In science fiction, “near future” usually refers to settings that are a few years to a few decades off. But Craig DiLouie’s Our War—about a second U.S. civil war that starts after the president is impeached and convicted but refuses to step down—feels as if it might be only weeks away.
Born in the U.S., DiLouie now lives in Calgary, Alberta. He is the author 18 books of science fiction, fantasy, horror and thrillers.
Our War came out in August, a month before the U.S. House of Representatives launched its impeachment inquiry. When he started writing in 2017, “I was looking at the growing polarization in America and political tribalization, which is considered one of the five precursors to civil war,” DiLouie tells me on the new episode of New Books in Science Fiction. “I hope it stays in fiction.”
The story is told through the eyes of a young brother and sister who are used as soldiers by opposite sides. He set the book in Indianapolis because “it’s a quintessential American city… a very blue city in a sea of red, rural areas.”
He said he was inspired to write the book in part by a Save the Children video that depicted a civil war in the United Kingdom through the eyes of a young girl, with each second representing a day. “She starts out with a birthday party and she’s happy and then there’s a you see her swinging on a swing set then… her dad’s reading a newspaper and the headline is saying ‘martial law is declared.’ You see the the war encroach more and more until they had to flee their home. They end up in a refugee camp … and you’re like ‘Oh my God. That’s horrible because it’s someone we know. It’s someone from our culture, not some far off country.”
He says he strove to be even-handed, focusing less on politics and more on the human impact of civil war. “At any given time, there’s hundreds of thousands of [children] fighting around the world,” says DiLouie, who read reports from the U.N. as part of his research into the psychology of child solders. A child soldier’s “loyalty is not based on an ideology… They end up staying and fighting because the militia becomes their family.”
While the conflict in the book eventually ends, DiLouie makes clear that the children’s scars—physical and psychic—will last a lifetime.