Archive for the 'Clockpunk' Category

Hal Duncan’s “The Whenever At The City’s Heart

Tangent, an online magazine that reviews short fiction has a review of Hal Duncan’s “The Whenever At The City’s Heart which appears to an awesome story and well placed in the Fantasy side of the Clockpunk genre. Here is the review from Tangent which should give people a good idea about the story.

The first story in the 25th anniversary issue of Interzone, Hal Duncan’s “The Whenever At The City’s Heart,” is a striking mix of “clockpunk” and fantasy, a sense of grand Baroque whimsy coming through in both the telling and the details. The kaleidoscopic structure of the story centers on the great clock tower, the titular “whenever” in the heart of his imagined, nameless city. All glittering glass and brass and mirrored cogs and grinding gears, the tower contains inside it a microcosm that keeps the streets around it following “their paths through time” in an apparently clockwork universe.

As the story begins, however, the watchtower’s bell is inexplicably out of synch, and the world around it grows chaotic, the city “adrift upon its rock, a myriad of singularities spiraling around it.” The narrative switches back and forth between those spiraling singularities, fanciful and surreal, and the tower’s watchman as he struggles desperately to get the universe back in order, but alas, order may be just something “tossed out by chaos as a glib aside.”

Duncan’s imagery is razor-sharp, and his prose playful and poetic, all but making verse out of the vocabulary of today’s physicists. Additionally, while it may initially seem impenetrable, the story holds together better than much of the High Modernist poetry it reminded me of stylistically (and happily, its tone is far removed from their overwrought aristocratic gloom). “Whenever”‘s complexity and sensibility will certainly not be to every taste, but even if you’re initially skeptical, you may find it growing on you with rereading, and even if you come away feeling the whole is less than the sum of its parts, there is much to enjoy in its richly imagined fragments: the sandminer listening to a blind boy’s song; the battle-scarred veteran soldier losing himself with a dreamwhore for a little while; the ruling angels and human rebels battling in the streets.



The name says it all. Apparently someone launched the website. It has the look and feel of a Steampunk website but its good that the word is spreading. Check it out:

Clockpunk and Storing Energy

Although this stuff is somewhat old buy, dating back to 2004, I recently came across it so here it is. Someone at the HJO3 Project put up some ideas related to Clockpunk. The idea seems to be that in punk genres one of the things that drives the story is how power is stored or utilized and Clockpunk is no exception to this rule. Its an interesting read and here is what they have to say.

I was thinking about the differences between steampunk and “clockpunk” settings and an episode of Scientific American Frontiers about hydrogen-powered cars. On the program, they kept pointing out that hydrogen wasn’t a power source—it’s a method of storing power. Clockwork is the same way; it only acts like a battery. Well, for clockpunk, that means that everything will be ultimately powered by steam anyway (though I suppose it could be powered by human effort, but there’s something… lame about making thousands of people spend most of their time winding or pedaling things to do cool stuff). Anyway, what if you dropped perpetual motion into the setting? It wouldn’t necessarily mean free energy; you could say that complicated clockwork machines just amplify force and perhaps come up with a reason why recursive feedback (i.e. feeding an amplifier’s output back into itself) is impossible. Then you could have, for example, two-seater airplanes powered by a single guy pedaling, or cars that only require a few minutes of winding to run for hours. The “black box” amplifiers could be called “antirecursive kinetic augmentation dynamos” or something, as long as it’s technobabbly and vaguely Victorian.

Memory Cathedral Revisisted

A few years ago Infinity Plus did an interview with Jack Dann who is the author of the Clockpunk novel Memory Cathedral. In the interview Jack goes into details about the background about Memory Cathedral and why the novel is not strictly alternative history but can even be thought of as secret history.

So is this alternate history? I think I am probably picking the nits here, but I would think it is secret history, the history that could have been, but we don’t — or can’t know — if it had been. I excerpted a story from The Memory Cathedral, which I reworked and [to which I] added 5,000 words of new material. It was titled “Da Vinci Rising,” and Gardner Dozois bought it for Asimov’s Science Fiction. In that story I have Leonardo’s flying machine affecting Florentine history, changing history. To my mind “Da Vinci Rising” would be alternative history. Something different from the secret history of The Memory Cathedral.

Check out the interview at the following URL:

Marble Adding Machine


William G pointed our attention to a 6 Bit Marble AddingMachine mentioned on the Wired Blog. They also have a video on their site so be sure to check out the wired link. One of these days I think someone will try to make a wooden difference engine. In the mean time here is an excerpt.

Woodwork hacker Matthias Wandel has built this amazing binary marble adding machine. The device can store the binary states of six bits, and use them to add numbers from one to 63. It works with simple rockers, tipped by the marbles to represent zero or one.

Thanks for the pointer William!



Brenden sent me an e-mail stating that he and his friend Holly “rewrote the script of the movie Hackers as a Victorian clockpunk adventure, including a “Da Vinci Automaton” that threatens to destroy London.” I am glad that he sent us the e-mail as the result is really terrafic. On his blog he also describes how the idea of the story originated

Instead, Holly and I spent a few weeks interpolating the movie script into 1860s London, replacing the absurd computer-feats with absurd clockwork and technobabble with Victorian slang.

I especially liked their slogan, “Clock the Planet.” The script of their Hackers parody is available on the Clockers website. Additionally they also have audio of the ‘movie’ in mp3 and ogg. Check out the Clockers at the following URL:  (Highly Recommended)

Retrofuturism and the meaning of Steampunk, Clockpunk etc

Henry Jenkins (via BoingBoing) has an essay on the origins of Retrofuturism and Steampunk. Jenkins explains the origins of retro-futurism in the essay and besides it has a stamp of approval by Cory Doctorow so its highly recommended. Here is an excerpt.

From the start, however, science fiction has also functioned as a genre which enabled us to reflect upon the past. Time travel stories, such as H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine,” were among the first science fiction stories written, even though the metaphor of traveling back into history fit rather poorly within the rationalist scientific discourse that otherwise defined early science fiction as a genre. To tell such stories, one had to shed the idea that the genre was governed by reasonable and plausible extrapolation based on known science. Time travel stories, such as Orson Scott Card’s PastWatch or Sterling’s “Mozart in Mirrorshades,” (also published in the Mirrorshades collection), continue to have currency. A second strand of science fiction, alternative history, takes us back to key historical turning points and asks what if scenarios, imaging how the world might have taken a very different shape if the outcomes had been different; alternative future stories, thus, imagine what would happen if the South had won the Civil War, if the United States had not entered World War II, or if Stalin had continued to dominate the Soviet Union down to the present day. A third strand of science fiction seeks to extrapolate based not on contemporary understandings of science but rather on earlier historical formulations, constructing science fiction stories based on ancient Greek, early modern, or Victorian conceptions of science. The term, “steampunk,” was coined to refer to science fiction which built on Victorian society and technology, a genre inspired as much by contemporary representations of the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, as by anything actually produced during the late 19th century. Sterling and Gibson’s The Difference Engine, explores what might have happened if Charles Babbage’s experiments had been successful, paving the way for a pre-20th century version of the digital revolution. Finally, retrofuturism takes earlier science fiction as its raw materials, revisiting mid-20th century constructions of the future from a more contemporary perspective. For the purposes of this essay, I will be focusing on works that mobilize the iconography that emerged through Hugo Gernsback’s pulp science fiction magazines, through Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon comic strip, through films like Just Imagine and Things to Come, and through the 1939 New York World’s Fair, among other sources, but there are other retrofuturist works – for example, Christian Gossett’s comic book series, Red Star, which built on Soviet science fiction and socialist utopian literature – that revisit other historical constructions of the future. These various subgenres suggest that science fiction may be as effective as a genre for imagining the past as it is as a genre for projecting the future or commenting on the present and the key point is that its social commentary works by reading one time period against another.

Check out the full essay here.

“The Tomorrow That Never Was”: Retrofuturism in the Comics of Dean Motter (Part One)

May 2018
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