1816 was a pretty terrible year to go on vacation.
Commonly known as the ‘Year Without a Summer,’ the world experienced severe global cooling due to the eruption of an Indonesian volcano that released enough sulfur into the atmosphere to reflect the the sun’s rays.
But if it was a bad year for enjoying the sun on holiday, at least it resulted in a productive period for a group of young English writers and poets. Gathered in Switzerland with nothing to do, Lord Byron, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Polidori challenged each other to write ‘ghost stories.’
Out of that challenge came Wollstonecraft Shelley’s most notable work and literary classic Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus, as well as Polidori’s The Vampyre.
The app Summer of Darkness, released this summer in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, tells the story behind that gathering and the works of literature that came as a result, through a chronologically arranged compilation of letters, poems and journal entries written by the various parties during that summer.
The documents reveal the fascinating and complex web of relationships between all parties involved in the trip, rivaling the drama of any modern reality TV show.
The app provides a brief overview of the time period before delving in to the documents, which come along with beautifully-detailed maps, weather information and the occasional flash of lightning across the screen to add ambiance. The game was meant to be played throughout the summer of 2016, with segments of the story unlocking in “real time” concurrent with historical times and dates.
However, now that more than half of the summer is already over you’ll be able to peruse most of the content at your own pace– and with a page-turner like this history, that likely means all at once.