Interview: Maurice Broaddus

Maurice Broaddus is a community organizer and teacher. His work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Asimov’s, and Cemetery Dance, with some of his stories collected in The Voices of Martyrs. His books include the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court, the steampunk novella, Buffalo Soldier, the steampunk novel, Pimp My Airship, and the middle grade detective novel, The Usual Suspects. As an editor, Broaddus has worked on Dark Faith, Dark Faith: Invocations, Streets of Shadows, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror, and Apex Magazine. “The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor” is his second appearance in Uncanny Magazine—a powerful story of struggle, resilience, and hope.

Uncanny Magazine: I love the scale of this story. It covers an enormous span of time—stretching backward into history and forward into the future. How did you choose which periods of time you wanted to include, and how much research did you do as you were writing the story?

Maurice Broaddus: My goal was to follow one “family” from the dawn of creation into outer space. I did an inordinate amount of research studying the major migrations of black people to and through this country. I was also playing within the “mythos” of my own stories, they seem to be building on one another—and have to flow through Indianapolis because… reasons—so I had to narrow down the migrations I looked at (thus no migration out west—though I do have several weird western stories I could have woven into this, too).

Then there was the research for each movement. The story is essentially five short stories in five different worlds. Some of them I could cheat on since, like with Mansa Dinga Cisse, they were set in worlds I have already written in. Others, like Patra Besamon, is set in a world I now want to fully write something in.

Uncanny Magazine: This story is structured as a musical suite, and music also features prominently in your BCS story “El is a Spaceship Melody.” Are you a musician? What draws you to weave music into your stories?

Maurice Broaddus: Here in Indianapolis, I am very much tied to the arts scene and music plays an important part of the community development work that I do. One of my colleagues is very into jazz, a huge Sun Ra fan, and we often get into discussions about the importance of improvisation in creative thinking and work and even had me reading The Jazz of Physics to look at its role in making scientific connections. Thus “El is a Spaceship Melody.”

I went to a performance by my friend Joshua Thompson (featuring Manon Voice). He was doing a series of performances called Black Migration. He is a classical pianist who focuses on the works of lesser known African-American composers like William Grant Still and Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges to bring them to light. I was so moved by the set I knew I had to write something. Thus “The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor.”

Since I’m not a musician, my biggest fear was that I’d be using terms that I wasn’t entirely I understood. One friend glanced at my notes and was like “C Sharp Minor? That’s an unusual choice.” And I didn’t have much of a defense other that “That sounded really cool to me.”

Uncanny Magazine: What was the easiest part of writing this story, and what was the most challenging thing?

Maurice Broaddus: The easiest part of the story was how much it wanted to come out. I wrote this and another story in the month leading up to Mo*Con (as a way of destressing from all of the planning). Nearly 20K words that just came POURING out of me. It’s one of the reason that I spend so much time around artists no matter the genre. I get supercharged by creativity.

The hardest part was meditating on the reasons for the migrations. The hardship, the persecution, the struggle. Which is why I chose to focus on the stories of resilience around those times.

Uncanny Magazine: In the fifth movement of the story, you describe a lunar colony, First World. If you were a character in your own story, would you want to go?

Maurice Broaddus: Definitely. Well, not at first (I’m not an early adopter by any stretch. I need you to smooth out the kinks of a space before I move in). But after that, and what First World continues to grow into (see “At the Village Vanguard: Ruminations on Blacktopia,” another Sun Ra-inspired piece), I would definitely want to be a part of that.

Uncanny Magazine: You recently edited an issue of Apex Magazine; in the editorial you write about Afrofuturism, and identity, and hope as an act of resistance. The final line of “The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor” holds echoes of a prelude, which is a beautiful and powerful ending. What are some of the things, literary or otherwise, that give you hope?

Maurice Broaddus: My faith gives me hope. A belief in a better tomorrow that we ought to be working toward today, gives me hope and sustains me. People give me hope. It’s easy to point to the trainwrecks around us (most of which we’ve caused). But I also see the love, the compassion, the sacrifice we make for one another.

Uncanny Magazine: What’s next for you?

Maurice Broaddus: I have two books that just came out last month: The Usual Suspects, a middle grade detective novel (imagine Encyclopedia Brown meets The Wire) and Pimp My Airship (a steamfunk novel that takes place in the same world as my novella, Buffalo Soldier. About 15 years later in fact).

I just signed a three-book deal with Tor. Focusing on the world glimpsed as First World in “The Migration Suite.” Basically, I’m not done yet. This possible world is *heavily* on my mind. Flash forward a hundred or so years from the ending of “The Migration Suite” (uniting a future that includes “At the Village Vanguard” and “El is a Spaceship Melody”) and examining what does look life look like and what the society evolves into.

Also, I’m working on a second middle grade in the same world as The Usual Suspects but featuring an entirely different cast of characters. It’s realistic fiction that looks at life in the community, except through the eyes of the smartest people on the planet (I know this because they tell me this often): middle schoolers.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

 

 

Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of the 2017 Hugo and Nebula finalist short story “Carnival Nine.” Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, and Asimov’s, among other places. Her debut short story collection, Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories, came out with Fairwood Press in 2016. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.

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