Critical Approaches to Speculative Fiction Studies (grad seminar)

Science Fiction Summer: professional adult courses

Intensive Institute on the Teaching of Science Fiction (grad/undergrad)
   The Science Fiction Novel
   The Science Fiction Short Story

Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop (professional or grad credit)

"Repeat Offenders" (advanced spec-fic writing workshop; professional only)

Technical communication courses: for-credit, with professional option for non-degree-seekers

Foundations of Technical Writing (live and hybrid online undergrad versions)

Advanced Technical Writing (grad/undergrad)

Advanced Technical Editing (grad/undergrad)

Technical Communication Internship (grad/undergrad)

Connect with Ad Astra

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

updated 2/6/2024