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 1: The Lord Mammoth and the Lord Cumbersome
These events in Ireland were recorded in one half of the English newspapers as follows:
Renewed political and sectarian strife appears to be breaking out in Ireland as a result of the speeches of a man named Cooney, evidently a Bolshevik, who claims descent from some legendary hero. Our readers will recollect that the island passed out of British control some twenty or thirty years ago. England is fortunate in having rid herself of these turbulent subjects.
The other half of the newspapers reported the matter in these terms:
Claiming descent from the old Celtic divinities, a Bolshevik agitator named Considine has been creating fresh religious and political discord in the Emerald Isle. British intervention appears to be called for.
One half of the Press of England was in those days owned by Lord Mammoth, and the other half by Lord Cumbersome. These two potentates had bought up all their smaller rivals, and would have bought up one another if they could: for though both were staunch upholders of the principles of competitive civilisation, they knew better than to allow any competition against themselves if they could help it. Being unable to buy each other up, they hated each other with notable intensity, and directed their newspapers to take opposite standpoints on all topics. Thus a Government which happened to be supported by Lord Mammoth’s papers was certain to be denounced collectively and individually by Lord Cumbersome’s as the most incompetent cabal that had ever guided the Empire to destruction; if Lord Cumbersome were to advocate a policy of peace and retrenchment, Lord Mammoth’s organs would brand as a traitor anybody who might suggest that England’s safety could be secured without the immediate conquest of the whole world; and if Lord Mammoth proposed the remission of a penny from the milk tax, Lord Cumbersome would insist that without the imposition of another twopence the Budget could not be balanced. A very bitter controversy raged one time between one of Lord Cumbersome’s pet scientists who wrote that vegetables should be very lightly cooked in order to preserve their vitamines, and one of Lord Mammoth’s special hygienic experts who argued that they should be given a prolonged boiling in acid to destroy the germs that infest them. Nay more, Lord Mammoth’s humourists could not make a harmless jest about mothers-in-law, without the Cumbersome satirists denouncing the bad taste and pointlessness of such allusions, and maintaining that in jokes about bad cheese alone could the good old Anglo-Saxon type of humour be preserved as the precious heritage of their imperial race.
The question of greatest moment in England at this time was whether London should be rebuilt or whether a new city should be erected upon a fresh site. For London, like most of the world’s cities, had been largely laid in ruins in the great wars. The problem was a thorny one; and as the organs of Lord Cumbersome and of Lord Mammoth had thrown themselves into the fray on opposite sides, and were bandying arguments with even more than their wonted ferocity, they had little space to spare for the doings of a prophet across the water. Hence the meagre space allotted to the matter.
It happened, however, that Lord Mammoth, who had a drop or two of Irish blood in his arteries, reading the report in his most important organ, the Daily Record, felt some slight stir of interest; which was quickened when he turned to the account given by Lord Cumbersome’s Morning Journal. The noble newsmonger was taking breakfast at the time in a sunny parlour of his castle in Epping Forest (which, like the region of Tallaght and Bohernabreena near Dublin, was enclosed as a ghetto for millionaires). The breakfast was a fine one and a recherché, calculated to put anybody in good fettle and adventurous mood: under which influence Lord Mammoth ordered that an airplane should be at once dispatched to London to fetch for his inspection the original wire from Dublin which had been compressed into the paragraph aforesaid.
It was brought to him half an hour later as he sat in his garden smoking a cigar. It ran to about a thousand words, and he read it through carefully twice, chewing his cigar as the cinema had taught all strong characters to do. This impressed the valets, secretaries, runners, and others who were standing about, but he did not like the taste, so presently he threw the cigar away with a gesture of decision, and desired to be carried indoors. He had really come to no decision at all, but later on in the day he did; and the result was that next morning he flew to Dublin with but a single attendant, a junior valet who had been deaf and dumb from birth.
So perfect, however, was the intelligence department of his rival, so resourceful and daring were his spies, that within half an hour his flight, and within two hours the reason of it, were known at Castle Cumbersome. The Lord Cumbersome was not so energetic a person as his fellow prestidigitator, his eliminating organs being somewhat overcharged with the by-products of rotten goose-liver, which was his staple diet; neither had he any Irish blood or interests; nevertheless, he knew the laws of competitive economics better than to leave the field to the enemy. Summoning therefore an airplane and two eunuchs he set off in hot pursuit.
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”