Showing all posts tagged: science fiction

Alien: Romulus, the Alien story continues. Great poster though

7 June 2024

Movie poster for Alien: Romulus. The poster has a red background and depicts an alien creature attached to a person's face.

Best I keep this brief, especially after complaining about film franchises continually rebooting and retelling the same story. Alien: Romulus (isn’t Romulus a planet in the Star Trek universe? Yeah, I thought so), is a story about some people on a spaceship, whose lives are threatened by a sinister alien stowaway. Reminds me a lot of a film called Alien, but that must be a coincidence, right?

Anyway, here’s the teaser/trailer for Alien: Romulus.

You’d have thought better lit spaceships would have been designed after Alien, but no. Like, wouldn’t it be a good idea to eliminate as many dark nooks and crannies as possible, so you know, sinister aliens can’t hide in them, and terrorise the crew?

Well-lit spaceships are also kind of practical, sinister aliens notwithstanding. Wouldn’t the crew want to be able to walk around the vessel, without tripping over, because they can’t see where they’re going? But what’s the point of utile design, if it means the same film can’t be remade time and again?

While there’s a stack of films whose trailers were better than the film itself, we just might find the poster for Alien: Romulus trumps both trailer and the feature itself. Alien: Romulus opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday 15 August 2024. Needless to say, I’ll be camping outside the cinema the night before so I can be among the first to see it on opening day.

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The Acolyte, a new addition to the ever expanding Star Wars universe

28 March 2024

The great thing about the Star Wars universe is the way it can move up down left right forwards and backwards. Like any good fiction franchise, the potential to create new stories, new universes within a universe even, are virtually limitless. This even though I’m way behind on anything Star Wars beyond most of the movies (mainly the Skywalker Saga films) released to date.

But since Disney bought the Star Wars franchise from creator George Lucas, it has been in overdrive expanding exponentially. The Acolyte is the latest offering from this exponentially expanding universe, and is set about one hundred years before events of The Phantom Menace, in what is referred to as the High Republic era.

The trailer looks impressive, and the new show begins streaming on Tuesday 4 June 2024.

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Lando Calrissian story now to be told as a film, not a TV series

16 September 2023

The Star Wars origin stories keep a coming. Lando Calrissian, one timer owner of the Millennium Falcon, apparent scoundrel, administrator of Cloud City, and later a general in the Rebel Alliance, is set to feature in his own big screen production.

A Calrissian backstory has been on the cards for some time, but was originally to be the subject of a TV series. Last Thursday however, news broke that series producers, Disney+, had decided to opt for a movie instead. Donald Glover, who portrayed a younger Calrissian in the 2016 Star Wars film Solo: A Star Wars Story, will reprise his role in the proposed feature length origin story, which at this stage appears to be simply titled Lando.

But if producers feel a Calrissian origin story is necessary, let’s hope they get it right. Solo, starring Alden Ehrenreich in the titular role, was underwhelming. To say the least. Han Solo is a character who works best as a happy-go-lucky, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants enigma, of a, well, scoundrel, one of whom we knew little about, a point reiterated by Ben Sherlock, writing for Game Rant, in 2021:

Han’s introduction in the shadiest corner booth of Mos Eisley Cantina in the original 1977 Star Wars movie already tells us everything we need to know about the character. He’s an intergalactic pirate and smuggler who’s only interested in money; his best friend (and, seemingly, only acquaintance in the galaxy) is a Wookiee named Chewbacca; and he’s the captain of the Millennium Falcon, the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.

There’s a sea of characters in the Star Wars universe, many of whom are more deserving of origin stories. Take Wuher, owner of the infamous Mos Eisley Cantina, where we of course first met Solo. Wuher’s no ordinary guy working a bar though. His is a story that needs exploring, as I’ve said before.

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Venomous Lumpsucker wins 2023 Arthur C. Clarke book award

21 August 2023

Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman, book cover

Book cover of Venomous Lumpsucker, written by Ned Beauman.

British novelist and screenwriter Ned Beauman has been named winner of the 2023 Arthur C. Clarke Award science fiction book of the year, with his fifth novel, Venomous Lumpsucker, which was published by Penguin Random House.

Going by the publisher’s outline, Venomous Lumpsucker has the lot. A cli-fi, sci-fi dystopian chiller-thriller set in the near future, in a world possibly irreparably damaged by climate change:

The near future. Tens of thousands of species are going extinct every year. And a whole industry has sprung up around their extinctions, to help us preserve the remnants, or perhaps just assuage our guilt. For instance, the biobanks: secure archives of DNA samples, from which lost organisms might someday be resurrected . . . But then, one day, it’s all gone. A mysterious cyber-attack hits every biobank simultaneously, wiping out the last traces of the perished species. Now we’re never getting them back.

Karin Resaint and Mark Halyard are concerned with one species in particular: the venomous lumpsucker, a small, ugly bottom-feeder that happens to be the most intelligent fish on the planet. Resaint is an animal cognition scientist consumed with existential grief over what humans have done to nature. Halyard is an exec from the extinction industry, complicit in the mining operation that destroyed the lumpsucker’s last-known habitat.

Across the dystopian landscapes of the 2030s — a nature reserve full of toxic waste; a floating city on the ocean; the hinterlands of a totalitarian state — Resaint and Halyard hunt for a surviving lumpsucker. And the further they go, the deeper they’re drawn into the mystery of the attack on the biobanks. Who was really behind it? And why would anyone do such a thing?

The prize, awarded since 1987, is presented annually to the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom in the previous calendar year, and is named after British author and futurist, Arthur C. Clarke, who died in 2008.

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Bill Murray had Asteroid City cameo appearance, sort of

3 July 2023

Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, on set of Wes Anderson's film Asteroid City

A scene from Bill Murray’s “cameo” in Wes Anderson’s film Asteroid City.

American actor Bill Murray has starred in all but two of Wes Anderson’s feature length films. Murray missed participating in Anderson’s latest, Asteroid City, after being side-lined by a Covid infection. Murray had been cast as a motel manager, but Steve Carell was brought in instead at the last minute.

But that didn’t stop the veteran actor, and Anderson stalwart, from making an appearance on the Asteroid City set, after he had recovered. In a “retro” trailer, posted by the New Yorker, Murray can be seen in a specially created role, walking through the township, where he meets Jason Schwartzman, who in this instance portrays someone called Jones.

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Optimism powers Star Trek’s enduring popularity says Anson Mount

27 June 2023

Long running science-fiction franchise Star Trek, which first to air in the 1960’s, is still with us today because of its intrinsic sense of optimism. This according to Anson Mount, who portrays Captain Christopher Pike, in the latest variant of the story, Strange New Worlds. For anyone not up with the play, Pike commanded the USS Enterprise prior to Captain Kirk.

Mount is on to something. Dystopian sci-fi is fun to look at for sure, but only for so long.

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Mixed reviews for Asteroid City by Wes Anderson, a film for fans only?

10 June 2023

Asteroid City by Wes Andeson film still with Scarlett Johansson

Still from Asteroid City, directed by Wes Anderson.

Asteroid City, the latest feature by American filmmaker Wes Anderson, premiered in Australia at the Sydney Film Festival on the evening of Thursday 8 June 2023. While there was much excitement in the lead up to the release of Anderson’s eleventh film, reactions so far from viewers and critics who have seen Asteroid City, do not quite match the pre-release hype.

It’s early days though. The film is yet to commence its theatrical run, and to date has mostly been seen only at media preview screenings, and film festivals. It could be argued these viewers, generally made up of film critics and seasoned film-goers, are a little more particular than wider audiences.

Still, some of the early film ranking metrics are not exactly encouraging. Rotten Tomatoes, the go-to gauge of a movie’s likability, presently gives Asteroid City a score of seventy-five percent. Metascore meanwhile, which aggregates the scores movie writers assign to a film through Metacritic, rates Asteroid City at seventy-three out of one-hundred.

The film’s IMDb rating, based on scores by IMDb members, sits at just under seven out of ten. All of these numbers still make Asteroid City worth watching in my opinion.

But bloggers and influencers who have seen early screenings, are distinctly mixed in their appraisals. Swara Salih, writing for But Why Tho?, thought Asteroid City’s biggest problem was none other than Wes Anderson:

What gets in the way of Asteroid City’s success as a narrative was Anderson himself. The writer-director’s insistence on meta commentary results in what could have been one of his most ambitious and groundbreaking films that instead collapses into a narrative mess.

Ali Naderzad, a film writer at Screen Comment, was at odds with Anderson’s trademark saturated pastel pallet, which he suggested worked against the film:

“Asteroid City” is a visual feat of a movie with little in the way of substance, in fact, this might be the most contrived Wes Anderson film I’ve watched. Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Liev Schreiber and Adrien Brody star in it, which adds heft but the photography is helliciously rendered in saturated pastels and so it’s weird.

Zornitsa Staneva, a staff writer at Tilt Magazine, was critical of Anderson’s penchant for constantly featuring oversize ensemble casts:

Does Wes Anderson invoice based on the number of Hollywood names stuffed in his distended cast? Is Wes Anderson blinded by narcissism to the extent that all he cares about is having a foot long list of cast credits, held tenuously together by a pretentiously self-referential vanity project?

On the flip side, Ben Rolph, writing for AwardsWatch, described Asteroid City as more of the same from Anderson, which was a good thing, albeit a touch more melancholic than usual:

With an explosion of pastel colours, precise camera moves and a whimsical script, Asteroid City is Wes Anderson operating at his best, still doing his usual quirky thing. His latest is another testament to the ongoing power of his one-of-a-kind, special style of filmmaking which here develops to become more mature and melancholic as a family deals with some serious issues.

Finally, Michael Walsh, who was in attendance at the premiere screening at the Sydney Film Festival, was likewise upbeat:

Quirky, offbeat and existential, Asteroid City is yet another darling little feature from the whimsical Wes Anderson that unites a stacked cast, consummate craftwork, and a surprising story that elicits good laughs and deep questions about life, purpose and legacy to deliver one of Anderson’s more character driven and emotionally resonate films in recent memory.

Anderson has an unconventional style of storytelling, which is something to be thankful for. While not all of his titles have one-hundred percent agreed with me, so far there’s not been one I’ve disliked. Asteroid City remains a film I’m hanging out to see.

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Gaia, symbol of climate change failure, in Every Version of You, by Grace Chan

5 June 2023

Climate change ravaged landscape, image by Pete Linforth

Image courtesy of Pete Linforth.

Warning: spoilers ahead. Return to this article once you’ve finished reading the novel.

Every Version of You, published by Affirm Press in 2022, is the debut novel of Melbourne based Australian author Grace Chan. Set in the late twenty-first century, primarily in Melbourne, Chan’s novel is about a young couple, Tao-Yi and her boyfriend Navin, and a momentous decision they need to make, which has life changing consequences.

Climate change has rendered Earth almost uninhabitable. Outdoor activities have become uncomfortable and dangerous. People need to don protective clothing and equipment before leaving the cocoon-like sanctuary of their dwellings. Body suits to block the Sun’s burning rays. Goggles and facemasks to combat dust, and other airborne irritants.

But the creation of a would-be new world, a “hyper-immersive, hyper-consumerist virtual reality” named Gaia, offers humanity an alternative to the world outside. And while this digital, artificial, macrocosm, mimics the old world in virtually every way, it also offers inhabitants a whole lot more.

Accessing Gaia, called logging in, is facilitated by climbing into a small, diving bell like chamber, filled with a gel-like liquid, called a neupod. While people’s bodies lie immersed in the pod’s gel, their minds roam free in Gaia, and they go about their lives, as normal. Except here, their presence takes the form of a digital avatar, one they are able to continually customise.

They go to work and school. They see friends and family. They engage in sporting and recreational activities. People “live” in Gaia just as they do in the real, outside, world. But within its realm, people can do more than live their old lives. They can venture to places they once only dreamed of, and become someone they could never have been otherwise.

Gaia, a promise of eternal life, but at a cost

Like everyone else, Tao-Yi and Navin switch back and forth between Gaia and the outside world, although Navin spends more time in Gaia than Tao-Yi. But one day a technology emerges allowing people to permanently meld with Gaia, through a process called “Uploading”.

In essence, Uploading, also known as mind uploading, allows a person to live forever within Gaia’s seemingly boundless domain. But there is a crucial caveat. Once uploaded, a person cannot return to the old world. Not, at least, as a corporeal entity. Uploading transforms a person into a conscious digital entity, through a procedure that extracts their every thought, memory, and personality.

A person’s no longer needed body is disposed of in manner they choose beforehand, once Uploading is completed. Despite Tao-Yi’s misgivings, Navin was a keen proponent. And not just because he saw himself as an early adaptor. Navin was also afflicted with a chronic illness, one that medicine could not alleviate. Uploading would allow Navin to live disease free.

And there were doubtless others in Navin’s position. Medical science could offer these people no hope, but Uploading, and becoming a digital version of themselves, would completely eliminate their ailments. For some, the decision to Upload was easy to make. They could enjoy full “health”, and also be free of the ravages of climate change. To say nothing of “living” forever.

Although in a minority, there were people — called holdouts — who refused to Upload. They wished to remain in the “meatspace”, a derogatory term given to the old world. Xin-Yi, Tao-Yi’s mother, was among them. And even Tao-Yi — for the benefits Uploading bestowed upon Navin — was far from convinced that permanently merging with Gaia was the right thing to do. And for good reason.

Gaia, a symbol of climate change denial

Tao-Yi knew Gaia was not a solution to climate change, only a means by which to escape it. To her, and other holdouts, Gaia was humanity’s way of signalling defeat in the battle to restore Earth’s environment to the way it once was. But not only that. Gaia, while being heralded as a new beginning for humanity, also potentially spelt the end of the line for humans.

Aside from a small number of holdouts braving life in the near inhospitable real world, all of humanity’s eggs were in the single basket that was Gaia. Its digital inhabitants had condemned themselves to eternal imprisonment on Earth. Gaia also left humanity all the more vulnerable to some sort of planet-wide calamity, such as the asteroid impact that brought about the end of the dinosaurs.

It was be hoped the tech savvy denizens of Gaia would eventually figure out a way to leave Earth, and at least put down roots elsewhere in the solar system. If not beyond. But a global catastrophe was not the only danger facing Gaia. The digital realm also depended on an army of (presumably self-replicating) robots to maintain its infrastructure.

There would be the hope the robots continued to serve, and replace themselves. But what if these maintenance droids infused themselves with an intelligence of their own? And what if they one day turned against their digital masters, and pulled the plug on them?

Some of these concerns — and could they be the basis for a sequel, or even an Every Version of You expanded universe? — are alluded to in the novel, even if they are beside the point. Gaia is a potent symbol of climate change denial, and the unwillingness, by some people, to do anything about it. Gaia might promise eternal life, but that could be an eternity spent regretting sacrificing Earth to climate change.

Gaia, why does the name sound familiar?

In Greek mythology Gaia is the goddess of Earth, and the mother of all life. She is one of the “primordial deities”, the first generation of Greek gods, and the grandmother of Zeus, god of sky and thunder, and later king of the cosmos, and the other Greek gods.

As a name for the digital realm humanity withdraws to, Gaia may also derive from the Gaia hypothesis, which was formulated by late British scientist and futurist James Lovelock in the 1970s. His theory proposes “living organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a synergistic and self-regulating, complex system that helps to maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.”

In Every Version of You, humanity has well and truly failed to “maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life on the planet.” But by creating a new, artificial, domain named Gaia, perhaps the people of the late twenty-first century — up to their eyes in denial — could claim to have succeeded in achieving this goal.

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36 Streets by T R Napper wins 2022 Aurealis best sci-fi novel

4 June 2023

Book cover of 36 Streets by T R Napper

Book cover of 36 Streets, written by T R Napper.

Australian science fiction writer T. R. Napper was named winner of the Best Science Fiction Novel award, with 36 Streets, in the 2022 Aurealis Awards, at a ceremony in Canberra, last night.

The novel, Napper’s debut, is set in a futuristic version of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. In 36 Streets, the city is occupied by China, but residents seem to be preoccupied by a highly addictive stimulation of the American-Vietnamese war of the mid-twentieth century:

Lin ‘The Silent One’ Vu is a gangster in Chinese-occupied Hanoi, living in the steaming, paranoid alleyways of the 36 Streets. Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia, everywhere she is an outsider. Through grit and courage, Lin has carved a place for herself in the Hanoi underworld under the tutelage of Bao Nguyen, who is training her to fight and survive. Because on the streets there are no second chances.

Meanwhile the people of Hanoi are succumbing to Fat Victory, an addictive immersive simulation of the US-Vietnam war. When an Englishman — one of the game’s developers — comes to Hanoi on the trail of his friend’s murderer, Lin is drawn into the grand conspiracies of the neon gods: the mega-corporations backed by powerful regimes that seek to control her city.

Lin must confront the immutable moral calculus of unjust wars. She must choose: family, country, or gang. Blood, truth, or redemption. No choice is easy on the 36 Streets.

Established in 1995, the Aurealis Awards honour works of original speculative fiction written by Australian authors, which are published in the preceding calendar year. A full list of winners in the 2022 awards can be seen here.

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Earth should have the cool Star Trek universal time stardate

17 May 2023

Photo of four clocks with different time zone times

Image courtesy of Michal Jarmoluk.

The popular, long running, Star trek science-fiction franchise, thanks to its creator Gene Roddenberry, has given us a lot. There are fantastic starships — all shapes and sizes — capable of traversing the galaxy in a flash. There’s the USS Enterprise from the original series, and then USS Titan-A, seen in the third series of the recently screened Picard TV series.

There’s the old school favourite crew: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekov. Then there’s the more recent Discovery crew, whose exploits predate those of the original Enterprise, and then stretch all the way into the thirty-second century, nine hundred years later.

There’s no question about it. Star Trek has the lot. The aliens and the adventure. The amour and the antagonism. The adversity and the aspiration. The lovable and the despicable. Phasers and transporters. And of course, stardate.

Wait up, stardate? What’s that?

Put simply, stardate is a time standard used throughout the Star Trek universe. And a pretty essential one at that. If you find figuring out time differences between certain countries on Earth confusing, imagine trying to do the same across the galaxy. Even doing so within the solar system would be a nightmare. Earth is part of a family of eight (depending who you ask, that is) planets orbiting the Sun. The rotational periods of each body, relative to Earth, with the possible exception of Mars, are just about unique.

So, if it’s four o’clock in the afternoon in London, what is the local time in the vicinity of the Gusev crater on Mars? That might be easy to figure out, assuming Mars one day ends up with formal time zones. But what of other locations around the solar system? For instance, a “day” on Venus lasts 5832 hours. That’s the same as 243 days on Earth. In fact a day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus, which clocks in at about 225 Earth days. Earth based time keeping methods might not then work too well on Venus.

But the time difference question becomes even murkier when the numerous moons of the solar system’s planets are taken into account. Between them, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune have a stack of satellites. And while I’m not aware of any plans to establish bases on these bodies, I’m sure the idea has been broached. If it’s eight o’clock in the morning in Suva, Fiji, what’s local time at a base of ours on Triton, one of Neptune’s satellites? Assuming, that is, bases could be established in the first place, and Triton is assigned time zones in the process.

Well, stardate to the rescue. Establishing a universal, or blanket time, on all places beyond Earth, would make time keeping across the solar system simple. And the galaxy. And, come to that, it’d be pretty good on Earth also. If it’s stardate something or other in London, it will be the same stardate in Wellington, New Zealand. But let’s come back to that thought later.

How is stardate worked out?

Great then. Stardate sounds like some sort of universal time system. Whether you’re on the east coast of Australia, or one of the moons of Sherbet III (which I’m sure is out there somewhere) thousands of light years distant, stardate remains the same. No need to adjust for differences in time zones. Or even time dilation, a phenomenon which appears to be absent from the Star Trek universe. But stardate is a deceptively complicated time tracking construct, and that, ironically, is a product of Star Trek, rather than stardate.

In early episodes of what’s called The Original Series (TOS) of Star Trek, which screened in the 1960’s, stardate made for a useful way of concealing the actual calendar year setting of the show. Perhaps Star Trek producers wanted to protect themselves from cynical segments of the audience (What? Some Star Trek viewers were cynics?), who might berate them for making the wrong calls about the timings of the invention of certain technologies seen in the show.

No one could castigate the producers for offering the wrong date for the advent of warp drive, since no one could (at the time) correlate a given stardate to a specific year. As the show went on though, it became apparent the early Star Trek stories played out in the twenty-third century, or about two hundred years in the future. Still, while stardate was effective at hiding the calendar year, screenwriters were reportedly casual in the application of stardate, at least initially, using, it seems, whatever number came into their heads.

This would have frustrated fans who were intrigued by stardate, and were trying to figure out how it was calculated. In early TOS episodes, stardate was a four figure number, with a decimal point, for instance, 1502.1. The decimal value represented a segment of a twenty-four hour Earth day, which was divided by ten. On my example stardate value of 1502.1, the point one (.1) would be a time between midnight and 2:40AM. Starships however still used twenty-four hour clocks, for (local) ship time, and these are visible in some Star Trek stories.

Why is stardate (needlessly) complicated?

This is because each new Star Trek “spin-off” series, or generation, seem to use stardate differently.

While stardates in TOS shows and movies didn’t move past four figures, that changed when The Next Generation (TNG) arrived in 1987. Here stardates had advanced to values of over forty thousand. The stardate of the first episode of the first TV series of TNG was about 41000. This number advanced by one thousand with each successive series of TNG. The stardate at the beginning of the second TNG series would have been about 42000. Then 43000 for the third series, and so on.

This system suggested an Earth calendar year equated to one thousand stardate units. But only for TNG stories. TOS stardates were another matter. Between the first TOS TV show, broadcast in the 1960’s, with James Kirk as captain of the USS Enterprise, to the last appearance of Kirk and the TOS core crew in 1991, thirty-three years (in canon) is said to have elapsed. Yet the stardate in The Undiscovered Country, the final story with the TOS crew, was stated as 9529.1. Surely it should have been over 33000 by then?

How confusing is that? We’re also told the TNG stories commenced ninety-five years after the last TOS story, but I think this figure refers to the final TOS TV show, and not the subsequent movies the TOS crew were in. The Motion Picture, the first of the TOS movies, although made ten years after the final TOS TV show, is set five years after events of the TV show, where the stardate is given as 7410.2. The stardate for the final TOS TV show, broadcast in 1696, is 5943.7.

The difference in the two suggests stardate advances by about three-hundred units per year for the TOS stories. If the first TNG TV show is set about seventy years after The Undiscovered Country, the final TOS story, surely the TNG stardate should be closer to eighty-thousand, instead of about forty-thousand, if stardate advances in thousand units increments every year. But trying to figure out stardate conventions is almost as confusing as trying work out the differences between the world’s various time zones.

Yet if the time span in calendar years between The Motion Picture (stardate 7410.2) and The Undiscovered Country (stardate 9529.1) is about twenty years, that gives stardate an annual value of about one-hundred and five units. My head is spinning. But if stardate — for all the difficulty in figuring out how it is calculated — was intended as a universal time, it no doubt would have suited the space-faring members of Star Trek’s galactic federation.

If stardate was indeed a universal time, its value would be fixed. It would be the same regardless of an observer’s location in the galaxy, or federation space. And this would obviously have made organising rendezvous, gatherings, and the like, straightforward. Having said that, I suspect stardate operated in tandem with local times on planetary systems across the galaxy, so federation denizens would be accustomed to living with at least two time keeping systems.

Stardate, a universal time for Earth?

If stardate works as a universal time standard around the solar system and beyond, could something similar be adopted on Earth? Doing so would certainly make life a lot easier. A standard, fixed, global time, would eliminate the confusion associated with the current twenty-four separate time zones. In 2014, Matthew Yglesias, co-founder of media outlet Vox, suggested the world consider moving to a single, or “giant” time zone, describing the present time zones as “more trouble than they are worth.”

They were a good idea at the time, but in the modern world they cause more trouble than they are worth. Now that several generations of humanity are accustomed to abstracting time away from the happenstance of where the sun is located, it’s time to do away with this barbarous relic of the past. Everyone on the planet should operate according to a single time — Greenwich Mean Time would be suggested by tradition — and then local schedules could differ from place to place according to personal taste and local practicality.

As I’ve already said, who doesn’t find differences between time zones confusing? And as for daylight saving… well, let’s not go there.

But what if there were a global time, meaning the time was the same everywhere? Would that not make things so much easier? Sure, implementing such a time zone, which perhaps I could refer to here as Earth Time, means plenty would change. But that doesn’t mean doing away with the existing time standards. A global time zone would still be used side-by-side with, say, the existing Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) time standards, meaning everyone retains the local time they’re used to.

Because if those in the Star Trek universe can live comfortably with two time standards — stardate, and a local time — so can we.

An Earth Time wouldn’t mean moving the whole planet onto the same schedule either. For example, people on the east coast of Australia wouldn’t be waking up in the middle of the night so they could be in sync with sunrise in, say, California. They’d still be rising at their usual time, which would most likely be during daylight hours (assuming they’re not early birds, shift workers, and the like), and living their lives exactly as they always have.

But a global Earth Time would make interacting with people in other parts of the world less bothersome. For example, scheduling a conference call with colleagues in other countries would entail settling on an Earth Time that suited everyone. “Yes, 1530 Earth Time, works for me.” As Yglesias also points out, Earth Time would suit travellers crossing state or national borders. Straight off the bat, they would know exactly how long they would be in transit, without having to work out the differences across various time zones.

If an international flight is scheduled to depart from somewhere at 1100 Earth Time, and reach its destination at 1800 Earth Time, a traveller can immediately see that the flight time will be seven hours. Tell me now, how good is a global time zone?

What format would a global time take?

While an Earth Time would work in same way as stardate, in that it is a universal-like time standard, it would not have stardate’s “count-up” format. Earth Time wouldn’t start at zero, which presumably (maybe) stardate did at one point, and continue going up infinitely, rather it would be based on the far simpler twenty-four hour clock. It would start at 0000 each day, and conclude at 2359. An Earth Time could of course have a six-digit format to take seconds into account, allowing for greater precision, for example, 093515.

Expressing Earth Time without the colons seen on most digital clocks could possibly help differentiate Earth Time from local time. Digital clocks could be designed to feature both times. If Earth Time was 065515, local time might be, depending on your location, 15:55:15. Doubtless savvy designers will be able to incorporate both time formats onto analogue (analog) clocks as well. And with potentially two time zones in play, World, and local, a convention governing days would need to be established.

This would probably mean days fall according to World Time. People in some locations may find the day of the week ticking over to the next day at times other than midnight. Someone might, say, be in a meeting at 14:00 local time on Tuesday, but find they have, say, a dentist appointment only an hour later at 15:00, but the day will suddenly be Wednesday. This is because World Time has ticked over to 000000 in the interim. No doubt though our electronic timekeepers and clocks will guide us through these peculiarities.

Making time for global time

Introducing a global time zone would be a huge undertaking, and pose its share of challenges. The process would need to be spread over years, possibly decades, to give everyone a chance to adapt to it, and make the necessary infrastructure changes. But the benefits are well worth considering. If a global time zone doesn’t come to pass though, fret not. Star Trek canon tells us stardate will arrive in around 2266. That’s only about two-hundred and forty years away.

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