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. Thirty-five years 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.
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 12: How Cúchulainn was rejected by an Attorney’s Daughter
You should have seen Cúchulainn playing tennis with the gentry and ladies of the Bon Ton suburb. He learnt the whole art and skill of the game in ten minutes, and straightway beat the Champion of all Ireland six-love, six-love, and six-love. Never had such strength and agility been seen before. He could cross the court in one leap; he never served a fault, and none but the Champion ever returned his service; he would take any stroke on the volley; and at the net his smash invariably burst the ball. Thrilled by his prowess and enraptured by his grace and comeliness, the young ladies of the club began to turn from their faithful swains and to inquire about his origin and income.
There was one of these whose form, as it was both ripe and slender, fixed the errant fancy of the Hound of Ulster. The daughter of a struggling attorney, she responded readily to his advances, calculating that no man could attain to such proficiency in tennis who was not tolerably well off. Cúchulainn, delighted by her girlish spontaneity, at once informed the Philosopher that this was the woman of his choice.
“Woo her discreetly, then,” said the Philosopher, “and in way of marriage.”
“It shall be done so,” said Cúchulainn.
The next day, therefore finding himself alone with the girl in the pavilion, the other members of the club being out at play in the sunshine, he took her hand in his, saying: “Fair maiden, I am better instructed than to dally with you, filling your ears with fond and foolish love-talk. Come, therefore. Hie thee with me to some convenient priest, that we may be duly wed; then straight to our nuptial couch and forge us goodly offspring.”
At these words the maiden’s cheek blushed red as any tulip: you could not have believed the designing minx could have so much blood in her. “Sir,” said she, “you are no gentleman,” and plucking her hand from his clasp she fled from the pavilion. You may be sure Cúchulainn was struck with wonder at such behaviour; yet, fearful of offending her further, he asked no explanation, but went home and told the Philosopher what had happened. “I asked her to marry me,” he concluded, “yet she fled just like the other. Now what is the meaning of that?”
“You are too precipitate,” said the Philosopher, smiling. “Why did you not woo her as I told you, discreetly? Heaven help me, it is so long since I courted a girl that I have almost forgotten the manner of it; but you might have gone about it this way. As you were holding her hand, you might have told her it was softer than swansdown and whiter than the lily. Then when she looked up at you to say ‘really,’ you should have gazed into her eyes as if your one wish was to die then and there.”
“But it was not,” said Cúchulainn.
“No matter,” said the Philosopher. “You might have stopped there for the day: it was good progress. Next day you could have taken both her hands and told her she was the most wonderful woman in the world: the more obvious the lie, the better it pleases the girls. Then you should have enfolded her in your arms and said: ‘Molly, my darling, I know I am not worthy of you, but I cannot live without you. My one desire in life is to make you happy. Only promise to love me a little, and my love and devotion shall be yours for a lifetime.’”
“In heaven’s name,” said Cúchulainn, “how could I make such a speech? I am well worthy of her: it is she who is unworthy of me. I do not care a whit more for her happiness than for that of any other being. And if she love me for a brief hour it is all that I require of her: nor shall I love her one second longer myself. Pah! If she will not answer to my wooing, a fig for her! I will find one that shall.”
“Where?” asked the Philosopher.
“How should I know?” said Cuchulam. “I will go seek her through the world. I will pay court no longer to pimply thin-shanked wenches nor to silly giggling young ladies, but will find me a woman of shameless mind, with white shining skin, and a body without flaw.”
“Why, then,” said the Philosopher, “you must look for a millionairess: and you must catch her young; for they soon go paunchy.”
“So be it,” said Cúchulainn; and, taking leave of the Philosopher, he started on his journey.
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 | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | 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”