Taking a break from school work with the Sci-Fi Book Club

By Staff Writer Kylie Cooper.

When was the last time you read a book for personal enjoyment? No matter if it was a day ago or years ago, UMassD’s Sci-Fi Book Club is welcoming every student to immerse themselves in fantastic fictional worlds and participate in thought-provoking discussions.

“It’s nice to encourage yourself to take some time off from just reading your textbook to read something that might inspire your imagination a little bit more,” said Hilary Kraus, Sci-Fi Book Club organizer since its creation in 2014 and Associate Librarian for Nursing, Psychology, and Medical Laboratory Science.

While its name beckons images of aliens and cyborgs, the Sci-Fi Book Club reads a vast array of books that fall under themes like horror, time travel, and even Cinderella-inspired.

Each semester, a theme is chosen for the three books that will be read—one per month.

The theme for this spring 2019 semester is alternate history, or books that incorporate elements like dragons or zombies into historical wars and events.

The club then gets together three times each semester in Library 314 for conversational, yet insightful, discussions about the readings.

Even though members are given a month to read the book, it’s okay if someone hasn’t gotten through it all yet; the conversations aren’t spoiler-heavy.

“[We talk about] what commentary does it make about culture, or society, or politics, or history, because a lot of sci-fi has a lot of allegory in it,” Kraus said.

Many books exist not to simply entertain, but to question commonly accepted and normalized beliefs, or what’s happening in the real world.

“Sci-fi is almost never just, ‘It’s a—beep beep—robot,’” Kraus said. “It’s good for entertainment, but it’s also really good because [of its social commentary].”

Take, for instance, one of the first books the club read: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Kraus describes the 1985 novel that the award-winning television series is based on as creating a discussion about politics, culture, and bodily autonomy, and “is really relevant right now.”

Students may become involved simply by reading the selected books that interest them and showing up to the meetings.

As an array of schedules are difficult to work out, the three meetings are set for different times and different days of the week throughout the semester in hopes that students will be able to attend at least one.

While many students in the past have elected to buy the books from Amazon, the Claire T. Carney Library is happy to attain them for students for free.

Faculty and staff are welcome to participate in the club, as well.

Rich Legault, Senior Technical and Training Specialist for CITS, has been an active member since 2016 and joined because of his love for reading—especially science fiction and fantasy novels.

“It’s an opportunity to branch out if you normally read one specific genre,” Legault suggested.

And, if a book doesn’t seem appealing, members don’t have to read it.

“There were a couple I decided to skip because they didn’t interest me,” Legault said.
This was echoed by Kraus, who tells students to not feel like they must “show up for every meeting and read every page of every book to be part of this opportunity on campus.” The club is completely understanding of students’ packed schedules and schoolwork.

If they have some spare time, Kraus encourages students to pick up one of the books and try reading it.

“If all the existence of this book club does is encourage people to read for fun and to get some enjoyment out of that experience—even if they can’t make it to the meetings—I feel like we’ve done a good thing.”

The final meeting of the semester for the Sci-Fi Book Club is at noon on April 19 in Library 314.

The book discussed will be Dread Nation by Justina Ireland. Students interested in becoming a part of the email list, have feedback and suggestions, or want additional information should contact hilary.kraus@umassd.edu.

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