Against the Fall of Night

Photo by Roman.

It seems an apt title for the photo, if perhaps a bit portentously sentimental.

It’s also the title of science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s first novel, published in 1953. It was a classmate, Vicky Brown, who gave me a copy of the book in 8th grade or maybe it was high school. It is likely that I stammered out some thank you at the moment, but I’m certain I never told her just how bedazzled I was by the book.

Against the Fall of Night, as a book, is mildly unusual in that Clarke, a few years later, rewrote the book as The City and the Stars. The first version had been in the works since the late 1930s, but since then advances in science had

“…opened up vistas and possibilities quite unimagined when the book was originally planned. In particular, certain developments in information theory suggested revolutions in the human way of life even more profound than those which atomic energy is already introducing, and I wished to incorporate these in the book I had attempted, but so far failed, to write.” [preface to The City and the Stars]

I’ve become considerably less enthralled by Clarke in the decades since. Some of it is political. The techno-optimism of the 1950s has become rather less plausible over the years but consider also Clarke’s not-too-subtle endorsement of colonialism in the novel Childhood’s End. Then too, while Clarke had a real talent for sentimentality, when you find yourself expected to be all weepy over a lump of uranium, well that raises an eyebrow, at least for me.

But thank you for the book, Vicky, where ever you be, and in return to you and to everyone else: a lamp in the evening light.

“O Black Hole!”

This animation from director and animator Renee Zhan is weird and wonderful and existential and it will fulsomely reward you for the 16 minutes you entrust to it. Never mind that the filmmaker describes it this way:

“A woman who can’t stand the passing of time sucks everyone and everything she loves inside herself to keep them with her forever. Eventually, she turns into a black hole.

“A thousand unchanging years pass inside her dark embrace until one day, the Singularity wakes.”