Lose yourself in other worlds, do a good deed in this one.
Guest Editorial for IGMS by Mark Van Name - Issue 18 - August 2010
I want to persuade you to buy a book. It's my book, my latest novel, Children No
More. I don't, however, want you to buy it to put money in my pocket. I want you
to buy it so that I can give even more money to a group that's working to help
rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers and other children affected by war, a
cause that matters deeply to me.
The way this works is simple: I'm donating every cent I receive from sales of the
hardback edition of Children No More to Falling Whistles. They then will use the
money to work with groups to help such kids in the Congo. That's it. You buy a
book, enjoy a good story (I hope and believe), and in the process you do a good
Editor Edmund Schubert and I met the other night at a party at ReConStruction, the
North American Science Fiction Convention in Raleigh. When I told him about
this giveaway program and the horrific practices of using children as soldiers, he
offered me the chance to write this guest editorial. I readily accepted. He's not
paying me for this piece, of course, nor would I take money for it if he offered any;
I'd tell him to donate it to Falling Whistles.
If you're reading the InterGalactic Medicine Show, odds are high that you, like
millions of other people all over the world, have read Orson Scott Card's Ender's
Game. In that book (and the many others in that universe), he addresses some
aspects of the use of child soldiers. In Children No More, I focus briefly on the
horrors the children experience and then at greater length on the challenges of
rehabilitating and reintegrating them into normal society. Don't get me wrong:
this book is not a polemic, nor is it non-fiction. As in all my books, my primary
emphasis is on the story; if you don't enjoy reading it, I've messed up.
I wanted to explore this topic because it matters a great deal to me and because it is
so clearly and simply and inarguably wrong. Estimates place the number of child
soldiers in the Congo as around 30,000 and the worldwide total as about 300,000.
This is unacceptable. Different groups may argue about the value of different
causes, but I've never met anyone who thinks this practice is a good idea.
It is particularly important to me for reasons that I discussed briefly in the
afterword to the book. As I wrote there:
"I must confess to a special connection to this cause because of a personal
experience -- not, I hasten to note, as a child soldier. I have never experienced
anything as bad as what these boys and girls undergo.
"I did, however, spend three years in a youth group that trained boys in how to be
soldiers. The group's intentions were good: To use military conventions and
structures to teach discipline, fitness, teamwork, and many other valuable lessons.
It certainly accomplished many of those goals with me.
"The year I joined, however, was 1965, and war was ramping up in Viet Nam. I
was ten years old. On my first day, an active soldier on leave showed up and acted
as our drill sergeant. That day, I saw my first -- but not my last -- necklace of
human ears and learned the ethics of collecting them. That day, I stood at attention
in the hot Florida sun while this grown man screamed at me and, when I cried,
punched me in the stomach so hard that I fell to the ground and threw up. He put
his boot on my head and ground the side of my face into my vomit.
"That was not the worst day I had in those three years. It wasn't even close.
"My worst days with that group were nothing compared to what the child soldiers
These kids did nothing wrong. Many died senselessly. Those who lived carry
within them the deep, soul-ravaging stains of violence. Trained to kill, traumatized
by war, they are the children no one wants. Rehabilitating them and reintegrating
them into normal society is difficult and expensive, but it is possible. The money
that I would make from the sales of this hardback will help. If you don't want to
buy a book, stop by the Falling Whistles site and make a donation; every little bit
truly can help.
Thanks for listening.
Resources and associated links:
Falling Whistles: www.fallingwhistles.com
This program: www.childrennomore.com
About the Author
Mark L. Van Name is a writer and technologist. As a science fiction author, he has
published three previous novels, edited or co-edited two anthologies, and written
many short stories. Those stories have appeared in a wide variety of books and
magazines, including Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, many original
anthologies, and The Year's Best Science Fiction. As a technologist, he is the CEO
of a fact-based marketing and technology assessment firm, Principled
Technologies, Inc., that is based in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.
He has worked with computer technology for his entire professional career and has
published over a thousand articles in the computer trade press, as well as a broad
assortment of essays and reviews.
For more information, visit his website, www.marklvanname.com, or follow his