An Interview With David Wostyn, Author And Editor Of "With Iron and Fire"

An Interview With David Wostyn, Author And Editor Of "With Iron and Fire"

The creator of a world with a surviving Chinese Empire.

David Wostyn, a resident of France, is an author of alternate history and an author and editor of "With Iron and Fire," an anthology of stories set in a world where the Chinese Empire survives and becomes a regional power in its own right.

Wallace: What made you interested in writing?

Wostyn: I'd say that when you like to read, the idea that you could give writing a try sort of comes naturally. As Umberto Eco said, books aren't about things, they're about other books. Now, writing is one thing, being published quite another. I was convinced until last year that I would remain an amateur writer indefinitely, then Tom Black founded Sea Lion Press and gave my work the opportunity to be released commercially.

Wallace: What got you into alternate history?

Wostyn: There was plenty of time travel in the science fiction stories I read as a teenager, and there was always this interrogation, explicit or not, about the consequences of changing the course of history. I think the first actual AH novel I read was "The Hammer and the Cross" by Harry Harrison. I grew increasingly fascinated with the idea of exploring divergences in the historical timeline. Then in 2004, I came across and, for the first time, I could share ideas with a community of fellow alternate history fans.

Wallace: Do you have a background in Chinese history? If not, what made you acquainted with the historical background?

Wostyn: My academic background is in political science, and my day job is in public education, but I did study Chinese language and civilization for two years. I have made a dozen trips to China and Taiwan, and my wife is Chinese. The rest comes from reading up on Chinese history.

Wallace: What inspired the particular idea for "With Iron and Fire?"

Wostyn: I first had the idea, all those years ago, while perusing an encyclopedia of military aircraft. I asked myself, "Which ones of these would a different China use?" But then I had to come up with that different China in the first place, and it grew from there. This is why there has been a fair amount of focus on aviation in the successive iterations of the timeline. The choice of Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao as the leaders of alternate China comes from my Chinese philosophy classes; I liked those two guys, admired what they tried and failed to do in OTL, and decided to give them another chance.

Wallace: What made you want to make this book a collaborative work?

Wostyn: After being a member of for a couple of years, I started noticing certain people who were very good at writing fiction. It occurred to me that a short story format would be an engaging way to explore aspects of the timeline that weren't developed in the main narrative. So I launched the "Tales of the Superpower Empire" and managed to attract quite the talent pool over time. The first one to volunteer was Tom Anderson of "Look to the West" fame, but the one who's grown into the timeline resident writer is Bruno Lombardi, the author of "Snake Oil." Bruno and I have a kind of creative attunement to each other — I can send him a disjointed jumble of ideas, and he'll turn them into a great story.

Wallace: Did working with so many other authors pose a significant challenge to the endeavor?

Wostyn: I realized around 2012 that it was getting difficult to keep track of everyone's contributions. Ideas were going back and forth via email, PMs, Word files, etc. The solution was to set up a dedicated discussion board, modeled after the one used by the "France Fights On" authors. It's a bare-bones thing but it makes teamwork much easier.

Wallace: How did each writer add their own touch to the shared world?

Wostyn: Each writer has his own style and his own field of expertise, and I've tried to make the best use of both. Pablo Portillo is very knowledgeable about Japan, among other topics, so I delegated to him the Japanese part of the timeline, "The Sun and the Mirror." Jason Sharp is a field geologist with extensive experience in Arctic prospection, so his contribution took the form of a highly original story about the rise of the diamond mining industry in Yakutia. Henry Yeh is an aircraft enthusiast whose work on alternate aviation in the timeline will be featured in the second volume. And Bruno ... Let's just say that Bruno and I got so carried away at one point that what was going to be just another story grew into a novel-length work, "The Road to Yakutia.".

Wallace: How did you make sure each contribution was consistent with the others?

Wostyn: Proofreading and more proofreading. I was very keen on the whole ensemble being a seamless shared universe, and that meant looking carefully for any inconsistency. Whenever a detail was changed in the main narrative, I made sure to have any story that referred to it retconned accordingly. We were always at war with Eastasia, and Greedo always shot first.

Wallace: You’ve said that this project was 12 years in the making. Did it change over that long?

Wostyn: It definitely did. The first time around, I woefully underestimated the amount of research I needed to do in order to pull off a decent timeline. I started over twice more before I was finally satisfied with the result — third time's the charm. But then, I’m a lazy perfectionist, a very bad combination for a writer.

Wallace: Do you have any future projects in the works?

Wostyn: I’m looking forward to a print edition of "With Iron and Fire." The team and I are currently working on the second volume, which is tentatively scheduled for the end of the year. I've also been contributing to the "France Fights On" timeline, which has two volumes down and a third one to go. Then there’s a project my wife has been trying to talk me into, something called “having a child.”

Wallace: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Wostyn: Your first reader is yourself. Write what you always wanted to read but that nobody has written yet. Chances are there are other people out there who will want to read it, too.

Cover Image Credit: David Wostyn

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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15 Thing Only Early 2000's Kids Will Understand

"Get connected for free, with education connection"


This is it early 2000's babies, a compilation finally made for you. This list is loaded with things that will make you swoon with nostalgia.

1. Not being accepted by the late 90's kids.


Contrary to what one may think, late 90's and early 00's kids had the same childhood, but whenever a 00's kid says they remember something on an "only 90's kids will understand" post they are ridiculed.

2. Fortune tellers.


Every day in elementary school you would whip one of these bad boys out of your desk, and proceed to tell all of your classmates what lifestyle they were going to live and who they were going to marry.


You could never read this book past 8 o'clock at night out of fear that your beloved pet rabbit would come after you.

4. Silly bands.

You vividly remember begging your parents to buy you $10 worth of cheap rubber bands that vaguely resembles the shape of an everyday object.

5. Parachutes.

The joy and excitement that washed over you whenever you saw the gym teacher pull out the huge rainbow parachute. The adrenaline that pumped through your veins whenever your gym teacher tells you the pull the chute under you and sit to make a huge "fort".

6. Putty Erasers

You always bought one whenever there was a school store.

7. iPod shuffle.

The smallest, least technological iPpd apple has made, made you the coolest kid at the bus stop.

8. "Education Connection"

You knew EVERY wood to the "Education Connection" commercials. Every. Single.Word.

9. " The Naked Brothers Band"

The "Naked Brothers Band" had a short run on Nickelodeon and wrote some absolute bangers including, "Crazy Car' and "I Don't Wanna Go To School"

10. Dance Dance Revolution

This one video game caused so many sibling, friend, and parent rivalries. This is also where you learned all of your super sick dance moves.

11. Tamagotchi

Going to school with fear of your Tamagotchi dying while you were away was your biggest worry.

12. Gym Scooters

You, or somebody you know most likely broke or jammed their finger on one of these bad boys, but it was worth it.

13. Scholastic book fairs

Begging your parents for money to buy a new book, and then actually spending it on pens, pencils, erasers, and posters.


Who knew that putting yogurt in a plastic tube made it taste so much better?

15. Slap Bracelets

Your school probably banned these for being "too dangerous".

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