The Relative Concept of Time

Posted by RazzaTazz (9644 posts) - - Show Bio

Unlike my previous blog discussing time, this one has nothing to do with time travel. Rather it is a small criticism of a recurring theme with the Dejah Thoris series from Dynamite. It is common throughout the series that time is referred to by the Martian terminology, not by the Earth terms. For instance:

Xat = ?

Equally in the same issue there is the following panel:

This panel shows that they use years even if they do not use the usual breakdown of hours and minutes. This is fine though. Hours, minutes and seconds are primarily human inventions, taken by dividing the length of a day by a certain amount (though there are other modes of measurement for this, for instance that a quartz crystal pulses roughly every second). Years and days still exist, as a day is the amount of time it takes for a planet to rotate completely (not completely true) and a year is the time it takes for a planet to revolve around a sun (interesting fact - the year on Neptune is nearly 165 times the length of our own, so since it discovery in 1846, it is only just started its second year since we discovered it.)

My issues here though is not so much with the time units themselves, but rather why they are not translated. Every other word in the series is translated from Martian to English, but these words are not. Of course the exact definition is not going to be accurate, but instead of saying "several xats" the character could say "ten minutes".

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#1 Edited by JoseDRiveraTCR7 (1008 posts) - - Show Bio

I think a lot of writers tend to do this when writing different cultures, more specifically alien culture. One can't write a book in a alien language because no one would understand it. And if you write the work in English with a bunch of foreign words, readers will still feel like they don't understand what's going on. So a lot of writers tend "translate" the language to English so readers can understand and relate to it, while throwing in a few foreign words in order to make the setting feel like it actually could be a different place/culture.

Now I guess the reason why xats was used instead of minutes was because as you wrote, minutes is a human measurement and the writer may have thought that it wouldn't have made sense for an alien culture to use human time measurements (even though English is a human invention), or maybe thought it would be a neat/good idea to distinguish their culture from ours by giving them their own way of measuring time.

#2 Edited by RazzaTazz (9644 posts) - - Show Bio

@josedriveratcr7: i get that, but the messing of time is kind of strange seeing as it is dependent on the planet they are on. They are some celestial bodies who have longer days than years.

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#3 Edited by JoseDRiveraTCR7 (1008 posts) - - Show Bio

@razzatazz: True, true. I guess the writer just didn't think about it. Sometimes writers get in the habit of writing in certain ways and don't question the logic of some of their writings.

#4 Edited by RazzaTazz (9644 posts) - - Show Bio
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