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” Simon R. Green talks to Michael Anton about his Operation Arcana story “Bomber’s Moon”…
Simon R. Green has written over forty books, all of them different. He has written eight Deathstalker books, twelve Nightside books, and thinks trilogies are for wimps. His current series are the Secret Histories, featuring Shaman Bond, the very secret agent, and The Ghost Finders, featuring traditional hauntings in modern settings. He acts in open-air productions of Shakespeare, rides motorbikes, and loves old-time silent films. His short stories have appeared in the anthologies Mean Streets, Unusual Suspects, Powers of Detection, Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, The Way of the Wizard, The Living Dead 2, Those Who Fight Monsters, Dark Delicacies III, and Home Improvements: Undead Edition.
Michael Anton: In “Bomber’s Moon,” you provide a Biblical twist to the Second World War. What inspired you to write this story?
Simon R. Green: The Second World War took place in my father’s generation, so I heard a lot about it while growing up, from people who were actually there. Many described it as the last Good war, because the sides were so clear. The Nazis were the closest we have ever come to evil incarnate in this world. Which got me thinking… All sides like to say God is on our side. What if it were literally true? And the Devil was on the other side?
MA: At the core of your story is the debate over the virtue of war. The bomber crew is tasked with a brutal and terrible mission, but most of them accept it as a necessary evil for the sake of a greater good. Do you feel that the story makes a broader argument about the justification of warfare?
SRG: Churchill said, after the war was over; Our atrocities were justifiable, because theirs were so much worse. We did terrible things, to prevent even worse from continuing. I think it’s clear in the story, that the air raid was seen as an act of mercy. Killing the people to prevent them being sacrificed in an act of evil.
MA: Uriel was heavy-handed in his response to Father John’s actions, to the shock of the rest of the crew. Was Uriel right that the stakes were too high in their war that he could not allow them to be jeopardized by even well-meaning opposition?
SRG: Angels are scary. Look in the Old Testament, and they’re the ones God sent to wipe out a city, or a generation of first-born. They are the will of God made manifest in the world of men. There are angels whose job is to look over us or show us mercy. Uriel was an angel of war. And just because Father John was killed; doesn’t mean his soul was damned. God has mercy… for those who mean well.
MA: I noticed your use of the name “Shadrack” for the mission. In the Old Testament, Shadrack was sentenced to die by fire for refusing to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. However, he were saved from the fire by an angel for his loyalty. Was choosing the name Shadrack a deliberate effort to invoke a parallel with Uriel’s saving the crew from both the metaphorical fires of war and the literal fires on the plane in reward for their service and loyalty?
SRG: Yes. You got it. Nice to see someone picking up on this; I don’t just throw this stuff in, you know…
MA: Uriel’s explanations for when and why Heaven and Hell are able to intervene make it clear that even with divine involvement, this war is still mankind’s party: humans still guide the war effort, fight the battles, and make their own choices on how to conduct the fight. Although Satan’s minions are rampaging through central Europe, it was human decisions and actions that brought them there. Are the true devils we must fear the ones within ourselves?
SRG: Heaven and Hell can’t intervene directly, or that would be the end of free will. But once you open the door and invite one side in to aid you, that opens the door to the other side. We have to ask… and be very careful about what we ask for.
MA: What is the appeal of military fantasy? Why do so many writers – or you yourself – write about it? Why do readers love it so much?
SRG: The appeal of military fantasy; to strike back directly at the people and things that threaten us. To be a small part of something greater. To act, rather than to be acted upon. But always remember that it’s supposed to be might for right; not might makes right.