A thought about Time City

Simon Fraser abaddon at nextcentury.com.au
Sun Aug 27 08:47:59 EDT 2000

Paul Andinach wrote:

> Just how old is Time City, anyway?
> As I recall, at the end of the book it is just completing one lap of
> human history. But what speed was it travelling at? Does this mean
> that Time City was in existance for a period equal to all of human
> history on earth? This seems too long somehow.

I've been itching to have a go at this one since the thread started.

As I recall, time is locked into a loop 258 centuries long. It is described as
being U-shaped with Time City at the juncture of the end and beginning of

This is the bit where I start to go off. When I read the first of this thread
I had to re-read ToTc to check up on the "Time Lady, my wife." line and see
what it was all about. Some things stuck out as very odd.

the 258 century loop seems to include only human history, although there are
mentions early in the book about traveling back in time to eat dinosaur, aside
from that...

Time out for  quotes -

"She picked up the chart. It was almost circular - horseshoe-shaped really -
so that the end on the left marked Stone Age nearly met the end on the right
marked Depopulation."

"'As everyone in Time City knows, except you apparently,' said Dr Wilander,
'it is because historical time is circular. The beginning is the end. Time
used by Man goes round and round - in a small circle here in the City, in a
very large one out in history.'"

"'In this way he ensured that Time City would endure throughout a whole
Platonic Year'...
...'And what's a Platonic Year?' Jonathon asked.
'The time it takes for the stars to work their way back to the pattern from
which they started,' said Dr Wilander.
'This is sometimes calculated to be two hundred and fifty-eight centuries,
which, if Vivian would look at that chart for a moment, instead of letting her
eyes slide off it, she will find to be almost exactly the length of human

Okay, that's clear enough for me, but there is this sneaking implication that
someone, Faber John most likely, made use of this to create Time City.

The next suspicious step is that the four caskets seem to both power Time City
through time - against the flow of time, they also seem in some way to create
the loop of human history. The hints about fixed eras and unstable eras led me
to think that -

Faber John and the Time Lady must be the bad guys.

If this was the case, it would mean that somebody has locked human history
into a fixed pattern for 25800 years and is holding history to ransom by the
selective granting of information about the future and the past in return for
various goods, e.g. Kohinoor diamond and other stuff that I can't recall,
there is also a mention of trading accurate weather reports for something.

The inhabitants of TC don't seem to realise that they are holding time to
ransome, but the way that the Time Patrol go gallivanting off into the past to
'fix' things is suspicious in itself.

Doesn't this also strike a familiar chord with the theft of manna or magic in
Darklord of Derkholm and to take it a step further Larry Niven's The Magic
Goes Away, where the elite - Warlocks/Magicians - are so extravagant with
their magics that they deplete all of the magic from around the areas that
they live in.

Next thing, TC is full of meaningless ceremony and pageantry, partly to stop
the residents noticing that they live in an unstable era, partly to attract
tourists and partly, I assume, to reinforce the idea that there is a ruler of
TC who is coming back. The whole business at the end where Sempitern Walker
tries to hand over his position to Faber John.
"'The Standard of Office,' said Sempitern Walker. 'I assume that you are now
ruling as Sempitern of Time City.'
'Not as Sempitern,' Faber John declared."

Which makes me think that the 'Time Lady, my wife.' comment is supposed to be
a ceremonial reminder of exactly who is in charge.

And lastly, if the Lees are trying to steal the polarities so that they can
rule TC they must be trying to steal the ruling of it from someone, obviously
Faber John and the Time Lady.

The question is did they put history into a loop or did they steal it from
someone else? A benevolent dictatorship is after all, still a dictatorship.

Sorry, but I'm going a little off topic. Or I'm combining two threads which
seems appropriate at the moment, oh the regrets of tomorrow.

I've always thought that there is no significant difference between SF and
Fantasy in any flavour.

I'm ducking the rotten vegetables now.

I spent a bit of time thinking about this, after having spent most of my
childhood and adolescence reading both, in order to later apply it to

What I came up with was -

In the beginning...

As a writer you first create your universe. You create the rules that it runs
by. For some universes you have to have a faster than light drive, that
wouldn't be available to the universe that we know. For some universes you
have to have flying horses that would be physically impossible in our

It seems to be acceptable that those rules apply to that universe as long as
you stick to them religiously. The emperor only has no clothes when somebody

You are allowed to change the rules as long as there is internal consistency
throughout. Where it gets interesting is in multiple universes, such as
Chrestomanci, the rules of the meta fictional universe say that you can have
many sub-universes that have rules that cannot exist in each others universe.
Janet's universe being non-magical and Cat's being magical.

A particularly good example of this in my opinion is David Brin's Practice
Effect, where an object increases in manna/technological quality and
usefulness in proportion to how much it is used. It seemed to be one of those
novels that takes a concept and explores it to within an inch of its life.

Sorry if I'm going back to kindergarten


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