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 9: The Beginning of Cuanduine’s Campaign
When their travels were completed, Cuanduine and the Philosopher returned to Dublin. They found the city in the throes of a by-election; which Cuanduine deemed fortunate, thinking that the concourse of people so occasioned would be fertile soil for his own message. The Philosopher thought otherwise, but allowed himself to be overruled. The two accordingly repaired to College Green, where Blathero, the Greenyallo candidate, was addressing the multitude.
“Up to this,” he was saying, “I have spoken mainly of principles — of the basic, fundamental ideals upon which the whole fabric of Greenyalloism, the mainspring and inspiration for which our fathers faced the rack, the gallows, the gibbet, and the gaol, is founded firm as upon a rock. But, gentlemen, you will ask — indeed an interrupter has already asked — what is our policy in the immediate situation. That is a fair question: a question that I will go so far as to say that any candidate who would not be prepared to give a frank and full answer to such a question would be unworthy to receive a single vote from the true-hearted voters of the Muckandirt Division. (Cheers.) Not, gentlemen, that I do not set a high value on principles and ideals. On the contrary, the Greenyallo party has ever had Principle for its watchword and Idealism embroidered on its banners. How different from the vile Yallogreens, who have trampled every principle dear to the hearts of Irishmen in the mud, cast ideals into the gutter, and exalted base opportunism and vile materialism in their places. But, as I have said before, principles and ideals are not everything. It is on our practical policy that we appeal for your votes; and in defence of that policy I am ready now to hear any questions that you may put to me, and to answer them to the best of my ability.”
At this invitation a ringing voice called out from the fringe of the crowd: “When will the Government get us back our song-birds from the grip of Goshawk?”
It was Cuanduine, as you may guess.
“Throw that man out,” thundered Blathero. “The Government welcomes constructive criticism, but vulgar abuse is another thing. Throw him out.”
A hundred stalwart fellows moved to do his bidding: but, at sight of Cuanduine’s build and the dangerous gleam in his eye, they backed away from him, so that he passed from the meeting, along with the Philosopher, without mishandling. Walking a little farther, the two came presently to another gathering, which was being addressed by Blithero, the Yallogreen candidate.
“Well, fellahs,” he was saying, “I’ve tole yez enough about our ideels an’ princibles, which is the same our fathers was executed and went to gaol for. Yez’ll want to know next what we’re reelly up to. In fact that interrupter yez pegged out just now was asking as much. Well, that’s fair enough, and yez ud be bigger fools than I think yez if yez ud vote for a man that wouldn’t answer that question fair and square. Of course us Yallogreens puts ideels and princibles first, not like them Greenyallos that has betrayed all the princibles and ideels that th’ Irish people has shed their blood for. But practical policy has its place too, and if anybody wants to know what ours is, he’s only got to ask, and here I stand to answer him.”
Cuanduine accepted the invitation as before, calling out from the background: “If you come into power will you get us back our birds from Goshawk?”
“Peg that fellahout,” yelled Blithero in a fury. “We’ll have none of the Gover’ment’s paid interrupters and hooligans here. Peg him out.”
A chosen gang of toughs turned to obey this suggestion; but Cuanduine repulsed them as before, and retired with the Philosopher to their room in Stoneybatter, where they awaited in patience the end of the election.
On the day of the declaration they went down to see the results, which were posted up as follows:
Victor: BLATHERO … 29,439
Moral Victor: BLITHERO … 121
“What does that mean?” asked Cuanduine of the Philosopher.
“In the old days,” said the Philosopher, “it was the custom after an election for the defeated party to claim a moral victory, and on the strength of it to commence a civil war. To obviate this we have arranged that there shall be no defeated party in an election. The candidate who gets most votes gets the seat and the salary, the other gets the moral victory and the glory.”
At this moment the two candidates came out on to the balcony. After the cheering had subsided, Mr. Blithero addressed the crowd.
“Fellahs,” he said, “in proposing a vote of thanks to the Sheriff, I must congratulate Mr. Blathero on the most tremenjous victory ever won in the history of Europe. Judging from the mere figures he has scored a splendid material triumph, and I for one don’t grudge it to him.” (Cheers.)
“Gentlemen,” rejoined Mr. Blathero, “in seconding this vote of thanks to the Sheriff, I extend my cordial congratulations to Mr. Blithero on achieving the most stupendous moral victory in the history of the world. The figures speak for themselves, and I bow to their verdict.”
You should have heard the applause that greeted this magnanimous oration. It would have done your heart good, it was so warmhearted and appreciative. Alas that there should be any dissentient voice in such rare agreement and general jubilation; but so it was.
“Fools!” said Cuanduine to two men who were yelling their throats sore beside him. “With a tithe of this energy you could win back your wild flowers.”
“Bah!” said one of the men. “Who cares about a few old weeds.”
“We got a good bargain for them, anyhow,” said the other.
Then all who were in the neighbourhood, both men and women, began to give their opinions of Cuanduine.
“He’s a crank,” said one.
“Mad,” said another.
“Maybe he has some sugar shares,” hinted a third.
“He’s a Greenyallo!” cried a fourth.
“He’s a Yallogreen!” shouted a fifth.
“If he’s so keen on flowers,” said a sixth, “can’t he pay for a sniff like everybody else?”
“And if we had the flowers back,” said another, “he’d be wanting the birds next. There’s no satisfying some people. Give them an inch and they take an ell.”
A wild-eyed girl turned directly on the hero, saying: “You are a base materialist to pursue such sordid practical aims instead of sacrificing yourself for ideals and principles.”
“You are a wild visionary,” said an older woman, “to chase after impossible dreams instead of trying to do some practical good in the world.”
“Sure, he’s only a damned foolI” cried several other voices in chorus.
Then a gallant young fellow, emboldened by Cuanduine’s unpopularity, smote him with his clenched fist from behind; but he burst all his knuckles against the hard tough muscle of the hero’s back, and dislocated his wrist and elbow joint, so that his arm and hand were never much use to him afterwards. Moved by this object lesson, the crowd made way respectfully for Cuanduine and the Philosopher to pass out.
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.
SERIALIZED 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 | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | 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”