A speech by Dr. Amelia Baker, as provided by Stuart Webb
Art by Justine McGreevy
Sanjay, the first draft of the speech for Thursday’s conference. I think I’ve covered all the points we discussed on Tuesday (or I should say “Period 00001 Subsection 01 Portion 04 Hour 03”); this was written very early in the morning though, so some of the more aggressive snark will need reworking. Which one of us gets the short straw of reading it? I’d suggest Denyer, he’s just dim enough to not let the mood of the room bother him.
–From the office of Dr. Amelia Baker.
Address to the Council of Colonial Regulation 145th Annual Conference on Behalf of the Committee for the Review of Dating Conventions.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the Council. I apologise for this section of the conference starting late, though I hope you can all appreciate the irony, considering the nature of the findings we are about to discuss today.
(Pause for laughter. Obviously this joke will only work if the meeting starts late, but it always does. The schedule for these things is never more than an elaborate work of fiction.)
It was six Earth years ago that the Committee for the Review of Dating Conventions was started to deal with one of the more unusual and unexpected consequences of space exploration and the colonisation of other worlds. In order to properly explain our findings, it will be helpful to go over the history of the main issue with which we were tasked to deal.
(I know this is basically redundant, Sanjay, but I don’t think the majority of the Council even understand what our name actually means, let alone the wider history. I’m pretty sure that bloated oaf from Ganymede slept through the last briefing she sat in on.)
In the 150 years since humanity started to spread through the stars, we have established colonies on 46 planets across 38 local solar systems. This is not only the greatest achievement in human history–as we are the only sentient species yet discovered in the galaxy, it may well be the greatest achievement of all life-kind, all made possible by the predecessors of this Council.
(Am I laying it on a bit too thick there?)
Despite the great distances between worlds, the ease of inter-dimensional travel and tachyon communication means that the children of Earth maintain a thriving alliance based around commerce, tourism, and mutual defence. With the vast resources of multiple planets all working together, we now live in a true golden age. But there is one thing that creates a problem for the smooth running of our alliance: the calendar.
(Best not mention the rogue colonies, space pirates, and that nuclear accident on the Hilditch colony.)
Every planet may have been colonised by humans bringing their own cultures and conventions with them, but those worlds still all have varying lengths of hour, day, week, and year. Most may be of a similar duration to the Earth’s due to their placement within their systems–with odd exceptions such as our good and dear friends in the Ganymede Dome–but these differences between local time and the Earth time they originally tried to maintain soon mounted and created argument and division once a generation of local born colonists grew up with little attachment to the old world.
So 60 years ago, it was decided by this Council that each colony would adopt its own calendar, with the date of the first landing on that planet as Year 1 and a series of months–usually still 12 and never 13 of course–named by popular vote, with Earth time still used for general purposes.
This should have been a simple system for smart people to follow and understand. However, I’m sure we all remember the story from pre-inter-system travel space-flight of a probe being destroyed because of the confusion between the imperial and metric measuring systems, and we are now coming off the back of six decades of similar problems.
(I thought it best to go back as far as possible for that example rather than the more recent and more to blame on these idiots Hilditch accident, caused by the council getting mixed up by the metric and McNally systems.)
The issue is simple–the colonies have little interest in Earth dating and have been increasingly hostile to it even when dealing directly with Earth.
(Especially the bloody Ganymedians with their “Why should we when our year is so much longer?” attitude.)
This has created nothing but headaches in inter-planet relations. Of the 46 planets, 45 have a month named Armstrong, and 44 one named Gagarin, none of which overlap fully, and some that are months apart, resulting in the complete failure of the attempt by the New Bulgaria and Chang colonies to destroy the hub of the primary space pirates’ organisation, after they agreed to attack on the 12th of Armstrong. The two forces arrived six weeks apart, and 50,000 of their own troops were wiped out.
(And the people responsible for that mess will be in the room, amazing how they managed to shift the blame onto the calendar rather than their own stupidity.)
As such, ten years ago the Committee for the Review of Dating Conventions was founded for the express purpose of coming up with Galactic Standard Time, a universal dating system that would show no favour to any pre-existing measures. This has not been easy, though we have been helped greatly by every single member of the Council having an opinion and wanting to share it with us at great, great length. To date, we have put forward 16 proposals for the new system, all of which have been found to be flawed in some way, especially by our Ganymedian friends, who insisted to almost the end that keeping a 24 hour day–or “Portion” as we have now agreed to call it–was unnecessary. In the first five years, the only firm agreement that was reached was that “Galactic Standard Time” was too silly a name to use.
However, thanks to all of your input and very useful ideas, we have now developed the D.J.D.–or Direct Judicial Duration–system.
(Have we come up with a better explanation of the acronym for that yet? “It’s my husband’s initials and no one had a better idea” won’t cut it. It’s a shame a trademark that should have expired centuries ago is stopping us from calling it “Star Dates.” I imagine the inventor of the inter-dimension drive felt the same.)
Each year (Period), month (Subsection), day (Portion) and hour (Thank God they let us keep that one.) has been mathematically calculated to be the perfect length to suit human body rhythms and the needs of inter-system communications. As you can see from the accompanying graph, mathematicians and psychologists have developed a formula that explains the exact process.
(Have we come up with something that looks plausible but complicated enough to stop them questioning it too much? I think the one I saw in the art department last week was almost there, but it needs a few more swirly lines and arrows.)
As part of our research, we have been running the new calendar for over a week. Welcome to Period 00001 DJD, Subsection 01, Portion 06, Hour (Just add the time based on how late it starts.)!
(Pause for applause. You never know.)
We now merely need this Council to ratify the system and pass it into law, at which point the D.J.D. will be rolled out within two Periods. We are extremely proud of our work here and have no doubt you will accept it and bring human space into a bold new, and more straightforward era. Thank you.
(If they don’t go for it this time, I may go punch that Ganymedian git. If they do, I’m going to go for a simpler job, like decontaminating Hilditch. Frankly, if they don’t, I’m probably done anyway. I didn’t get a degree for this. Sorry for the mood, Sanjay, but I’m sure we can still lick this into shape before Thursday. Let’s just hope we get paid before they realise it’s just the Georgian calendar, but starting each “Period” on April 1st.
Dr. Amelia Baker)
Dr. Baker has been a key member of the CRDC for 8 years following her ground-breaking paper, Metric to McNally, A Simple Mental Conversion Guide, in the wake of the Hilditch disaster, which has helped to ensure that similar mistakes have almost never happened since. A former child protégée with degrees in mathematics, theology, and psychiatry, she was the perfect candidate to support Dr. Sanjay Griffiths and the rest of the team in their efforts to revolutionise dating.
Though raised on New Bulgaria, her work with CRDC means she now resides in the Ganymede Dome.
Stuart Webb has been an active member of Transformers fandom for over a decade, writing multiple comic reviews for tfarchive.com. Since 2012, he has been running the Transformation project at thesolarpool.weebly.com, where he looks at each issue of the British Transformers comic at a weekly rate. The first third of this titanic effort was collected in book form in 2015, with the second to follow by mid-2017. Away from writing, he lives in Kidderminster, England, and is owned by a cat. This is his second story for Mad Scientist Journal.
Justine McGreevy is a slowly recovering perfectionist, writer, and artist. She creates realities to make our own seem slightly less terrifying. Her work can be viewed at http://www.behance.net/Fickle_Muse and you can follow her on Twitter @Fickle_Muse.
“A Date to Be Remembered” is © 2017 Stuart Webb
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Justine McGreevy