On Time

For those who found the time system in “Watchers” on the confusing side, well, that’s pretty fair, really. 🙂

What you’re looking at is the Imperial Standard Time system, which is the traditional one – used on Eliéra, and elsewhere as the standard/commercial calendar. (The other commonly used systems are ‘weavetime’, which is used for scientific purposes – counting in the base-12 SI equivalent multiples of the second-equivalent ‘pulse’ – and as a base to compute the other systems from, being good at handling interstellar empire-time issues and relativistic frame corrections.)

Being an old and traditional system, IST is delightfully irregular. There are 24 hours – not the same length as T-hours – in a day, with 72 minutes per hour and 72 pulses per minute. But unlike our system, the whole day-night cycle is divided separately into the 12 hours of the day, and the 6 watches of the night, 72 and 144 minutes long respectively, with the changeover at dawn/dusk.

(Given the peculiarities of Eliéra’s orbital mechanics, these don’t vary like they do on most planets; the day and night are always the same length.)

Also, rather than being a simple count of minutes, the hours/watches are considered points in time; the minutes are counted as 36 “rising” minutes towards the hour (or 72 towards the watch), and 36 “falling” minutes away from it. (On a clock, respectively, as the minute hand ascends the left side of the dial and then descends the right.) The hours and watches are each named. In the traditional, long name format, for example, the first time mentioned in “Watchers” would be:

Wineful rising 48

In the shorter numerical format, adding the watches to the hours directly, and in which rising and falling minutes are delimited by +/-, that becomes the:


we see there. Also, this being the second watch of the night at approximately its midpoint, we can deduce that – differing day-lengths aside – this incident took place around the equivalent of our 9 pm.

(As another time-related note, if you’re pedantic enough to want to check my figures in “Linelayer”, don’t forget to allow for the different year-length… and so also the different light-year length.)