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 8: Which might have been the Longest in the Book, but shall prove to be one of the Shortest
I crave pardon here, my friends — whether you belong to the humble many that read for entertainment and not instruction, or to the arrogant few that demand Art and not Propaganda (which amounts, when all’s said, to much the same thing) — for allowing the intrusion at this point of some regrettably grave and disturbing matter into the even flow of my hitherto frolicsome, adventurous, and, I hope, artistically constructed narrative. Believe me that I do so with no intention of harrowing your feelings or pricking your consciences: which is a liberty I should be the very last to venture on. If the impending episodes of the adventures of the Philosopher and Cuanduine could be omitted without impairing the sense and sequence (and therewith the value both as literature and entertainment) of their story, I should certainly omit them. But since that is impossible, I beg you to make the best of it; brace yourselves, like December bathers to the plunge; take a long breath; and away with you, hard as you can crawl, to the opposite bank. If your speed is but good enough you shall be out of it before the chill reaches your bones.
Know then that the Philosopher and Cuanduine went the round tour of the world by airplane, visiting cities, villages, ploughlands, and deserts in their course, not forgetting the steppes, prairies, pampas, etc., the limit of floating ice, the Region of Mosses and Lichens, and other interesting spots that you may look for on the map. Everywhere they went they saw things at which Cuanduine wondered exceedingly; as, for instance, children working for a living, and adults with nothing better to do than dance, flirt, play ball, and ride-a-cock-horse; children starving, and adults shortening their lives with overeating; middle-aged women doctoring their complexions by bathing in cream, and children fed on the skim; millionaires, sick with idleness and high living, ordered holidays and change of air by their doctors, and broken-down clerks, sick with undernourishment and overwork, dosed with coloured stuff out of bottles; millionaires’ wives, surfeited with pleasure, recuperating on tropic beaches, and poor men’s wives hard at work a week after childbirth; mansions and vast estates inhabited by idle sterile couples, and teeming families crammed into a single room; a millionaire buried in a silver coffin, and children stifled in the womb for lack of the money to bring them into the world. They saw also poets and artists drudging at desk and counter while their fancies went unrecorded; and brainless fools whiling away their endless leisure killing foxes and kissing women. They saw racehorses housed in splendour and richly fed, with servants to wait on them and clean up their dung; and they saw dogs and guinea-pigs tortured by learned men in search of a cure for Richman’s Bellyrot. They saw men who coined gold out of the necessities of the poor honoured by priests, dined by judges, and saluted by policemen; and they saw the hungry man that stole such a one’s cigarette case sent to lie in a gaol. These and a thousand more such follies they saw; and they saw men that asked for a better and a wiser world scorned as madmen or locked up as dangerous. Such indeed was the wickedness and folly of the world at this time that you would have deemed it fortunate that the Lord had made a covenant with man not to visit him with a second Deluge: for I take it that it was not harlotries nor idolatries that called down upon our forbears the wrath of the most High, but that the generation which it repented him that he had made was in its ways of thought and living very much like our own.
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”