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Decurn: The Chironian Ten-Day Week

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  • Decurn: The Chironian Ten-Day Week

    Background (Datalinks archeology)

    This webpage formerly on the Firaxis website, entitled “Preliminary Report on the Alpha Centauri System,” dated to November 1998, likely written by Derek “Del” Cotter, and archived by DataPacRat, briefly introduces us to the Chironian Calendar:

    Chiron’s year is slightly longer than Earth’s, but it rotates considerable faster, finishing a day in slightly under 18 hours. Since there is no further point in retaining hour, minute, and second time measurements calibrated for Earth time, the following calendar will be used on Planet:
    The hour, the minute, and the second will each be shortened by approximately 2.68%, in order to accomodate a Chironian day of precisely 18 hours.
    The 532 days in a year shall be divided into 53 ten day long "decurns", which corresponds both to the approximate length of Earth’s week and the approximate length of Chiron’s lunar month (measuring by the cycles of the larger moon, Nessus). The two "leftover" days shall be used as special holidays. The first day of the year shall be "Planetfall Day", on which we celebrate our arrival on Planet. The middle (27th) decurn of the year shall also be a time of celebration, and shall end on "Earth Day", the second extra day, on which we remember Earth, our lost home planet.
    Retcons and Redactions

    This page did not end up on the final form of the SMAC site, though most of the information on it except for the calendar does end up in “A New Sun,” Appendix 5 of the game’s instruction manual.

    Some other notable omissions: speculation that Chiron having a thick, dense atmosphere would result in “larger and more numerous flying creatures than on Earth” (sadly missing from the final game’s bestiary!), a Jovian planet orbiting close to Alpha Centauri B (“Hercules”) named Prometheus, and Alpha Centauri A being referred to as “Alpha Prime.” Both the instruction manual and the GURPS Alpha Centauri sourcebook (“Astrophysics,” pgs. 7-9) mention that like Hercules of myth, the second star is a centaur-killer, its gravitational field destabilizing the orbits of more planets from forming in the system- so we end up only with Chiron (“Planet”) and the Mercury-like Eurytion.

    A thread on the long-gone forums, “>>Preliminary Report - response for the SMAC design team,” might’ve been the death knell of the decurn concept and the Alpha Prime name, as fans took issue with both. As with the fall of Prometheus, this might mean the calendar section was intentionally removed from canon, but that didn’t stop some early SMAC players from writing fanfic that used the term.

    And, me with my own stories as well, because there’s so many details to life on Planet that we just don’t know about, and the existence of deuterocanonical (apocryphal?) lore from Firaxis is worth preserving, ro at least adapting. So in several of my fanfics, I reference the decurn ten-day concept. The two holidays are neat, a look into cultural life of those exiled from Earth. Finally, I just like naming things. So without further ado-

    My Decurn
    • As with the real English names for the days of the week, I didn’t stick with any particular naming convention, just whatever flowed well or sounded good to me. Hence it’s not Cottersday.
    • Instead of Garlsday or Garlanday I gave o captain a shortened name because who wants Monday to be spelled long. I figure in Planetary society Garland would basically be like a semi-mythical minor deity anyway, there would be a ton of things named after him. People would exclaim “Great Garland’s Ghost” or “By Garland’s Beard!” “Garland flog you!”
    • As per canon, Eurytion is the only other planet in the system. Pholus and Nessus are both moons of Planet. Hercules is Alpha Centauri B. I have no name for Alpha Centauri A. There is no Prime Day.
    • Reysday, of course, is a nod to Brian Reynolds. I figure since Sid already gets his own faction he doesn’t need another tribute here. In-universe King Peleus shows up in some Greek myths related to Chiron so let’s say he’s named for a major asteroid in the system or something.
    • Motaro is the fearsome Centaurian from Mortal Kombat, and the only modern centaur that I can name besides Foaly from Artemis Fowl. In-universe let’s say it’s the name of another asteroid, maybe even the micrometeorite that struck Unity and caused Planetfall in the first place. Too soon?
    • In-universe, Planetologist Del Cotter conducted the first major survey upon arrival. I guess he was either honored by having a name for him in the calendar, or if he devised the decurn, decided to John Hancock himself into it!

    Local variants

    As with real-life modern calendars, I don’t think there will be huge variations across different cultures. For the purposes of convenience, different factions will want to adopt an agreed-upon standard rather than be too petty in their differences. So I don’t imagine there would be Morgday, Colonelday, or Yangday. But here’s a few minor factional variations I came up with:
    • Both the Human Hive and the University of Planet, being strict materialists who frown upon sentimentality, name the days of the decurn simply after the numerals. (Day One, Day Two… Day Ten.) The Hive uses the Mandarin translation, not so much out of cultural chauvinism on the part of the Chairman, but because statistically speaking there was a substantial amount of Mandarin-speakers aboard the Unity. Though he was a classicist, after all. The University uses the Latin and/or Greek names, as they do in science.
    • The Spartan Federation stubbornly keeps the original names of the week from Earth, as they consider them to be fine tributes to the mighty warrior deities of ancient Greco-Roman and Norse myth. They also use Hercsday. To fill up the remaining days of the decurn, they add the somewhat redundant-sounding Freyjday, and also Kratosday.
    • The Cyborg Consciousness has numerical days but in hexadecimal. The Data Angels uses the standard names but spelled in leetspeak.
    • The Cult of Planet uses names in the demonic-sounding ‘Fungal tongue’ that Cha Dawn claims is “the true speech of this world,” which might simply be a conlang. Some researchers nervously point out its similarities with certain passages from the Voynich Manuscript.

    Other thoughts

    Calendars are a big deal, and I actually haven’t really examined this in detail. More considerations:
    • I just made up splitting up an eight-day workweek into two halves. Would that be the best way to do it? Should there be more or fewer rest days? Certainly that would have much factional variation, with Morgans praising the ten-day work decurn while the Free Drones toiling for the complete opposite. And at the beginning of the colonies there wouldn’t be much in the way of dedicated rest days. What would be the two sub-work decurns be referred to? I like the idea of Big Endian and Little Endian, myself.
    • For the record, the GURPS SMAC sourcebook says:

    Most colonial societies settled on a "six hours on. four hours off, eight hours rest" cycle, with slightly shorter "hours" to make the total a round 18 hours a day.
    • Neither the Preliminary report, the actual SMAC manual, nor the sourcebook gives the notion of months. The sourcebook does mention each moon’s “synodic months” (the period from one full moon to the next), but that’s not helpful. So no idea how the 53 decurns are divided up, and if they would even be called months. In my stories I make reference to vague “cycles,” which sounds like an appropriately sci-fi term.
    • Speaking of moons, what about a lunar calendar? How does it work when there are multiple moons? Which factions might use such a thing? I was thinking the Nautilus Pirates, perhaps tracking the moons’ cycles would be a boon to both navigation and keeping track of the tides.
    • As per the sourcebook: “Planet spins quite rapidly on its axis, giving it a day of only 17 ours, 32 minutes. Unlike Earth, Planet has an insignificant axial tilt and so exhibits almost no seasonal variation.” So there’s no seasons, which is a bummer because I was hoping to give the Gaians something like the French revolutionary calendar, with its romanticized natural months. Not that human agriculture on Planet would be anything like that on Earth, anyway.

    A final word from the GURPS sourcebook
    Planet's orbital radius is 1.32 AU, significantly larger than that of Earth. The local year (the time to make one orbit around Alpha Centauri A) is only slightly longer than Earth's year.
    One Planet year is 532 local days long. Since there is no significant seasonal cycle, the colonists rarely used the local year as a measure of time. Instead, they used the "Mission Year," which was equal in length to the Earth year, and used the same system of reckoning. Thus, the Unity arrived in the Alpha Centauri system in Mission Year 2100. One Mission Year was just over 500 local days long; the colonists added one or two local days to each Mission Year as needed, to keep in sync with the Earth year.
    I’m ignoring the above by treating a Mission Year as the same as a local year, to keep with the original Preliminary Report. But I suppose both can be harmonized if you have a 50-decurn year, and the two local days inserted being the holidays mentioned in Del Cotter’s report.​