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 1: The Birth of Cuanduine
NOTE: Using the symbols of the Oxford English Dictionary, the name Cuanduine is pronounced Cōō-ŭn-dhĭn•nĕ.
These two, Cúchulainn and the fair Thalia, having thus joyously come together, she conceived a child, and bore him the full term; during which she remained always in the warm sunlight, her ears filled with symphonies of sweet music, and before her eyes the golden-spangled meadows of Tír na nÓg: which, indeed, are not more beautiful than fields of Earth pricked out with buttercups, only that they are boundless. In due course the child was born, a fine healthy boy, who, instead of crying after the manner of earthlings, broke straightway into a shout of joy, and seizing the breast as if it had been a cup of wine, after a deep draught he stood upon his legs and went running and leaping among the asphodels. He was, indeed, a marvellous fair child, that had learnt more acquirements in the womb than most children in five years of life. He had both his father-tongue and his mother-tongue (that is to say, Irish and English); he could rime and sing; he made him a pipe out of reeds, and played his own melodies upon it. He had the gift of strength and fleetness, the gift of courage and truthfulness, the gift of modesty and courtesy. Being nurtured neither on sterilised powders out of tin cans, nor on new bread and black tea (on which the mothers of Eirinn rear the finest race in the world), but on his mother’s milk only; and being naked always in the sunshine, and ever drinking in beauty through his eyes and ears, he waxed daily in strength and comeliness: and as there were none to tell him lies or bid him hold his tongue, he waxed in knowledge and wisdom also. Because of his destiny, and after the manner of his father’s naming, they called him Cú an Duine, that is, the Hound of Man.
One day, when he was six months old, the mind of the Philosopher came winging from Earth to see him, and was overjoyed to find him a lad of such promise. But after watching the youngster’s gambols for a while, and hearing some of his questions, he began to weep at realising that he could not live to see his work amongst men. At that Cúchulainn chid him, saying that it was not fitting that tears should flow in Tír na nÓg, and desired him to tell his cause of grief. The mind of the Philosopher having duly complied, Cúchulainn said:
“Weep no more. That matter is easily settled. We will consult Aurora.”
“Whom?” asked the mind of the Philosopher.
“Aurora. The Dawn Goddess.”
“I did not know she existed,” said the mind of the Philosopher.
“She lives in thousands of imaginations,” said Cúchulainn, “more familiarly than many millions whose reality is vouched for in the telephone directory.”
“True: true,” said the mind of the Philosopher. “Let us seek her. Where is she to be found?”
“In the Ether,” said Cúchulainn. “In the Nebula of Abstractions.”
Swish! went Cúchulainn and the mind of the Philosopher through the infinite void, and shot into the radiant realms of Fantasy, where dwell Mr. Pickwick and Don Quixote, Rosalind and Lady Cicely Waynefleet, with the Chimaera and the Hippogriff, the Squirryphant and the Mock Turtle, Puss in Boots and the Whangerdoodle, and the Dong with a Luminous Nose. There the hills are of crystal, and the fields are greener than the pastures of royal Meath. Cloud palaces of alabaster crown the heights, and cascades of pearl tumble into the valleys. There among the amber-dropping forests dance the Nymphs and the Dryads, and scurry the Elves and the Leprechauns. There dwell all the beautiful girls that cloy the senses of novel-readers.
Now darted three spears from the hand of the Dawn Goddess: a grey spear, and a silver spear, and a golden spear; and then Aurora herself came striding in pursuit over the crystal mountains, and overtook and caught them in her hand, shaking them over the valley. A helmet of light was on her head; a vesture of gold covered her rosy flesh.
“Lady,” said Cúchulainn, “here is the mind of a mortal that seeks extension of life.”
Aurora stopped, brandishing her spears.
“Hold,” said the mind of the Philosopher. “I would not share the fate of Tithonus by a like remissness of the Goddess. I want a modicum of youth with the extension.”
Aurora laughed and said: “What fools you mortals are. Have you not yet discovered the secret of youth?”
“Indeed, madam, we have,” said the mind of the Philosopher. “But we have not yet succeeded in making it work rightly. I will tell you briefly the history of the matter.”
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”