1. HBAdams
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    HBAdams Member

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    Future Earth - an exact timeline or a vague one?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by HBAdams, Apr 5, 2011.

    I'm currently writing a novel that takes place VERY post-humanity (genocide by biochemical warfare) to the point where the surviving human bloodlines have completely forgotten of their past and have hardly begun repopulating the otherwise undamaged world.

    This, of course, would leave room for quite a bit of evolution to take place. Even though most characteristics of people, places, and things are very similar to life as we currently know it, it will still be alien or fantasy-like.

    My issue is whether or not I should state an accurate chronological timeline, or if I should just be very vague. Like, instead of "The war happened five thousand years ago." have it be "The war happened many centuries ago."

    I'm just worried that my estimate will be very wrong. If I throw in what I think seems chronologically accurate for the state of evolution my world is I could possibly ruin the story for some readers who know otherwise.

    So what do you guys think? Should I use exact time frames, or be vague?
     
  2. Preacher
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    Preacher Member

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    It really depends on if the plot requires the timeline to be specific. If it is far enough ahead (and it seems to be) and the world had changed enough to be new all over again (and it sounds like it has) then you can be very non-specific.
     
  3. HBAdams
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    HBAdams Member

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    That's good to hear! I think I just get very wrapped up in having my stories being as accurate as possible. Being vague isn't always my strong suit!
     
  4. Mr. Blue Dot
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    Mr. Blue Dot Member

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    I think you kind of answer your own question here. If your characters have forgotten, or don't know about ancient history then they aren't going to think about it that often. Maybe they'll wonder what the ruins of a building used to be, maybe they'll explore it and get clues, but if you tell the reader that the building is a library before your characters try to figure it out it's going to seem awkward.

    In day to day life your characters probably aren't going to wonder about what happened 5000 years ago anymore than you wonder about what happened 5000 years ago in real life. (Unless the character is a historian of some sort of course, but then he has a reason for thinking about the past so it won't be awkward)

    If you need to make an accurate timeline for your world building notes, then do it! But don't info dump on the reader when it's not necessary.
     
  5. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    To add, in real life, even the best historians and archaeologists can only make guesses for more distant dates. For instance, various proposed dates for the founding of the Ancient Egyptian kingdom include anywhere between c. 3150 - 2950 BCE. Pretty big difference, if you ask me. The uncertainty of dates only increases further when we get back.

    So unless if your people somehow kept awesome records of the past (which is highly unlikely), or have amazing historians and archaeologists who can accurately date historical artifacts, it is highly unlikely - if not impossible - that the people won't remember exact dates, or even close ones for that matter.

    However, one thing that can add to the complexity is when people make up stuff or throw in embellishments, mixing history with legend and myth. Maybe the wise elders claim the first apocalypse happened exactly 4853 years ago, but that number could've just been made up centuries ago. Maybe the first apocalypse was actually two apocalypses that happened exactly 4901 and 4011 years ago, but nobody remembered the exact dates or the difference between the two, just to give an example.
     
  6. HBAdams
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    HBAdams Member

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    Thanks for the tips! You're right, I don't want to info dump, and what're the chances anybody knows exactly. This will help me immensely. :)
     
  7. nzric
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    nzric Active Member

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    Another thing to remember is evolution is very slow by human perspectives. You're talking about tens of thousands of years for any significant change in consciousness, and hundreds of thousands of years for physical changes.

    Yes, there's some evolution that happens more quickly but I'm guessing you're looking to describe significant biological change rather than, e.g. the specific colour of a moth's wings or the beak shape of a finch!

    e.g. dogs were domesticated and split from wolves about 100-150,000 years ago and even with intensive & purposeful selective breeding by humans there still isn't a huge amount of difference between breeds apart from size/colour/hair.

    If the hundreds of thousands of years doesn't fit in with your timescale for the rest of the novel, I'd suggest something to explain more rapid mutation. Radiation from fallout is fairly cliche but still used in sci fi, otherwise you could talk about general genetic engineering and cross-breeding.
     
  8. HBAdams
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    This is exactly what I was worried about, actually! I wouldn't want to say "ten thousand years" when in fact "one hundred thousand years" is much more accurate.

    The biggest genetic changes I was thinking of implementing was having some species much larger than we know them today, as a result of not having human population effecting their niches. Many of the dogs in my story are mutts (not purebreds, I actually already looked that whole ordeal up!)

    The surviving human bloodlines have slightly higher cognitive abilities. Not mind-reading, per se, but the ability to more or less "feel" emotions. I don't feel this is too huge of a step genetically (although how would anyone prove it?) considering in daily life I see people who seem more in tune to the feelings of others, and some people who are just abysmally oblivious to other people's emotions. It would just be an enhanced version of this.

    Anyways, thank you for the info about x-thousands of years for cognitive growth. That helps immensely!
     
  9. Backbiter
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    Backbiter Contributing Member

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    I understand what you mean here, there are people that seem to be able to sense feelings and emotions. A sort of "sixth sense", I guess, for lack of a better term. However it would take many, many years for humans to be able to utilize it on the level you seem to be thinking of. So my suggestion is yes, be vague. If it is not necessary in you're story to have specific dates, then don't.

    Hope this helped. Good luck.

    - Backbiter
     

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