Today, May 16, is the 2022 International Day of Light, designated by UNESCO to recognize the role of light in science, art, and education. You can read more also at the optical society Optica’s webpage. I’m out of town for a niece’s graduation and wasn’t able to properly celebrate the day, but thought I could share a few of my photos of last night’s lunar eclipse, which started about 9:30 CST and ran to about midnight CST. The photos were taken using my iphone in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn as I chatted with my dad, so they’re not as impressive as my previous lunar eclipse photos (see here and here), but it’s still always fun to see new photos.
There were clouds in the Chicago area at the time the eclipse was starting, and at first I only got a peek of the moon through a few gaps.
Twenty-four blog posts about old school Dungeons & Dragons? I can hardly believe I’ve done it! Let’s begin right away:
Palace of the Silver Princess (1981), by Tom Moldvay and Jean Wells. This module is one of the true classics, though it has a rather curious history. It was originally written entirely by Jean Wells, and was released with an orange cover:
The orange cover version was pulled from the shelves and almost all of the entire print run was destroyed, and it is now one of the most valuable vintage D&D products. Why was it destroyed?
I’ve long been a fan of the works of Abraham Merritt (1884-1943), a talented and successful writer of weird fiction, and have blogged about many of his works. His 1920 novel The Metal Monster is one of my favorite works of weird cosmic horror of all time, which starts with its protagonists discovering a long lost tribe of Persian warriors and it gets even weirder from there.
A couple of months ago, I happened to think to myself that I needed to track down and read the few Merritt novels that I haven’t read yet, and as if he was reading my mind, that very day Wayne of Wayne’s Books put up a slew of lovely Merritt editions for sale. I bought quite a few, such as this four-pack:
The only one of this bunch I hadn’t read yet is Burn, Witch, Burn! (1932), which represents a significant departure from his earlier works. I just finished it this week and thought I’d share some thoughts on it.
This is a belated post for the International Day of Women & Girls in Science, which was on February 11. In this post, I honor those women who never had a chance to get into science due to societal and cultural restrictions, even though they were capable. This anecdote will appear in my upcoming book on the history of invisibility.
Thomas Young is rightly regarded as one of the greatest scientists of the 19th century, and one of the greatest of all time. In the early 1800s, he argued, against the scientific consensus, that light has wave properties, and he was of course absolutely correct.
As I’ve blogged about previously, however, in the short term Young was attacked for his work by a bitter rival, and this caused him to withdraw completely from scientific research in 1804 to focus on his medical work, with the exception of publishing in 1807 his massive work, A Course of Lectures on Natural Philosophy and the Mechanical Arts.
That same year was not completely bad, however; on June 4 of 1804 he married Eliza Maxwell, who was related to the Scottish aristocracy through the family of Sir William Maxwell of Calderwood.
Let’s tackle another invisibility story! This one is a little different, in that it is a story about an imaginary invisible friend!
“The Handyman,” by Lester Barclay, appeared in the October 1950 issue of Fantastic Adventures. It is short and sweet, so this will be a very short blog post! Spoilers follow… you can read the story on archive.org in advance if you like.
This past Friday, a beloved member of my extended kitty family, Mandarin, was helped on his way to the next life. Mandarin was diagnosed early this year with a rare and untreatable brain tumor. Beth did everything possible to make the remainder of his life happy and comfortable, and it was.
I wanted to share some memories of this beautiful boy, as I’ve done for other dear departed felines in my life.
I may be cursed to blog about invisibility in fiction for the rest of my life. While preparing a post about McGivern’s “The Visible Invisible Man,” I suddenly realized that there is another story about invisibility in the very same issue of Amazing Stories!
As you can see from the short description, “Priestess of the Moon,” by Ray Cummings, features a woman fighting against an invisible being before disappearing herself. It is in fact another invisibility story, and quite frankly a very silly one. Let’s take a look… spoilers again, though I don’t think anyone will be particularly upset in the case of this story.
Here’s another invisibility story — again, my book on the history and physics of invisibility will be out next year!
The last we saw of William P. McGivern was his story “The Chameleon Man,” published in January of 1942. But it turns out that this wasn’t McGivern’s first invisibility story! That honor (presumably — he might still have an early one) goes to “The Visible Invisible Man,” published in the December 1940 issue of Amazing Stories.
Like McGivern’s later story, “The Visible Invisible Man” is also a comedy. I found it much more effective than the later one, though. You can read it here before reading my post if you want.
One of the best things about studying history is the serendipitous discoveries one can make. This post is about one of those: while tracking down various stories about invisibility, I learned of the story “The Plague of the Living Dead,” by A. Hyatt Verrill, which appeared in the April 1927 issue of Amazing Stories.
I stumbled across this story while researching Verrill’s invisibility story “The Man Who Could Vanish,” and it’s easy to see why it captured my attention: the modern “zombie” craze in fiction is usually traced to George Romero’s classic 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead, but here we have a story that is decades earlier talking about the living dead!
Verrill’s “Plague of the Living Dead” is a fascinating and surprisingly gruesome story. Though it probably did not influence the modern zombie genre, it definitely anticipated much of it. Let’s take a spoiler-filled look at it. You can read the original story here beforehand if you want. Note: some significant body and animal horrors described in the story.
The author of Skulls in the Stars is a professor of physics, specializing in optical science, at UNC Charlotte. The blog covers topics in physics and optics, the history of science, classic pulp fantasy and horror fiction, and the surprising intersections between these areas.