Giselle Anatol, the new Director of the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas, has written to introduce herself to those who have worked with the Center and to the broader SFF community as well.
Greetings from the Gunn Center!
My name is Giselle Anatol. As you might have heard, I started as the new director of the J. Wayne and Elsie M. Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction (Gunn CSSF) at the beginning of the month. I am honored to have been asked to serve in this capacity; I know I have enormous shoes to fill. Former Director Chris McKitterick and former Associate Director Kij Johnson have my deep gratitude for helping to ease the transition in leadership. I look forward to continuing to work with them, and to hearing from you as we begin plans for the next few years of CSSF programming. Currently, we anticipate establishing a monthly virtual book club, a fall symposium in conjunction with the presentation of the Sturgeon Award for Best Science Fiction Short Story, and a variety of speakers and workshops; we’re eager to foster diverse community engagement, so please let me know if there are other events that you’d like to see and participate in!
This letter also serves as an introduction. My childhood introduction to science fiction came in the early 1970s, sitting beside my father as he watched Star Trek. I was fascinated by Spock’s stoicism, proud to see Uhura—who was brown and female, like me—on the bridge, and determined to figure out how to teleport. I recall, some years later, being a 5th grader and proudly handing my father a library copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which I had just finished. I was awestruck by this book that blended the science of tesseracts, sheet-stealing “witches,” and a poignant reflection of my own pangs of adolescent anxiety about not fitting in. The story conveyed a preteen’s feelings of devotion to her father; it also conveyed science fiction’s power to deepen the bond between me and my father—in essence, establishing bridges between readers of different ages, genders, nationalities, and a host of other experiences.
My family is from Trinidad & Tobago, so when I decided to pursue my doctorate in English literary studies, I focused on Caribbean women’s writing. The study of children’s and young adult literature was also compelling to me. These fields overlap in many of my courses and my scholarship on Black Speculative Literature—works by artists from African nations and the African diaspora (especially the Caribbean) that engage the imaginative considerations of “What If?” My most significant publication in this area is The Things that Fly in the Night: Female Vampires in Literature of the Circum-Caribbean and African Diaspora (Rutgers University Press 2015). For an early lecture I gave on the subject, click here.
I was hired as an assistant professor of English at KU in 1998, and promoted to full professor in 2016. I served for two terms as the department’s Director of Graduate Studies, and have had the chance to teach and learn from a host of students with interests in speculative literatures. One of these students is Jason Baltazar, an exceptionally talented young writer who is completing his doctoral degree this semester. I am delighted to have the chance to work with him again; he has extensive experience working in the Gunn Center and has been appointed as the CSSF Graduate Research Assistant for Spring 2022.
You can contact either of us at [email protected] or by phoning (785) 864-4520. If you are interested in being put on our contact list for news about future events, please email us at this address with your most updated contact information. I will be reaching out to the CSSF Board of Advisors in the near future to ascertain their interest in continuing to work with the Gunn Center.
In the meantime, please accept my very best wishes for 2022!