Certainly observant, isn’t he?

So you may have noticed that there’s another page up this week.

In light of the overwhelming response from my readers, I’ve decided to keep the Clockwork Game archives online and run the remainder of the first chapter of the book. As things go along, I’ll add links and additional information to the footnotes and bibliography to help make up for what I consider gaps in my storytelling. After that — I’m still not sure, but after some very positive reviews from people whose opinions I trust, and a lot more heavy thinking, I’m reconsidering my stance on permanently ending the book. Let’s call it a hiatus for now; the end of the first chapter’s a good stopping point. In any event, I need to pull back and do a lot more reading and researching, then re-evaluate the first half of the book to see if it’s something I can fix to better match the much darker tone of the second half.

It’s not that I don’t want to discuss the ugly parts of history, or cover them over. Just the opposite, in fact: the problem I have with the script is that I’m don’t show enough of the ugliness of the time. I’ve unintentionally left issues unaddressed — important issues — like the fact that Kempelen was in charge of resettling areas of the Banat taken back from the Ottomans, that 18th century Europeans appropriated Turkish culture for both its stylishness and mysteriousness, and that the Austrian Empire was still at war with the Ottoman Empire, all of which undoubtedly contributed to Kempelen’s decision to dress the automaton as he did. Painting it as “just an automaton” — not presenting enough information about the cultural baggage surrounding its design in favor of a light story focusing only on man versus machine — now seems disingenuous to me. That’s the “framing within historical context” I’ve been talking about. I’m not sure if I can get enough of that information into the first half of the book as it stands now, at least not without redrawing huge chunks of it. I’m also not well-versed on these topics yet — not enough to make changes to the script until I’ve had the chance to better inform myself and become more confident in my understanding of the political and social pressures at play — and to get to that point, I’ve got to put the book on hold.

I also want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time and effort to comment or send email, with both positive and negative feedback. I had no idea that Clockwork Game had so many passionate, caring, intelligent readers — it’s meant so much to hear all your responses. Creating a webcomic is a high-wire act, and it’s humbling to discover there are so many people holding the net below me.


  1. I’m not a visual artist, myself, so I don’t know how much time this would take, but perhaps you could draw a sort of ‘prequel’ to the story? A bit of background on the various characters and the state of the world at that point in time. Something like that might not fit in the comic proper, but a linked-in short work could maybe do the trick? Maybe I’m oversimplifying the issues at hand with this suggestion, I don’t know. It’s just an idea.

  2. I think your proposed plan sounds like the best option. Keeping the story going for those readers (like me) that are enthralled by the work, and taking stock at a natural break point, sounds like a win-win for all.

    And much of what you touched on above in terms of Austrian-Ottoman relations could easily be introduced in the second half of the work without requiring revising earlier instalments. Some digressions for backstory being delivered by character reminitions, perhaps, or something of the like, could fit the bill nicely. There’s going to be plenty of opportunity to introduce all of that as the narrative gets closer to the Turk’s famous engagement with a well-known artillerist from Corsica…

    Again, thanks for reconsidering the fate of the work. It’s nice to see this being pulled from the flames the way the AENEID was!

  3. Jim: “a well-known artillerist from Corsica…” tee hee hee. You win.

    Berber Anna: I think the length of the current story is just about ideal, and packing any other scenes in would make it probably more tedious than the average reader would be willing to indulge me as a writer. The thing that’s really breaking my back as an illustrator right now is the thoughts of having to do major, major edits to at least a dozen previously existing pages before I feel comfortable moving forward.

  4. Thank you for continuing with the first chapter. I appreciate this comic and am glad to have the opportunity to see it. I’d be sad if it vanished.

    I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining, or was trying to make you change your mind–after all, I’m getting something great for free, something for nothing, and have no right to anything but gratitude for what you DO happily provide–so I didn’t say anything last week. But I am very glad you’re posting the rest of the chapter, and even reconsidering ending after Chapter 1 as well.

  5. That’s great! I was disappointed when i found this comic about a week ago and saw your message. I was really afraid you were going to let this flounder. A project has a certain scope – [imagine a very complex and completely fitting metaphor is inserted here] – you can’t expect to cover everything. The motivation of the Turk’s design is certainly a good story, but this one doesn’t /have/ to be that one.

    Worst case – you can always remake the comic with the grittier, historical mood.

  6. “Let’s call it a hiatus for now; the end of the first chapter’s a good stopping point. In any event, I need to pull back and do a lot more reading and researching, then re-evaluate the first half of the book to see if it’s something I can fix to better match the much darker tone of the second half.”

    I think that’s very wise.

    I read (or possibly re-read: I can’t now remember if I’m remembering the book or the musical that was based on the book) the autobiography of Barnum, recently – I was looking for the account of the slave he bought as his first exhibition, the disabled woman whose value was that she could pretend to have been “George Washington’s nurse”. The most detailed account is in the 19th-century biography, and the author is quite casual about it: Barnum “bought an interest” in her, and in this way discovered his true career.

    It’s an extraordinary, horrible story, briefly passed off. I would never have read it at all – if not for you.

    I respect your decision to stop and rethink more than I can say. I hope that you manage to figure out how to continue the story.

    I’ve been really enjoying it, not least because of your wonderful drawings.

  7. If you’re interested, there’ve been a couple of scholarly works written about Joice Heth, ones that I’m going to have to read before I can start the second half:

    The Showman and the Slave (http://www.amazon.com/Showman-Slave-Memory-Barnums-America/dp/0674006364/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1236964967&sr=11-1) is entirely about Heth, and The Arts of Deception (http://www.amazon.com/Arts-Deception-Playing-Fraud-Barnum/dp/0674005910/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1236965047&sr=1-5) has a big chapter on her life. It’s some particularly ugly American History, one that I can’t treat lightly, and that doesn’t match up in tone with the “golly gee! Lookit the chessplaying robot!” first half. I owe it to my readers to tell the whole story, not just the fun bits.

  8. Lynx Kraaikamp

    March 14, 2009 at 4:08 am

    Let me tell you a story.

    Some time ago, a group of people I was in were asked to write stories about our people. Mine was criticized because it was about white people, and therefore was not “ethnic” enough.

    Excuse me? “Dutch” is an ethnicity, as is “English” and “Scottish”, all of which are my heritage. I get pissed off when people discount the history and heritage of my Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Kenyan, and African-American friends. But I also get pissed when told I’m expected to bury and forget MY people’s history simply because I’m white.

  9. Lynx,

    Again, I don’t see how I can be burying White history when I’ve written an entire book about it. Every ethnic group has a history that deserves to be preserved and told — and in this case, I need to tell the negative parts of that history along with the positive parts.

  10. Yeppie!! It’s back.


    We really have no idea what all the fuss is about but just to say we love the Clockwork Game comic and hope for many more installments.

  11. Miscreant Mutt

    March 16, 2009 at 1:53 am

    Perhaps, instead of redrawing any of the already-posted material, just post, if you are inclined to continue, an “interlude”, in which you can devote some time and space to those concerns about the “less salutory” aspects (like ethnocentrism, prejudice, and ongoing conflicts) of the times.

    I have not read any of the current posts, so I do not know if I am repeating someone elses’ suggestion(s).

    As it is, you are doing a great job. This is one of those things that are perfect for the comic media, as a means of story-telling.


  12. Lynx Kraaikamp

    March 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    A few things I need to say, Janer.

    It was certainly NOT my intention to suggest you said “White People Have No History.” I only wanted to say that, when you said you had decided to end this comic because of comments from some people, it seemed to me that you had bowed to that adage and decided to bury the history of The Turk. It was my interpretation of your actions anyways, and if my interpretation was faulty, I apologize. Certainly, I had no idea you’d written a book on white history. I’d love to read it, but getting anything on white history where I live (at least, anything that shows it in any sort of positive light) can be difficult.

    Certainly, by no means should you bury any of the negative aspects either. Every history has its stains; get rid of those, and the tapestry of history loses all meaning. Unfortunately, where I live, any depiction of Caucasian history shows it as ALL stains, if you understand what I’m saying.

    I know what I’m saying is all of confusion, but when I first saw this comic I thought “Wonderful! Someone is finally posting the history of The Turk!” Then when I read that you thought of ending the comic, I was most dismayed, since this was the best account of the automaton I ever read.

  13. Lynx,

    Actually, I never said that I’d decided to end the comic because of comments from some people, just the opposite, in fact. I said that after reading many, many essays by Writers of Color who had been hurt by White writers who’d failed to recognize the full impact of the way they characterized Characters of Color, I needed to stop and make sure that I was portraying the history of the automaton in a complete enough way. No one told me to stop, no one critiqued me on my handling of the story. After a change of perspective, I saw what I believe is a major absence in my own storytelling. It’s difficult to address this while _Clockwork Game_ is still in process, which is why I’m going to finish this chapter and see if I can make changes to the point where I feel comfortable moving forward.

    “Certainly, I had no idea you’d written a book on white history. ” — Clockwork Game is that book. I’m telling the history of a bunch of White Europeans. It may not be a definitive, scholarly work on White civilization, but it is an account of White history in its own way. I think part of the problem is that a lot of White people don’t realize the fact that “White” is the default; the reason that there aren’t any separate “White History Books” is that *most* history books are written from a White perspective, about White people and their achievements. Up until relatively recently, pretty much *all* the history books (at least those available in America and Canada) were “White History Books.”

    Thanks for your clarifications, I appreciate them, and I hope I’ve made myself clearer as well.

  14. No one can possibly cover every single aspect of history, not within a comic, not within a movie, not even within an entire library full of history texts. I think you’re being far too hard on yourself when you blame yourself for not being able to do so.

    What you’re doing is raising awareness in the history. You constantly provide links to places where those who want to can discover the background of things they’d never even considered before. You’re creating discussion on a topic you obviously feel very strongly about, and I think that’s the best thing an artist can ever do.

    Thank you very much for keeping these archives online, and I hope the hiatus will be just that, and a short one at that. You are opening eyes, no matter how much you feel as if you are not.

  15. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’m going to give it my best shot, mostly because of fans like you.

  16. Not sure that I can do any better than to echo the comments of galadriel: what right do I have to complain about not getting a free webcomic? But Clockwork Game is both interesting and unique, providing something that few other webcomics provide, and I hated the idea of seeing that disappear, whatever faults you may think it has.

    Thanks for at least being willing to finish up the first chapter and maintain the archive.

  17. I’m so glad to see this continuing. While I held back, trying to respect your choices, thinking inwardly “but… but… but…” I’m quite pleased that others’ persuations and your own considerations have let this go on for now at least.

  18. Lynx Kraaikamp

    March 18, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Janer: And thank you for your clarifications. I admit to misreading and misinterpreting what you said earlier, and I apologize.

  19. Thanks, Lynx — for this, and for being a reader. And *I’m* sorry for calling you Lynn earlier. My bad.

  20. Thank you very much. I think this is the best solution for all involved. The uniqueness of this comic makes it too good to lose—but extra time spent will only make it better.

    Do as you feel will most benefit everyone. I think you are so.

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