234. Revisiting Columbus

A year ago today, I was anticipating a January 2016 release for my novel Cyan. Since Columbus had a brief appearance there, I published an excerpt on Columbus Day as a teaser. The novel’s release has been delayed, and very few people were reading that early in the blog’s history, so here is a reprise

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Poor Columbus; he has taken a beating over the years. We don’t see him for what he was, with all his strengths and weaknesses, but through the lens of our own times. Here is a picture of how we might view him a century from now, when we have had to change our calendar to meet the demands of the rest of the world.

Anno Domini
A Latin phrase meaning the Year of our Lord.

Before sunrise on October 12, 1492, Anno Domini, a lookout for Columbus’ expedition sighted land. Columbus had found two new continents (although he did not know it), following his own powerful vision of how the Earth was constructed (a vision that was wrong), and began a five hundred year reign as king of explorers.

Half a millennium later, Columbus was dethroned. Even school children were now being taught that Columbus was not the only one who knew the world was round. Sailors and scholars had known that for hundreds of years before him.  Columbus’ great vision was that the Earth was small, and in that he was wrong. By the late twentieth century, it was certain that the Vikings got to America first, likely that St. Brendan beat Columbus there, and there were a dozen other putative explorers who had their champions.

Besides, American popular thought was in one of its Noble Savage stages, and it was politically correct to echo the Native Americans who complained that Columbus was a destroyer of races and cultures.

But even at the height of Columbus bashing, it was apparent that his voyage had differed in one significant detail from the other explorers who had preceded him. After Columbus, America was never lost again. After Columbus, and those other explorers who sailed close on his heels, the Earth became entirely known and entirely interconnected for the first time.


In the year A. D. 2037 (as Christians measure time), at the Conclave of Mecca, the Islamic world announced that they would no longer recognize, speak with, acknowledge, or deal with any person, nation, or document which forced them to use a calendar based on Christianity.

At the International Bureau of Weights and Measures Convention in Buenos Aires two months later, a new calendar was established, based on a sidereal year. It would have neither weeks nor months since Islam and the rest of the world could not compromise on the issue of lunar months. It could not start at Jesus’ putative birth, nor at Mohammed’s, and it quickly became apparent that the new Standard Year should date from the midnight preceding the day the Earth became one planet for the first time.

This whole Standard Year business came about by accident. When I wrote Jandrax thirty plus years ago, I had no idea that I would write other stories in the same universe. After all, I stranded all those poor people so far out that no one would ever find them.

However, I began wondering what circumstances, beyond what I had already written, might cause Dumezil to invent his pan-Earth religion, and I wondered what Jan Andrax’s ancestors were like. That led me to make Stephan Andrax, Jan’s multi-great grandfather, spaceside commander of the Cyan expedition.

In Jandrax, I had pulled the date Standard Year 873 out of thin air. Now I had to backtrack and make it work for Cyan, which I did my making Standard Year Zero start with Columbus’ discovery of America.


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