Time is Marching On


I can’t believe it’s been another week already.  Time gets weird when you don’t have a regular schedule to keep track of.  Interestingly enough, I just finished reading Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein and the society within which the story takes place as lost the concept of measured time because they have been trapped inside a ship for generations with no view of the outside world and therefore nothing to show the passage of time.  It hadn’t occurred to me, but Heinlein pointed out that on Earth, we measure time based on physical events and changes in nature such as the rotation of the earth and the movement of the stars and planets, therefore, trapped in a world that has no view of anything like these, time would cease to have the meaning it has to us.  There wouldn’t really be the same need in such a situation, especially in such a small society, of perhaps thousands, that has no contact with the outside world.  They grow plants, but in a controlled climate, there would be no need for seasons.  They have sleep times and wake times, but without the sun, they wouldn’t need to be on a 24-hour schedule.  Their greetings were always “Good eating.”  As there was no more concept of days and all the parts of the days, such related greetings would mean nothing and in that contained environment, food was scarce and therefore the concept their society revolved around.  I could write a whole annotation about it, but since I’m not required to and I’m being lazy now that I’m out of school, I won’t.  But it has gotten me thinking about what other ways the environment of the world in which your book is set might affect the characters and their culture.  Heinlein has a fascinating religion within the society that twists concepts of science–that no longer have meaning to the people because of their lack of contact with the outside world–into analogies rather than fact and I started wondering what other ways this idea might work in contained societies (large or small) that have branched off from the norm.

In any case, I recommend the book if you want some good ideas for world-building and some food for thought about how beliefs and superstitions develop within a society.