THE CLOCKWORK MAN
May 3, 2022
Under the direction of HILOBROW editor Josh Glenn, the MIT Press’s Radium Age is reissuing notable proto-sf stories from the underappreciated era between 1900–1935.
In these forgotten classics, sf readers will discover the origins of enduring tropes like robots (berserk or benevolent), tyrannical supermen, dystopias and apocalypses, sinister telepaths, and eco-catastrophes.
With new contributions by historians, science journalists, and sf authors, the Radium Age book series will recontextualize the breakthroughs and biases of these proto-sf pioneers, and chart the emergence of a burgeoning literary genre.
Today marks the publication of the following Radium Age series title…
THE CLOCKWORK MAN
Introduction by ANNALEE NEWITZ
(May 3, 2022)
In 1920s England, a strange being crashes a village cricket game. After some glitchy, jerky attempts to communicate, this creature reveals that he is a machine-enhanced human from a multiverse thousands of years in the future. The mechanism implanted in his skull has malfunctioned, sending him tumbling through time onto the green grass of the cricket field. Apparently in the future, at the behest of fed-up women, all men will be controlled by an embedded “clockwork,” camouflaged with hats and wigs. Published in 1923, The Clockwork Man — the first cyborg novel —tells the story of this odd time traveler’s visit.
Spending time with two village couples about to embark upon married life, the Clockwork Man warns that because men of the twentieth century are so violent, sexist, and selfish, in the not-too-distant future they will be banned from physical reality. They will inhabit instead a virtual world — what we’d now call the Singularity — in which their every need is met, but love is absent. Will the Clockwork Man’s tale lead his new friends to reconsider technology, gender roles, sex, and free will?
Overshadowed in its own time by Karel Čapek’s sensational 1923 play R.U.R., about a robot uprising, The Clockwork Man is overdue for rediscovery.
“It is a striking and original book, and there is a notable sermon in it for those who can dissociate sermons from long faces.” — The Bookman (1923)
“Odle’s ominous, droll, and unforgettable The Clockwork Man is a missing link between Lewis Carroll and John Sladek or Philip K. Dick. Considered with them, it suggests an alternate lineage for SF, springing as much from G.K. Chesterton’s sensibility as from H.G. Wells’s.” — Jonathan Lethem
“Perhaps the outstanding scientific romance of the 1920s.” —Anatomy of Wonder, ed. Neil Barron
E.V. ODLE (1890–1942) was a playwright, critic, and short-story writer who lived in Bloomsbury, London during the 1910s. Via his brother Alan’s wife, the avant-garde writer Dorothy M. Richardson, Odle was introduced to the proto-sf author J.D. Beresford, who may have helped him publish The Clockwork Man — the only novel Odle published during his lifetime. He would go on to be the founding editor, c. 1926–1935, of the British short story-magazine The Argosy.
ANNALEE NEWITZ is the author of Four Lost Cities (2021), the novels The Future of Another Timeline (2019) and Autonomous (2017), which won the Lambda Award, and the novel The Terraformers (forthcoming). As a science journalist, they are a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and have a column in New Scientist. They are also the co-host of the Hugo Award-winning podcast Our Opinions Are Correct. Previously, they were the founder of io9, and served as the editor-in-chief of Gizmodo.
Originally published in 1923. See this book at MIT Press.
RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF FROM THE MIT PRESS: VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | J.D. Beresford’s A WORLD OF WOMEN | E.V. Odle’s THE CLOCKWORK MAN | H.G Wells’ THE WORLD SET FREE | Pauline Hopkins’ OF ONE BLOOD | J.J. Connington’s NORDENHOLT’S MILLION | Rose Macaulay’s WHAT NOT | Cicely Hamilton’s THEODORE SAVAGE | Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD & THE POISON BELT | G.K. Chesterton’s THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL | William Hope Hodgson’s THE NIGHT LAND | MORE VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | MORE TBA.
RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF: “Radium Age” is Josh Glenn’s name for the nascent sf genre’s c. 1900–1935 era, a period which saw the discovery of radioactivity, i.e., the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. More info here.