In Memoriam – James Gunn

SFWA Grand Master James E. Gunn (b.1923) died on December 23, 2020.  Gunn served as SFWA President from 1971-1972.

Gunn began publishing science fiction in 1949 with the short story “Communications”, using the byline Edwin James. Over the years, he built up parallel careers as both a science fiction author and an academic. His first novel, Star Bridge, was co-written with Jack Williamson and published in 1955. In 1975, he edited Nebula Award Stories 10 and published Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, for which he won a special award from the Worldcon committee. His novels included The ImmortalKampusThe Joy MachineTranscendental, and many more.

Gunn, Harry Harrison, and Brian W. Aldiss established the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1972 and in 1978, he founded the Campbell Conference (now the Gunn Center Conference), where the award is presented, along with the Sturgeon Award. In 1982, he founded the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, where he taught. In 1996, the Center, along with the Kansas City Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, established the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, which inducted Gunn in 2015.

Gunn edited the six volume Road to Science Fiction series which reprinted stories to trace the evolution of science fiction from ancient times to the present. He won the Hugo Award for his story Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. In 1969, his novelette “The Listeners” was nominated for the Nebula Award. He later expanded it to novel length.

In 2016, Gunn was a guest of honor at MidAmeriCon II, the World Science Fiction convention. He has received both the Pilgrim Award and the Clareson Award from the Science Fiction Research Association for his contributions to sf scholarship, a lifetime achievement Eaton Award, the Moskowitz Award, and is an inductee into the First Fandom Hall of Fame.

SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal added:

It was with great sorrow that I learned of the passing of SFWA Grand Master James Gunn over the holidays. Besides his work as a writer and editor, he served as SFWA president in the early years of the organization. His voice among the past presidents will be missed.