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 6: How Cuanduine was Docketed, Injected, and Psychanalysed; and how he came to the Gateway of the Fortunate Fields
“But first,” said the Philosopher, “we must get you a docket.” Cuanduine asked what that might be. “Everybody must have a docket,” explained the Philosopher, “to identify him; else he is liable to arrest as a vagrant.”
Going on at once, they came to a stationer’s shop, where the Philosopher purchased a blank form; after a scrutiny of which he led Cuanduine to a photographer, and affixed the version of his face so obtained in the space provided. Next he took him to a doctor, who injected him with a variety of preparations as listed hereunder:
With cowpox, to preserve him from smallpox;
With chickenpox, to preserve him from thrush;
With roserash, to preserve him from nettlerash;
With ringworm, to preserve him from tapeworm;
With lockjaw, to preserve him from phossyjaw;
With German measles, to preserve him from Russian cholera;
With housemaid’s knee, to preserve him from woolsorters’ disease;
With catalepsy, to preserve him from dogbite;
With lobster, to preserve him from cancer.
All these particulars he entered in the spaces provided on the docket. O the wonders of Science! O the providence of Government! Between them they preserve us from every ill, both corporal and spiritual, that afflicts our effete and sinful natures: that is, at least, the preventable ills, and such as are within their province. And if any puling sentimental crank shall tell you that the proper cure for these evils is sunshine, soap, eggs, and butter, you can answer him that there is not enough of these to go round — not, at least, without an undue interference with the order of nature and the structure of society — and that cow’s pus is plentiful enough to save us this latter inconvenience. Tell him also to consider what a difficult task it would be to distribute these eggs and things so broadly, the burdens it would heap on capital, the grave abuses it would lead to. How easy, on the other hand, to induce a little baby (which can scream, indeed, and struggle a bit, perhaps — though not so much as to hurt you) to undergo this salutary operation. A prick or two, a little gentle scraping of the cuticle, then in with the pus, and all is over except the sequelae. So praise we Science, and the priests of Science, who taught us to scald the germs off our babies’ rattles, and clap them in so beneficially under the skin.
The Philosopher next took Cuanduine to a Psychanalyst; who, after surveying his left ear gravely for an hour or so (for he dared not look into his eyes), asked him had he been troubled with any dreams lately: to which Cuanduine answered Yes, that he had been disturbed the previous night by a very strange dream indeed: namely, that he had found himself in a public street without his trousers; that after an anxious search under the mocking gaze of the multitude, he had at length caught sight of them lying on the ground not far off; but when he stooped to pick them up, they had turned into a black cat, which immediately ran away, leaving its tail in his hand.
“It is clear,” said the Psychanalyst, “that you are suffering from a repressed desire to kill your great-aunt’s solicitor in order that you may enjoy her yourself.”
This also was recorded on the docket.
“And now,” said the Philosopher, when they had left the Psychanalyst, “what lie shall we put down for your birth and parentage?”
“Why not put down the truth?” asked Cuanduine.
“Tush!” said the Philosopher. “No one would believe it. I will set it down that you are my natural son, begotten on a passionate holiday in Hawaii, whence you are lately arrived.” This he did, and presented the docket at the Registry Office, where it was duly countersigned and stamped with the arms of the Republic.
These formalities completed, they were free to continue their explorations of the city. But first, by the Philosopher’s instruction, Cuanduine smutched his face with dirt here and there in order to escape the attentions of the girls. Then they sallied forth again and climbed to the top of a tramcar. The Philosopher pointed out the different features of the city to Cuanduine as they sped through it. First there were the ruins of Sackville Street and Westmoreland Street, almost covered over with huts and small houses. Then came the two great mounds of rubble where the Bank of Ireland and Trinity College had once stood. Then the vast slum area of Grafton Street, Stephen’s Green, Rathmines, Rathgar, Terenure, and Rathfarnham. After that there was something of improvement, the tram running for a mile and a half along a straight street of sober little red brick houses, containing perhaps five rooms apiece, with a neat patch of garden; the residences of artists, doctors, engineers, university professors and lecturers, scientists, librarians, civil servants, and others of the respectable poor. This was followed by a pleasant and comfortable-looking suburb, with large handsome houses and well-cared grounds, where dwelt the moderately rich: small shopkeepers, cabinet ministers, generals, admirals, and so forth. Then came the great mansions of the larger shopkeepers, importers, and book-makers, extending for half a mile along a broad boulevard lined with statues, fountains, plane trees, and bandstands. Right at the end of this vista Cuanduine could see an immense triple-arched gateway, surpassing in its proportions even the greatest triumphal arches of the Romans and the French. It was the gateway to the domain of the Millionaires.
Leaving the tramcar, Cuanduine and the Philosopher approached this mighty portal. Upon its blockish summit flew a huge white banner, bearing in its centre a closed fist gules; and large on its entablature was carved and gilded the inscription: WHAT WE HAVE WE HOLD. The pillars of the central arch were supported by two gigantic figures in bronze. That on the left represented a woman, naked, laughing with empty eyes. Her breasts were small and shrunken; her feet trampled upon a mead of flowers; and in her hands she held a cornucopia, spilling its treasures upon the winds of the world. That on the right was of an aged man, blind and dumb, clad in a thick and sombre garment, his feet immersed in a clinging mire. It was well for the artist, said the Philosopher, that his employers had not understood his symbolism; and well also for those within the gate that those without could not understand it either.
The gates themselves were of hammered bronze, with bosses of gold and spikes of silver. They were open: but Cuanduine and the Philosopher did not go through that day. Instead they turned and went home, by the way they had come, to Stoneybatter.
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”