Monday, 6 March 2017

When Is Now?

When is "now" or the present? Every moment is "now" to any being that is conscious in that moment just as every place is "here" to any being that is in that place. However, "here" can be a geometrical point, a geographical area or a volume of space. We can say:

here where I am standing;
here in Lancaster;
here in Europe;
here on Earth;
here in the Solar System...

"Now" can be a single instant or an extended period:

now it is 11.30 PM, Greenwich Mean Time;
now, since the Reformation, Christianity is divided;
now, since the agricultural revolution, we are no longer hunters and gatherers;
now, since life has evolved on Earth...

I think that "the present" for a novel is its year of publication. Poul Anderson's The Boat Of A Million Years, copyright 1989, has:

fourteen chapters set in earlier centuries;
two set in the 1930s;
one in 1942;
one in 1975;
one in an indefinite future.

I think of the 1975 chapter as set in the present although, of course, 1975 is fourteen years earlier than 1989. But we are not conscious of 1989 while reading the novel.

Chapter Seven of SM Stirling's The Protector's War is set on March 21st, 2007 AD, and I am reading it on March 6th, 2017 so it is ten years in my past. However, the novel is copyright and was first published in 2006 so it is set in a very near future. But it is in any case set in an alternative timeline: its 2007 is also Change Year Nine. The Change, in 1998 AD, was described in Dies The Fire, copyright 2004, published 2005, so that was a recent alternative history, not a near future.

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I remember how I was ESPECIALLY interested in THE DEVIL'S GAME when it was published in 1980, because Poul Anderson wrote a novel in what was then our CONTEMPORARY times. And I felt the same way about the 1975 section of THE BOAT OF A MILLION YEARS, because it was set in the very recent past. In both cases Poul Anderson proved himself capable of writing interesting stories set in our times. Not just the remote past or future.