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blog History for Fantasy Writers: Time Was

Discussion in 'Research' started by Black Dragon, Jan 5, 2020.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    skip.knox submitted a new blog post:

    History for Fantasy Writers: Time Was
    by E.L. Skip Knox


    This is a two-part article on how time was perceived and measured in ancient and medieval Europe, in the age before mechanical clocks. In Part One I’ll talk about the larger units of time: days, months, years, and the like. In Part Two, it will be hours, minutes, and seconds.

    It is common for fantasy writers to make up their own calendars. Some merely rename the months and days of the week, while others derive a calendar from the specific astronomical and geophysical aspects of their world. I’m not here to talk you into or out of any of that. The purpose of this article is to give an overview of the wide variety with historical precedent, and to suggest some aspects that may go overlooked.

    I’ve mentioned the calendar. In addition to days, weeks, months and years, don’t forget the seasons. Each of these categories can provide rich ground for invention. Don’t forget the shorter periods, though: hours, minutes, seconds, or specific measurements such as a ship’s bells. To anticipate a central point: the exact measurement of time is a modern obsession. Before the ubiquity of mechanical clocks, people had very, er, flexible notions about time. OK, let’s start with years.

    Right away we are presented with numbers. Whether it is the Gregorian calendar or the Islamic, Judaic, Hindu, cultures have long measured the years as an unending (we hope!) procession marked by...
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
  2. Love this post Skip and will look forward to the second installment.

    I've learned in my moves around the US there are various ways that locals poke fun at the seasons too. In Wisconsin, the like to say they have two seasons, winter and July. In the Dakotas, when it snows in winter, they might say, Oh, it's snowing? Must be warm! Here on the northwest coast we joke that, though we get 60 plus inches of rain every year, it mostly rains at night. And of course I grew up with April showers bring May flowers and March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I love when writers create a little of that local reflection and humor that gives a reader a peek, if exaggerated or distorted, at their world's climates and/or seasons.
    skip.knox likes this.
  3. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

    Finally got around to reading this, quite insightful. Wasn't aware that the Roman week had 8 days.
    skip.knox likes this.
  4. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Thanks, Joy. I'm glad you found something useful.
  5. Eleanor Konik

    Eleanor Konik Dreamer

    I mark time in Verraine using the concept of a <em>decan. </em>From wikipedia:

    <em>In astrology, a decan is the subdivision of an astrological sign (zodiac sign). In order to give fuller interpretation to the zodiac signs, ancient astrologers subdivided each sign into periods of approximately ten days. </em>

    <em>The decans are 36 groups of stars (small constellations) used in the Ancient Egyptian astronomy. They rose consecutively on the horizon throughout each earth rotation. The rising of each decan marked the beginning of a new decanal "hour" (Greek hōra) of the night for the ancient Egyptians, and they were used as a sidereal star clock beginning by at least the 9th or 10th Dynasty (c. 2100 BCE).</em>

    <em>Because every ten days, a new decanic star group reappears in the eastern sky at dawn right before the Sun rises, after a period of being obscured by the Sun's light.</em>

    Verraine doesn't have the same star-signs so it aligns a little more neatly with their seasons, because I'm lazy, but not perfectly, because timekeeping drift is a nice frill if I ever get an opportunity to drop it in.

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