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2013 Reads > AO: A Karass Built for 17,000

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message 1: by P. Aaron (last edited Jun 16, 2013 08:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments I'm putting together some more coherent commentary which will show up later this week (hint: it will involve markers), but wanted to toss out one observation I made about 1/4 of the way through and which stuck with me:

Throughout the novel, Morwenna is desperate to find, and later strengthen ties with, her "karass" - the term from Cat's Cradle meaning a 'team' of specially linked people, destined or designed to achieve some goal.* There are sub-versions of the term. A "granfalloon" is a false, or illusory karass, a group you thought was important but which turns out to be an empty, artificial construct, and a "duprass," which is "a karass built for two" uniquely linked people.

Morwenna finds her karass, she thinks, in the sci-fi club, which naturally suggested a parallel...Sword & Laser: a karass built for 17,000.

It's a touch precious, of course, and begs the question a little: how much actual, important connection can one have with such a large group of people, with varying politics, identities, values and goals? On the other hand, plenty of threads in discussion here deal with what I consider the key reason speculative fiction is the most important literary form: it deals with what might or should be, rather than simply what is.

So, can involvement in a book club actually lead to any "goal?" Or is Morwenna projecting her own need for validation and importance on to a genre which is really just for entertainment? Am I?


* Any chance of Cat's Cradle for next month's laser pick? I'd love to re-read it. This book was bad for my To Read (and re-read) list...

EDIT: Title changed to reflect the growing population...


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments I would say the goal of her book club was discussion and understanding the books and one another through that discussion.

In the club she seems to be less concerned about validation from others than expressing her opinion, which is about as healthy you can get in that situation. I would even dispute she needs validation as much as friends, because she tries her best to push everyone away, yet she craves good human contact.

As far as S&L goes, only a fraction (perhaps 100-200?) participates in the online discussion every month. We seem to be pretty good, for whatever reason to keep our differences pretty civil and limit the more disruptive influences of politics etc. If anything I wish I had more real life contact with people like the ones I find here.


message 3: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6756 comments Mod
Yeah, I think the 16,000+ members are misleading. Very few actively participate.

I havent read Cat's Cradle, and I had to look up Karass when I was reading. I took it more as her looking for a place to belong rather than it having some meaningful goal.

Then again participating in a group with people who share your interest (though not always your opinions) seems like a pretty good goal to me. Enriching your life and whatnot.


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Nathan wrote: "I would say the goal of her book club was discussion and understanding the books and one another through that discussion.

In the club she seems to be less concerned about validation from others th..."


I grant you that "validation" is the wrong word. Morwenna has no more doubt about the realityof the magic she weilds than you or I would about the reality of the internet we're currently using. I meant validation in its other sense: approval. That, at least, she lacks.

Relative to my question here, though, I'm not so certain we really avoid the deeper, more fractious issues. Recent discussions on how Orson Card's personal statements of faith and politics affect how we read him, or on the presentation of women in art and literature from Bridge of Birds to Dragonflight, are, I think, counters to that claim. More importantly, I am not sure it is such a "good" thing to avoid, say, politics. If we're not investigating and questioning the Big Questions with these books, what's the point? Just to chime in and say "this was fun?"


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Rob wrote: "Yeah, I think the 16,000+ members are misleading. Very few actively participate...."

True enough. That suggests S&L itself is a granfalloon, a touchstone for identity, like coming from a particular neighborhood or having gone to a particular university. It's not really 'accomplishing' much...unless you count that very declaration, "I am a fan of these genres, and consider my allegiance to them to be part of my identity" to be an accomplishment, which arguably it is.

And, of course, nothing says you can't have a karass inside a granfalloon.


message 6: by bookthump (new)

bookthump | 44 comments I joined intending to engage in meaningful and cerebral discussion with fellow fans of fantasy and science fiction, but since I joined one year ago, I have participated very little, being one of the 15,800 silent members rather than one of the 200 active ones. I read the forums constantly, whether I am reading the month's selection or not (I usually am), but have been too timid to join in the discussion, afraid that whatever ridiculousness vomits forth from my fingers will not match the level of discourse established by the active members.

That I have been too intimidated to join the discussion in the relatively safe environment of an online forum disappoints me, but as a painfully shy introvert, it is all about baby steps. I suppose I have to concentrate on my personal goal of finding the courage to participate before I can begin thinking about the karass's goal of finding answers to the Big Questions in the books we read.


Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments Daniel wrote: "I joined intending to engage in meaningful and cerebral discussion with fellow fans of fantasy and science fiction, but since I joined one year ago, I have participated very little, being one of th..."

Well here you are posting now, and not ridiculously at all. :) Successful step forward!


Greg | 83 comments Daniel wrote: "ridiculousness vomits forth from my fingers"

Vomiting fingers is awesome and grotesque at the same time.

I think one of the great things about this group is you can take baby steps in and you don't need to worry about becoming more involved. No one is sitting around going "Why hasn't that member said anything" and at the same time we don't look at how much you've said previously in any relation to the validity of your present statement.


message 9: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6756 comments Mod
Greg wrote: "I think one of the great things about this group is you can take baby steps in and you don't need to worry about becoming more involved. No one is sitting around going "Why hasn't that member said anything" and at the same time we don't look at how much you've said previously in any relation to the validity of your present statement. "

Or you can be like me and post way too much. I've not even been here a year and #5 on the post list.


Ruth (tilltab) Ashworth | 1861 comments I haven't read Cat's Cradle, but it seemed to me that what Mori was getting from the book group was a sense of being equal, without judgement. She commented a number of times on how people from the group didn't qualify their praise at her vast reading by referencing her age, and that they listened and took her views and opinions as seriously as any others. It seemed to be the first time she was fully able to express herself as an adult.

In a sense, I guess we have that on the forum since all opinions are invited, and seldom shot down, though with such a large group, even allowing for those who seldom contribute (welcome to joining in the conversation, Daniel :D), the environment will always be some disagreements that turn a little nasty. But actually, I think you can kind of pick your own groups of people among those who post on here that would sort of work as a karass, either people with similar views or people you can disagree with politely, so the total numbers don't really matter as much. I certainly have found myself more drawn to some than others, and I think the way that we communicate, even with practical strangers, can affect the way we see ourselves, and can sometimes, subtly alter behaviour. If nothing else, the forum can act as something of a mirror. Maybe, if there is a 'goal' it can be seen as each of us becoming more the people we want to be, as well as furthering our interests and having an outlet for expression.

And then we can take over the world?


Michele | 1154 comments Mori seemed to think a karass would help protect her from her mother, but it definitely helped her in other ways so whether it was another defense or not it still was a good thing.

That sentence is ugly.

I have foundnthis book club to be a wonderful thing, since I love to read, and I don't have anyone close to me right now to discuss books with regularly. Also I was having a hard time finding new things to read and was rereading a lot of old favorites, but now I'm finding a lot of new favorites to reread later so cheers to S&L!


Mel (booksandsundry) (booksandsundry) | 137 comments I think there are different ways people participate in this group. For myself as an example, I listen to the podcasts and read the forums a little, but I'd say my 'Karass' come from the group of people I meet up with on a google hangout to discuss the book each month. We certainly talk about a lot more than the book. In a group this size I think sub groups like this are inevitable.


message 13: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6756 comments Mod
Michele wrote: "I have foundnthis book club to be a wonderful thing, since I love to read, and I don't have anyone close to me right now to discuss books with regularly. Also I was having a hard time finding new things to read and was rereading a lot of old favorites, but now I'm finding a lot of new favorites to reread later so cheers to S&L! "

I now have a hard time trying to decide between all the stuff I've added to my read list as a result of S&L/good reads...

Its why I end up planning out a few months in advance..o


message 14: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 829 comments There's a post list? Where?


message 15: by Rob, Roberator (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob (robzak) | 6756 comments Mod
Serendi wrote: "There's a post list? Where?"

Sort of..

Go to the Members list and sort by Num Comments.


message 16: by Serendi (new)

Serendi | 829 comments Very cool, thanks! I'm at 121, with 122 comments (about to become 123). I like the way the numbers come out.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments P. Aaron wrote: "Nathan wrote: "I would say the goal of her book club was discussion and understanding the books and one another through that discussion.

In the club she seems to be less concerned about validation..."


That was the exact sense I was using it. I think she wanted to talk and express her opion. The opinion of others did not seem to factor much into her thinking, atleast concerning the book club.


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Nathan wrote: "That was the exact sense I was using it. I think she wanted to talk and express her opion. The opinion of others did not seem to factor much into her thinking, atleast concerning the book club."

Wow, I read those passages very differently. After every meeting, she seemed to agonize over whether she had spoken too much, offended someone, etc...precisely the types of post-game anxieties I wuold expect (from personal experience) from the socially awkward. And what teen doesn't worry about such things? I'm not sure a perfectly self-confident teen would be a realistic protagonist.


message 19: by Nathan (last edited Jun 06, 2013 06:26AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments I was not saying she was self confident socially. I was saying she did not need people to tell her if her ideas were right. She wanted to accepted into the group (which she worried about). She did not need to be told her ideas were right or valid, thus validation (which she did not).


message 20: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (rwblackburn) | 16 comments Nathan wrote: "Yeah, I think the 16,000+ members are misleading. Very few actively participate...."

I don't participate much just because I am a relatively slow reader & writer, so I don't tend to finish the books until after most of the discussions have been had, and there is so much to read through that I can't catch up. But I love S&L and really enjoy participate as much as I can, even if I am mostly "silent". This is why I finally decided to see if I can get a local meetup started:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1...

As for as, "is this a karass Built for 16,000"? I think so. I do not participate much, but if I ever bumped into someone and noticed they were lessening to the podcast, I think we would instantly feel a connection; it would make my day to chat with them. Though, I don't know what "goal" this karass is destined to achieve, aside from just being awesome and spreading a love of great books.


Heather | 28 comments I am one of the thousands who do not participate a whole lot, although I read the books almost every month and will chime in here and there with my thoughts. I read the forum regularly, however, and find that it really enriches my reading experience. In my day to day life, not many people enjoy SF and fantasy novels the way that I do. In fact, I had previously been slightly embarrassed of my love for them and, if asked who my favorite author was, I would come up with a more mainstream name, instead of saying "Robert Jordan" immediately. I had even slowed down in my reading of SF and fantasy except for the occasional book I could not resist. It wasn't really until this podcast and reading club that I embraced my love for the genre and, thanks to this awesome "karass of 16,000," I am now catching up on all the wonderful books I had left behind.


P. Aaron Potter (paaronpotter) | 585 comments Heather wrote: "....I had previously been slightly embarrassed of my love for them....It wasn't really until this podcast and reading club that I embraced my love for the genre..."

Thank you Heather (and Rob, Rob, Mel, Katie, Nathan, Ruth, Daniel, and Greg). This is, I think, close to my own conclusion. Certainly part of the purpose of a group like S&L is to provide a venue to discuss trends and titles in the genre, but it's also got a self-reflexive purpose: the very number of participants raises the profile and cultural cache of the genre as a whole. Even if the entirety of someone's participation in the group is no more than clicking the little 'join' button, and never reads another group book, or thread posting, that person is declaring an allegiance to a genre which, despite occasional cries of a 'geek revolution' is still pretty marginal. Given my convinction about the importance of this particular genre, I think lending it further gravitas would be purpose enough, even without the added bonus of stellar conversation, worthwhile information, and the insider access Tom & Veronica offer.


Heather | 28 comments P. Aaron, I agree. In a world where you can sometimes feel a little strange because you read books that the vast majority of people have never heard of, it is comforting and encouraging to see a huge, active group such as this one, regardless of whether you join or participate. It lends more credence to the whole genre and may even cause someone who has never read a SF/Fantasy book to wonder what the fuss is all about and pick one up.

What I also find interesting (and for a while, thought I was alone in) is that SF/Fantasy readers do not simply read and enjoy a book, but often become way more thoughtful, involved and, dare I say, obsessed with the series that they love. It is that level of involvement that makes SF/Fantasy readers so much fun to be around in book clubs such as these.


message 24: by Geir (new) - rated it 3 stars

Geir (makmende) Morwenna has at that point long been surrounded by rather shallow people at school, who she does not get along with at all. After being used to having an extremely close relationship with her twin, she's now quite lonely, and the book club has people she can talk to about books she's passionate about.

The goal, for her, seems to be mainly to fill a social need. We don't really get much under the skin of the other members.


message 25: by Richard (new)

Richard "A Karass" never works for me because I always envision Alex Karras as Mongo in BLAZING SADDLES punching out his horse.


message 26: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob (rwblackburn) | 16 comments Richard wrote: ""A Karass" never works for me because I always envision Alex Karras as Mongo in BLAZING SADDLES punching out his horse."

I didn't have that problem... Until now!
:)


message 27: by Rick (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rick P. | 53 comments I think that it's perfectly appropriate to call S&L a karass. Even those of us who rarely participate in the forums gains from the membership. If I am ever at a loss for someone to share this SF passion with, all I need to do is turn to the group. I rarely have insights to share in the forums that haven't already been posted by someone else, but I know that doesn't make me feel like less of a member.

Having our own secret language (words like Lem) should count for something, too ;-)


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