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 10: The Continuation of Cuanduine’s Campaign
The next day Cuanduine was walking by himself along a crowded street, saddened by his many failures, but still planning for the future, when he saw a funeral procession coming towards him. It was a most extensive funeral: fifty mourning coaches followed the hearse, and a meadow of flowers had been slaughtered to enliven the coffin. Several men doffed their hats reverently during its transit; whereat Cuanduine, who had seen more than a dozen perambulators pass without receiving any such tribute, was so amazed that he stopped to expostulate with one of them, who looked shocked, and turned down his eyes.
Anger came on Cuanduine at that; and stepping forth, he seized the leading horse by the bridle, and sprang on its back, where he stood upright, facing the multitude.
“People of Eirinn,” he said. “Cease this folly. Let the dead bury the dead.”
Then the people of Eirinn raised a great shout around Cuanduine, and the windows of the fifty mourning coaches were opened, and a hundred heads popped out interrogatively. The coachman of the hearse took his whip, and would have slashed at Cuanduine with it, but the hero gave him a look so fierce that it dropped from his nerveless fingers, and he had much ado not to follow it himself. At that same look also the people in the street, who had gathered in a threatening circle around the hearse, fell back apace, and the hundred interrogative heads vanished into their coaches.
“People of Eirinn,” said Cuanduine. “What evil have I spoken that you look on me so wrathfully?”
“Blasphemy and balderdash!” yelled a man in the crowd; and the words were taken up by a thousand throats.
“I thought you were Christians,” said Cuanduine in astonishment.
“So we are!” said the people stoutly.
“It is a pity then that you do not know your founder’s precepts,” said Cuanduine.
“We do!” cried the people.
“Then,” said Cuanduine, “it is a pity you do not practise them.”
At that there was such an uproar as had not assailed his ears even in the stormy days of the elections. “Who says we don’t practise our bloody religion?” yelled the people of Eirinn.
“We’re the best bloody Christians in the world!” howled the sons of the Gael. “Tear his eyes out!” screeched the daughters of Banba. Then these fair damosels strove to push their way to the front, but they could not prevail against the crowd, which was backing in terror from before the face of Cuanduine: for the hero-light was beginning to shine about his head, and the Bocanachs and Bananachs and Witches of the Valley were gathering upon the winds. Now there was on the outskirts of the crowd a quiet man that had not joined in the uproar: on him, therefore, — as one that had shown tacit approval of the blasphemy and treason that had been spoken, — the maidens of Innisfail turned their wrath and their finger-nails, ripping and rending him until he ran home almost naked, and it was much if he had half his skin on his back, or a dozen hairs left on his head.
Then Cuanduine spoke again, and the thunder of his voice sounded above the clamour of the swirling multitude like a fog-horn over the howling of wind and waves.
“Fools,” said Cuanduine. “Have you not read that you cannot serve God and Mammon? Yet you cringe before God on bended knee on Sundays, and serve Mammon so faithfully the rest of the week that some of you can scarcely carry your bellies, and cannot breathe without the help of a doctor, or think without the help of a solicitor, while the rest of you are so ignorant, stupid, dirty, diseased, and ugly; so shiftless and lecherous, cowardly and dishonourable, slavish and vindictive; so meanly proud and so weakly stubborn that pity for your condition is dried up with disgust of what it has made of you.”
At that the people were moved to such a fury of inexpressible anger that they danced upon the pavement, foaming at mouth, beating their heads with clenched fists, and howling demoniac imprecations. The women, in particular, were so carried away that they flung themselves on the ground, tearing the stones with their nails, and shrieking till their throats gushed blood. Then some of those that were behind Cuanduine, and therefore beyond the influence of his eye, made a murderous rush upon him; whereat he gave his salmon-leap, and alighted on the roof of the nearest house, whence he made his way homeward to Stoneybatter. The people, however, fell upon the horses of the hearse and tore them limb from limb, afterwards fighting among themselves for the pieces, many being slain and more crippled, of whom the numbers have not yet been accurately computed, so that the place is called Sráid an Air, that is to say, Slaughter Street, to this day.
These events formed the principal topic in the Dublin newspapers the following morning, and were also the subject of editorial comment.
“Decent Irishmen of all creeds and politics,” said the West Briton, “will be unanimous in condemning the outrageous conduct of an as yet anonymous street preacher who has recently shown himself in our midst. The justifiable, though perhaps too violently expressed, resentment of the citizens has precluded the possibility of obtaining any very accurate report of his doctrines, but from the little that has been gleaned we judge them to be as narrow and bigoted as his methods of disseminating them are vulgar and blatant. The preacher, though misguided, is doubtless sincere: we therefore suggest to him that the cause of true religion will not be served by a too rigid insistence on the strict letter of Christian precept. … Thoughtful Irishmen of all sects and classes will deplore this alarming recurrence of religious fanaticism in an island which by earnest and sustained effort was beginning to be regarded as truly non-political and unsectarian. … For the present, however, we would advise Unionists that there is no cause for undue alarm. Only in the very last resort would we counsel them to reconsider their attitude to the Republic, and call for the intervention of Great Britain.”
Under the caption “Bestial Libels” the National Sheet held forth as follows:
“Once more a foul and underhand attempt has been made to pour filthy calumnies on the Irish Race. The principal figure in yesterday’s revolting display of bigotry and bad taste declared that the Irish People are dirty and ignorant. We spit the reeking lie back in his loathsome face.”
Thus did Press and Public receive Cuanduine’s message.
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”