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As a creative, in the first half of my career, I actually came up as a horror writer, right? And so and I realized, in retrospect, whenever I’m writing horror, I’m writing from this place of anger, this place of, almost… lament, in a lot of ways. But when I’m writing science fiction, I’m writing from a different place creatively. I’m writing from a place of dreaming and from a place of hope. I’m looking ahead and going, ‘Ooh, how could things be?’ And that’s the space I love writing from.

Sweep of Stars is essentially me dreaming alongside my neighbors, in terms of what’s the future we’d like to see. What are we working towards? And I loved writing from that place, because then it’s like, ‘We can do anything, right? The possibilities are endless.’ And, in terms of looking at the systems that we’ve come from, it’s like, ‘Whoa, wait, we don’t have to be bound by those systems. Like what if, what if, like any creative, we have a blank page in front of us, we can do anything? We can reimagine our educational system. We can reimagine our economic system, we can reimagine the priorities of our culture. And that’s the space I wrote from when it came to Sweep of Stars.

A lot of our existing science fiction is written from a very White, Euro-centric background or culture. Sweep of Stars brings in so many aspects of different African cultures and the African diaspora. Within the many cultures that includes, what were some of the cultural touchstones?

My mother’s from Jamaica, and Jamaicans always have a way of like, setting themselves apart, as if they’re above the fray and everything. Like, ‘Yes, that’s great for you all, but we’re Jamaicans.’ And so [the Maroon] are my nod to my mom, and all of that.

But, generally, it’s this whole idea of: How can I draw on all of the aspects of who we are? Like, what would it look like for all of us to come together in one alliance to form a community? And that’s not going to be perfect, because there’s still humans involved, but the goal is to say, ‘We’re gonna set cultural priorities. We’re gonna set these mores that we establish who we want to be and how we want to operate. And we’re all going to pursue that as a dream. And that’s what’s going to unite us is the aspirational aspects of who we want to be as a collective.’ And so I was very intentional about, you know, drawing on as many different cultures as possible.

It was a struggle for me, and then it is a struggle within the Muungano Kingdom, because we have been so steeped in a Euro-centric education and a Euro-centric identity that how do we think outside of that? So there’s plenty of times when I go through drafts and go, ‘Wait, no, no, no, I can’t do that. Because that’s O.E.’ That became my code … Even down to the idioms that get used, because we default to even European idioms. We default to European fairytales. And it’s just like, ‘No, I want to do none of that.’ Because it is so thoroughly ingrained, it is so much of the waters that we swim in, in the air that we breathe, that we don’t even think about it. And so, as I’m going through the various drafts, I’m very intentionally thinking about that and trying to root it out as much as possible to give a different experience.

The cover for Sweep of Stars

I couldn’t interview without asking about Star Trek, because I saw in one of your other interviews that Deep Space Nine is your favorite Trek. There’s a wormhole in Sweep of Stars, which is a very specific plot point. Do you think DS9 has informed your writing?

So, originally, it was like, ‘No, no, no. There’s no way. I love Deep Space Nine, but I’m trying to set out do my own thing.’ And so then I write the first draft of Sweep of Stars, and someone is like, ‘Oh, you really love Deep Space Nine, don’t you?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, yes. But what makes you say that?’ And they’re like, ‘Well, you have a starship captain, and their entire storyline seems to revolve around her relationship with her son.’ I’m like, ‘Huh? I did do that. Oh, and there is that wormhole.’

The thing is, Deep Space Nine so informed me as a creative coming up in the 90s when I was really, really young in my writing career, and thinking through what I even wanted to do as a writer. And there was that one episode [“Far Beyond the Stars’]. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched that episode. Just going, ‘Oh, wait, we can do this. We can we can imagine different futures.’ And, in fact, there were several times that the the beginning quote for this book was ‘I am the dreamer, and the dream.’ That almost was the beginning quote for this book. Because that episode so influenced me. So, yeah, Deep Space Nine is a huge influence on me.

I want to ask about the way you use voice in this book because it’s really interesting. And I think like playful, and you’re just using so many different tools. I think a lot of writers feel like they have to limit themselves to either, you know, first or second or third person, but you’re just using all of those to bring a diversity of perspective and character to this world. Was that always a part of the story or did that kind of develop as you were going?

It’s a bit of both. I do so many nods to some of the things that are, for me and my writing, all through everything I do. So you’ll see my love of hip hop in this book, you’ll see my love of jazz music in the book. Originally, starting to do second person was just a way of doing a nod to Nora Jemisin and The Fifth Season because that was like a clinic in writing. So I wondered what it would look like for me to try something like that.

But I didn’t want to do something like that just for the sake of doing it, and so then it became this thing where the different person voices I’m using actually informs these different characters, and their relationship to the idea of community. So you have one character who, whenever the story is told through his lens, it’s always in first person—’I’ this, ‘I’ that—and that’s because of his relationship to community. Even though he’s all about community, he can’t see community outside of the lens of himself. That’s how we draws community.

Then you have the opening chapter that’s in second person. And it’s from the point of view of a young lady who, even though she’s a part of the community she knows she’s a part of the community, part of her doesn’t quite feel accepted, and doesn’t quite feel like she belongs to the community. So, for her, it’s told in second person because that’s her relationship with community.

And then you have another person who cannot see himself as a distinct person outside of community. So it’s always ‘We.’ ‘We do this,’ ‘We do that,’ which looks pretentious as heck in some ways, but it’s not about being ‘the royal we.’ It’s: ‘I do not see myself outside of community. I see me community and community as one thing.’ And so that’s one of the reasons why the language plays out like that.

I can tell that you’re teacher. You’re really good at explaining the thought processes behind these things. How does being a middle school teacher impact you as a writer and storyteller?

One of my students said, ‘You cannot stop teaching people, can you?’ And I, first I was kind of taken aback by that, because they were just like, ‘A Maurice Broaddus story means you’re gonna be taught something.’ And, and I do kind of love that. And so it’s one of the things I did kind of lean into. And so, like someone pointed out, every name in the book means something. So, you know, the name of the the military unit, for example, they are the H.O.V.A. Hellfighters, right? Okay, well, H.O.V.A. is just me and my love for hip hop again—so that’s a Jay Z reference. But the Hellfighters were named after the Harlem Hellfighters, which were an all-Black military unit [in World War I]. And so it’s that thing where I wanted to let history inform as much of even the naming conventions. So I’ve tried to weave as much history into a lot of my work as possible to make sure it’s just steeped in that sort of thing.

Source: Den of Geek

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