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Gunn named 'grand master' of science fiction writers

James Gunn

James Gunn, director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at KU, has been selected as the grand master of science fiction for the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc.

Gunn is a professor emeritus of English, the author of 28 science fiction books and the editor of 12 books. His science fiction stories have been dramatized for national radio and television programs.

The title Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master is bestowed upon a living author for lifetime achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America president nominates candidates who must be approved by the group's officers and participating past presidents.

The grand master title will be conferred during the group's meeting and awards banquet, May 11-13 in New York City.

President Robin Wayne Bailey surprised Gunn and a group of friends with the news of his nomination during a Nov. 22 meeting in the Kansas Union.

Although Gunn was president of the group from 1971 to 1972, he was not included in the group acting upon his nomination.

"The grand master award is an honor that every science fiction writer aspires to but few dare consider might happen," Gunn said.

Previous grand masters include Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Williamson, Frederik Pohl and Ursula K. Le Guin.

Throughout his career, Gunn has received a number of awards for his work and leadership in science fiction writing including a special award from the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention for Alternate Worlds, a Science Fiction Achievement Award by the 1983 World Science Fiction Convention.

He also earned the Eaton Award in 1992 for lifetime achievement. He served from 1978 to 1980 and 1985 to the present as chairman of the Campbell Award jury to select the best science fiction novel of the year. He also received the 1976 Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement from the Science Fiction Research Association.

In addition to teaching English, Gunn was an editor of paperback reprints, managing editor of KU's alumni publications and director of public relations at KU. He has received KU's Byron Caldwell Smith Award in recognition of literary achievement and the Edward Grier Award for excellence in teaching. He won national awards for his work as an editor and as public relations director. He also served as a Mellon fellow in 1981 and 1984.

Gunn started writing science fiction in 1948, was a full-time freelance writer for four years and has had nearly 100 stories published in magazines and books; most have been reprinted. His master's thesis was serialized in a pulp magazine.

Four of Gunn's stories were dramatized over NBC radio's "X Minus One." "The Cave of Night" was dramatized on television's Desilu Playhouse in 1959 and "The Immortals" was dramatized as an ABC-TV movie of the week in 1969. His stories and books have been reprinted in many countries.

Gunn was born in Kansas City, Mo., in 1923. He received his bachelor's degree in journalism in 1947, after three years in the U.S. Navy during World War II, and his master's in English in 1951, both from KU. He also did graduate work in theater at KU and Northwestern University.

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