One of the reasons I have loved reading science fiction is that the genre provides an opportunity to place human stories in situations that we wouldn’t otherwise consider.
Nightfall is a novelette (later a short story and a novel) written by famed American write Isaac Asimov in 1941. In 1968 the Science Fiction Writers of America voted it the best science fiction story written before 1965.
Nightfall is about a period of coming darkness on a planet that is ordinarily illuminated lit by its six suns. The suns are about to align in a manner such that only one is visible in the sky – and it will be eclipsed.
Only a small group of scientists are aware of the coming event, having recently discovered through a confluence of studies and a bit of serendipity that this alignment occurs every couple of millennia. Each time this occurs, it traumatizes the planet’s inhabitants, triggering planetary panic and a complete and utter destruction of their civilization.
The planet’s population is unaware of the impending event. They have never seen stars and are thus unaware of their presence in a much larger universe. And they believe their civilization is the only one that has ever existed on their planet. The unexpected darkness and appearance of a starlit sky triggers a kind of mass insanity.
Let’s hope that today’s eclipse traversing across America’s heartland doesn’t trigger another mass insanity like we experienced in November 2016.