PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Stare all you want. Literature's most notable eclipses pose no risk to your eyes on the printed page.
Mark Twain might be one of the few writers gifted enough to match such a momentous natural phenomenon with the grandeur of his words. He tackled the subject in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Having traveled back in time, the story's hero uses his advanced knowledge of planetary movement to gain favor in Camelot:
It got to be pitch dark, at last, and the multitude groaned with horror to feel the cold uncanny night breezes fan through the place and see the stars come out and twinkle in the sky. At last the eclipse was total, and I was very glad of it, but everybody else was in misery.
While rare on Earth, Isaac Asimov imagined a planet where eclipses were the stuff of legend. His novella Nightfall is set on a world that exists in perpetual daylight courtesy of six suns. They all come into alignment behind the moon only once every 2,000 years. For people who have never known darkness, its effects are maddening:
With the slow fascination of fear, he lifted himself on one arm and turned his eyes toward the blood-curdling blackness of the window. Through it shone the Stars! Not Earth's feeble thirty-six hundred Stars visible to the eye; Lagash was in the center of a giant cluster. Thirty thousand mighty suns shone down in a soul-searing splendor that was more frighteningly cold in its awful indifference than the bitter wind that shivered across the cold, horribly bleak world.
If there's any fear to be mined from an eclipse, then you can bet Stephen King will work it into a story. In those few minutes the sun is hidden away, enough violence is done to haunt several characters in Dolores Claiborne for the rest of their lives:
The sky itself was a deep royal purple, and what I saw hangin' in it above the reach looked like a big black pupil with a gauzy veil of fire spread out most of the way around it. On one side there was a thin crescent of sun still left, like beads of molten gold in a blast furnace. I had no business lookin' at such a sight and I knew it, but once I had, it seemed like I couldn't look away. It was like. . . well, you might laugh, but I'm gonna say it anyway. It was like that inside eye had gotten free of me somehow, that it had floated up into the sky and was lookin' down to see how I was gonna make out. But it was so much bigger than I'd ever imagined! So much blacker!
Before Dolores Claiborne, Stephen King had previously written about an eclipse in Gerald's Game.