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Science fiction author James Gunn, a KU professor emeritus, dies Wednesday at age 97

Kansas City Star logo Kansas City Star 12/24/2020 Luke Nozicka, The Kansas City Star

Dec. 24—James Gunn, a science fiction author who was an English professor emeritus at the University of Kansas, died Wednesday of natural causes, the university said. He was 97.

Throughout his life, Gunn wrote or edited dozens of books, published more than 100 short stories and helped create the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, which he was inducted into in 2015.

Gunn, who grew up in Kansas City, started teaching science fiction at KU in 1969. In 1982, the university established the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, which was named for the professor.

The next year, he won a Hugo Award for his work, "Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction."

Gunn's career spanned decades, and in 2017 at age 94, he published a memoir called "Star-Begotten: A Life Lived in Science Fiction." In a news release about the book, KU noted that Gunn had traveled the world — to countries such as Romania and Taiwan — "spreading the gospel of science fiction."

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Gunn spoke to The Star about how film and literature can help people escape absolute reality in times of crisis.

"Fantasy is a common area that people turn to because it tends to deal very starkly, in blacks and whites, with good and evil," he said. "In these times when it's hard to pinpoint the enemies and come to grips with a way to deal with them, people may find that fantasy is healing — a way to renew themselves."

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