How the Countdown Began

El Castillo at Chichen Itza, Mexico


That’s what the bid poster on the convention wall announced. The year was 1995, and John and I were on our honeymoon attending “Intersection,” the World Science Fiction Convention held in Glasgow, Scotland.

What? You didn’t plan your wedding date around Worldcon? Well, we did. We even went back to Scotland for our 10th anniversary in 2005.

But I digress. Back to the main topic of this week’s post. 1995 was an interesting year. When I grew up, the year 2000 was far ahead in the future. Back in the 1970’s, I remember my parents saying, “I don’t know if we’ll live to see the year 2000, but you kids probably will.”

Then suddenly it was 1995, and that upcoming year with a triple zero was looming practically right in front of us. In Ye Olde Times, the superstitious amongst us might have gone up to a hilltop to await the end of the world. However, we were sophisticated Twentieth Century people, completely unaffected by any fears that came with significant date changes.

Except for Y2K. Remember Y2K? It was that pesky little concern with double-digits that threatened to crash our planes and empty our bank accounts at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000. Looking back after 20 years, the whole thing seems rather amusing, but at the time, it added to our instinctive uneasiness about the upcoming new millenium. (And yes, I remember the debates about whether the new millennium started in 2000 or 2001.)

Which brings me back to the “bid” poster for Chichen Itza in 2012. For those of you unfamiliar with Worldcon, the location of the convention changes every year. Each year, different locations submit bids to hold a future convention. Because the selection between competing bids is made by vote, the bidding locations campaign with posters, room parties, give aways, etc.

Chichen Itza in 2012, of course, was a joke, playing on the end of the ancient Mayan calendar. With the year 2000 looming just ahead, the “End-of-the-Worldcon” at Chichen Itza in 2012 was especially funny.

I laughed when I saw the poster on the wall and then moved on to other parts of the convention, but the idea stayed in my mind. I began to speculate on what it might be like to live in a world where the calendar was ending, and you really didn’t know what was going to happen.

Those of you who have read 60th Hour probably know where I am going with this blog post. The idea sparked by that bid poster eventually led John and me to write a fantasy novel about a group of people who go up on a hilltop to await the end of the world. True, the novel contains a lot of other elements — magic, political intrigue, personal confrontation, etc. — but, at its heart, it began with that instinctive fear of the unknown future. What happens when the countdown toward the end of time begins, but no one knows how it ends?

So, that is the secret origin story for 60th Hour.

Susan 6/12/20

(As a footnote, I should mention that not only did my parents live to see the year 2000, but they are both still alive in 2020.)

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