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Oh, To Be the Black Geek: Q&A with Maurice Broaddus

June 30, 2010

This week’s special guest is horror/fantasy novelist Maurice Broaddus, author of King Maker, a modern version of King Arthur with a distinctive  inner-city feel. He can currently be read on his blog spot Mauricebroaddus.com or you can catch his thoughts (along with Anne Rice and other Christian fiction writers) in Out of the Darkness and Into the Light, available for Kindle on Amazon.com.

I came across Maurice’s name last year when I was trying to see how many African-American horror and science fictions there were. I already had books from Octavia Butler, Samuel Delaney and George Schuyler. But, I quickly delved into the newly discovered authors.

I contacted Maurice for an interview and he politely took time out from his busy schedule as writer, blogger and movie reviewer to answer a few questions.

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Maurice Broaddus

Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, L.A. Banks. Though the numbers of black horror and science fiction writers is growing, they still remain painfully low. Why do you think there have been so few science fiction and horror writers of color?

The numbers are painfully low, but we’re making progress all the time.  I have to wonder how much of this is a social/spiritual pressure and how much of this is a matter of embracing our “geek culture”.  The only group of people I dread explaining that I’m a horror writer to more than church folk is my family.  There is the automatic stigma of writing “that demon stuff” or being in league with the occult.  And that’s assuming we get past the discussion that horror isn’t just blood and guts for their own sake.

But, oh, to be the black geek in a group.  To revel in the latest iteration of “Star Trek,” to proudly announce that my d10 goes up to 11 (and to be able to get that joke), to roll around naked on the latest issues of my comic book collection, these were not things that were nourished or even “safe” to do growing up.  Okay, it’s never all right to roll around naked on your comics.

But we also have a proud tradition as story tellers.  From the griots of  ancient  Africa to the modern day hip hop artists.  And embracing genre fiction is but the latest step.

Ah, yes, I am familiar with the “griot.” The Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators’ annual awards are called the Griots.

And speaking of awards and honors, your work (such as “A House Is Not A Home” and Devil’s Marionette) has been praised by the likes of Vince Laguno and Bram Stoker & International Horror Guild Award winner Gary Braunbeck. Hopefully, this hasn’t given you a big head. Has it?

Child, please.  The laws of physics haven’t been written yet that can measure how big my head is.  Anyway, as a writer, I’m a black hole of neediness and insecurity, so every bit of praise is taken in and never let out.

Regarding your latest book King Maker, what made you want to bring King Arthur into a modern urban setting? And why Indianapolis?

I live in Indianapolis.  I’ve also spent many years doing volunteer work with the homeless population, so I end up being a part of a different side of Indianapolis than many people see.  The idea started as a joke between me and a few of the kids I was working with and I wrote the book as a lark.  It grew into something a lot more.

You list yourself as a traditionalist when it comes to horror writing. Why is that?

Traditionalists tend to be more character driven, letting the horror arise from or intrude on the mundane. They are often more atmospheric, and explore the eerie or weird with a moral code. Oh yeah, traditionalists lean towards being good vs. evil moralists.  Most times when I wake up, that’s the side of the bed I roll out from.

Angry Robot Books mentioned that your family had ties to “obeah,” which is akin to Jamaican Voodoo. Whenever I think of voodoo, I think of Zombies. What do you think of what they call zombies today as opposed to traditional zombies?

Well, I managed to include some zombies in King Maker, but they aren’t the voodoo brand of zombies.  They are somewhere between the shuffling and “fast” zombies.  I’m fine with zombies either way.  I think the power of zombies lies within their ability to be a metaphor for something else anyway (in the case of King Maker, the life of a drug addict).

You work as an environmental toxicologist. Has your work ever creeped into your stories?

I worked as an environmental toxicologist for twenty years.  I’ve been professionally writing for ten.  Not one story ever touched upon my work.

On second thought, that’s probably a good thing. So, who are some of the authors who inspired you to write horror, fantasy and science fiction?

Oh, let’s see.  (Edgar Allan) Poe was an early inspiration.  Then (Stephen) King

Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

and (Clive) Barker.  And then (Neil) Gaiman.  So, you know, the usual suspects.  These days I’m moved by Catherynne M. Valente, Octavia Butler, Walter Mosley, and George Pelecanos (I know, he’s a crime writer).

You’re also a movie critic. I’ve read your reviews on Blade: Trinity, I Am Legend and Elektra. What got you started as a reviewer?

My church had invited David Bruce, founder of the site HollywoodJesus.com out to talk about Christianity and pop culture.  Afterwards, we ended up hanging out and we got onto the topic of television.  I ranted about various shows and he pretty much drafted me on the spot.  I still write television, comic book, book, and movie reviews for the site.  Mostly though, the reviews serve 1) as my justification for how much time I spend in front of the television and 2) to allow me to write books, comics, and DVDs off my taxes.

If you had to recommend a book that could be made into a TV show to replace Lost or Heroes, which one(s) would it be?

If we’re going to go fantasy, let’s go high fantasy and go with N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. That would be cool. 

I was going to say The Morgaine Chronicles by C.J. Cherryh, but I’ll definitely have to check out Jemisin now.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I definitely want to thank Maurice again for agreeing to this interview. You can catch some of his stories such as the eerily creepy “Hootchie Cootchie Man,” “A House Is Not A Home,“Closer Than They Appear” and “Family Business” (Weird Tales #338), at Mauricebroaddus.com.

King Maker is available at Angry Robot Books. Orgy of Souls and Dark Faith are available from Apex Books, while Devil’s Marionette can be found at Shroud Books.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Robert C. Nelson permalink
    June 30, 2010 5:21 am

    I’m off to check out Maurice’s works. Being published by Apex Books is an honor in itself. When everything else is factored in; WHAMMO! I wish this talented writer only the best.

  2. June 30, 2010 8:46 am

    Excellent interview! Thanks so much for joining us today, Maurice. King Maker sounds like an interesting twist on the Arthurian legend and I’ll be adding it my TBR pile.

    I don’t know much about horror beyond Stephen King – and at a young age I realized there were crazies in the world like I read about in books and I had a hard time reading horror after that. Imagine my surprise when Greg read my MS and told me it contained elements of horror as well.

    Turns out there’s a lot about the genre I still need to learn. So many books cross genres these days it’s easy to have one encompass three or four.

    Wishing you the very best in your writing, Maurice!

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