When does a circle have 380 degrees? When it’s in the fantasy world of Pharas, the world in which I’m setting my fantasy novel The Unfinished Tower. I’ve gone through a number of mathematical calculations to determine the laws of nature for Pharas, and it turns out that the numbers 2, 3, 5, and 19 are important to the nature of the world. So are numbers that factor down into those numbers and powers of those numbers, such as 4 (2*2), 9 (3*3), 10 (2*5), 38 (2*19), and 380 (2*2*5*19). I don’t want to reveal everything I’ve come up with about this world, hoping rather that much of it will be discovered by readers through the act of reading the novels I set in Pharas.
What I will say now is that the math for the physical laws of Pharas works out better if I declare the number of degrees in a circle to be 380 instead of 360. One of the fun things about creating your own fictional fantasy world is that you get to make up all sorts of weird stuff for it. So if you wanted to have a world where the educated people of the world agree that there are four degrees in a circle, making each of their degrees equal to 90 of ours on Earth, there’s nothing to stop you.
One might wonder—what’s the point? Indeed, in my case, I will not have occasion in The Unfinished Tower to ever mention the fact that the sages of Pharas have defined a circle to consist of 380 degrees instead of 360, or that the reason it is done is related to how they measure the passage of time in Pharas, which also doesn’t match Earth’s. Pharas doesn’t have 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day, or 365+ days per year. If you’ve guessed that the year in Pharas consists of 380 days, then give yourself a prize.
A few Earth decades ago, I had worked out a ton of information about Pharas, its countries and inhabitants, its calendar and holy days, and other tidbits of information. Back in 1998 I had some of this information on the web, but took it down eventually after realizing that someone else on the web was stealing my writing and claiming it as his own. (No, his last name was not Shipman.) Before that, I had written an outline for two-and-a-half books in a trilogy set in Pharas. That was before I knew enough about writing to produce a story that had a decent chance of pleasing a large number of readers as much as it pleased me. All that material I wrote back then serves now as background material for Pharas, as does the material I used many years ago for running a role playing campaign in the world of Pharas. None of that material will appear directly in the novels, but it all has helped shape my image of Pharas, and will influence the stories I write about it.
Even though I have created and recorded data about Pharas for decades, I had—until just this past weekend—overlooked certain implications arising from the data. You might say, hey, it’s a fantasy world, why worry about implications, when you have magic that can explain away any contradictions that arise from the physical laws you’ve prescribed? And I would say, yeah, I will rely on magic and hand-waving aplenty as it is, because trying to get everything geometrically, mathematically, and physically consistent is a task that I don’t envy God for having done with Earth. But anything that I can make naturally consistent within the laws for Pharas will help me as the author to keep consistent in my head and in my stories, because I won’t have to go scrolling or thumbing through my notes to find out where the white moon is supposed to be at dusk on the 77th day of the year.
Yes, this is why I have 380 degrees in a circle—so I can create relatively easy formulas for determining the positions of the more important heavenly bodies in the sky over Pharas at any given fictional time on any given fictional day. The positions of these heavenly bodies play important roles in the cultures of Pharas, and so it behooves me to get them right in my head every time, even if I don’t spell out every detail to the reader.
In fact, I will do my best to keep all the math, geometry, and physics transparent to the readers of my novels. But you who read this blog, you will know my secrets.