I’ve just learned of the death of James Gunn (that is, the original James Gunn) at the age of 97. I’ve known him since I got into the science fiction field, and was thrilled to be able to republish several of his earlier books as some of the first titles published by Fantastic Books. It was a regular occurrence at science fiction conventions, at the Fantastic Books table in the dealers’ room, people would browse, and then turn to me to ask, “is this THE James Gunn?” Of course I said yes, the science fiction grand master himself. It was only after six months or a year of that that I realized they were talking about some johnny-come-lately film maker using the same name.
The James Gunn, our James Gunn, was born July 12, 1923, in Kansas City, Missouri, into a publishing family (printers, pressmen, editors). He served in the Navy during World War II, then earned his college degrees and worked as an editor.
His writing career also began in the 1940s, with a play produced in 1947, and his first science fiction published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1949. We was a professor emeritus of English, and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, at the University of Kansas. He served as the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (1971-72), and received SFWA’s Grand Master Award in 2007.