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: How the People of England received the New Evangel
While Cuanduine was thus engaged in studying the life of old England, the Cumbersome papers were busy boosting him in vast write-ups and intimate personal pars, of which I will give a few samples.
Any lingering doubts which Englishmen may feel of the utter abomination of Socialism should be dispelled on Monday next when our Special Correspondent in Ireland, Mr. Coondinner, will relate at the Albert Hall a horrifying tale of the horrors it has given birth to in that unhappy land. — Morning Journal.
Mr. Coondinner, who is to deliver an address at the Albert Hall on Monday, is Irish by birth, and speaks Erse fluently. He is said to have remarkable psychic powers, and claims to have visited some of the planets by airship. — Daily Proser: Notes of the Day.
It is not generally known that the real name of Mr. Quandine, who is to address a meeting at the Albert Hall on Monday, is Cuhoolin. Quandine is only a pseudonym; and even the name of Cuhoolin was only recently adopted by the family, whose true cognomen is Setanta. The story of how the change of name occurred is interesting, and reveals some quaint Irish customs. An ancestor of Mr. Quandine’s, when quite a small boy, was sent on a message to a friend of his father named Hoolin. This gentleman kept a particularly ferocious watch-dog, which happened to be unleashed when young Setanta arrived, and immediately attacked him. Nothing daunted, the little lad seized the brute by the throat and strangled it. Mr. Hoolin later sent in a bill for damages to Mr. Setanta, who not unnaturally declined to pay it. The youngster, seeing that a quarrel was imminent, ran round at once to Mr. Hoolin’s house. “Never mind, Mr. Hoolin,” he said. “I will be your watch-dog in future.” From this he was called Cu Hoolin, Cu being Gaelic for dog. — Daily Blitherer: Notes by the Way.
Heard an amusing story from Mr. Coondinner, the young Irish wit who is to give an exhibition of his native humour at the Albert Hall on Monday. Mr. Coondinner’s father, who is a noted athlete, is very punctual in keeping appointments. Some time ago he and his wife were invited to dine at the house of a friend named Brickyew, and Mrs. Coondinner — as is the way of the fair sex — was so long in putting the finishing touches to her attire that her hubby started without her. She followed as soon as she could, but by the time she reached Mr. Brickyew’s residence the company were already sitting down to dinner. Her husband saw her through the window, and in order to avoid the delays necessitated by ringing at the door, etc., broke down the wall of the dining-room so as to admit her at once. The dinner, as it happened, was not expedited at all by this ingenious device, for Mr. Brickyew insisted that his herculean guest must restore the wall before the meal was served. — Mr. Tittletattle in the Daily Lookinglass.
I met the famous Mr. Coondine in Hyde Park yesterday. He has such a pleasant smile and such lovely hair. His complexion too is a marvel, and that’s such a rare thing in a man, isn’t it? Mr. Coondine is to address a gathering in the Albert Hall on Monday. — Mrs. Twaddler in Home Tosh.
FLOSSIE. — I dare say Mr. Coondine would sign your autograph album if you sent it to him privately, c/o Lord Cumbersome. You could scarcely hope to get near him at the Albert Hall Meeting on Monday. He is not married. — Woman’s Mush: Answers to Correspondents.
By these means the public was stimulated to such interest in Cuanduine that whereas it would ordinarily be a difficult thing to fill a moderate-sized dining-room for a lecture, or to fill a pantry for a lecture on an important subject, yet for this lecture, which was to be called “Mankind in the Unmaking”, there was such a rush for tickets that you would have thought it an exclusive appearance of a super-film star.
Very distinguished was the gathering upon the platform when the great night came. The Lord Cumbersome himself was in the chair. On his right hand were the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition, and on his left a couple of vassal peers. Eight Cabinet Ministers and the Archbishop of Canterbury were in the background. The Lord Cumbersome, with a few well-chosen words (say the papers), introduced the speaker, who came to the front of the platform, and spoke as follows:
“People of England, I know not whether this be the wickedest world in the universe; for who has seen the horror of the Hyades? and who can tell what things are done in Betelgeuse, or plumb the unfathomable mystery of Fomalhaut? But this I know, that there is not in all the universe a world so curious and comical.”
This is as much of the speech as can be given verbatim, for it is all that appeared so in the newspapers of the time, the rest being reported in oratio obliqua that is beyond my powers to straighten, and with lacunae that would baffle the ingenuity of a German commentator. But if we take as evidence the litany of descriptive phrases used by the reporters, namely:
Original, if occasionally perverse, outlook on life,
Comments which, however impracticable, cannot be ignored,
Remorseless exposure of human weaknesses,
Deliberately topsy-turvy viewpoint,
Almost inhuman detachment,
Intellect unwarmed with human sympathy,
Clear-cut intelligence devoid of soul.
Taking these as evidence we may well believe that what Cuanduine said of mankind and his works that evening was not very different in substance or intent from what has been set down in their books by the great satirists of the world: by Lucian, by Juvenal, by Martial, by Rabelais, by Swift, by Voltaire, by Samuel Butler, by Bernard Shaw.
As for the audience they took the speech as only an English audience can; namely, with delighted appreciation of the barbed shafts of satire, with laughter for each stroke of wit, and with applause for the eloquence and vivacity of the whole. The speech was indeed a tremendous success, and reflected great glory on Lord Cumbersome. In face of the general enthusiasm even the Mammoth Press was overwhelmed, though it strove manfully to damn with faint praise.
“Truly the English are a great people,” said Cuanduine next day to Mr. Robinson as they sat over their breakfast reading the various accounts. “How ready they are to acknowledge their own wickedness and laugh at their own folly; how eager to admit themselves in the wrong. I tell you, Mr. Robinson, this people will remake the world.”
Such was the success of the inaugural meeting that Lord Cumbersome’s agents arranged that the next should be held at the Wembley Stadium, and preparations to broadcast the speech were made on an unprecedented scale; for it was known that the very poorest classes — philosophers, artists, school teachers, and casual labourers — were making superhuman efforts to purchase listening sets for the occasion. Again Cuanduine spoke, pelting jagged stones of satire into the ethereal pond, ruffling its complacent surface with keen-crested waves. The vast audience at Wembley listened with a relish which did credit alike to its artistic discrimination and its broad spirit of tolerance; and the incalculable multitude of broadcatchers crouched so tensely at their instruments that silence reigned over the broad realm of England. From that night the name of Cuanduine, in its various mispronouncements, was a household world from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. No newspaper dared omit his photograph from its columns for a day; no revue or ragtime song was complete without a reference to him; and he was regularly invited to contribute to symposia in the magazines on such subjects as “Why are our Churches Empty?” or “Should a Woman tell?” or “How to bring Christianity up to date.” Punch caricatured him once a week, besides mentioning him regularly in Charivaria. All the most renowned critics wrote appreciations of him. Novelists found it impossible to keep him out of their works. Moreover, cinema stars and litterateurs were always asking him to stand godfather to their children. He was ever being harassed to write testimonials for soaps, cigarettes, tonics, fountain-pens, shaving creams, safety-razors, arm-chairs, books on sex knowledge, and a hundred other articles; many of which were also named after him. He was eternally laying foundation stones, opening bazaars, launching ships, and going to dinners and garden-parties. Financiers and monopolists feted him; their wives and daughters offered him their love; women in humbler station took his photograph to bed with them. Cuanduine was indeed in great demand. England took him to her bosom, and hoped he would entertain her for ever. The Mammoth Press lay low, biding its time.
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 | William Haggard’s The High Wire | 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”