“Odle was writing at a time when women’s rights were an enormously important issue of the day, and female power loomed as a futuristic threat and promise. Odle lived for many years in the Bloomsbury district of London with his wife Rose, and these issues would have been fused with the dominant literary figures of his generation. Not only was he living in the same neighborhood as writers like Virginia Woolf, but Odle’s older brother was married to the bohemian author Dorothy Richardson. She is often credited with writing the first stream-of-consciousness novel in English (Pointed Roofs), and she dated H.G. Wells for many years before settling down with Alan Odle…Through his family associations, Odle would have been exposed to a world where women dominated the artistic scene.
It’s no surprise, then, that the stuffy doctor Allingham’s horror at the Clockwork man is paralleled only by his horror at the radical ideas about woman’s equality espoused by his fiancee Lillian. Cyborgs and women represent the future, and not just metaphorically. In a fascinating passage toward the end of the novel, Odle explores how Allingham’s conflicts with Lillian, if left unresolved, could result in a gender apocalypse.
As the novel reaches its climax, Lillian is considering calling the marriage off becuase she believes Allingham wants her to be a traditional wife who spends all her time doing housework and managing his affairs. She’s also dismayed by his habit of turning everything into a joke — an issue that ties to Odle’s larger point about humor as a defense against the future. Allingham reluctantly admits that she has a legitimate point of view, but their conflict is never quite resolved.
[The Clockwork man] tells the open-mouthed Arthur that men of the future become so obsessed with war that the makers allied with women — also “real”– and banished men from their world. Men’s destructiveness, and their inability to perceive the realness of women, were their downfall. This is Allingham and Lillian’s conflict over gender roles writ large. The cyborg explains that men left the makers no choice but to “shut us up in the clocks,” and give them “the world we wanted,” absent of emotion but filled with infinite power and resources.
Here it becomes clear that the Clockwork man lives mostly in a virtual world, “the clock,” rather that the real world that is is apparently still inhabited by women and makers. He’s an analog version of an upload, and his world of plenitude is also a prison…”
-From the Introduction to THE CLOCKWORK MAN by E.V. Odle.
You can read the book online or buy it to read the full introduction.
[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]