Introducing: Summer of Darkness


For the past few months Andrew and I’ve been working on a secret project — our first creative collaboration. When we moved to Switzerland four years ago, I had never even visited the country. All I knew about the Lac Léman region was that some of my favorite writers had spent a summer near Geneva, and I moved on the condition that we could visit where they’d stayed.

Naturally this led to a great deal of literary tourism through Switzerland (with a brief jaunt into Italy, as well) following in the footsteps of Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Shelley. Andrew was a willing accomplice, even when I managed to get lost by relying solely on 19th century texts for navigation.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of The Year Without Summer, when Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and Mary Shelley (then Godwin) spent several months living as neighbors in the outskirts of Geneva on the shores of Lac Léman. Europe was in the midst of a volcanic winter, the summer was unusually cold and wet, and an Italian astronomer predicted that the world would end that July.

Against this backdrop of climate change and impending apocalypse, Lord Byron challenged his friends to a ghost story writing competition. A few nights later, Mary Shelley had a nightmare that became her inspiration for Frankenstein, a novel she immediately began to write.

The Summer of Darkness iPhone/iPad app tells the story of this legendary summer in real-time — 200 years later. Using the writers’ diaries, letters, and literary works, the app reveals their summer as it unfolded, from their respective flights from England pursued by scandal (divorce and accusations of incest in the case of Lord Byron) and debtors (both Byron and the Shelleys) to their travels through the region, their affairs, their writing, and their eventual separation.

Events are matched to the day — to the hour when the information is available — and sent to the reader via notifications that open to source material by the writers. The app simulates the daily weather conditions from the summer of 1816 and plots the writers’ movements across a map of the region for a new kind of immersive reading experience.

I’d love for you to try out the app and, if you’re inclined, to rate and review it. If you think of anyone who might be interested in this project, please feel free to forward this post to them. We’d like to spread the word about it.

The Summer of Darkness app is available world-wide through the iTunes Store:

Additional information about the app is available here:

Mary Shelley called Frankenstein her “hideous progeny.” We’re rather fond of our creation.

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