Speaking of Time

I’m sure it means I come from an overly technical background when I regularly have discussions and debates with my husband about how pregnant I am in months. It isn’t about whether or not the time is relative – 24 weeks is 24 weeks no matter what scale you use. [No, I’m not opening debate about how pregnant I am; I can be perfectly fine with the one the doctors use.]

But here’s where the debate lies: is 24 weeks equal to 6 months? My husband’s overly technical answer is no. He insists there are 4.3 weeks per month and that must be taken into account. I suppose he’s got a point, since there are 52 weeks in a year and 6 months is half a year, so 26 weeks, right? The issue there is that there are supposed to be 4 weeks in 1 month. Isn’t that what we learned when we were young? And 6 times 4 is 24. Feels like there ought to be wiggle room.

Then you add in the pregnancy thing being 40 weeks, give or take, and you get a messy tangle. Do you count that as ten months? Do you start the count from a different week to make things more confusing, but less difficult to say “I’m five months pregnant.” Do you ever wonder why we allow such discrepancies? Can’t it be fixed to say one month is so many days and so many weeks?

It’s probably just as easy as switching to the metric system. Something that is resisted in this country yet would make things easier once completed.

It also makes me think of time in books. Often I read science fiction and fantasy. Rarely is another time system used that isn’t based on Gregorian calendar. Many fantasy books turn months into moons, and it changes the pace and tone, but it’s a similar system. Science fiction often uses something along the same lines. Star Trek uses a stardate, but it’s simply a different way to state it.

One series I read by Gayle Greeno, The Ghatti’s Tale, had a system with eight days per week. At the time it made me wonder why more authors didn’t try something like that. Time and its passage isn’t a main focus in these novels or it might have become a problem. Like creating a new language and having to understand all the rules involved, time has its own issues. We think in terms of calendars we know. Once a reader has to convert all of the references into something that has no common point to the popular system of time measurement, it might give the reader a chance to check out and put the book down.

What do you think? Have you ever tried to create a time system for a book that didn’t have large similarities to the Gregorian calendar? Did it become a gargantuan task to keep everything straight in your head and your readers? How many books have you encountered that significantly altered the way time was measured for the story and did it change your opinion of the book?

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous said,

    22 September 2011 at 20:18

    Passage of time seems relative. Summers used to last forever, now they’re gone by in the blink of an eye. The kids that had to suffer in-school-suspension had to be in a room without a clock. To me that sounded like the worst form of punishment imaginable.The Sue Grafton novels have a regular time scale I suppose. The writer began the novels in present day, however since it takes like a year for her to write a book about a 3-day span, The protagonist’s time has only shifted 8 years in the nearly 30 years the author has been writing them. Answering machines are a “new thing” in her books.

  2. ransomnoble said,

    23 September 2011 at 07:54

    Answering machines are a new thing? I guess her books got frozen in time when she started writing. Not a bad thing, since I’m sure she knows the time well and she’s been stuck there for 30 years.

    I’m always amazed when someone doesn’t get tired of the same character after that period of time.


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