Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of your urban fantasy novella, Sorcerers, from NeoText! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the premise of the book, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Maurice Broaddus: Sorcerers is the coming-of-age story of Malik Hutchens, budding hip hop artist and non-stop hustler (because that’s the nature of the game). He knows he comes from a family of serious community activists, but that’s not his calling. Then, when his grandfather is on his deathbed, he reveals that Malik is also from a line of magic wielders. His life, everything that he’s come to know as true and real, now gets called into question. Thing is, the rest of life doesn’t pause while he has to work that out.
My community work informs my writing and my writing informs my community work. Over the last few years, I have found myself knee deep in my local hip hop scene. (I’m not gonna lie: I often feel like “the old guy in the club” whenever we hang out.) But it’s always about building with them, being authentic, and collaborating with them.
BD: Given your work as Afrofuturist in Residence at the Kheprw Institute, do you find that the work itself and the experiences that it engenders provides you with greater tools in your creative writing?
MB: Being the Kheprw Institute’s Afrofuturist in Residence represents a public statement of the attitude and mindset of the organization and community, about creating desired future states in the present by constantly re-imagining the work and the way the community moves through the world. Afrofuturist-in-Residence means I am a part of the organization’s rhythm of dreaming together. As a community, we envision a desired future state that we can work toward. Most importantly, we dream together. I’ve often described myself as a professional dreamer and there’s nothing like surrounding yourself with other dreaming creatives to enhance your creativity.
BD: How would you describe the applications of Afrofuturism in Sorcerers, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the story narratively and from a philosophical perspective?
MB: The idea of Afrofuturism has seen a recent resurgence in interest since the term was first coined by social critic, Mark Dery, in his 1994 essay, “Black to the Future.” When most people think about the term, it’s because of Black Panther. But Afrofuturism is what black creatives—black people, period—have always done: imagine a better future for ourselves. Afrofuturists ponder the questions “Where are we now?” “Where do we want to be?” and “How do we get there?”
In Sorcerers, the question is “Where are we now?” The answer to that is always rooted in history, which means I get to examine areas and themes often seen in my work, issues faced in present day-to-day life in the community: gentrification, over-policing, racism, injustice and inequality, oppressive systems, identity, belonging. As the story continues, we’ll be examining Malik wrestling with the idea of “where do we want to be?”
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Sorcerers’ story will connect with readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
MB: I can never predict how my stories will connect with readers once they leave my pen, but I can tell you how the story connects with me. I’m a big proponent of the idea that artists lead the way when it comes to shaping societal change. Hip hop artists have long been the street level truth tellers of the community. From “The Message” to “F- tha Police” to (the entire catalog of) Kendrick Lamar (who I had in heavy rotation while writing Sorcerers). Hip hop is an entry into a way of life, a culture every bit vibrant and vital. It’s multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and every time you think you have a handle on it, it morphs into something new. If I can capture even a glimmer of the magic of the music and the scene, I’ve done my job.
BD: Are there any other upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
MB: The paperback version of my middle grade detective novel, The Usual Suspects, comes out this month. I’ve been seeing it listed on more and more lists of books people can use to talk to children about racism. And I am wrapping up the edits on Unfadeable, my next middle grade detective novel featuring a neighborhood tagger turned detective, as well as the first book of my science fiction trilogy (All the Stars), Sweep of Stars. Think of it as Black Panther meets The Expanse.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Sorcerers?
MB: Check out NeoText’s website for all the latest (and more about what I’m up to at mauricebroaddus.com).