Time Reckoning in Novatierre
Here on Earth we’re so used to
internationally agreed-upon time zones that it’s hard to imagine life without
them. On Novatierre such organization is
impossible; not all countries even know of each other’s existence. And since technology varies widely, not all
communities have clocks.
Many small tribal or rural communities
don’t have numerated time at all.
Everyone more or less wakes up whenever seems natural and starts the
day’s work. These communities tend to
expect those who wake later than the norm to quit work later than the norm to
roughly the same degree, but other than that they don’t think about time
much. People have no need to make
appointments, since they can observe each other closely and see when someone
else has a free moment. They cook food
till it smells done, milk cows when the cows let it be known that they want
milked, and gather when somebody rings a bell or blows a horn or otherwise
summons people. They might have names
for different times according to what usually happens then (first song, for
when the birds start singing, for instance, or the hour of the rabbit for when
twilight animals are most active, etc.) but rarely do they feel the need to tag
numbers on them.
Sometimes people in such communities
do want to time the duration of a meditation or a spiritual practice. The more sophisticated among them will use an
hourglass, by drips of water or the trickle of sand. Sometimes they might instead use a small or
marked-off candle. Some cultures prefer
a strand or circle of loose or spaced beads or knots in string, with a mantra or
prayer marking time for each. Others
might use a place (garden, temple, plaza, labyrinth, etc.) in which one strolls
a set path or circuit, pausing at marked places for whatever prayers,
meditations, or rituals the culture favors.
Still others will use the movement of shadows or the position of the sun
by day and the more reliable movement of stars by night.
Larger towns and cities, where one
can’t know and observe everyone’s activities, do enumerate time for
appointments and such. Most commonly
they will, upon the community’s founding or when they agree that it has expanded
to the point of needing time, set up some form of sundial to determine the
local “noon”. Those who stick with the
sun-dial see “hours” not as a set number of minutes, but as a phase of the day,
flexible in length with the changing of the season.
The more technological (especially
those advanced enough to have chemical and other procedures that need precise
timing) will only use the sundial as a starting point to determine local noon,
and then create a big, elevated town clock by which everyone will set their own
clocks and watches. Even so, not all
such communities agree on the reckoning of time. Some start the day at midnight, some at dawn,
and some at dusk. Some will set noon at
12, others at 1, others at 6 (with 1 being the hour of sunrise on an equinox)
some at whenever would be halfway at a summer or winter solstice. Most, by habits left over in Earth, will have
60 second minutes adding up to 60 minute hours for twenty-four hour days, but
some have adopted a sort of metric time where everything divides by ten. One finds this most often in Istislan, where
metric time applies to everything, but many countries that have a music
industry will have “music time” (base ten or base eight) for determining the
length of a song or its tempo, and sometimes for dance or drama, but not
elsewhere in people’s lives.
Whatever the case, whenever travelers with watches enter into a
large town or city, the first thing they do (if they plan on staying for more
than a day or two) will be to calibrate their own watches to those of the
city. In the case of Istislan, they will
buy an Istislan watch, if they haven’t got one already. You will find time shops full of digitally
calibrated watches and clocks at every port and station, most of them with
dials to show both twelve-base (outer ring) and ten-base (inner ring) timing
systems. Some even have three-ring
watches, showing twelve, ten and eight based time.
Which brings up “Station Time”. Wherever you find rapid transit between
locations with different time reckonings, stations will have their own
reckoning system used throughout their network.
The first hour begins at the moment the first train, bus, plane or boat
left the station in the founding of that network, and all schedules will
reflect this. Nobody expects
station-time to bear any resemblance to nature, aside from the persistence of a
cycle corresponding to the length of a day and night.
Individual stations will almost always have two clocks side by
side. The left-hand one will tell
station time and the right-hand one will tell local time, so that travelers who
disembark there can shift to it. Printed
schedules will provide charts to help you reckon how your local time, or that
of your destination, converts to station-time (and it will often vary not only
in hours, but in minutes.) This might
seem awkward to twenty-first century people, but their system would seem
equally awkward to people of the twenty-eighth century.
The International Shuttles go by the
hour of an historic Novo Durangan launch, and so has sixty-minute hours. Til Institute narrowly beat the Istislani in
a race to launch the first transoceanic shuttle, and so won the privilege of
setting the clocks. Watchmakers in
Istislan cussed at this development, thinking it would cut into potential
income. Nevertheless, they still have
time-shops in all three stations, because half to a third of the passengers
will come their way.
So far as I’ve dreamed presently,
nobody observes daylight savings time in Novatierre. In those places with scheduled labor hours,
people do naturally start rising earlier in late spring and summer, in a slow
transition with the seasons, but they view the morning hours as bonus personal
time and would probably riot if told to come to work earlier.
The one exception to all of this is
Tambour time. The nation of Tambour has
not only adopted a national set time (base ten) which all towns within its
borders must comply with, starting each cycle with equinox sunrise at the
capitol, they have also imposed this time on every territory that they have
conquered, no matter how far afield. But
then they are an exception in many other ways as well.