When Is a Deadline Not a Deadline?

“I love deadlines. I like the wooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

–Douglas Adams

Deadlines are a double-edged sword. They can provide the motivation for success or invalidate an otherwise excellent effort just because it wasn’t completed by an arbitrary date. For example, I was supposed to post a blog entry here on October 15th and cap the day by triumphantly emailing a final revision of Galaxy Games #1 back to my editor. As you can see by the date of this post, today is October 17th.

Of course, I’m not conceding defeat. Deadlines are open to interpretation and, as speculative fiction authors, we should be able to find a magical hourglass, time portal, or other suitable loophole.

What does it mean to say a manuscript revision is due on, say, October 15th? If a proper time on October 15th isn’t specified, I should be able to hit the send button in my email program at 11:59:59PM and still have a comfortable one-second margin to spare.

Or actually, because no time zone was given, I should be allowed to keep working for nearly three hours after midnight, here on the East Coast, and still be within my deadline on Pacific Time. If I need additional hours after that, there are more time zones further west–Alaska Time, Hawaii Time, or all the way west to the International Date Line. As long as it’s still October 15th somewhere on Earth, my submission is still good and timely.

So let’s say it’s early morning on October 16th, a Saturday, and I could theoretically still meet my October 15th deadline. Except that I’m pretty sure my publisher’s offices aren’t open over the weekend and my editor won’t be at her desk. For all practical purposes, getting the book in on Sunday night would be just as good as getting it in on Saturday morning. I could even deliver the manuscript on October 18th at 8:59:59AM Eastern Time, just before the start of business in New York on Monday morning, and still be within the practical range of an October 15th deadline.

But wait! All this time I’ve been assuming that my deadline was set according to the Gregorian calendar. Friday the 15th of October by the Gregorian calendar is also October 2nd by the older Julian calendar, which means I can work for almost two more weeks and still have my work in on October 15th by somebody’s calendar.

I could do that, but I’m sending it in today instead. It’s October 4th, Julian, and I’m waaaaay early because I’m the kind of diligent worker who gets things done. So there!

—Greg, always on time in his own universe.

Greg R. Fishbone

Greg R. Fishbone


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3 responses to “When Is a Deadline Not a Deadline?

  1. And then, the theory of relativity suggests we could calculate the exact time and date at the point in space through which the earth was passing when the deadline was given… and since the earth is whooshing through space with the rest of our expanding galaxy, time will move more quickly at that point-time than it does at your house. (Uh, if I’m not getting time dilation backward.) Which means that by the time Oct 15 (Greg’s House), rolled around, you would have been late (Universe) regardless… so what the heck. A few more days won’t matter. ;)

  2. I *thought* I was supposed to see something from someone that day, but I was in the midst of trying to get an edit out, so you snuck by. This time. Mwahahahahaha!

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