Featured Author: Matthew Hughes

The New Year is upon us, and 2018 is bright with new material from many previously published Pulp Literature authors.

Matthew Hughes, author of ‘The Devil You Don’t’, and ‘Fishface and the Leg’, both in Issue 13, is starting the new year off with a bang.  We are happy to report that  you can read his novelette, ‘Solicited Discordance’, in Asimov’s Science Fiction vol. 42, and the January/February issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction features a new Baldemar novella.  Another Hughes novelette, ‘The Sword of Destiny’, can be found in The Book of Swords, edited by Gardner Dozois.

Matthew Hughes has been shortlisted for the Aurora, Nebula, Phillip K Dick, Endeavour, and AE Van Vogt awards for his fantasy and space opera, but he occasionally feels the urge to pull off an old-fashioned time-travel yarn. ‘The Devil You Don’t’ combines that urge with the speechwriter’s fancy of writing for one of history’s most famous voices. It was first published in Asimov’s Science Fiction in 2005.

The Devil You Don’t

by Matthew Hughes

The frantic sparks fly up into the November night like lost souls seeking safe harbour who, finding none, extinguish themselves against the unheeding darkness. Or so I might write it if ever I should put pen to paper to tell this tale. But I shall not.

The fire itself is confined by the blackened steel barrel. I poke again with the gardener’s fork and another flurry of sparks shoots up, and with them scraps of burning paper. By the flickering light of the flames I can sometimes see a printed word or two before they are consumed: Alamein, Rommel, Singapore, Yalta.

The books are thick. They will take time to burn but I have learned patience. I have always taken the longer view. Perhaps it is a sense of history. Perhaps it is just how I am formed. But, in the arena of public life, he who takes the longer view must win out in the end.

The gardener has left in heaps his cullings from the bygone summer’s flower beds. I gather another armful of dried stalks and withered blossoms and throw them onto the flames. The flare of light illuminates the disturbed earth that the gardener turned over this afternoon and the pile of red bricks that have lain here much longer—more than a year since I abandoned building a wall to take Mr Chamberlain’s reluctant call.

First Lord of the Admiralty then. Prime Minister now. It is what I have always wanted, I will admit, though I would have preferred its arrival under less perilous circumstances.

The books are burning well. I leave them and kneel beside the wall. The cement with which to mix the mortar is just where I left it and there is water at hand. I lay a red fired brick atop the black soil, trowel its side with mortar, then place a second beside it.

Another pass with the trowel, then another brick. The work proceeds as it always did, a step at a time. That is how walls are built. As are lives. And futures.

Read the rest of ‘The Devil You Don’t’
in
Pulp Literature Issue 13

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