As all life on this wretched planet derives its sustenance ultimately from the radiation of our Sun, few things can be more devastating to the mortal psyche than the sudden and total cessation of the Sun’s rays. We are speaking here of artificial solar eclipses, not the ones which are known to all astronomers and publicized long in advance to all. It works on multiple symbolic levels, also, where the region of blackness is directly and convincingly associated with the blackness of the villain’s heart, and the celestial manifestation the viewer witnesses is contrasted with the infernal intentions the villain has toward them. As a more practical matter, the darkness that can be produced during daylight hours can afford useful concealment for other nefarious elements in the evildoer’s scheme, coming at a time when antagonists are naturally less prepared than they would be after sundown. There are multiple ways in which a well-equipped evil genius can cause a solar eclipse on demand, each with its own plusses and minuses, and it is an indispensable piece of knowledge in the fiend’s arsenal.
- Timing. Generally a catastrophic interruption in the Sun’s output must be planned well in advance with some degree of secrecy, although there are certain exciting developments in alien craft which promise to miniaturize the necessary apparatus to a portable size someday. Until then, the insane mastermind must take care to choose the date and time for the desired eclipse, the range of its effect, the duration of totality, and the speed of onset and of return to normal (if any) so that the required elements can be marshaled in advance, coordination can be set up between them, and contingency plans can be made such as alterations in the plot owing to bad weather. Information on other supervillain plans for celestial apparitions as well as adversarial capacities for thwarting or nullifying the effect of the eclipse should be part of the overall planning in order to avoid surprises.
- Assemble the audience. These days, people do not spend nearly as much time outdoors as once was the case owing to the demands of modern life. In order to get your point across to the victims you have in mind, you need to make sure that they will be at the appointed location at the appointed time rather than sitting indoors in a windowless room where they risk missing the entire spectacle you are preparing. With some locations, you must make reservations and other arrangements well in advance to be certain that all can attend on time and prepared to view your diabolic prowess.
- Showtime. If the means by which you are planning to deprive the planet of its primary are slow in coming to bear, you must by all means compensate at the time of crisis by having some other easily understood measure of the dying of the light, whether that be the needle on a piece of scientific apparatus plummeting toward zero or instead a live video feed direct from the site of your misdeed. Otherwise, you can simply allow the creeping gloom speak for itself, bothering only to take credit for the calamity and associate your name in the popular mind with the greatest crime in all of history. If the darkness is never-ending, do announce that fact early on so that those experiencing it do not simply grow bored and leave.
Strokes of genius
- Moon the Sun. The most time-honored way of eclipsing the Sun is to use a conveniently-placed large object to cover its disk: the Moon. If you have the awesome might needed to alter the orbit of the Moon you are well on your way to eclipses on demand. The economical method is to boost it into the proper orientation over a period of time by exerting titanic forces on it, perturbing its orbit gradually, but this has the disadvantage of being rather easy for common astronomers to predict in advance, nullifying the element of surprise. More sudden alterations become correspondingly more difficult from the point of view of energy required, which can become prohibitive unless one has access to a means of superadvanced technology. One possible advantage of blotting the Sun out in this traditional method would be if your overall scheme called for your posing a menace to the Moon anyway, such as running it into the Earth or the like.
- Aerial obstruction. Sometimes the Moon is not available or not suitable for eclipse one has in mind. Examples include if one is aiming for a region of totality larger than it can accommodate or if one needs to black out the entire sun-facing side of the planet for an extended stretch of time. In these cases, you may seek some alternate means of shading the light away. This can be something as technologically primitive as a gargantuan flock of trained vampire bats or something as sophisticate as an large opaque death platform placed at L1 and still be effective. It is possible to deploy such a sun shield quite rapidly and with a degree of flair that helps drive home the message you are hoping to convey.
- Remove it. If Earth is not your only target but you want to deprive the entire Solar System of the Sun’s light, your best bet is to take the Sun away entirely. In your plans, do remember to account for the finite time between the Sun’s disappearance and the perception of such at the different planets (eight minutes in the case of Earth) when you compute the subsequent ejection of the suddenly chilled orbs into pitiless space.
- Put a boot on. If one can arrange to lock the Earth tidally to the Sun, one side will indeed exist in endless darkness, fulfilling that part of one’s plan to freeze all inhabitants of that hemisphere for a night that never ends. On the other hemisphere, of course, the planet will be bathed in endless light, which can also fit in with a demonic image by recalling visions of eternal hellfire and massive searing destruction. The only thing this method lacks perhaps is the iconic image of a dark shape consuming the solar disk, the one that so unsettled primitive humanity.
Traps for mere fools
- Chill. It is of course possible to render the Sun non-luminous by dousing its nuclear fires, like turning off a reactor, but one must work a little bit harder to put this together in practice as part of an overall fiendish campaign. If one simply turns off the fusion reactions, only a highly trained observer would notice the difference immediately, as the star would continue to emit light and heat while gradually cooling down over eons, so it is a public relations problem associating your image with something that might not be a big impediment to the vast majority of mortals. Also, if at the time there is a controversy surrounding global warming, you run the risk of being called a hero for having dared to stem the tide in your own way, which is likely to subtract from the evil image you as a supervillain are probably trying to cultivate. Finally, your stratagem runs the risk of some adversary claiming that they have come up with a way to re-ignite the solar core (again, hard to verify with the naked eye), undercutting your threat.
- Long speeches. Naturally occurring solar eclipses last for at most ten minutes of totality. Unless you have taken the more elaborate measures to bring about a more lasting eclipse, remember that you will be working within a brief time window fixed in duration and plan the hour-long monologue for another time. Most likely you should lead up to the big event of the blotting of the sun gradually, scheduling important executions and the like to coincide with it as the visual climax, then fade to black.
Precious and needful
- Warm clothing. When the sun is blotted out in the mountains, desert or at the beach, it can get bitterly cold in no time--particularly if there's any wind.
- Lasers and other effects.
- Background music. Very useful in setting a particular mood.
- Flashlights. Alternatively, chemical glow sticks.
- Public address system.
- Eye protection. Do not attempt to look at the Sun before the darkness is total or damage may result! This is a well-known bug in the design of humans which has not yet been resolved.
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- Image credit Total solar eclipse solaire 1999 by luc.viatour
- Image credit To Reach The Unreachable Star by Aeioux
- Image credit Total Solar Eclipse 1 Aug 2008 by n0ll