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: How they celebrated the Shaw Centenary
Another day Cuanduine was invited, with all the Wealth, Blood, and Intellect of England, to attend a great dinner in celebration of the Centenary of Bernard Shaw. No less than five millionaires, with a choice collection of politicians, soldiers, archbishops of all denominations, vivisectipnists and other scientists, a couple of the leading sportsmen of the day, and a sprinkling of fashionable novelists, had all assembled to do honour to the memory of this great Artist and Moral Teacher. The menu consisted of dishes mentioned in his immortal works, foie gras, veal, capons, and plum-pudding being the most important. When all this was tucked away, great speeches were made over the cigars and wine. The chairman, Sir Hawtrey Cutpurse, the well-known financier, said that no words of his were necessary to ensure the lasting, nay, the undying fame of a writer whose works were an imperishable monument to Britain’s glory. He, Sir Hawtrey, did not claim to be a man of any literary taste, but he had read Shaw when he was at school, and he had found at least one sentence there that went home to him: “The first duty of every citizen is to make money.” That had been an inspiration to him all his life and made him the man he was. (Prolonged applause.) He was not, however, as he had already said, a man of any literary discrimination. Nor was he ashamed of the fact. He would therefore leave to others better qualified the task of appraising the great dramatist whose festival they were celebrating that night. It was his duty, however, as chairman to announce that he had received some letters in explanation of some of the vacant chairs that should have been at the table. The Prime Minister (applause) was the first. That great statesman (applause), putting, as usual, duty before pleasure (renewed applause), was at his post in the House of Commons, where he was at the moment moving the third reading of the Government’s measure to defend their liberties against the menace of Socialism. (Loud and prolonged cheering.) Lord Mammoth (cheers) had also written, saying that he was prevented from attending to pay his homage to the Great Thinker by a Trust meeting at which his presence was vital. (Cheers.) Finally, the Lord Chamberlain had telegraphed at the last moment: “Busy censoring plays. Please excuse. Best wishes. — Bone-head.” (Applause.) Haying called upon the next speaker, the chairman sat down. (Prolonged applause.)
The other four millionaires having spoken, Professor Treacle, Litt.D. (Oxon.), said that in these days of polemical art it was refreshing to take up such a classic as Mrs. Warren’s Profession or Getting Married, and give oneself to the pure enjoyment of Shaw’s delightful human creations, untroubled by the cloven hoof of the propagandist, so commonly obtruded in the so-called plays of the present generation. It was customary among modern youth to jeer at Shaw as a back number. But the most brilliant writers of the present day were mere temporary flashes beside the great Luminary. They were but the cult of the few, and for a period only, whereas Shaw was for all men and for all time. (Applause.)
Mr. Pusher, the rising young politician, said that Shaw was an imperial asset.
Mr. Halfpenny, the fashionable novelist, spoke of the rush of incident in the plays of classic writers like Shaw and Ibsen. Modern plays were all talk. (Hear, hear.)
The Archbishop of Coddington said that there was a morbid tone about the modern theatre and a tendency to choose unpleasant subjects, which made one sigh for the good old days when the kindly human sentiment of Ibsen and the innocent gaiety of Shaw gave clean healthy entertainment to young and old. Shaw was not only a great dramatist: he was England’s greatest moral teacher. Quotations from his works were in every mouth, and were the inspiration of all that was best in the British character. What British schoolboy did not know the line: “Do not do unto others as you would they should do unto you: their incomes may be different.” What an inspiration, this, in the battle against Socialism. Another quotation leaped to his memory: “If you beat your child, be sure you do not beat it in anger.” What deep, what sublime wisdom was here! Again: “Marriage must be for life. It would not be marriage at all if it were not for life” — a useful lesson, that, for their modern moralists — or rather immoralists. But if he were to begin quoting from Shaw he would never be able to leave off. As the old lady said in the familiar anecdote: “Shaw’s plays are fuH of quotations.” (Laughter.)
Lord Buncombe said that Mr. Pusher had said that Shaw was an imperial asset. That was quite true. (Applause.) The works of Shaw were one of the Empire’s most precious possessions. Shaw was above all else a patriot. (Cheers.) The noble tribute to the English people, which he had put into the mouth of Napoleon, was no doubt familiar to all of them: “The Englishman does everything on principle.” In that phrase was summed up all that was best in the British character. It was the inspiration of every Briton all over that Empire on which the sun never set. That was all he had to say, and he would now sit down.
Mr. Borax, the coming milk monopolist, said that a great patriot like Shaw would have been deeply distressed by the present condition of British trade. (Hear, hear.) That condition, continued Mr. Borax, smoothing his well-filled corporation, was entirely due to the refusal of the workers to accept a lower standard of living (grunts of agreement), and would continue so long as the British workman insisted on two meals a day, while his American rival was content with one. (Groans.)
The Bishop of Cheddar agreed entirely with the previous speaker. If any one doubted that the working classes were overpaid, let him go and watch the queues outside the picture houses on a Saturday evening. Many workers undoubtedly went to the pictures as often as once a week. What would an apostle of work and efficiency like Shaw have thought of that? He himself had recently been compelled, from motives of economy, to dismiss his fourth under-gardener’s fifth assistant; yet he knew of a case in which a working man had once taken his whole family to the seaside for three whole days. How foreign was such indulgence to the spirit of Christianity, whose founder — divine or otherwise — had repeatedly counselled his disciples to deny themselves. But, alas, the Christianity of the lower classes was rapidly being swamped under waves of debauchery and hedonism. (Here the pious prelate sat down, carefully concealing his emotion with a handkerchief of purple silk.)
General Puncher said that like a previous speaker he had no pretensions to literary taste, but in the distant parts of the Empire he also had taken a wrinkle or two from Shaw. In one of his plays a character had said: “Men are not governed by justice. They have to be governed by force.” He thought that applied just as well at home as in the Colonies. (Applause.)
Dr. Putter, Professor of Literature, Cambridge, said that sufficient stress had not been laid on Shaw’s position as a poet. Nothing in English poesy could equal the mighty lines of the Admirable Bashville, and who could ever forget the tender lyric:
I met thee first in Whitsun Week, Louisa! Louisa!
or the passionate patriotic hymn:
Tell England I’ll forget her never,
O wind that blows across the sea.
Mr. Twinkler, the popular actor-manager, now stood up and said that this was an opportune moment to broach a subject he had long had in mind. England, alone among civilised nations, had no National Theatre. He had taken the liberty of writing a circular letter to the papers on the subject, and he would now pass it round for the inspection and signature of that distinguished company. So sponsored, the proposal would carry a weight which could never have attached to his own humble sign manual.
This suggestion was unanimously complied with, and, having sung the National Anthem, the party rolled home.
* “The first duty of every citizen is to make money.” — In GBS’s 1905 play “Major Barbara,” Andrew Undershaft is a caricature of the Nietzschean superman: a millionaire armaments dealer whose credo is: “The greatest of our evils and the worst of our crimes is poverty… our first duty, to which every other consideration should be sacrificed, is not to be poor.”
* “Do not do unto others as you would they should do unto you: their incomes may be different.” — From the Afterword to GBS’s 1903 play “Man and Superman.”
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” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | 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”