Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Guest Post: Where Fact Meets Fantasy: Lunar Eclipses & Double Blue Moons

Last week, BRoP member T.W. Fendley was our interviewee as she celebrated the release of her newest work, The Labyrinth of Time. Today she returns to share some of her research with us.

Worldbuilding is one of the fun parts of writing science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t let you off the hook if you get “real-world” facts wrong. That’s why I put a disclaimer in my young adult contemporary fantasy, THE LABYRINTH OF TIME, regarding the timing of a total lunar eclipse that’s crucial to the plot. 

According to Javier Cabrera Darquea’s interpretation of Ica’seleven thousand engraved stones, a comet return involving our early alien visitors will occur during a total lunar eclipse--when the moon is completely in the Earth’s shadow. Sadly, I failed to find a “real-world” match for that particular combination of celestial events to use in my story.

Instead, I decided to use another rare astronomical marker—a double blue moon. Despite the fickle definition for blue moons, I liked the imagery of the double blue moon,particularly when I
learned about the 2018 total lunar eclipse. Although I didn’t find records of a long-period comet due within the January to March timeframe for the double blue moon, I imagined one similar to Comet Siding Spring. Just discovered in January 2013, the comet made its once-in-a-million-years pass by Mars on Oct. 20, 2014.

For several decades, a blue moon has been defined as the second full moon in a single calendar month.  A double blue moon--when two blue moons occur with a year--occurs about four times in a century. The last was in 1999, and the next double blue moon will be in 2018 (Jan. 31 and March 31). 

Realistically, a “blue moon” wouldn’t mean quite the same thing to ancient people as it does to us. Even our own definition changed due to a mistake in a 1946 Sky and Telescope magazine article. Previously, the Farmers’ Almanac referred to a blue moon as the third full moon in a season that has four. Over the next two decades, about fifteen blue moons will occur, with an almost equal number of both types occurring.

Admittedly, I blurred the facts in my fiction—the 2018 total lunar eclipse will only be partially visible from Peru and will occur during the first blue moon of the pair--Jan. 31, not March 31. The next total lunar eclipse that’s visible from Ica won’t be until Jan. 21, 2019—in a year with no blue moon (by the current definition). Besides, that was too long for Jade and Felix to wait for the comet’s arrival and the return of the First Men!
T.W. Fendley is an award-winning author of historical fantasy and science fiction for adults and young adults. She began writing fiction full-time in 2007 after working twenty-five years in journalism and corporate communications. In October 2011, L&L Dreamspell LLC published her debut historical fantasy novel for adults, Zero Time. Her young adult contemporary fantasy novel, The Labyrinth of Time, will be released in November 2014. Her short stories are available on Kindle and Audible.

Teresa fell in love with ancient American cultures while researching story ideas at the 1997 Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Since then, she’s trekked to archeological sites in the Yucatan, Peru and American Southwest. She serves on the board of the St. Louis Writers Guild, and belongs to the Missouri Writers' Guild, Broad Universe, and Historical Novel Society. She also practices remote viewing with the Applied Precognition Project and studies shamanism. Teresa currently lives near St. Louis with her artist husband and his pet fish. 
 You can find her online at: 

Can Jade restore the Firestone’s powers before the First Men return to judge humanity? 
Spending spring break in Peru with her grandmother isn’t sixteen-year-old Jade’s idea of fun. She’d much rather be with her friends at Lake of the Ozarks. Then she meets Felix, a museum director’s son. Jade discovers only she and Felix can telepathically access messages left on engraved stones in the age of dinosaurs.
Following the ancient stones’ guidance, they enter the Labyrinth of Time and–with a shapeshifting dog’s help–seek a red crystal called the Firestone. But time is running out before the First Men return on the night of the second blue moon.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A little blurring of facts is all right. Sometimes the stars just don't line up right.
Congratulations on the release, TW!

T.W. Fendley said...

Thanks, Alex!

And Sandra, I appreciate the chance to interact with your readers and fans who share a love of science, history and speculative fiction. :)

Sandra Almazan said...

Thanks for stopping by, Alex and T.W.!

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