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 13: The Fair Maid of Glengariff
Boodleguts the Tripe King had a daughter, fair and well-formed, and without blemish from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet. You would not believe she could have issued from Boodleguts’ loins, so beautiful she was, and fresh, and jocund. A dowry her father had promised with her of a million pounds; but for myself, I would have taken her for her bosom alone, that was white as a bed of sweet alyssum, and for her smile, that was frank and tender, and I make no doubt would have been very sweet when bent on one she loved. Seventeen was her age, and her name Thalia.
For dynastic reasons her father had betrothed her to one Samkin Scallion, son of the Onion King, a podgy and lecherous lout, repugnant to the maiden both to sight and touch. Phew! he was a beastly slug to slaver so fair a rosebud: and piteously she besought her father to spare her so foul a fate. But old King Boodle-guts was adamant; nor dared she disobey his behest.
On the eve of her wedding, while they were all busy preparing for the ceremony, she slipped from the company of her attendants, and went walking by herself, sad and apprehensive, through her father’s demesne. The summer palace of King Boodleguts was in Glengariff, which had long ago been cleared of the mean dwellings and cabbage-patches of the common folk that had once disfigured it, and been converted into a pleasaunce of sunny lawns and shady groves, with beds of rhododendrons and azaleas and rare exotic blooms that flourish in the balmy air of the Bantry coast. Among these groves and gardens Thalia wandered, savouring the last short hours of freedom and maidenhood, and yet taking no joy of them for fear of what the morrow was to bring.
Presently she came to a little stream that ran sparkling through a green secluded valley. Along its banks fringed with willows she strayed till she came to a pool, deep and crystal clear. There she paused a while in thought; then, slipping her robes, stood gazing at her image in the water, and wept to think that so much beauty should be delivered to the enjoyment of satyr eyes and hands. Thereupon she leaped into the pool, breaking the image into a thousand ripples and splashes, and, after disporting herself a while, stood up, white and glistening, the water tugging at her knees.
And now came a sound of steps on the farther bank; the curtain of willows was parted; and the figure of a young man appeared. He looked at Thalia with gladness lighting up his goodly countenance; whereat she felt neither shame nor fear, for there was neither curiosity nor lust in his eyes. So they stood for a while, he admiring, she joying in his admiration, till suddenly, as if a spell had been broken, she turned and fled, screening herself behind the willows across the stream. The young man followed leisurely, and presently she came back to him, clothed, with her feet bare, and sat beside him on the bank, trailing her toes in the water.
“Truly,” said the young man, “you must be a millionairess.”
“Why?” laughed she in silvery notes. “Am I so fat and proudfaced?”
“You are the most beautiful thing,” said he, “on this sad earth.”
“O my love,” said she, holding out her hands to him. “Why, when you come too late, have you come at all?” and fell weeping on his breast.
Cúchulainn gave her a loving kiss, and begged her to tell him her cause of woe: which she did most eloquently. “And now,” said she, having concluded her tale, “my fate is sadder even than before; for whereas this morning I was engaged to wed unloving, now I must wed loving another.”
“That you shall never do,” said Cúchulainn, “for it is myself you shall wed, and we will away together to Tír na nÓg. There we will have fine sport and many kisses, and I will wreathe your hair with asphodels and put a girdle of roses about your waist. There shall the child of our love run wild among the lilies.”
“It is a sweet picture,” said the girl, “but it can never be. My father is one of the world’s great potentates; my betrothed is son of another. They have castles in many lands; their subjects are counted in millions; their interests are everywhere. What can you achieve against them, alone and unfriended? If you carry me off you will be hunted down and killed, or sent to languish for the rest of your days in a dungeon; and as for me, I shall be wedded to this Scallion, with sorrow for your fate added to the misery of such a union. Go, therefore, my lover, while there is yet time, for I see the torches of many searchers flashing in the distance. Kiss me again, and go. Let me but know that you are safe, and the memory of this meeting shall abide with me for ever to sweeten the long bitter days that are to come.”
“What?” said Cúchulainn. “Do you think I will leave you in the clammy clutch of this vile onion merchant? Or do you think that any slave of Mammon can turn me from what I have a mind to? No, by this hand. With this kiss I make you mine” — here he pressed his lips to hers — “and to-morrow I will take you from their midst, though all the powers of Darkness bar the way.”
Looking into his eyes she knew that he would do what he said: and so, when he was gone, she awaited in contentment the coming of the search party. Cúchulainn meanwhile went down to the town and wired to the Philosopher in what tenor you may guess.
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 | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | 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”