Thursday, December 20, 2012

When Night Falls

With the nights becoming longer as the winter solstice nears, I've been thinking of a science fiction novel I read some twenty years ago, “Nightfall”, by Robert Silverberg, who had based it on a short story of the same name by Isaac Asimov.

The story is set on a planet that is bathed always in sunlight because it has two or three (I don't remember how many exactly) suns, positioned in such a way that there's no corner of this planet that's ever dark, despite that it revolves on its axis, like earth.

Therefore the peoples of this planet (the name of which I also don't remember) know not what night is. The very idea of night, with its black sky and twinkling stars, is something this planet's denizens can't even imagine, except the most clever ones, like some of its scientists.

The denizens (except the clever ones, like some of the scientists) are unaware that every few thousand years the positions of the suns become aligned in such a way that half the planet as it revolves becomes dark (Nightfall) for a few hours.

The scientists have calculated that the end of the last several thousand years of uninterrupted sunlight is nigh. Nightfall is suddenly to descend on the planet's peoples. How will they react? A pertinent question, because there are stories, credible stories, that when the previous Nightfall descended those many thousand years ago, the people panicked. They went on a rampage - burning libraries, demolishing buildings, that sort of thing. All the recorded knowledge and structure of their society was destroyed. The civilisation collapsed.

Is this about again to happen? I won't say more, in case you decide to read “Nightfall”.

My summary is no doubt extremely imperfect because, as I said earlier, it's twenty or so years since I read “Nightfall”, and my power of recall isn't what it once upon a time was. However, what I sketched out above will do for what I'll talk of in my next posting.

2 comments:

  1. Bad things happen. That's my guess.

    Just wanted to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    This evening, Christmas Eve, I watched the Wim Wenders documentary about Pina Bausch. It's thrilling.

    Maybe 2013 can be like a little piece of Pina Bausch. There's a thought.

    Cheers!

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  2. Merry Christmas/Hanukkah and a Happy New Year to you too.

    How are you finding China Mieville's "The City and the City"?

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