earthfastsNot a review proper — tho I should do one — but just a note of a curious fact about William Mayne’s EARTHFASTS trilogy: viz Earthfasts (1966); Cradlefasts (1995); and Candlefasts (2000). The stories are about (inadvertent) time-travel — in the first, a young 18-century soldier stumbles through a hill out into the modern Yorkshire village of Garesborough. Some nine years elapses in “real” time between the beginning of Earth and the close of Candle — time as it would be measured, that is, by a grown-up non-timeslipping resident Garesborough; for various of the protagonists, drummerboy Nellie Jack John especially, time has passed by at a different rate. By the end of the trilogy, Keith, 13 or 14 in the first, is a trainee solicitor with his own laptop. Which places the closing action — assuming the book’s “real time” is our own — around the late 90s at the EARLIEST. Which places the action of the first book somewhere in the late 80s. Which meant that, when I read it in the late 60s, I was reading about a time 20 years in the future WITHOUT KNOWING IT.

There is NOTHING in the first book to let you know it is set in the future. I accept that this is merely a species of RETCON — when Mayne first wrote Earthfasts he had no plan to extend it the way he did — but I think it’s interesting, rereading it,the way he did it (ie moving the start date into the future, rather than setting the climax in the 80s). It produces in the reader exactly the temporal disorientation that the inadvertent timetravellers must surely feel: you thought you had a fix on something (you read a book in the late 60s, apparently set very concretely in the present; one day you realise, 40 years later, that it wasn’t at all).