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Exclusive Interview: Django Wexler on His OPERATION ARCANA Story “The Guns of the Wastes”

SF Signal is pleased to present a series of interviews with the authors of the military fantasy anthology, Operation Arcana edited by John Joseph Adams and available now from Baen books.

Here’s what Operation Arcana is about:

In the realms of fantasy, the battlefield is where heroism comes alive, magic is unleashed, and legends are made and unmade. From the War of the Ring, Tolkien’s epic battle of good versus evil, to The Battle of the Blackwater, George R.R. Martin’s grim portrait of the horror and futility of war, these fantastical conflicts reflect our highest hopes and darkest fears, bringing us mesmerizing visions of silver spears shining in the sun and vast hordes of savage beasts who threaten to destroy all that we hold dear.

Now acclaimed editor John Joseph Adams is sounding the battle cry and sixteen of today’s top authors are reporting for duty, spinning never-before-published, spellbinding tales of military fantasy, including a Black Company story from Glen Cook, a Paksenarrion story from Elizabeth Moon, and a Shadow Ops story by Myke Cole. Within these pages you’ll also find World War I trenches cloaked in poison gas and sorcery, modern day elite special forces battling hosts of the damned, and steampunk soldiers fighting for their lives in a world torn apart by powers that defy imagination.

Featuring both grizzled veterans and fresh young recruits alike, including Tanya Huff, Simon R. Green, Carrie Vaughn, Jonathan Maberry, and Seanan McGuire, Operation Arcana is a must for any military buff or fantasy fan.

You’ll never look at war the same way again.

In this “mission debrief” Django Wexler talks to Georgina Kamsika about his Operation Arcana story “The Guns of the Wastes”…

Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not writing, he wrangles computers, paints tiny soldiers, and plays games of all sorts. He is the author of the military fantasies The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne, and the middle-grade fantasy The Forbidden Library. His website is

Georgina Kamsika: Right at the beginning of ‘The Guns of the Wastes’ is an intricately described vehicle. You later introduce other, larger versions. I really loved your descriptions of them. What came first, the story idea of the ongoing war, or the idea of the landships cruising the wastes?

Django Wexler: This time it was the notion of the landships. A lot of my military fantasy is inspired by some particular period or conflict in history, and I often try to recreate something with a similar dynamic in an unexpected setting. In this case, I was reading about WWI naval combat and trying to figure out a neat way to do get a similar sort of feel, and started thinking about landships. The actual design of them came from spending a little while trying to figure out how such a thing could actually work. I don’t claim they’re scientifically plausible, but they have enough of a veneer of reasonableness to chalk up the rest to “steampunk magic”.

Originally I was going to have them fighting each other, but they seemed like impractical weapons for that purpose. I decided the best reason to have a landship – essentially a mobile gun platform – was when you were fighting an enemy who would board and overwhelm you if you stood still, and that gave us the sraa. The ships were developed to keep their distance from sraa swarms while blowing them apart, after conventional fortifications proved inadequate.

GK: How do you see the conflict between the sraa and the Grand Alliance having come about?

DW: I’m sort of conflicted about how much to say, because I actually have quite a lot of backstory here, but I will probably eventually write a book in this world and I don’t want spoil too much. Essentially, the first sraa appeared – no one is quite sure how – and started building more of themselves, killing everything that got in their way. They destroyed first the nation that created them, then all the nations of the east, overwhelming the then-state-of-the-art defenses of trenches, barbed wire, and machine guns. The nations of the west, sheltering behind their mountains, formed the Grand Alliance and took in the refugees (now called Remnants). They first stopped the sraa in the passes, and eventually built the landships to keep them out, in the land now known as the Waste.

GK: I loved the strategy Pahlu used to take down the Butcher, and his rejection of the idea that his god Domus had helped him. Did he realise he’d survive the grenade before he popped it?

DW: That’s hard to say, but my guess would be no. Pahlu is a soldier, and is ready to make a soldier’s sacrifice to defend his comrades. He was thinking more of destroying the Butcher than his own safety.

GK: Revya predicted the trap, changing the perception of the sraa from hungry animals to something else. How do you think that change might play out for the two sides?

DW: Good question – that definitely gets into territory we’d cover in future books or stories. The war has been a stalemate for decades, with the sraa unable to push past the mountains and the Alliance unable to gain a foothold in the wastes. But if the sraa are getting smarter, then who knows what might happen…

GK: Finally, what’s coming up for you?

DW: I’ve got a busy year! In addition to Operation Arcana, I have stories in the anthologies Blackguards and Press Start to Play. In my Shadow Campaigns universe, I have a novella coming out in May, The Shadow of Elysium, and then the next novel, The Price of Valor, releasing in July. But my next event is the release of The Mad Apprentice, second book of my middle-grade fantasy series The Forbidden Library, coming in April! I’m very excited.


About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).

2 Comments on Exclusive Interview: Django Wexler on His OPERATION ARCANA Story “The Guns of the Wastes”

  1. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) // March 12, 2015 at 1:32 pm //

    Clearly, I need to get me a copy of this anthology.

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