The 1926 satirical sf novel King Goshawk and the Birds, by Irish playwright and novelist Eimar O’Duffy, is set in a future world devastated by progress. When King Goshawk, the supreme ruler among a caste of “king capitalists,” buys up all the wildflowers and songbirds, an aghast Dublin philosopher travels via the astral plane to Tír na nÓg. First the mythical Irish hero Cúchulainn, then his son Cuanduine, travel to Earth in order to combat the king capitalists. Long before the hero of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, these well-meaning aliens discover that cultural forms and norms are the most effective barrier to social or economic revolution.
“The book is full of wit and imagination and saturated with the Irish spirit,” a reviewer for The Spectator wrote at the time. “Its fault is that it is too long.”
HiLobrow is pleased to serialize King Goshawk and the Birds, which has long been out of print, in its entirety. A new installment will appear each week.
Chapter 1: The pillow-chat of Goshawk and Guzzelinda
Goshawk the Wheat King and Guzzelinda his Queen, sitting up in the royal bed in the Palace of Manhattan, held conversation thus:
Said Goshawk: “You did well in marrying me, my dear; for it was well said by some one or other: ‘Happy is the wife of a Successful Man’; and am I not the world’s greatest success, and the Biggest Man that ever was in all time? The Wheat of the world is mine. Tea, Sugar, and Milk are my vassals. Coal and Oil are my tributaries. As my Laureate sang yesterday:
Under my ukase sun and rain
May shine for naught and fall in vain—
and if there’s poetic licence in the couplet, why, there’s truth in it too. Big is your husband, my dear, and big are his interests. Aren’t you happy?”
“That’s all very well,” Guzzelinda answered. “But it was a wise man who said: ‘Call no man a success until he’s dead and has carried out all he promised.’”
“Well,” said Goshawk, “I’m not dead yet, nor anything near it. But, short of that, what have I failed in, and what promise have I not performed? All that I ever coveted I own. I cannot count my riches. I do not know the limits of my power. There is not a human ear that has not heard the sound of my name. I hold the governments of the world in pawn. Parliaments dare not offend me. What ships on the sea that are not mine are of no account. I own all the airways of the world. I have set up Notre Dame de Paris here as my private chapel, and carried the Sphinx out of Egypt to adorn my gardens. The world’s best pictures clutter my galleries, and I have a lien on the remainder. My advertisements are graven on every landscape, from the Rockies to the Himalayas, from the Riviera to the Vale of Avoca, from the oases of the Sahara to the ice-cliffs of the Antarctic. There is wealth and power and publicity such as never were known before. What more could a man do? What on earth have I left undone?”
Said Guzzelinda: “You have not written your advertisement on the face of the Moon; and you have not performed the promise with which you won my girlish heart to love you.”
King Goshawk knit his brows in some annoyance. He said: “The Moon shall bear my stamp before very long: my scientists are seeing to it. But what is this other promise you speak of? You must forgive me if, after the lapse of so many busy years, I have grown forgetful.”
Said his Queen: “It’s a good saying my people have: ‘Memory falls to the bottom of a long purse.’ Have you forgotten that evening long ago in my father’s garden, when we sat and listened, hand in hand, to the song of the nightingales? and I said: ‘How sad to think how many birds are singing all over the world that I can never hear’: and you answered: ‘Darling, when I have come into my kingdom you shall have all the song-birds in the world for your very own.’”
“By the Buck!” cried King Goshawk. “I remember it now. I was young and foolish then. However, only a big man could make such a promise, and only a man as big as I am now could perform it. You shall have your birds, my dear, if they cost me a hundred millions.”
“My dear,” said his Queen, “there was never one like you for assimilating a proposition and making it right over.”
Thus far the pillow-chat of Goshawk and Guzzelinda. Now shift we our ground to the city of Dublin, between the sea and the mountains, by the bright waters of Liffey; where our feet tread more easily than on the shores of Manhattan or in the palaces of kings.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HiLobrow’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, 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. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
REDISCOVERED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | John Buchan’s Huntingtower
ORIGINAL FICTION: HiLobrow has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”