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Einstein Nailed It

When I was in grade school, my parents went away for an hour and it felt like an entire day. Seriously. Later that same year when we went to Disneyland for the first time, one day felt like a minute.

Not unlike when we set our clocks forward an hour in the spring for Daylight Savings Time, and it feels like we lose four hours of sleep instead of just one. Yet when we set our clocks back an hour in the fall, the same hour feels like it’s cut in half. What’s up with that?

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity in four words: Time is funny stuff.

Clock faces

The Perception of Time is Relative

We often perceive time as expanding or contracting based on our emotions, and our perception creates our reality. Authors have used this to their advantage for quite some time. Telling a story in real-time slows the pace down to focus on a character or story element, or maybe to build suspense. Writers have their ways of accelerating the pace to adjust perception and influence emotion too. Further proof that the pen, and the keyboard, are mightier than the sword. And quantum physics…apparently.

Manipulating fictional time, at its best, keeps readers turning the pages. I wrote a post on Time as a Story Element that discusses these techniques in greater detail, if you’re interested.

Lost Time: Timekeeper

What if time didn’t just expand and contract, but could actually be lost? As in disappear. Vanish. Just freaking gone.

TimekeeperAn intriguing predicament that I hadn’t considered, until I picked up Timekeeper by Tara Sim. The first lines of this alternate Victorian era London run by clock towers cut to the chase:

Two o’clock was missing. Danny wanted it to be a joke. Hours didn’t just disappear.

But they can, and did, in a world where clock towers literally control time. When a clock tower breaks, so does time. And when a clock tower is destroyed, time stops completely. This clockpunk fantasy is infused with magic, woven through with myth, and spiced with mayhem. Danny, our hero, is a clock Mechanic charged with ensuring that time flows according to the natural order. The Mechanics inherit the job, because they can actually feel the strands of time and the weave of its fabric. The existential truths layered throughout the story provide satisfying believability and depth.

Time was everywhere and nowhere at once, making the moment last an eternity.

Stuck in Time: Groundhog Day

There is broken time, and then there is being stuck in time on infinite repeat. A post on fictional time and relativity just isn’t complete without a mention of one of my favorite movies: Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day movie

Phil (Bill Murray), an egotistical curmudgeon of a weatherman, gets stuck living Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania over, and over, and over…until he finally gets it right. Which for him, takes some doing. I could go on and on and on about this movie, but you’ll enjoy watching the following trailer much more. May time forever flow in your favor.