“Nightfall” by Issac Asimov

August 19th, 2008

NOTE: Here be spoilers!

Supposedly, “Nightfall” by Issac Asimov is one of the best short stories in the science fiction genre. It definitely was one of the first stories to legitimize the genre so sci-fi literature could be taken more seriously.

The story takes place on a planet that has nighttime once very two thousand years. The rest of the time is constant sunlight thanks to several nearby stars. Leading up to the event, there is debate as to what will happen, as history seems to stop at the last nightfall. A religious group claims to have knowledge of what existed before the last night, and they claim that people go crazy and that only they know how to deal with the nighttime – but the scientists are torn over whether that’s what will happen or if it’s just some religious clap-trap.

It’s probably a great story, but my opinion of it was hampered by how I interpreted other people’s description of the story. In my head, “Nightfall” was a story revolving around the idea of: what would happen if humans only saw the stars once very thousand years? Asimov’s answer was more a critique on polar approaches to the problem (scientific versus religious) and some notion of claustrophobia. The fact that I was expecting the way that people went crazy was not what happened in the story, which was greatly disappointing. As I imagined “Nightfall” in my head, people were looking forward to the nighttime because of the folklore around it, and when they saw the stars, they went crazy at the beauty of it all. In the actual story, people went crazy rather because they were afraid of the dark. Kinda lame.

I can write a better story than “Nightfall.”

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