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Great Year

Entry updated 8 May 2023. Tagged: Theme.

The Great Year or Long Year, whose seasons last for many normal Earthly years, generations or even lifetimes, features in a number of sf works as a kind of literalization of cyclic history theories (see History in SF) in the context of Planetary Romance. The Dark Ages are reified as an interminable-seeming winter and the Golden Years as an equally prolonged summer. Special astronomical circumstances are generally invoked to account for such extended seasons. Thus the planet Tiamat in Joan D Vinge's The Snow Queen (1980; rev 1989), with its 150-year summers and winters, orbits a Black Hole. The titular world of Brian Aldiss's Helliconia sequence, opening with Helliconia Spring (1982), is situated in a binary Star system whose two suns' motions give Helliconia a Great Year roughly 2500 years long; such a binary system is also responsible for the forty-year hot and cold seasons (each dominated by an appropriately adapted intelligent species) in Hal Clement's much earlier Cycle of Fire (1957). Further Great-Year worlds form the settings for Tony Rothman's The World Is Round (1978), where each day lasts 750 Earth days, Paul Park's The Starbridge Chronicles, opening with Soldiers of Paradise (1987), and the planet Miranda in Michael Swanwick's Stations of the Tide (1991). George R R Martin effectively transposes the concept into Fantasy with A Game of Thrones (1996) and further volumes of his Song of Ice and Fire sequence, whose Secondary World [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] seems to be moving from a long summer into what may be a ten-year winter. Eric Brown's Binary System (2017) is set on a planet previously undiscovered by humans (see First Contact), where the winters last many years, though the summers are short. [DRL]


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