Interview: Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus is a community organizer and teacher whose work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Apex Magazine, Asimov’s, Cemetery Dance, Black Static, and many more. Some of his stories have been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. He is the author of the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, Orgy of Souls, Bleed with Me, and Devil’s Marionette. He is the co-editor of Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, and People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror. His gaming work includes writing for the Marvel Super Heroes, Leverage, and Firefly role-playing games, as well as working as a consultant on Watch Dogs 2. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.

Uncanny Magazine: You’re a community organizer and you’ve lived most of your life in Indianapolis. “Ache of Home” touches on both of those things. How much of your personal experience comes through in the story?

Maurice Broaddus: This is my everyday. I was sitting out doing a writing exercise near my neighborhood, watching a construction crew put in a dog and skate park. I know, like the folks in the neighborhood knew, that they’d been marked for “revitalization” so it’d only be a matter of time before they’d be pushed out.

I work with a group called The Learning Tree, an organized group of neighbors. I thought about my friend Scooter, this massive dude who many would be quick to dismiss as a “thug.” Those folks miss his story of being a devoted dad, a caretaker of the neighborhood, with the soul of a poet. I think about my friend Taisha and all of the gardeners in the neighborhood, working together to fight against this massive food access situation.

Uncanny Magazine: The concept of a food desert and Mr. Limos’s role in gentrification is an interesting contrast that I don’t think many people would naturally think to examine. What led you there, and do you feel that generally things like the four horsemen of the apocalypse are oversimplified in popular understanding?

Maurice Broaddus: There has always been a food access problem in this community. It was just announced that all of the Marsh grocery stores in our city were closing. This makes a bad situation worse when you consider marginalized communities.

We oversimplify most things for popular understanding. You tease apart a concept like gentrification and you confront a many-faceted beast. How a city’s resources are directed. Where businesses choose to operate. Inadequate public transportation. The effects of an energy crisis and a mortgage crisis, leading to an epidemic of abandoned houses. A home ownership crisis. A lack of a financial base. A defunded school system.

So the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—Famine, War, Pestilence, and Death—aren’t hyper-objects on a worldwide level. I see them in the everyday, in the immediate, at the grassroots level.

Uncanny Magazine: There are a lot of signs of different axes of oppression in this story. For instance, Celeste uses earbuds to shut out unwanted attention, which is inevitable for a woman walking on the street, but that’s just one aspect of how her life is more difficult because of institutionalized oppression. Did you consciously write these things into the story, or did they arise organically as you wrote about these particular characters?

Maurice Broaddus: It was both really. I wanted to examine different aspects of gentrification. I’m mindful that at the end of every government policy there is a person. I wanted to examine how those policies, some well-meaning others less so, impact people. Once I started writing, I began to notice a theme of how oppressive systems work on a multitude of levels.

Uncanny Magazine: This story focuses on a community facing a lot of struggle, but it ends on a hopeful note. What hope do you see for the future in your own community and in the world at large?

Maurice Broaddus: I write about the community, the shared history and shared struggle of a people. I’m writing “hood stories” in the sense that these are stories that take place in the same neighborhood. I’m writing about people missed (read: ignored) by the dominant narrative of our community. But in the word of the Zulu greeting, “Sawubona,” which means “I see you.”

Those people are the hope. They are the organizers and the doers. You can’t see all the people rallying together, in the truest spirit of the Swahili word “harambe,” looking out for one another and doing the work of community and not have hope.

Uncanny Magazine: You have a reputation for writing and editing dark fiction, but you’ve also got a whimsical streak. How do you balance these things? Are they in some way two sides of the same coin?

Maurice Broaddus: I had a friend who told me that he had trouble reconciling the goofy guy he knew with the writer who put together the stories that fill my collection, The Voices of Martyrs. All I could think was that maybe he should get to know me better because both sides are me.

My family handles hard times with jokes and we’ve had to be very, very funny at times. But as we look at the world around us, the trauma we’ve had to deal with throughout history, we can’t change things without meeting that pain head on.

Sometimes it’s hard to balance in my stories. My early drafts are a mess while I try to figure out the proper tone for a story.

Uncanny Magazine: Finally, what can we look forward to next?

Maurice Broaddus: Out right now is my collection, The Voices of Martyrs (Rosarium Publishing), and my steampunk novella, Buffalo Soldier (Tor.com). Editing-wise, most recently was my guest stint at Apex Magazine (Issue 95), featuring fiction by Walter Mosley, Sheree Renee Thomas, Chesya Burke, and Kentra Fortmeyer.

Coming soon are a half dozen short stories appearing in the Mixed Up, Straight Outta Tombstone, Monster Hunter Files, and Mechanical Animals anthologies, among others.

And be looking for a major announcement soon. I got some surprises coming for you.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you, Maurice! The Space Unicorn community is lucky to have you as a member!

Julia Rios

Julia Rios is the reprint fiction/poetry editor and an interviewer for Uncanny Magazine. She is a writer, editor, podcaster, and narrator. Her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in several places, including Daily Science Fiction, Apex Magazine, and Goblin Fruit. She was a fiction editor for Strange Horizons from 2012 to 2015, and is co-editor with Alisa Krasnostein of Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, and the Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction series. She is also a co-host of the Hugo-nominated podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, and has narrated stories for Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders, and poems for the Strange Horizons podcast. To find out more, visit juliarios.com.

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