Sols on #Mars


Colony concept. Cutaway shows underground hydroponics.

I’m working on a new book for next summer set at a colony on Mars. Personally, I feel conflicted about colonizing Mars. It will be such a hard life, huddled inside tiny quarters, subsistence farming, and dependent on technology to do everything including breath. A recent MIT study raises a fear I hadn’t thought of: raising enough plants in a small space may generate so much oxygen that fire becomes a huge hazard. They also think the technology isn’t as much of a slam-dunk as Mars One advertises. So I don’t think I have to worry about the possibility for myself.

But my question today is less profound.

When writing about people on Mars, it seems to me I need to use some terms that acknowledge the differences in years and days between Earth and Mars. NASA uses the term “sol” for a Martian day, which is only slightly longer than an Earth day. “The word ‘yestersol’ was coined by the NASA Mars operations team early during the MER mission to refer to the previous sol (the Mars version of ‘yesterday’) and came into fairly wide use within that organization during the Mars Exploration Rover Mission of 2003. It was even picked up and used by the press. Other neologisms include ‘tosol’ (for ‘today’) and ‘nextersol’, ‘morrowsol’, or ‘solmorrow’ (for ‘tomorrow’)” Wikipedia

Much as I love these terms (“nextersol”, how cool is that?) I’m concerned a reader will trip over them and ultimately find them annoying and distracting. Knocking a reader out of the story is too high a price to pay just because I think the words are cute. I recall a tip I read somewhere: Write for yourself, and edit for your readers.

What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Sols on #Mars

  1. I love the words solmorrow and yestersol and think I would use them. I recall Robert Heinlein’s advice that every so often you should jolt the reader to remind them that they’re in the future: “The door dilated as he walked through” was one example he gave, and I think solmorrow might do the same thing.


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