Wednesday, March 5, 2014

IWSG March 2014

IWSG, brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh, occurs once a month. It exists for writers to voice their insecurities and offer advice. The official website, www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com continues to be a priceless commodity in my studying and research. Any one interested in writing to have a look!

I've got a very niche subject for IWSG today. And after writing it out and having read this post again in its entirety, I must admit - It's not the most grievous of quandaries.

I'm writing fantasy that takes place in Silexare. There are certain trades and skill sets that are going to need to measure things in a precise manner, like engineers, mechanics, surgeons, physicists, apothecaries, and so on. In its history, Silexare has experienced a lot of similar challenges as as we have. And although they have certain extraordinary ways of dealing with issues, they've arrived at some of the same conclusions as us, regarding health, physics, aerodynamics, weaponry, agriculture, economy, and especially measurement. This brings me to my current dilemma. To what systems of measurements should I adapt that will least distance my reader?

Allow me to illustrate:

"Scribe, I've looked over your report of the beast but there are some details about which I'm still unclear. How big was it?"

"At least twenty feet long, if I remember correctly." 

"Ah, feet. The unit of measurement exclusive to North America... On Earth... how utterly not-fantastic."

"Did I say feet? I mean he's just under eight yards!"

"Oh, yards. Like a touchdown. On tv." *yawn*

"No no no, he's seven meters long from snout to tail!"

"Meters? What is this, science fiction?"

"Argh. He's about twenty paces!"

"Paces? Like strides?"

"No a stride is like three paces."

"According to whom? A dwarf? A giant?"

"I'd guess a human?"

"How tall? How vigorous a stride?"
"Uh, well... um  -"

"Moving on. Your report says the beast's firey spit can burn at 1,000 degrees Farenheit?"

"Correct."

"You mean Farenheit like this grouch? From Earth?"
Danny G. Farenheit. Thanks, chemistry.about.com.

"No! I meant Celsius! 538 degrees Celsius."

"Oh I see. Celsius. Like this shmiling shmuck."

Mr. Celsius. Thanks, Wiki.
"No! I -"

"Moving on. The gestation period. You said it lasted from January 1st until October 1st?"

"... That's correct... ?"

"Says here  about 37 weeks."

"... correct."

"259 days."

"... yes."

"hmm..."

"...?"

"I see."

"... that's it?"

"So you're telling me not only do we have seven day weeks just like Earth, but distance in time from the month of January (which just happens to be named after Janus, an Earth doorway god) to October (which literally means eight despite it being the tenth month) is exactly the same as on Earth?"

*sigh*  "... I guess I am."

"Therefore, the circumference of Earth, it's distance from the sun, the sun's circumference, and every other tedious factor that might play any part whatsoever on the perceived passage of time for Earth is not just similar, but identical to that of our world, thereby greatly limiting potential for spectacular events in this or any future book?"

*sigh again*  "Weren't we talking about a beast?"

"We were until you threw me out of the story with your Earth words. Begone."


15 comments:

  1. Well, you know, it kind of doesn't matter. If you use it, and you use it realistically, most people won't question it. And the "feet" thing makes very logical sense and is much older than the US. It was an organic system of measurement that makes sense.
    Or just make up different names and use the same units.

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  2. What Andrew said. Go with 'feet' or make your own. I'm considering options with my own work, as this time I have used the traditional measurements (I didn't with the Cassa series) but they will measure differently. So not sure if I should make my own or not.

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    1. I'd be leaning toward metric if I were you... Then again, metric is Earth based and, unless I'm mistaken, your new series is somewhat intergalactic.

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  3. I am with Andrew and Alex on this one. You just have to be consistent. You can make up equivalents to inches, feet, etc. in words that suit your story. You can measure time by the moon. For instance, if you said there have been seven sunsets since we last saw that beast, I would know you meant a week. The challenge here is not make the explanation of the time so exhaustive that you throw your reader out of the story with all of those words. Aaagghhh.

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  4. Andrew, you're right abt feet being dated, and thusly more applicable. I think making one's own systems is a bit dangerous at times because depending on its complexity, it might require an appendix or footnotes... Which I'd mostly like to avoid.

    I'm down for whatever and honestly it's probably not as big a deal as I'm making it...

    But I actually did set the circumference of Silexare (and it's smaller than Earth... meaning less gravity), it travels through space faster but spins at the same rate (so 288 days a year, but still 24 hours a day), seasons are the same (meaning similar axial tilt) and the months and days are all wacked out (8 months instead of 12... averaging 36 days a month, 8 days a week... Not even going into their names here)

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  5. A smaller circumference doesn't necessarily mean less gravity. Gravity is dependent upon denseness.
    And I'm not saying you'd need to actually come up with a new system. Just change the names of stuff from a "foot" to a... whatever. You don't need to explain anything. Just use your measurements just like we would; people will accept them. As long as -you- don't question them, we won't.

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    1. Indeed. I'm leaning toward standard measurements... feet and inches, ounces and grams, gallons and pints, miles and such. But I really do like the base 10 simplicity of the metric system. And it works well with the old Balvred numbering system.

      I am assuming a pretty close similarity in the denseness of Silexare and Earth... But if there's any deviation, Silexare is probably less dense simply due to bunches of subterranean tunnels.

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  6. Making a big deal out of it like this is kind of clever. Off the beaten path. I applaud your thinking, sir.

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    1. Hahaha It's called 'struggling for an IWSG post' :)

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  7. Well it is along the same lines as writing your book in English, you know that earth language. lol. As Brandon Sanderson says. You can't do everything. Sometimes simple is best.

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  8. An excellent point. And Brandon Sanderson is no stranger to foreign lands.

    A very big congratulations to you, by the way!

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  9. Yeah, I've wrestled with similar issues. But that's why it's science fiction and not science fact. I think that a good story can reach anyone with any level of scientific understanding, and if a few facts must be massaged then so be it:)

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    1. Indeed. I consider my case a bit rare. Although the stories I have thus far are complete, future ones are not. And they'll have to conform to the ever tightening strictures I'm creating now.

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