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 5: How Cuanduine was mobbed by a Bevy of Damsels
At this last news Cuanduine cast down the paper in a rage, being too concerned with the fate of the Lambians to bother about the remaining ten pages, though they were close packed with racing news and tipsters’ chitchat.
“Here’s work to hand for me,” said he to the Philosopher. “I must stop this war.”
“Nonsense, lad,” said the Philosopher. “You must first try your hand at a lighter task. Depend upon it, the Lambians will surrender before they suffer further hurt, and you can right their wrongs in your own good time. Let us begin our work now at the beginning. Come out with me into the street and see man as he is.”
Cuanduine, seeing the wisdom of this advice, went out with the Philosopher to explore the city as his father had done before him. This likewise was unchanged since those days, only that the people and the buildings were grown shabbier, and the sky-signs more progressive. Also there were great numbers of men to be seen in the uniform of King Goshawk digging up daisies and dandelions in the public parks and among the ruins of houses.
When they had emerged from those regions of the city where the people are too occupied with work and their sufferings to notice anything else, and had come amongst the shoppers and strollers in the brighter districts, the girls came running from all sides to look at Cuanduine and to catch his eye: for, indeed, he was the most beautiful creature that had ever been seen upon the earth. The whole street was soon a swishing sea of petticoats, sparkling with smiles, and tinkling with girlish voices, in the midst of which Cuanduine and the Philosopher kept their feet with difficulty, like stranded mariners on a bank in a rising tide: Cuanduine, who, from what he had heard, was not prepared to find the earth such a pleasant place, nevertheless quickly recovered from his surprise, and gave smile for smile and chat for chat, even pressing a hand or two that succeeded in finding his. There were red lips too, ripe for kissing; but in so rich a harvest he knew not where to begin his reaping.
While they were thus merrily sporting, there arose a cry of alarm from the outskirts of the bevy, and a squadron of Censors with their lily-
shaped truncheons came ploughing like battleships through the frothy sea of femininity, which fled before them like the tide through a narrow channel. Most of the damsels got away in safety, but a few were clubbed about the head and brought before the magistrates, charged with unmaidenly behaviour, for which they were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from three weeks to one year, according to the incomes of their fathers.
Cuanduine stood looking after their heels, transfixed with amazement; and the Philosopher was also overcome, having received one very amorous caress by mistake. From the stupefaction thus induced he was awakened by a glance at Cuanduine, which sent him straightway into a laughing fit; for all the pockets of the hero’s garments, not only the side and breast pockets of his coat, but his trouser pockets, his waistcoat pockets, and even his ticket pocket, were distended and swollen up to the size of so many footballs. Cuanduine, putting a hand to one of them to find what the stuffing was, drew out a fistful of little screwed-up bits of paper, some tied with pink and blue ribbon, but for the most part merely folded up tight; which, when he opened them, proved to be hasty but tender billets-doux, inviting him to the homes of these bold-faced hussies, or to other trysting places, the next day or the day after.
“By heaven,” said the Philosopher, “it is the devil’s own luck that you are so handsome! There will be broken hearts over this.”
“Not a whit,” said Cuanduine. “I will keep these assignations.”
“What? All of them?” cried the Philosopher.
“Of course,” said Cuanduine.
“Your father’s son speaks again,” said the Philosopher. “Have sense, lad. What if some of them fall in love with you?”
“I hope,” said Cuanduine, “they will all fall in love with me, as I have with them.”
“But surely,” said the Philosopher, “you must see that that will bring torment and heartbreak among them?”
“No, faith,” said Cuanduine; “for I will deny myself to none of them.”
“Now God help your seraphic innocence,” said the Philosopher. “Have you never heard of jealousy among the stars?”
“Why should they be jealous?” asked Cuanduine. “Not one shall have a jot more of me than her neighbour; nor a jot less.”
“Bless your innocence again,” said the Philosopher. “That will not be enough for them. Each will want you altogether to herself.”
“O gluttony!” said Cuanduine. “Are the fools then as jealous of the sun’s rays, of the greenness of grass, of the corn and wine?”
“So much so,” said the Philosopher, “that, if you waste any time keeping those assignations, you may find that some one has bought the sun before you can redeem the birds or the flowers. Come; you have dragons to kill.”
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”