Monday, November 13, 2017

The Future of Time

After reading Donna's excellent blog on Daylight Savings Time on Friday--WHAT'S THE TIME? IT DEPENDS--it got my wheels turning on a subject that's sometimes come up in reviews. Because if you think adjusting to/off daylight savings is confusing, just wait. It's going to get worse. Much worse! Imagine when we start dealing with multiple planets, all with different measurements of time, seasons, years instead of a silly little one-hour shift in time.

From time-to-time (*grin* see what I did there?), I’ve had critics question why I create different words for time references in my novels, because, you know, why don't I just say "hour." No, it isn’t just to make the words sound more “science fictiony.” In a future setting, I have to think beyond life on this world. To think about timekeeping in the future it's important to think outside the box, or at least, outside the planet.

Our system of timekeeping is bound to the natural rhythms of our own planet. By that I mean, it was developed according to the cycles of our world and its insignificant sun. A year is based on one orbit around our sun. A day is based on one rotation of our world, with hours, minutes and seconds all divisions of that 24 hour period. But what about when we leave our birth world?

Yup. You got it. That's when things really get interesting. Because when that happens, the concept of time as we know it breaks down.
A scientific precedent has already been established on Mars, where ‘days’ are known as sols. (For the record, that wasn’t done just to sound “science fictiony” either.) A brief explanation defining the sol is in this quote from the Wikipedia page for Timekeeping on Mars: “The term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or "sol", is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds.” (If you want to read more on the whole complex subject of time on another planet, just click the link above.)

So if we, in our fledgling attempts to explore other worlds, have already found a need to use a new specific term for a day on our nearest neighbor, imagine what's going to happen when we start colonizing dozens of other worlds, each with its own orbit and natural cycles.
And that’s why I envisioned the known galaxy getting together in this distant future and saying, “Whoa. Wait a minute. Errr, make that a moment. In order for business, commerce and governments to mesh and function, we need to standardize this whole mind-boggling timekeeping mess so we can do things like plan and schedule using a shared universal measurement.”

And so they did.
That’s why “years” in my fictional universe are referred to as calendars. Seems logical, right? When we schedule future events, we use a calendar to record when that event will take place. So in the future, that term might just be borrowed to represent a standardized measurement that universally replaces our Earth year.

To follow suit in my stories, “months” became moons, “hours” became haras, “minutes” became tempas and “seconds” became sectas. All are standardized units of timekeeping that are the same wherever a person happens to be in the known galaxy—on any planet or off.

But wait, what about days? Well, yeah. Day is still day, because although day is also an exact measurement of timekeeping on Earth, the word is also embedded in our language as a much more ambiguous reference that isn’t precise. Someday. One day. The day will come. So carrying "day" over to represent the standardized unit for 24 haras as well as the more vague reference made sense to me--and even more importantly made sense for the characters' dialogue, so they weren’t saying things like: “Some zeron you’re going to regret that!” (‘Cuz, you know, that does sound “science fictiony.”)
As a writer, I also have to concede that it’s important to temper creative thinking with some degree of common sense. Day was my compromise. :)

An Update and Announcement
You probably noticed for the first time in many weeks my blog wasn't all about Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2. That's because our primary objective--maximizing our donation to the wonderful Hero Dogs organization--ended at midnight on Veterans Day this past Saturday.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers who supported our cause, who wrote well over 120 wonderful Amazon reviews for the anthology to date, who helped catapult the collection to #1 Amazon Bestseller on the first day it became available for preorder, and a USA TODAY Bestseller in its first week of release! The science fiction romance readership continues to grow stronger with every passing year, and these achievements were a direct result.
Although the book will still be available until April 30, 2018 (before it goes supernova and is forever scattered to the stars), the most important phase in our mission is now behind us.
I'd also like to take a moment to announce that if there is a Pets in Space 3--and that decision is a still a couple of months off--I won't be a part of the anthology next year. The time has come for me to focus on getting more of my own work published, and although my involvement with the two volumes has been an amazing and career-altering experience, it's time to refocus.
But that's not to say I'll never have another StarDog story to tell. The future is never certain...  :) 

Have a great week!


  1. Yes! This, exactly. I had the same run of logic when I wrote Prophecy. My solution was a galactic calendar/time system already set in place by the time Earth is drawn into the fold, so to speak. It makes the most sense. :)

  2. It's a fascinating dilemma, sorting out local time on a planet somewhere, to local time on a planet somewhere else. I created a kind of galactic equivalent of Greenwich Mean Time (Imperial time, or some such. Each planet by necessity works on its own time - but that equates to Imperial time, so everybody has a scale against which to measure. It's all good fun, isn't it?

    So nice to see we all think about the scientific details :)

  3. Thanks for your replies, Lea and Greta. It's just one of the things we run into with writing in this genre that other writers never have to consider. But, like Greta said, that's what makes it fun.


Comments set on moderation - all spammers will be exterminated!

About Spacefreighters Lounge

Hosted by 5 Science Fiction Romance authors with 8 RWA Golden Heart finals and a RITA final between them. We aim to entertain with spirited commentary on the past, present, and future of SFR, hot topics, and our take on Science Fiction and SFR books, television, movies and culture.