Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On the convenience of alternate dimensions

Is it legit to set a story in another dimension by stating the date to be "1987A?" Or does that just look like a typo? Slash... sound ridiculous?

Much as I enjoy near-future SF, the weight of history, reality, science, and so forth are a real pain to deal with when it comes to writing. It's a good thing I live in 2010A; I don't think I could handle the real world in real life.

Alright, weigh in. 1987A!



  1. Do you mean AD 1987 (aka 1987 CE?), or is the A like a made-up thing for this world? It makes sense that the cultures of other worlds/realities use different calendar systems. It can be a slippery slope though when you start thinking about things like measuring systems, naming systems, numbering systems, telling time, and of course language in general. Can characters say he's blind as a bat if there are no bats in this world? Can the protagonist say "What's up" in a medieval society of a different planet? Can there be acronyms when the language used isn't phonetic? And what if the language they speak doesn't use pronouns? How close of a "translation" into English do we need here?
    Well, that was quite the tangent.

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  3. That's pretty 1987A-centric, man. Don't be a own-universe chauvinist.

    I think the format is fine as is, but depending on the story I would put a dash ('1987-A') to emphasize it's a 4 digit year and not some sort of robot or computer. If it's just in 'timestamps' instead of in dialogue, obviously you wouldn't have to worry about that.

    As for realism: Since there are infinite parallel universes, chances are good that a bunch of them will be sufficiently similar to have a similar language, but not a similar history. Alternatively (always a good word in this sort of fiction), the point of divergence was somewhere between 1984 to 1986, so they haven't had time to change language significantly.

  4. Both of you raise some good points. However, Nicholas, my main idea wasn't to give this world its own calendar, merely to provide a small point of reference so that the reader realizes this world is not the real one--the "A" representing, basically, "alternate," or simply a distinguishing mark from the "non-A." Did you ever see that episode of the Simpsons where Lisa took a bus, thinking it was the "#," but it was the "#-A"? That's where I hijacked this idea from.

    Although in my case, the problem basically arose out of a desire to have robots and cybernetic implants coexist with telephones and VHS cassettes. Kind of like the Fallout games, actually.


  5. Oh, I thought you were going more for:

    "Here's how we distinguish the 26 Latin alphabet universes. The vowel universes are cooler."

    "But Professor Science, what about the Chinese?"

    "They have about fifty thousand universes, but only really use about six thousand. And they rent a few thousand out to the Japanese."


  6. Hahahahaha!

    Alright I'm re-starting the novel.