Year X

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Year_20XX_127.jpg
And the previous year was 200X.

"Why is it always X? It's like they couldn't come up with an exact year, so just make it X."

Setting is important in story telling, especially when you want to tell what time period that story takes place in. The easiest way to do this is to simply state what year the story takes place in... however, being too exact may sometimes narrow down flexibility. So in order to pinpoint the time and keep it vague at the same time, writers like to give the century number, but replace the year and decade with X.

For example: 20XX. You know this takes place after the millennium, but when after the millennium? 2097? 2030? December 21, 2012? We don't know, and that's the beauty of it.

It also renders the setting somewhat resistant to the flow of Real Life time, since Real Life will take longer to cross that date and make fans start wondering why the future doesn't look anything like fiction depicted it. Of course, as the list below shows, years like 199X and 200X have been used and passed, and even 20XX will pass eventually. Inevitably, Time Marches On.

Commonly seen in Science Fiction, but not limited to it.

Not to be confused with Exty Years from Now, which is about future dates or intervals being nice round numbers, often based on the work's own release date. Compare Spell My Name with a Blank, which is similar but with names or locations.

Note that older examples such as Frankenstein or Treasure Island use — instead of X to denote the uncertain years: Both of the above works are set in "17—".

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga 

  • Wangan Midnight is set in the year 20XX to allow for the introduction of newer cars that at the time of the first publishing (1992) did not exist.
  • Ichigeki Sacchu!! Hoihoi-san is set in the year 20XX.
  • Zero In is set in 20XX.
  • Hellstar Remina: Earth is eaten in "July 20XX".
  • Digimon Xros Wars starts in 20XX.
  • Future Diary's dates are all shown in the form "29 JULY 20XX"
  • New Mazinger: The action in this Mazinger Z spin-off begins in 220X.
  • Crystal Triangle is set in the year 198X. The funny thing about this is that the show was made in 1987. They were really hopeful for those next two years.
  • Fist of the North Star is set a few years after a nuclear war destroyed the world in "199X". Series protagonist Kenshiro was born in the similarly vague year 197X.
  • In 3-gatsu no Lion, the year is revealed to be 20XX on Nikaidou's New Years postcard. Averted in the anime, where it's indicated to be 2007 and 2008 via background calendars.
  • Fairy Tail: The story takes place in "X784". X791 after the first Time Skip, and X792 after the second.

     Film 

  • Invasion of Astro-Monster took place in 196X.
  • The Last Days of Disco was set in "the very early 1980s."
  • Time Changer When someone from the 1890's came over 100 years in the future and looked at the newspaper, the last two years of 20xx were obscured and when he yelled the date out loud the 20xx was cut off by a car honk. Also, at end of the movie, they are attempting to send a bible in the future but it will not go if the end of the world already happened by then, so he keeps on changing the date earlier to see when the end of the world takes place, and the movie cuts off somewhere in the 2000s.

     Live Action TV 

  • Power Rangers RPM was set in 20XX (between late 2040 and 2096).
  • The Doctor Who episode "The End of The World" takes place in "5.5/Apple/26", although this may be another term for exactly 5 billion years after the characters had left.
  • Servant Of The People features a subtle version of this, with a small poster that has the year on it, but the part with the last digit is torn off. The show is basically set in 201X.

     Literature 

  • In the Brazilian classic Captains of the Sands, the only temporal reference is the death of protagonist Pedro Bala�s father, said to have been killed during the 191... strike.
  • John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse" sets the date as 19__. This is after giving the main character's home as B____ Street in the town of D____, Maryland, then lampshading it, then lampshading that a young protagonist would be Genre Savvy enough to point this out. This is Postmodernism after all.
  • In Frankenstein, in Robert Walton's letters to his sister, the date is given as "Dec. 11th, 17—," making this trope at least Older Than Radio.
  • Treasure Island also takes place "in the year of grace 17—."
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde happens in 18**.
  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, Ford and Arthur time travel from the prehistoric past to the year 198—.
  • Kim Newman's "Richard Jeperson" stories (part of the Diogenes Club series) are all mostly set in the 1970s, but are fairly ambiguous as to the precise setting (although careful reading can give a few clues as to roughly when each one is set), and every time a specific year is mentioned it is presented to the reader as 197-.
  • Vanity Fair often refers to dates in 18—.
  • Gate begins in summer of the year 20XX.

     Manhwa 

     Music 

  • The Protomen open their story in 200X. The second act, a flashback, is set in 197X. Of course, it's a Mega Man rock opera, so obviously it would be set in the same timeframe as the games.

     Video Games 

     Web Animation 

     Web Comics 

     Web Original 

  • The SCP Foundation often redacts dates, but sometimes the century or decade is left uncensored, leading to a similar effect but with Censor Boxes instead of X's.

     Western Animation 

     Truth In Television 

  • In the Philippines the colloquial phrase "19-kopong-kopong" generally indicates "a long time ago". Precisely when is usually unspecified, but some online sources will make a more specific case by pointing out that kopong is an Old Tagalog word for "zero", hence, the year 1900.
  • The Scottish phrase "nineteen oatcake" (or sometimes "nineteen canteen") means much the same thing. The non-number words seem intended to create the sound of "190X" or "191X".
  • In Brazil there is a similar phrase, "mil novecentos e guaraná com rolha", roughly "19-soda with a cork".
  • The Extended Date Time Format used by the Library of Congress uses X to denote unspecified digits. The upcoming revision of the international standard ISO 8601 will also incorporate the same notation.

Alternative Title(s): Twenty Exty Six

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/YearX