Introducing Clockpunk

Clockpunk is a genre of science fiction similar to Steampunk (some people even consider clockpunk to be a sub-genre of Steampunk). Clockpunk can be divided into historical and non-historical Clockpunk. Historical Clockpunk explores how the world would have turned out if certain technological developments that occurred later had happened in the Renaissance and or certain inventions in the time of the Renaissance were created on a mass scale in the time period.Non-historical Clockpunk is set in settings similar to the Renaissance but on alternative worlds, planets etc. The suffix punk is actually misleading but the name has stuck just as it has stuck in the case of other sub-genres of science fiction that were inspired from Steampunk. While there is sometimes overlap between Clockpunk and the fantasy genre, for the purpose of the current blog we shall try to keep these overlaps separate.

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63 Responses to “Introducing Clockpunk”

  1. 1 tauslu March 4, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    As a fan of steampunk (especially through the Anime Steamboy), I cannot wait to see the postings

  2. 2 steampunk librarian March 5, 2007 at 7:59 am

    Oh, this is fantastic. Kudos!

  3. 3 Da Vinci Automata March 5, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Thanks, both of you!

  4. 4 Jeremy Tolbert March 10, 2007 at 11:16 am

    Hey folks. Awesome. I own, which I bought just to keep my friend Jay Lake from having it. But I’d gladly transfer it to you folks for this project if you’re interesting. E-mail me.

  5. 5 Jeremy Tolbert March 10, 2007 at 11:17 am

    Er, interested, not interesting. Heh.

  6. 6 JJ March 10, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Hey… any example?

  7. 7 Tinkergirl March 10, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Good luck! Clockpunk isn’t something that I’ve known all that much about, but I recognise a ‘cousin’ genre.
    Would you like a blogroll link?

  8. 8 J.EdgarPark March 10, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you for collecting this info in one place, I look forward to the postings.

  9. 10 Michael G March 10, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    Found this via Boing Boing. I wonder if one of the earliest “Clockpunk” stories would be the Marvel comic “What If?” #15 from 1979, in which Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos fought WWII in outer space. The technological leaps required to get to space colonies in the mid 20th century were generated by producing da Vinci’s inventions at the time. The writing credits are Gary Friedrich (plot), Don Glut (script), Roy Thomas (editor).

  10. 11 sam March 10, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    What’s next? Hunter-Gatherer-punk? I think maybe Renn ideas are a little too close to steam to have a separate category, don’t you? Maybe a different culture or a different time period?

  11. 12 Tie-dyed Tehuti March 10, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    As a fan of Steampunk, alternative history, and Science Fiction in general, my mouth is literally watering. I’m hooked already.

  12. 13 yawn tribe March 10, 2007 at 11:07 pm


    What’s next? Wheelpunk? Who’ll be first to write a “what if” story about the Mayans having the wheel?

    Oooh! How about Firepunk where Australopithecus afarensis has … you know, fire!

  13. 14 Da Vinci Automata March 11, 2007 at 2:12 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone. I was on vacation so I was not able to reply to the comments.

    Jeremy: Just sent you an e-mail.

    JJ: I posted one example previously and posted another one today. I will gradually post more stuff soon.

    Tinkergirl : Sure.

    J.EdgarPark, Rich: Thanks!

    Michael G: Cool, I was not familiar with this. I will try to find out more info post this soon as a post.

  14. 15 Da Vinci Automata March 11, 2007 at 2:14 am

    Tie-dyed Tehuti: Thanks
    yawn tribe: That’s funny.

  15. 16 david March 11, 2007 at 3:15 am

    something after the style in ‘the difference engine’? damn good read that one.

  16. 17 Da Vinci Automata March 11, 2007 at 11:03 am

    david, thsnkd

  17. 18 Glen Birbeck March 11, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Technology is interesting and the effect
    it has on human culture even more
    interesting. Check out the work of
    Philip Jose Farmer. I recall a short story
    of his extrapolated from the invention of
    wireless telegraphy by monks in the 13th
    century. In it the first ships to cross
    the Atlantic were linked by radio. I started
    reading Sci-Fi when I was eight (my dads
    pile of SF paperbacks) and building radios
    when I was twelve. Radio could have been
    invented very early. Pulling wire and then
    insulating it with enamel or cloth. Power
    from chemical batteries. Crystals found
    with lead deposits for detectors. All this
    was possible long ago. But its also true
    that HeNe Lasers could have been made
    in the early 1900s when neon signage
    was first done. All this begs the question
    -what wizbang of the 21st century are
    we looking at but not seeing?

  18. 19 Michael Handy March 12, 2007 at 1:48 pm

    I wonder what a story of this kind set in the enlightenment would be called (though arguably “the Baroque cycle” by stephenson has already accomplished this)

  19. 20 Mousewrites March 12, 2007 at 2:08 pm


    I LOVE clockpunk. I like steampunk, too, but it’s so awesome to see someone else who makes the distinction.

    ::Pathetic geek warning:: I’ll be creating a clockpunk area in Second Life this weekend. Hopefully the Steampunk people won’t grumble too bad about all the gears…

    Up with Clockpunk!

  20. 21 Da Vinci Automata March 12, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Michael, I know at least one instance where the word Boroquepunk was used by someone to describe Stephenson’s work. However if we are less puruist about these terms, Stephenson’s work can be subsumed under Clockpunk.

  21. 22 Made in DNA March 12, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    With all due respect, isn’t this just a renaming of the Alternate Reality/Parallel Universe genre? How does it differ?

  22. 23 Da Vinci Automata March 12, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    Mousewrites: Clockpunk in secondlife. Cool! Let us know how it goes. I should stop by in second life to see how it develops.

    Made in DNA: You are correct in the sense that this is part of the alternative reality/parallel universe genre. However Clockpunk just like steampunk is a sub-genre of the alternative history genre. Recogonizing sub-genres is important in order to focus development in such domains.

  23. 24 Joseph Francis March 13, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Back in 1995 I wrote a screenplay called “Fury” which was based in the Rennaissance.

    The Ottoman ambassador is murdered during peace treaty negotiations with the Venetians.

    Not wishing a war to escalate, The venetians engage their best agent, A Renaissance-era superspy, equipped with the latest fifteenth century high tech espionage gear courtesy of a young Leonardo da Vinci, and task him with solving the murder.

    The story escalates and we come to learn that the villain is an angry Byzantine who has stumbled across germ theory and realizes he can retake Contantinople by flooding it with plague rats.

    Post 9/11 I rewrote it to deemphazise the Ottoman/Venetian conflict and made the villain the worlds first mafia don, a man who is inventing the concept of organized crime. The story in this version escalates when he discovers an ancient chinese magnetically powered rail gun called “The Horn of the Ram” that smashed the walls of Jericho (mistranslated in the bible as Joshua blew the ram’s horn and the walls fell)

    The hero is still my Renaissance-era ‘James Bond’ figure, although in the later version I introduce Lucrezia Borgia as the villain’s “moll.” I also have Machiavelli as the leader of the Ten of War, who fulfillsa role loosely similar to “M” in the Bond franchise.

    I’ve kept this material to myself (other than shopping it around Hollywood) for years, but now that I see it is entering the public conciousness more I see no further reason not to talk about it.

  24. 25 mraf March 14, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    I’m not too impressed. We should just call it all Steampunk and not try to break it down even further. The Aeolipile was invented waaaay before the Renaissance, thus steam power could have been an option earlier than Leonardo’s inventions if the device had been given more consideration. It’s all “what if” in the end but I think ultimately it all falls under the “Steampunk” genre whether steam power is being used or not.

  25. 26 Da Vinci Automata March 14, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Joseph Francis, that does sound like a plot for a movie and should make for an interesting watch if it was filmed. Do you mind if I post you comment as a seperate post?

    mraf: While you do have a point but as I have said before Steampunk and realted genres fall under the general umbrella of Alternative history and the use of subdivisions is to focus development in certain sub-genres.

  26. 27 Da Vinci Automata March 14, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Glen Birbeck, Sorry for some reason I lost your comment and was not able to reply to it. The idea of earlier invention of Radio is very interesting. If we only introduce radio much earlier and nothing else in a story then that changes a lot of things in terms of social, political and economic changes to a society.

  27. 28 Joseph Francis March 23, 2007 at 10:23 am

    I don’t mind at all. Thank you for your interest.

  28. 29 Pat Cadigan March 29, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    You need to read Faust by Michael Swanwick.

  29. 30 Jed April 7, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Have you read Gregory Feeley’s 2004 novella “Arabian Wine“?

    It’s probably not exactly what you’re talking about, but has some similarities. Coffee, steam power, and economics in the Venetian empire. Good stuff.

  30. 31 KEL April 27, 2007 at 8:26 am

    I was curious if anyone knew the name of the new science fiction subgenre where the government authority has been replaced by corporate power? Also, if anyone has any recommendations of comics and reference text in reference to this new sub genre?

  31. 32 PreobrajenskySuka2 May 7, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    Hallo, but colleague, you are sure?
    Good luck!

  32. 33 Joseph Francis May 22, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    In one draft of my screenplay I considered the idea that my da Vinci-equipped Renaissance era super spy might need to smuggle Algebra out of the East – the idea being that its closely guarded secrets would play a critical role in calulating cannon trajectories.

    That kind of idea tickles me, but it would probably get about as good a reception from the Hollywood moviegoer as did The Postman, so I set the idea aside for the time being.

  33. 34 silentjudas December 26, 2007 at 1:38 am

    KEL: see the shadowrun table top game. i dont know if the setting has a specific title but shadowruns world is based on that idea pretty much

  34. 36 Goatclock April 21, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I would feel silly calling my novel ‘steampunk’ as it has no steam powered devices in it at all. It does, however, feature clockwork automata and other spring-and-gear driven devices, so ‘clockpunk’ is what I call it. For all those hating on the sub-sub-subgenre thing going on here, pretty much ALL fiction can be classified as ‘aternative history’ or ‘alternate earth’ since, as fiction, none of it happened anyway. There’s nothing wrong with a group of like-minded individuals getting together and separating themselves from the crowd to pursue different interests… that’s how steampunk got started, after all.

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  38. 40 chrystallathoma October 25, 2012 at 5:31 am

    Reblogged this on Chrystalla Thoma's Blog and commented:
    I have published a short Clockpunk fairytale called “The Unfinished Boy” and found that very few people knew what Clockpunk is, so this post is great!

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