2016-03-13

Time

Update
Dragonverse Origins now stands at 94,708 words. If all goes well, the first draft will be complete in a few days. I've already sent what's been written to my content editor (at his request) so he can begin reading. I had to explain to him that it's still a work in progress and I will be making known changes to several scenes near the beginning of the book. As soon as the first draft is complete, I plan on starting work on Peacekeeper 3. The plot for that book is not yet 100% solidified but I do have enough to begin work. That's one of the advantages of being a seat of the pants (or SOP) writer - I can just start writing with only an idea as to where I'm heading. Once the words begin flowing, the book usually writes itself as I watch it unfold in my mind.

News
The founder of the writer's group I regularly attend in Mentor was not at the meeting yesterday. I was informed that she had had a heart attack. We were told she was doing fine and was actually on her way home while we were meeting. She said she will see us all next month. The only other person at the table who holds an MFA took over as interim leader. We had a productive meeting.

One of the readings produced a good discussion concerning point of view (POV). This is perhaps one of the more difficult tasks for a writer to accurately perform. For instance; if the reader is inside the head of a person and that person walks away from an argument, gets in his car, and drives away, there's no way he can see his girlfriend grab his picture and fling it into the fireplace. Even though this is a common scene and in movies it's easy to show, in writing, you must remain in the head of the boyfriend. The only exception to this is if you are writing in omniscient POV and the reader is aware of this. In this style, you can jump from one viewpoint to another as long as you don't confuse the reader.

Entire books have been written on POV. There are many ways to write the same story and POV sets the tone for everything the reader experiences. It's a rather complicated subject and all writers except the most experience should periodically review the various styles of POV. Fact is, I read something at the same meeting and I was guilty of suddenly switching POV. The group pointed it out and I will be fixing it as soon as this post is done.

Thoughts
Last night (or early this morning depending on your POV) we began daylight savings time. This is an event designed to help you identify how many clocks you have in your possession. While wandering through the house to reset the 12 clocks we own, I was struck by how time-centric our lives have become. There are clocks on stoves, coffee pots and microwaves. We have wall clocks and desk clocks. The 4 active computers we have each have a clock that resets itself (I did not count these in the 12 manually-set clocks). We have clocks dangling from out belts and strapped to our wrists. Our pocket computers (some call them cell phones) all have clocks. Later on, when the sun actually comes up, I will be resetting the two clocks in our cars. We are, indeed, a time-driven society.

This point is often lost when writing. Science fiction writers especially must be aware of time. It is not a constant of nature! If you travel fast enough, time slows. No two planets rotate at the same speed or round their sun at the same rate. Colonists will measure time differently on Mars and companies will have to develop a Martian clock for them to use. Even the way we split and combine time will differ on other planets. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months are all artificial creations of a representation of a set period of time.

In my Galactic Alliance series, people who routinely travel from one planet to another use a programmable timekeeping device. Upon arrival at their new destination, the timepiece can be reprogrammed to account for the local method of timekeeping. If you're a businessman and you tell a client you will meet him at 11, you had better understand exactly what that stands for in the locality you are visiting. Failing to do that can have dire consequences such as a lost deal.

Even here on Earth, with our standardized timekeeping units, there are problems. Last year, I attended WorldCon. Prior to leaving Ohio, I programmed my pocket computer's calendar with all the times when I needed to be at a certain place to sit on a panel. Spokane is 3 hours behind Ohio time. When I arrived in Spokane, my cell phone automatically adjusted. It also decided to automatically adjust all the times in my calendar! I was about to tweet this when another writer friend of mine tweeted the same problem. A moment later, she posted a solution. I made the same setting change in my phone and the problem corrected itself.

Later this year, I will be going to Laramie to attend Launch Pad. I am currently taking some medication that should be taken at the same time each day. That's easy while I remain in Ohio but when I travel, I must remember to adjust my time accordingly and that means taking the medication at a different time than normal. This example is different than the WorldCon one in that I want to continue to mark time as if I was in Ohio whereas when I was at WorldCon I needed to mark time based on the local time.

So, even on our own little world, timekeeping becomes complicated. I haven't tested it yet, but looking at my phone's calendar, it appears as if I can set a timezone for each and every event. There is an overall setting that can automatically adjust everything in the calendar as you move from time zone to time zone. Turning this feature off, locks each event to the timezone in which it was programmed and that can be altered. If this works the way it should, I can set my appointments in every time zone to be based on that zone and they will remain accurate as I move about the country. The point is though, that making those appointments in advance will require a few more steps to make sure I tell the phone which time zone to use for those events.

This entire discussion was triggered by a simple change in time. These are the strange things that writers think about when doing things that others just simply perform without thinking much about them. Being a writer means looking beyond the simple mechanics of living. As a writer of science fiction, I often look at a typical human activity and wonder -- would an alien species do something like this? What would it look like? Simple things, like kids swinging or sliding down a playground slide. An alien based on a reptilian body might not be able to get into a swing, climb into the seat of a car, or do many of the things we take for granted. It's hard enough being disabled or even left-handed in a world of humans who seem to ignore the fact that there are people out there that are different than themselves. If we can't tolerate differences between ourselves, how can we think an alien species would believe we can tolerate the differences between them and us?