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Help with my calendar and time systems, please

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Tuxedo Mark, May 5, 2015.

  1. Tuxedo Mark

    Tuxedo Mark Dreamer

    I'm currently writing the first story in my pseudo-medieval fantasy setting. I'm trying to figure out the calendar and time, and I need some suggestions.

    I'd like to keep things as evenly divided as possible for simplicity's sake. I'm thinking one of their seconds will be equal to one of our seconds, but I'm also considering making the minutes (100 seconds?) and hours (100 minutes?) longer. My idea is the characters are actually older than their years would suggest. For example, an 18-year-old on my world would look like an 18-year-old on our world but might be, say, 41 of our years old. I'd like to toss in some casual references to units of time (among the royalty and other learned; the common folk have no use for formal measurements smaller than a day). I'm guessing their lifespans should be around (but not too much longer than) double our lifespans.

    I'm wondering how much that a week would be needed. Would going from a day to a month be sufficient? I can't think of a use for a week, since there isn't a concept of a weekend or a standard day of rest on my world.
  2. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Men have used the lunar cycle to reckon time long before there was a such thing as a calendar.

    On one of my worlds in progress, the moon is full every twenty one days, the length of their month as reckoned by noble and peasant alike. There are 20 such months in their year, the time it takes for the world to orbit the sun.

    The hours in the day are generally controlled by how fast the planet spins. This can be pretty arbitrary; I chose 28 hours, which is divided further into minutes of 100 seconds each. I always found the convention of 60 seconds silly, though truthfully none of the culture will have developed any sort of advanced time keeping devices beyond ones for tracking days.

    There is little need for weeks in pre-industrial civilizations, at least as far as my own opinion, but even so, I have reckoned time down that far for sake of completeness. 3 weeks of seven days each, since its really the only division of 21 that is possible.

    To answer your question: yes, going from day to month is a perfectly acceptable practice if there is no need for smaller pieces.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  3. Noldona

    Noldona Scribe

    Your calendar would really depend on how your solar system is setup assuming the cultures on your planet follow a similar process to what we did here on Earth.

    A year is the length of time it takes the planet to make 1 complete orbit of the sun.

    If you only have 1 moon like we do here on Earth, then a month is the time it takes for the moon to complete an orbit around the planet.

    A week probably came from dividing the days into groupings based upon visible celestial bodies. As there are 5 planets, the sun, and the moon visible to the naked eye, this would give us the 7 days.

    A day is the time it takes to make 1 complete rotation.

    The 24 hour day came from the Egyptians. They measured the day into 10 hours based upon their measuring devices, added a twilight hour at the beginning and end of the day. They then divided the night into 12 hours based upon a series of stars.

    The 60 minutes and 60 seconds part comes from the Babylonians. They liked to use numbers in base 60. They know the year was roughly 360 days, and also split the circle into 360 degrees (something we also kept from them). Using base 60, they were able to do complex calculations.
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  4. DeathtoTrite

    DeathtoTrite Troubadour

    Check out the French Revolutionary calendar. It was designed to be as base 10 as possible.
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  5. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    The problem with inventing a system is that you'll also have to explain it - otherwise you'll just confuse your readers.

    Saigonus makes good points - the calendar has to be based on the natural events of your world (lunar orbit if there is a moon - day length, seasons - if you have an axial tilt or other seasonal variation). But if you make the year length in days and months too neat you're risking inviting the reader to assume that it's an artificial world constructed just to have an easy base 10 calander.
    By contrast breaking up the day into periods is a pretty artificial task - and you can do pretty much what you want.

    When it comes to the actual day length and year length however it feels awkward to play about with it too much to make it too different to what is expected and intuitive.
    We the readers want to know how old the protagonist is - but we don't really care to do all that tedious calculation. if we're told 18 years old - we understand immediately. If however we're told that he is 41 we get a completely different mental image - that fact that the years are half as long isn't immediately intuitive - the image in our head has already done its work - and to break it we have to reevaluate everything.
    That's fine in an SF story where we're looking at alien worlds and expect variation, but in a fairly traditional medieval fantasy themed setting you would expect to keep some things (such as day length and year length) reasonably familiar.

    Now this could be effective - if you want to bring it into contrast with earth time - but if the entire world is like that and has always been like that then I question its use. I think you have to ask yourself if the shorter day is of importance to the story. If not the confusion it sows could outweigh any value it has.
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  6. Lunaairis

    Lunaairis Sage

    there was a book series I read "the Dark Angel" trilogy, by all means it is fantasy, but the idea that it takes place in a future were humans transform the moon and create mini-humans to live on it and by all mean become gods to these moon dwellers was pretty awesome. Yet one of the things that kept throwing me off was the term "a daymonth." To this day I have no idea if it meant a couple of days(24-72 hours) or an actual month. If it meant an actual month, that would mean that the people living on this moon would go through 30 some odd days of light and then 30 some off days of darkness, yet it would be the middle of "night" and then day would come very soon (like an hour or so). It was very confusing.

    My only recommendation if you use different than our normal units is that you stay consistent and that you quickly explain it. Have someones watch break or maybe someone is ticking off the days on a calender till a festival or something.
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  7. Terry Greer

    Terry Greer Sage

    Strangely this wouldn't bother me as its clearly an sf setting. But that's because I already know that the moon takes 28 days to go through all its phases (ie 1 lunar day).
    I also know that the earth will go through exactly the opposite set of phases (i.e. it will be full when the moon is in the depths of its 2 week long night)while remaining fixed in the sky in the same more or less unwavering position (bar a little jiggling).

    In SF this works because you can compare it to known earth values to make a point of the difference - but in fantasy its harder to make work. But obviously it can - centuries long climate/seasons are fairly common in fantasy - but its at that scale not hours per day that it feels right.
  8. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Inkling

    The idea for a month is based on the time from one full moon to the next. You could have something similar, based on a moon, solar activity, geologic activity or some other event that takes repeatedly after a certain number of days. Perhaps have only seasons. It could be the 53rd day of spring. You could also have more than four seasons to break up the times in a way you like.
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