Professor James E. Gunn was an author, editor, and scholar of science fiction.
Gunn wrote and published science fiction between 1949 and 2017. From 1971-72 he was president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). He was president of the Science Fiction Research Association from 1980-82, the oldest professional association dedicated to scholarly inquiry into science fiction and the fantastic across all media. In 1983 he won the Hugo Award for Best Related Work for his non-fiction book Isaac Asimov, The Foundations of Science Fiction.
In 1976 he won the Science Fiction Research Association Pilgrim Award for lifetime achievement in science fiction research. In 1976 he also won the Locus Award for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of science Fiction. In 2007 he was created a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master for lifetime achievement in science fiction and fantasy. In 2015 he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. Gunn’s 1972 novel The Listeners was a runner-up for the first annual John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. His first ten stories were published under the pen name Edwin James.
During World War II, he served honorably in the US Navy, protecting his country from the threat of fascism. He was born July 12, 1923 in Kansas City, Missouri. After serving in WWII, he attended the University of Kansas. He earned a B.S. in journalism in 1947 and a M. A. in English in 1951. He died December 23, 2020 in Lawrence, Kansas.
He taught at the University of Kansas, where he was Professor Emeritus of English and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction. He was editor of the six volume Road to Science Fiction series, which was originally composed as a set of textbooks to teach the history and development of science fiction.
This is not the James Gunn who directed Guardians of the Galaxy movies. That James Gunn is only fifty-four and at last report was in good health.
His novel The Immortals was the basis of the TV show The Immortal, starring Christopher George. His story, “The Cave of Night,” inspired an episode of the radio show X Minus One and an episode of the TV show Desilu Playhouse.
He was well respected in the science fiction writer’s community at Worldcon and other conventions. Of James Gunn, Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Lawrence M. Schoen spoke of his friendship with Gunn:
Word has reached me that James Gunn, Winner of the Hugo and Pilgrim awards, past president of SFWA and SFRA, inductee of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, a Worldcon GoH, and Grand Master, has died of congestive heart failure at the age of 97.I was privileged to study with Jim back in the summer of 1998. His insight and encouragement was generous and transformative, and I would not be the writer I am today without his insights and support.I remember sharing a meal with him and Fred Pohl in the faculty dining room (the first and only time I’ve had “pheasant under glass”).Jim and I chatted now and then over the years as our paths crossed, most typically at Worldcons. Those conversations were always too brief.Farewell, Jim. And thank you.
James E. Gunn was a gentleman and a scholar. We salute him for his service in WWII and thank him for his books, both fiction and non-fiction. Ninety-seven years is a long, full life, and Gunn’s in particular was one of shining accomplishment. Our condolences to his friends, family, and fellow Jayhawks.