Temporal Anomalies: Timekeeping in Knownearth

When authors create fantasy worlds, they often leave time alone, and the length of days, weeks, and years is similar to how we track time here on earth. I wrote a post for Fantasy Faction about how some well-known authors (Tolkien, Jordan, Martin, Sanderson, and Pratchett) have managed time in their fantasy settings. Time plays a major role in the plot of A Wizard’s Sacrifice, the upcoming sequel to A Wizard’s Forge, so I decided to address the topic here as well.

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Courtesy of NASA

How we measure time is a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The length of any given planet’s year will be determined by how long it takes to circle its sun, and the length of its day is determined by the planet’s rotation. Mercury whizzes around our Sun in only 88 Earth days; meanwhile, its day lasts two of its years, or 176 Earth days. Days and years are dictated by gravity, but the length of hours is entirely arbitrary and based on cultural history rather than physics.

As described elsewhere in this blog, The Woern Saga is set on another planet settled by humans several millennia before Vic’s story takes place. It’s very much a Goldilocks planet, similar to Earth in flora and (some) fauna and well-suited to human habitation. A few key differences include the lack of a moon, west to east rotation, and a 40-hour day.

Why a day nearly twice as long as our day? I thought it was cool. Incidentally, the duration of a Knownearthian hour is close to an Earth hour because Knownearth’s original settlers were from Earth and were used to counting time in seconds, minutes, and hours of the same duration as what we know. When they arrived on the planet, they found the day length to be slightly longer than 40 Earth hours, so they adjusted their timekeeping devices to elongate a “second” by just enough microseconds that the world’s day-night cycle could be counted out over an even 40 hours. Then people had to wait for their Circadian cycles to adapt to the new diurnal pattern, something that probably took several generations and a whole lot of daytime naps. By Vic’s time, however, humans generally stay awake for roughly 24 hours and sleep for 16.

I thought a 40-hour day was cool, but I also wanted readers to grok the ages of the characters. When the first book opens, Vic is 15 years old, and I wanted readers to understand her as a 15-year-old. So, I made her an intelligent and capable young woman, but one who lacks confidence, experience, and wisdom—in other words, a typical smart teenage girl. But to make fifteen mean the same thing on Knownearth with its 40-hour day as it does here with our 24 hour day, I had to make a year a lot shorter than our year.

It wasn’t until I began writing A Wizard’s Sacrifice, however, that I needed to nail down more specifics about timekeeping in Knownearth. First, two characters are psychically linked and constantly aware of each other’s thoughts, perceptions, and sensations. When Sacrifice opens, this pair is separated geographically. They live thousands of miles from each other, and their different longitudes mean that they’re not on the same schedule for daily activities like work, eating, and sleeping.

More importantly, the plot separates into parallel narratives set at different points in Knownearth’s history, but which include events that occur at the same “moment” in the bigger space-time picture. One of these plotlines involves a pregnancy, which has a relatively constant duration in human physiology. To build the necessary timelines to make all this work (especially the human gestation), I had to determine the number of days, weeks, and months in a Knownearthian year. Here’s how the math works out:

  • 1 day = 40 hours (Earth equivalent)
  • 1 year = 223 days
  • Gestation = ~160 days

mapKnownearth’s nations lie on a giant isthmus between two massive continents, and all have a temperate climate with four seasons (summer, fall, winter, spring), similar to Earth. The original settlers used a 12-month calendar because that structure was familiar to them, and the math is relatively elegant (eg, you can’t evenly divide four seasons into 10 months).

  • 1 year = 4 seasons of 3 months each = 12 months
  • 1 week = 5 days
  • 1 month = 4 weeks +/- a few days (average: 19 days)
  • Gestation = 8.5 months

So when will readers get to see how these details are developed in A Wizard’s Sacrifice? The manuscript is nearing completion. I’m going to keep posting updates, and maybe some teaser chapters, here.

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