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.


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