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Ad Astra Courses
- to the stars through stories -



quick course list

 Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop
 June 16 - 29: apply now

 Novel Architects Workshop
 June 30 - July 13: apply now

 Fantasy & Science Fiction Novel Master Class
 several each year - apply now

 "Repeat Offenders" Novel Workshop
 June 16 - 29: apply now

 "Repeat Offenders" Spec-Fic Workshop
 June 30 - July 13: apply now

 Summer Writing Retreat for Alums
 any range from June 30 - July 13: apply now

 Six great stories & what makes them work
 Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop: scheduled for Fall 2024

 Science, Technology, & Society
 - contact us for info

 Intensive Institute on Science Fiction: Novels & Short SF
 - two-week intensive course. contact us for info

 Science Fiction Literature: Novels & Short SF
 - fourteen-session course. contact us for info

 Science Fiction & the Popular Media
 - contact us for info

Speculative fiction has long captured the public imagination, offering perspectives extending into the deep past and far future, across alternate timelines or universes, beyond Earth, and into lived experiences of The Other. Expanding horizons across cultures or species, time, and distance enables audiences to explore and imagine concepts, hopes, fears, and wonders otherwise out of reach. By embodying the unknown in human narratives, SF helps audiences overcome fear of change and drives innovative thinking. Stories move hearts and souls, building empathy for The Other, even as it draws attention to real-world problems, dramatizing important issues and hypothesizing "if this goes on..." Because of this, we believe that no art holds greater potential for changing civilization for the better than speculative fiction.

Faculty and staff of the Ad Astra Institute for Science Fiction & the Speculative Imagination offer many courses, workshops, talks, seminars, and other educational offerings in speculative fiction literature, culture, scholarship, and creative writing. Most are available in-person or hybrid live/online in Lawrence, Kansas, and abroad. And of course we continue to offer our residential Science Fiction Summer program established in 1985 - back in-person in 2023 for the first time since the start of the pandemic!

We're so excited to launch our 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 - essentially, we've designed the optimal program we would have wanted for ourselves when we first began our journey into the SF universe. And now tech allows us to offer most of these courses globally, live and asynchronously. So unless you require an MFA to teach writing at a university, save yourself the time, stress, and ever-growing expense of attending a college program and consider enrolling in our offerings. Also, unlike graduate university programs, we'll help you build the create skills and understanding needed to publish rather than just land a teaching job in an ever-shrinking college market. And of course all our offerings are useful as continuing education for teachers - that's where many of our courses started.

Where available, you can find linked syllabi, as we see it as our duty to open-source our educational opportunities - after all, we're working to "Save the world through science fiction!"

"I firmly believe that the speculative-fiction mode of enquiry offers 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!"
- Ad Astra director McKitterick

Diversity, Inclusivity, & Commitment to Equity

At Ad Astra, everyone enjoys equal access to our offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study, especially those from marginalized or disadvantaged communities. 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 believe that earning an education should not depend on financial privilege, so we offer scholarships to enable everyone to participate - we especially encourage people from historically under-represented groups to apply for our courses and scholarships.

Degree status is irrelevant; we only require a drive to better understand and create great speculative fiction. Autodidacts welcome!

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

Scholarships

Many of the most promising writers, scholars, and educators don't enjoy the same privileges as others. 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, neurodiversity or mental-health 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.

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 attendees dedicated to growing their creative skills and STEM knowledge. We offer a safe space for the diversity of people who attend our events and educational programs.

Learn more about our scholarships here.

The Ad Astra Institute is a registered not-for-profit 501(c)3 educational, arts, and research organization chartered in Kansas. You can support our scholarships and activities by making a charitable donation to help others attend the workshops who might otherwise not be able to - your donation is fully tax-deductible! Thank you so much to our donors and supporters. You make all this possible.


Ad Astra Course List

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 [Ad Astra's] Intensive Institutes on the Teaching of Science Fiction.

Unforeseen circumstances can affect availability, but this schedule outlines the scope of our offerings:

Chris McKitterick's
Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop
June 16 - 29, 2024

Learn to write SF that sells. Using the short-story form, we help you master the elements that create great stories.
Since 1983.

This annual two-week residential writing workshop is designed to help established writers grow their skills while nurturing the careers of those who have just begun to publish or who need the final bit of insight or skill to master the elements that create great stories readers love and editors want to buy. Become part of a growing community: Award-winning author and SF scholar (and long-time director of James Gunn's original SF center, KU's Ad Astra Center, and the Ad Astra SF Institute) Christopher McKitterick has led this workshop since 2010, previously serving as special guest instructor since 1995 in its previous incarnation as James Gunn's SF Writers Workshop, one of the first of its kind starting in 1983.

McKitterick invites guest instructors-in-residence to expand the discussion and offer unique perspectives - stay tuned for next year's special guest. This year, experimental particle physicist Phil Baringer joins us as Special Guest Instructor! Other recent special guests have included the inimitable Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and John Kessel.

Many alums build personal and professional bonds with their cohort that last a lifetime! Offered for professionalization, and sometimes available for graduate credit as a courtesy to KU. Thanks to the SFWA Givers Grant and other supporters, full or partial scholarships are always available.

Apply beginning late February. Click here for more details.
 

Kij Johnson and Barbara J Webb's
Novel Architects Summer Residential Workshop
June 30 - July 13, 2024

Learn how to transform your book idea into a successful project.
Since 2004.

Award-winning author, KU Professor, and Ad Astra Institute Associate Director Kij Johnson leads this developmental workshop with popular author Barbara Webb for writers of short science fiction and fantasy. This two-week event will be held in person in Lawrence, KS. The workshop will be small, with no more than six individuals admitting. Workshop hours are 1-4pm each afternoon. The scope of the workshop will be determined by the attendees in the weeks before the workshop starts, but may include classic workshopping of completed stories, developmental discussions for early-stage stories and ideas, writing or reading assignments, discussions and talks, and more.

Apply beginning in February. Click here for more details.
 

Kij Johnson and Barbara J Webb's
Fantasy and Science Fiction Novel Master Class

Learn how to transform your book idea into a successful project.
Since 2004.

Are you working on - or thinking about - a science fiction or fantasy novel you want to write? Novel Architects Kij Johnson and Barbara J. Webb can show you how to build it. Together, they have eighteen years' experience teaching writers how to plan and build SF/F novels, helping everyone from experienced professional novelists like R.F. Kuang and Tina Connolly to talented new writers just getting their start.

The Fantasy and Science Fiction Novel Master Class is a single intensive week online: fifteen hours of talks and discussion directed toward helping you design and detail your best novel. By the end of the class, you'll have been presented with the tools necessary to create a novel: the specific requirements of the form and genre as well as novel-focused discussions of character, worldbuilding and immersion strategies, plot and structure, and BB.

Applications open soon. Click here for more details.
 

Kij Johnson and Barbara J Webb's
Novel Writer's "Repeat Offenders" Workshop
June 16-29, 2024

Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce the lessons from your workshop, and reconnect with other alums.
Since 2010.

This follow-up workshop to Kij Johnson and Barbara Webb's annual two-week residential writing workshop is offered to alums of that program only. Develop in-progress work while re-connecting with your past cohort!

Apply beginning in February. Click here for more details.
 

Chris McKitterick's
"Repeat Offenders" Speculative-Fiction Writing Workshop
June 30 - July 12, 2024

Return to the scene of the crime to reinforce lessons from previous workshops and reconnect with alums.
Since 2016.

This follow-up to Chris McKitterick's annual two-week residential Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop is offered as an advanced workshop to alums of that program. As in the traditional workshop, guest instructors join us to expand the discussion and offer their unique perspectives - stay tuned for next year's special guest. Recent guest instructors have included experimental particle physicist Phil Baringer, the inimitable Pat Cadigan, Bradley Denton, Andy Duncan, James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and John Kessel.

McKitterick's Repeat Offenders is an opportunity to work with friends and similarly trained writers on whatever projects everyone has underway. We alternate between critique sessions and project-development sessions, with write groups, daily progress check-ins, and the usual evening socializing and writing. Bring a work-in-progress that we'll collaboratively and intensively develop, maybe a couple of short pieces to critique, or just something you hope to work on or complete during your time here. Lots of attendees treat this time as an annual get-together to catch up with friends they've met through Science Fiction Summer.

Apply beginning late February. Click here for more details.
 

"Science into Fiction" Speculative Fiction Writing Workshop
Six great stories & what makes them work
coming Fall 2024

Through STEM education and using the short-story form, we help you master the elements that create great, science-literate stories.
New program since 2022!

Science fiction writers and readers didn't put a man on the Moon all by themselves, but they created a climate of opinion in which the goal of putting a man on the Moon became acceptable.
- Isaac Asimov

In our Series #4 SiF Workshop, "Six great stories and what makes them work: The science of SF writing," we'll take a deep dive into what makes great speculative fiction. We'll read six wonderful short stories, discuss what works (and doesn't) about them, read lots of nonfiction about what goes into writing great SF, and then develop, write, and critique a new story where you apply your expanded understanding.

The Ad Astra Institute's Science into Fiction writing workshop series brings SF creators together with experts to create work that changes the world, bringing together the "two cultures" - STEM and the arts - to prepare the audience for what's to come, building bridges between fields by showcasing cutting-edge science and tech research to help creatives engage with the forces shaping our world. This integrated program empowers participants through the full process of inspiration, development, writing, and critiquing to create a scientifically literate story in just two months.

These workshops are for all spec-fic writers, not just those creating hard science fiction. In our first three cycles, several authors wrote fantasy stories using the science our experts presented, because basing your worldbuilding on cutting-edge understanding of our universe is invaluable for building any world, realistic or fantastic!

Science into Fiction talks and Q&As steam live (as do developmental sessions, workshops, write-ins, and more for registered attendees), and some become available for later viewing on our YouTube channel (and listening, hopefully, on podcast), so if you aren't local or can't attend live, you can still fully participate.

For support, accountability, and solidarity, Ad Astra staff host regular write-ins, and our Discord channels offer tons more support, ideas, and community. You can also find the Ad Astra SF Institute on social media linked at the bottom of every page, and sign up for the mailing list if you don't want to miss news of upcoming events.

McKitterick hosts this event and leads the workshop and developmental sessions, so you'll get expert creative feedback - he's an award-winning writer and well-respected educator who's been leading successful writing workshops for 30 years, as well as a variety of spec-fic courses for students, pros, and educators. Most of his alums have gone on to publish, start magazines, teach, and more, and our growing creative community stays in touch year-round.

Each cycle includes a weekend developmental workshop, six weeks (or more) of discussions and writing support groups, and a weekend story-critique workshop spread across eight or so weeks. Some SiF workshops include in-depth studies of the topics, as well, with extended discussions. We offer at least two workshop cycles per year in the fall and spring.

We continue to invite experts, spec-fic authors, and other brilliant minds to share their insights and inspiration with our AdAstranauts, plus offer in-depth sets of readings and other materials to dive deeper into each topic. Where else can you get expert creative and scientific feedback on your fiction?

More information about the "Science into Fiction" series.
Syllabus for the Fall 2024 "Six great stories and what makes them work" workshop.

Inspiration for the prior cycles of the Science into Fiction Spec-Fic Writing Workshop series:

"The Higgs Boson in This Particular Universe: Facts, Speculation, and the Story of a Little Ripple with a Big Bang," by Dr. Phil Baringer, was the first of our ongoing series of "Science into Fiction" talks at the Lawrence Public Library, designed to inspire creatives with cutting-edge research to help come up with ideas, develop stories, and do in-depth worldbuilding in science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative-fiction works. Baringer even joined us for the story-development and writing-workshop sessions.

Inspiration for the second workshop in the series came from Dr. Barbara Kerr's talk, "Creativity and the Brain," with the video on the Ad Astra Institute's YouTube channel. We hosted an in-person and livestreaming Q&A and discussion right after the talk, a story-idea brainstorming and story-development session, and then another weekend speculative-fiction writing workshop where we critiqued stories inspired by ideas from the talk and subsequent brainstorming.

The third SiF workshop, "Writing in (& about) the Age of Artificial Intelligence," drew inspiration from a wide range of readings, media, and weekly discussions and established our new syllabus-based format.
 

Science, Technology, and Society:
Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens

Join award-winning SF author Chris McKitterick as we explore the future through reading and discussing nonfiction and extrapolative work. Since 2005.

Science and technology offer countless benefits to individuals and to societies while presenting new challenges. In this course we read, watch, and discuss nonfiction and science fiction to explore the past, present, and possible future effects of science and technology on society and humankind. The only thing certain about our future is that it will be different than today! Participants write weekly reading responses and a research paper or creative work as final project. Everyone helps lead at least one session discussion. Offered for professionalization, especially for AdAstranauts seeking to write accurately about things to come.

In-person until the pandemic, then via lively online discussions, and we hope to resume in-person and hybrid sessions next year.

Click here for more details and a version of the syllabus.
 

Intensive Institute on Science Fiction Literature:
The SF Short Story / The SF Novel

Especially for educators: Become fluent in SF by studying some of the most-influential stories that shaped the genre. Since 1975.

These annual two-week intensive courses offered by McKitterick alternate between the SF short story and novel, and are intended to give teachers, scholars, writers, and readers a solid background in the development, state, and future of the literature. This intensive course is especially designed for educators and others who can get away for two weeks.

Click here for more details and recent syllabi for both versions.

Science Fiction Literature:
The SF Short Story / The SF Novel

Become fluent in SF by studying some of the most-influential stories that shaped the genre. Since 1975.

These fourteen-session courses offered by McKitterick alternate between the SF short story and novel, and are intended to give teachers, scholars, writers, and readers a solid background in the development, state, and future of the literature. This version of the course spreads out readings and discussions across several weekends to enable those unable to get away for two weeks straight to intensively study SF literature while working full-time or going to college.

Click here for more details and recent syllabi for both versions.
 

Science Fiction and
the Popular Media

Join award-winning SF author Chris McKitterick on a journey of exploration as we investigate how SF changes and evolves as it embraces (and is embraced by) various media forms. Since 2014.

Through readings, viewings, and other interactive experiences, this course examines science fiction across a range of media, including film, television, literature, comics, gaming, fanfic, and more. We will survey the genre's history, trace its development across multiple media as new generations of creatives have taken advantage of new tools to respond to changing social conditions, and discuss the effects that - through various media forms - SF has on today's expression of what it means to be human living through ever-accelerating change. Students write weekly responses as they read a diversity of materials, view films and other multimedia expressions, participate in discussions, explore their unique understanding and interpretation of the genre, and then create and share personal visions through a creative or multimedia final project. Offered for professionalization.

Last year McKitterick offered this course in person. If the pandemic is still raging, we'll meet online for lively discussions.

Click here for more details and a recent version of the syllabus.
 


...and more coming soon - stay tuned!


If attending the workshops and write-groups in-person, please provide proof of vaccination against whatever current pandemic is raging. If you're feeling unwell, please be courteous and join us online for our hybrid offerings. Here are the current CDC recommendations to prevent exposure and for those exposed to the current virus or recovering from it. If in doubt: Stay home or stay masked - we offer most of our events and courses via streaming on YouTube and our Discord channels, so even if you're sick you won't miss out. If we're smart, we can beat this pandemic (and future ones).

 

 

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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 3/21/2024