On Monday, August 21, as you might have heard, the U.S. will experience a total solar eclipse for the first time since 1979. At least those in the ominous-sounding Path of Totality will. The rest of us will experience a partial eclipse. Nevertheless, it’s been 99 years since a total eclipse crossed the whole country, so it’s a big deal.
Back in the day, historically speaking, eclipses were often seen as omens. At HPB, we see it as a chance to highlight some books, movies and even music where eclipses play a role.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
In Twain’s 1899 novel, an American named Hank is transported back in time and across the pond to the court of King Arthur, where he uses his knowledge of modern science and technology to fool the people there. He’s scheduled to be burned at the stake on the exact date of an eclipse that he knows about since he’s from the future and all, so he cleverly gets out of the jam by making people think he caused the eclipse to happen.
Nightfall by Isaac Asimov
Asimov was only 21-years-old when he wrote this short science fiction story, published in 1941. It concerns the fictional planet Lagash, which is lit by six suns and therefore experiences daylight at all times. When scientists start predicting a very rare eclipse of all six suns, hysteria ensues. Nightfall was once voted the best science fiction short story ever written. Asimov worked with Robert Silverberg to expand it into a novel in 1990.
Dolores Claiborne and Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
The real-life solar eclipse of July 20, 1963, plays a role in these two loosely connected Stephen King novels, both released in 1992. The books were originally conceived by King as part of a longer work called In the Path of the Eclipse. By the way, this very same historical eclipse was featured in an episode of Mad Men (“Seven Twenty Three”) and was mentioned in the John Updike novel, Couples. Continue reading