Only the Arquebus, by H. Beam Piper
by Daniel Eness
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"Just after Halloween 1964, H. Beam Piper, the now-famed science fiction author and the writer of a "locked room" mystery titled Murder in the Gunroom was discovered dead in his own well-stocked gunroom, an apparent suicide. The manuscript to his as-yet unpublished manuscript, Only the Arquebus, disappeared. Piper had told an editor that the story was a historical piece: an account of the zero-sum game played between Ferdinand of Spain and Louis XII of France for the control of Naples.
That was a lie.
Only the Arquebus did involve a zero-sum game. It was historically accurate. The 16th century setting, however, was a ruse - a private joke from Piper to himself. Piper fancied himself a renaissance man from a bygone era. He also fancied himself a hero.
He wasn't wrong.
What follows is the unedited manuscript that appeared anonymously at our offices, wrapped in plain brown paper and smelling distinctly of Serene pipe tobacco smoke."
Famed science fiction and mystery writer H. Beam Piper apparently died in 1964 under mysterious circumstances. One of his manuscripts, Only the Arquebus, vanished in the aftermath.
In this weird short story of the future past, or, more accurately, the alternate near-future, the secret behind Only the Arquebus is finally revealed.
- Daniel Eness, January 2012
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