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  • Writer's pictureT.R. Peers

A few thoughts on age and time in fantasy and science fiction.

One of the early complaints about the HBO Game Of Thrones series was that the children, specifically the Starks, were 'too old'. In the books, the older boys were as I understand it about 12, whereas in the show they are clearly in early adulthood, at the very least 16+. Given the amount of sex, violence and in one case involuntary head-transplants they're involved in, this is an understandable decision on the part of the production team. (Similarly, everyone's favourite dragon mistress is well below the modern age of consent on her wedding night)

This whole debate got me thinking, though, about an issue I also ran into whilst writing my own fantasy novel.. The thing is, and please bear in mind that I've not read the books so I can enjoy the series without spoilers, or that 'what the hell' moment my sister who has read them experiences at least once an episode, that we don't know a lot about Westeros in terms of things like its calendar. What does that have to do with anything, you ask, and I'm glad you did. Calculators at the ready.

What we do know is that Westeros' seasons are all kinds of messed up, lasting for years rather than the few months ours do and not even coming in a completely predictable sequence. I'm going to leave an explanation of what that might mean about the orbital pattern and rotation of the planet to people who know a lot more about that sort of thing than I do, and look instead firstly at the year. Let's say a Westeros year is 450 days long, instead of our 365 days. Now lets say Dani gets her first experience with the Kal at the age of 12WY(Westeros years). So, that makes her 12*450, or 5,400 days old on that birthday. On Earth, having lived for the same number of days, Dani would be 5,400/365 or roughly 14.8 years old (i.e. 14EY and 9-10 months) Now, a grown man bedding a girl of not-quite 15EY is still dodgy as anything and would earn the Kal a good few years at Her Majesty's Pleasure if it happened in modern Britain, but by the standards of medieval societies it would be considered fairly normal, bearing in mind that making it to 30EY was a decent innings.

Of course, I've pulled those Westeros figures out of thin air and I have no idea if G.R.R.M. ever addresses the question, but it makes for an interesting exercise. To further cloud the issue, the Westeros day might well not be 24 of our hours and the Westeros hour might not be 60 of our minutes, so this rabbit hole just keeps on getting deeper. Ultimately, with the lack of the sort of absolute reference point of timekeeping that we rely on things like atomic clocks for, determining the real 'age' of any character not living on Earth is an almost impossible proposition. One to think about next time a character is described as being 'about 20'. About 20 of who's years?

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