PINNED! What I do


Become a Patron!
I do two things: write and work for the improvement of my community. On the writing front, here are reviews from some of my latest projects:

A starred review from Kirkus Reviews for my middle grade novel, The Usual Suspects.

A starred review in Publishers Weekly for my short story collection, The Voices of Martyrs

-A write up in the New York Times of my novella, Buffalo Soldier

I do a lot of community development work. My passions have always included social justice, economic equity, and racial reconciliation, which is why I work at The Oaks Academy Middle School and do work for  community organizations like the Kheprw Institute. Most of my work centers around the 46208 zip code (one of the “worst” zip codes in the country). We specialize in Asset Based Community Development, finding the gifts and talents within the community and networking them to improve the quality of the community.

I launched a Patreon because some friends wanted a way to help support the work that I do in the community. If you would like to support it (and receive updates on the work that’s being done) please feel free to join. Thank you so much!
Become a Patron!

 

The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor up on Uncanny Magazine

My story “The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor” is up on the Uncanny Magazine site. But I wanted to talk about my inspiration for the story.

Pianist extraordinaire, Joshua A. Thompson, was doing his part of his “Black Migrations, Urban Realities” series down at Indiana Artsgarden and I wanted to check him out. He was performing with Manon Voice (it was actually my first time meeting the two of them face-to-face). By the time he got to the piece ‘Melancholia’ (composed in 1953 by Duke Ellington), with Manon Voice reciting the original composition “We Are Here,” I was through. I didn’t even realize that my pen had been jotting down ideas.

I’m constantly pushed by the artists in my city, no matter their craft, as they live their art out loud. This is a story inspired by community. (Special shout out to William Rasdell who let me pester him with questions about his work with the migration of the Diaspora.)

Anyway, here is the link to the story.

Also, the wonderful Caroline M. Yoachim did an interview with me about the story. You can read it here.

And the story was picked as one of the Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: July 2019:

The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor by Maurice Broaddus

“I believe all our journeys are to be celebrated, mourned, and remembered.” If you aren’t already familiar with the great Maurice Broaddus, let this story be your introduction. Broken into five stanzas, this science fiction-tinged tale tells of the movement, both willing and unwilling, of Africans and their descendants. We see glimpses of their lives from the first people to slave traders to runaway slaves to those who moved from the South to the North to those who left Earth entirely. Broaddus writes worlds that feel eerily similar to ours and uses them to expose the harsh truths we don’t want to see. “The Migration Suite: A Study in C Sharp Minor” is a distillation of the best of Broaddus.

Uncanny Magazine – July 2019, Issue 29

There was also a review over on the Quick Sips Review site. It reads…

This series continues to be one that explores the importance of having spaces that don’t cater to whiteness. That don’t attempt to negotiate or co-exist with whiteness. That don’t necessarily even aim to struggle against racism in order to build a better, unified world. Because in part the truth behind that particular utopian bend is that the work is expected to be done by the oppressed. They are supposed to convince the powerful that there is value in diversity and equality. Further, it’s not supposed to be instantaneous, and in the mean time victims of racism are supposed to understand that the system can’t change quickly. That they must be patient. And it’s refreshing to see the alternative to that, where a group of people decide they are going to split away and form a place that has a new system. That can change instantly. That doesn’t need to bring with it the racist infrastructure so long as it brings with the memories of what happened, the spirit of the people who have survived, and who still want to be free. The piece skips forward in time, spending long enough with each new character to give a feel for the worlds they are in, that they are leaving, that they are going to. And while it doesn’t give too much of an arc for each character, it gives a generational arc that carries through, from very early times to the future. And it further contextualizes the setting of the series as a whole, showing the events and the inspirations that led to the settling of First World (a lunar colony) by black settlers. It’s deep and complex, building up and up until it can reach the moon itself. A wonderful read!

It’s also a story with homework assignments, if you want to know the soundtrack that I was writing by:

7 Traceries: No. 4. Out of the Silence

 

William Grant Still (A Deserted Plantation: Spiritual)

 

Valse Suite, Op. 71, “Three-fours”: II. Andante

 

Adagio in F Minor by Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges

 

Duke Ellington: Single Petal of a Rose

 

In the Bottoms – Suite: Prelude: Night

 

In the Bottoms – Suite: Honey: Humoresque

 

In the Bottoms: II. His Song

 

Africa (arr. for piano) : Africa: II. Land of Romance (arr. for piano)

Meet The Afrofuturist Sci-Fi Writer Changing Indianapolis

Well, Indianapolis Monthly did an entire profile (written by Lou Harry) on me in their latest issue. I am…overwhelmed, to say the least. It begins:

This spring, local science-fiction author Maurice Broaddus signed the biggest contract of his life, a six-figure offer to write an Afrofuturist space trilogy. But even as he begins the intricate task of creating other worlds, Broaddus seems most dedicated to saving this one.

[Read the whole article here]

ALL MY MAY OFFERINGS! (It’s a busy season)

Here’s all I have going on this month (and my blog links where to find more information about them):

APEX MAGAZINE ISSUE 120

EDITORIAL
Our Audacity by Maurice Broaddus, guest editor
Words from the Editor-in-Chief by Jason Sizemore

FICTION
Dune Song by Suyi Davies Okungbawa
Fugue State by Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due
N-Coin by Tobias S. Buckell
Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good by LaShawn M. Wanak
When We Dream We Are Our Own God by Wole Talabi
Pimp My Airship (novel excerpt) by Maurice Broaddus

NONFICTION
Let’s Talk About Afrofuturism by Troy L. Wiggins

INTERVIEWS
Interview with Author Steven Barnes by Andrea Johnson
Interview with Cover Artist Godwin Akpan by Russell Dickerson

*The Quick Sips review of the issue

THE USUAL SUSPECTS 

When a gun is found near their school, seventh-grade pranksters Thelonius Mitchell and his best friend, Nehemiah Caldwell, must work together to solve the mystery before being blamed for something they didn’t do.

*Kirkus review

*Kirkus profile on me

*John Scalzi’s The Big Idea

*Barnes & Noble’s Edge-of-Your-Seat Thrillers for Young Crimesolvers

PIMP MY AIRSHIP

All the poet called Sleepy wants to do is spit his verses, smoke chiba, and stay off the COP’s radar—all of which becomes impossible once he encounters a professional protestor known as (120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah. They soon find themselves on the wrong side of local authorities and have to elude the powers that be.

When young heiress Sophine Jefferson’s father is murdered, the careful life she’d been constructing for herself tumbles around her. She’s quickly drawn into a web of intrigue, politics and airships, joining with Sleepy and Knowledge Allah in a fight for their freedom. Chased from one end of a retro-fitted Indianapolis to the other, they encounter outlaws, the occasional circus, possibly a medium, and more outlaws. They find themselves in a battle much larger than they imagined: a battle for control of the country and the soul of their people.

*Barnes & Noble This Week’s New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Books

*Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit

*My guest post on the worldbuilding behind Pimp My Airship

ALTERNIS

Tandy Kahananui is at her best when she’s fighting monsters and exploring dungeons — in Alternis, the video game that she’s making. Then she discovers that somehow, someone’s stolen her game. But it’s not pirates trying to make a buck. Alternis is the seed for an ambitious top-secret project to keep the world from plunging into war. And Team USA wants her on board. It’s not just a game anymore. The fate of the world is in her hands. Can she help Team USA hold its own? Can she even survive?

*Summer Glau talks about narrating the first season of Serial Box’s science fiction story Alternis

 

Do Not Go Quietly

This anthology of stories of resistance has the story “What the Mountain Wants” co-written by me and Nayad Monroe.

MO*CON 2019 (a re-cap in pictures)

The Pimp My Airship Universe Stories Round Up

In a world where America lost the Revolutionary War, the world of “Pimp My Airship” was born. Though the short story came first, subsequent stories have fleshed out the world. You don’t need to have read the stories before reading Pimp My Airship: The Novel, but there are Easter eggs in it for those of you who have. For you completists, here are the stories in their chronological (not publication) order (including a few which aren’t out, but were in my head so you can see where I was going):

“The Problem of Trystan” – Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance (DAW, 2011)
Reprinted in Mammoth Book of Gaslit Romance (2014)
-A tale of an early adventure of Sophine Jefferson/Deaconess Blues’ parents

“Steppin’ Razor” – Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (February 2014)
Reprinted in Lightspeed Magazine (Issue 87 – August 2017)
– Espionage agent, Desmond Coke, gets caught up in the Jamaican government’s intrigue and conspiracy over the fate of a young boy named Lij Tafari.

Buffalo Soldier – Tor.com (2017)
– Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari. Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.

(sequel to Buffalo Soldier – unwritten)
-The world of Steppin’ Razor collides with Buffalo Soldier as Lij Tafari comes into his own as the figure known as the Star Child.

(Babylon Systems – unpublished novelette)
-Now imprisoned, the Star Child faces down the government’s system of oppression and population control from the inside.

All Gods Chillun Got Wings – Steampunk Universe (Alliteration Ink, 2016)
-A tale of an early adventure of Sophine Jefferson (Deaconess Blues) and Carlton Drayton ((120 Degrees of) Knowledge Allah)

“I Used to Love H.E.R.” – HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! & Other Improbable Crowdfunding Projects (John Joseph Adams, 2014)
-The Oxford incident that gets Sophine Jefferson expelled from Oxford University.

“(120 Degrees of) Know the Ledge” – Not of Our Kind (Alliteration Ink, 2014)
-In trying to figure out who he is, Carlton Drayton returns to his home only to find that the organization he belonged to is corrupt. In leaving it behind, he must grow into something else.

(Axioms of Creamy Spies – unpublished short story)
-The head butler, Ishmael Washington, oversees Lord Leighton Melbourne’s household and has a secret. Luckily, no one ever notices the help.

“Pimp My Airship” – Apex Magazine (2009)
Reprinted in I Can Transform You (Apex Books)

Pimp My Airship – A Naptown by Airship Novel – Apex Books (2019)

[PATREON] MAY ROUND UP

[My Patreon is basically designed to give me flexibility in doing work in the community. I had people who learned what all I was doing in the city and wanted to be able to support me and I wanted to stay off budget for the organizations I work with. So, my patrons support my work and being able to give back to the community. For that, I thank you all so much.]

I am still in recovery mode from a very successful Mo*Con and am settling in for a summer and fall of travel and writing (since I have two books due this year). There will hopefully be more exciting news before too long.

 

At the Awesome Pics level:

-How to annoy Ferb in Four Simple Steps (spoiler: it’s one step)

At the Awesome Blog Post level:

-On Setting Writing Goals

At the Awesome Pimpin’ level: Wrath, chapter 9, an unseen project by me and Wrath James White. And Serpent, chapter 6, an unseen project by me and Jason Sizemore. [Yes, I will eventually be running some sneak preview chapters from my upcoming space opera trilogy]

At the Awesome Community level:

Updates on my work with:

-Afrofuture Friday

-The Build

– Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship Exhibition

-my visit to a class at the University of Indianapolis

-Mo*Con – including the behind the scenes details on what your Patreon support was able to accomplish

At the Awesome Books level:

Signed copies of both Pimp My Airship and The Usual Suspects have been mailed out.

And more! Look at what y’all got me out here doing!

As always, thank you for your support!

Become a Patron!

Mo*Con 2019: R/evolution (UPDATED: with pics, video, and audio)

DAY O – CAFE CREATIVE

Here is the livestream of the Cafe Creative panel at the Center for Black Literature and Culture.

Here is some footage from the Cafe Creative prelaunch reception

If you left the Café Creative soft launch early, you missed the dance party that broke out…

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2016543051789788

DAY 1 – FRIDAY
DAY 2 – SATURDAY

Here’s the Afrofuturism as Community Development livestream

And the “Wine with (t0) Jen” Interview as a podcast from Just Keep Writing
DAY 3 – SUNDAY

Pics by Wildstyle, Stacia Moon, LaShawn Wanak, Clarence Young, Sally Broaddus

Now that I’ve had a chance to rest and recover, allow me to say this: this year’s Mo*Con was magic. So, this is my big thank you post:

Make no mistake, it’s the people that made Mo*Con so magical. It’s been my privilege to watch it grow (at the speed of relationships) and this was our largest (and smoothest running!) Mo*Con. Thank you all for coming, being a part of things, and making it so special.

One of the things I’ve learned working with The Learning Tree and the KheprwInstitute is to appreciate and celebrate the gifts and talents in our community. Be they artists like Sylvia Ess McKee or Mechi Shakur, poets like Januarie York (who Held. It. Down. Friday night), photographers like Wildstyle Paschall(no one, and I mean NO ONE—accept no imitators—covers the scene like him), or pastors like Mike Mather who do so much in the community.

We DO NOT play around when it come to food and drinks at Mo*Con. Here are some of the (not so hidden) treasures in our community. Ro Townsend and Earl E. Townsend of GRoE, Inc.Chef Oya’s The TRAPJamaican Breeze Sports Bar & Grill (Ja’Net was the real MVP of Mo*Con), We Run This Foods, and Sip & Share Winery.

I cannot say enough about the amazing magic brought by my guests of honor. Sheree Renée ThomasTroy L WigginsBill CampbellDiana M PhoJen Udden. Just … wow. #amazing

Mo*Con returned last year and continues with the help and support of some amazing community partners: the Kheprw Institute (including the support of The Build, Afrofuture Friday, and Café Creative), Spirit & Place, and the Center for Black Literature and Culture.

Which brings me to the Mo*Con planning committee. Our safety officers, JJ Walker (to whom Pimp My Airship is dedicated) and Nick BrightStacia Moon(is there anything she can’t do?). Sibeko JywanzaJerry GordonRodney Carlstrom.

And Sally Broaddus. For supporting and hosting this madness. I couldn’t do it without you.

It takes a village and I love my tribe.

 

The Final Apex Magazine Issue (Guest-Edited by Moi!)

First time I guest edit Apex Magazine:
Jason Sizemore: You get 10K of content to edit.
Me: Great! *turns in 20K*

Second time:
@apexjason: You get 20K of content.
Me: Great! *turns in 40K*

Me: I have an idea for a third issue
@apexjason: Great! *ends Apex run*

The last issue of Apex Magazine is out now. I can’t tell you how proud and impressed I’ve been with Jason Sizemore’s epic run. I’ve been part of the Apex Magazine family almost from the beginning. It was ten years ago when he bought “Pimp My Airship” for the magazine and have come full circle with the novelization also coming out this month. I’ve been their reprint and non-fiction editor for the last couple years.

This is my second time guest-editing an issue of Apex Magazine. Issue 120 features fiction by Steven Barnes and Tananarive DueSuyi Davies OkungbowaWole TalabiTobias BuckellLaShawn M. Wanak, and an essay by Troy L Wiggins.

If the magazine is going to go out (for now) this is a good note to go out on … if I do say so myself.

CALLING ALL (INDY) ARTISTS: Cafe Creative (a pre-Mo*Con event)

Cafe Creative Flyer_B (2)

The Kheprw Institute is launching a new initiative, Café Creative. As a pre-Mo*Con event, we’ll be talking to a panel of writers about the work they’ve been doing around the country in their communities:

Sheree Renee Thomas (Editor of  Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative from the African Diaspora, author of Sleeping Under the Tree of Life, founder of the Black Speculative Arts Movement Memphis), Troy Wiggins (Author as well as co-editor of Fiyah Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction), Bill Campbell (Author of Sunshine Patriots and founder of Rosarium Publishing), and Rev. Mike Mather (Author of Having Nothing, Possessing Everything: Finding Abundant Communities in Unexpected Places and Pastor of Broadway United Methodist Church).

That conversation would be awesome enough, but it will also be followed by a networking time for artists and those interested in the work. So, join us for conversation as we come together to dream about possibilities.

Conversation

Date: May 2, 2019

Time: 6:00pm

Location: Central Library, 40 East Saint Clair Street, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Reception

Date: May 2, 2019

Time: 8:00pm

Location: Kheprw Institute, 3549 Boulevard Place, Indianapolis, IN 46204

Patreon March-April Round Up

[My Patreon is basically designed to give me flexibility in doing work in the community. I had people who learned what all I was doing in the city and wanted to be able to support me and I wanted to stay off budget for the organizations I work with. So, my patrons support my work and being able to give back to the community. For that, I thank you all so much.]

Historically, this is my least productive time of the year. That was one of the reasons I originally retired Mo*Con, since the months leading up to it were so stressful with all the running around I had to do that I didn’t get much writing done. However, with a different job situation and community partners coming alongside me, it’s opened up a bit of a window for me. That said, the reason this is late is because I didn’t know how the timing of certain news being announced would time out. I was trying to wait as long as possible and … well, here’s where I am. So here’s a two month round up!

At the Awesome Pics level:

-The many faces of Ferb (okay, the two faces of Ferb: “it’s all about me” and “I want what you have”)

-Ferb attempting to be the laziest cat to rule our household

At the Awesome Blog Post level:

-On Being Bi-Polar and a Writer

-The inside scoop on my new book deal

BTW, if you want to check out parts of my Afrofuturist universe, here are a couple free stories:

El is a Spaceship Melody

At the Village Vanguard

At the Awesome Pimpin’ level: Wrath, chapter 7 & 8, an unseen project by me and Wrath James White. And Serpent, chapter 4 & 5, an unseen project by me and Jason Sizemore. [Yes, I will eventually be running some sneak preview chapters from my upcoming space opera trilogy]

At the Awesome Community level:

Updates on:

-A burgeoning black arts movement in the city

-The Build (recently featured in Nuvo)

-My mentoring project

And more! Look at what y’all got me out here doing!

As always, thank you for your support!

Become a Patron!

Star Trek’s Lieutenant Commander Worf and his Journey of Ontological Blackness Klingon-ness

by Maurice Broaddus

Reprinted from People of Color take over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination (2017)

Identity politics has reared its head in a variety of ways in the last few years, fomenting this idea of “us” vs. “them”. Designed not only to shape and define a people, but also to demand a certain kind of conformity from them, such identity politics force its members to swear allegiance to a side. Implicitly tied to identity politics is the yoke of community. A necessary and wanted yoke, but a yoke nonetheless, one that revolves around a sense of shared culture. This culture encompasses a system of shared practices that constitute a society; interconnected spheres of activity — this web of social interactions — including economics, politics, morals, religion, art, language, history, creative expression, and worldview. In short, culture, in its truest form, is our sense of identity, who we are. To be stripped of it results in a kind of trauma.

The idea of struggling with (self-) identity is a universal one. There is an anecdotal phenomenon described as the “Negro-to-Black Conversion Experience” (sometimes called Nigrescence) developed in the work of Dr. William E. Cross, Jr., author of Shades of Black, one of the most frequently referenced texts on Black identity. Admittedly it’s difficult to have discussions about race (doubly so if you’re prone to using words like Nigrescence or ontological blackness). However, such discussions are relatively safe when viewed through the prism of science fiction. The stages of Nigrescence can be applied metaphorically to the journey of self-exploration undergone by Lieutenant Commander Worf.

Worf appears in more Star Trek episodes than any other character, first on The Next Generation, then on Deep Space Nine. In the episodes which center on him, especially in TNG, he journeys towards what could be called ontological Klingon-ness (or Klingescence) which mirrors any search for racial/cultural identity. A case could be made for Worf being a “tragic Mulatto” type, trapped between cultures, often kept in his place by Star Fleet, if not outright neutered. Half the time he comes across as a mascot for the Federation. The journey of Klingescence follows several steps.

Pre-Encounter

“As I watched Worf, it was like looking at a man I had never known.” —Captain Picard (TNG: “Heart of Glory”)

Born Worf, Son of Mogh, Worf lost his parents when they became casualties of the Romulan attack on the Khitomer outpost before he had reached age of inclusion (when a Klingon is formally accepted by his people). Adopted by a human couple, Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, he was raised as one of them, learning their ways, and eventually joined the Starfleet Academy. He spent hardly any time among his own kind, and the distance between him and his people grew to a point where he no longer understood them, or even felt connected to them. To fit in with the culture of Star Fleet, he was asked to change the one thing about himself he couldn’t change: his Klingon nature. Too Klingon for humans, too human for Klingons, he was often shunned by both sides. Converted into aKlingon in Name Only, Worf perfectly assimilated into the Federation, who didn’t see his race except when they could count him as a Klingon statistic. Even Captain Picard exhibited a degree of tone deaf cultural superiority when he remarked that “I think it is best to remain ignorant of certain elements of the Klingon psyche” (TNG: “Where Silence Has Lease”). Worf existed in essentially a state of nonbeing, a perpetual outsider.

 “Worf is feeling culturally and socially isolated.” —Wesley (TNG: “Icarus Factor”)

Typically in this stage of their journey, individuals downplay the importance of race in their lives and focus more on their membership in other groups. Worf’s engagement with his culture moves from a place of safety. There were a few clear examples of how this could played out in people’s lives:

  1. Cut off from going to school with his people, cut off from working with his people, cut off from engaging with his people on any level, all Worf is left with are his desperate attempts to bond where he can. For example, he made Jeremy Astor his brother through the R’uustai ceremony (TNG: “The Bonding”). What this points to was that Worf wants a connection to his people and is trying out their culture and rituals on his terms, even though he isn’t ready to engage actual Klingons.

 

  1. Not ready to engage what some might call “authentic Klingons,” in the Star Trek: The Next Generationepisode “The Emissary,” Worf rekindles a relationship with Federation Ambassador K’Ehleyr, a mixed heritage (half-Klingon/half-human) woman. He feels an obvious connection with someone who is similarly trapped between, or outside, two cultures. Unlike Worf, who initially appears culturally adrift, she had long sunk into a spiral of self-hate. During an encounter with her “kindred spirit,” the half human/half Betazoid Deanna Troi, the two have diametrically opposed views of themselves. While they each have experienced the richness and diversity of two worlds, Deanna saw herself as getting the best of each, while K’Ehleyr saw herself as receiving the worst of each. Her Klingon side terrified her.

 

  1. Part of K’Ehleyr’s self-hate gets passed along to her and Worf’s son, Alexander Rozhenko. After K’Ehleyr’s death, Worf takes custody of Alexander and sends him to live with Worf’s own foster parents (TNG:“Reunion”) beginning a cycle of abandonment and estrangement as each grapples with their own evolving concepts of what it means to be Klingon.

The recurring problem they both face is the constant attempt at the negation of their cultural identity: their Klingon-ness is part of who they are. To reject, dismiss, ignore it is to do the same to part of themselves.

Encounter 

“Listen to the voice of your blood. You are not of these people.” —Konmel (TNG: “Heart of Glory”)

The second stage in this journey of Klingescence is when an individual encounters an experience that causes them to challenge their current feelings about themselves and their interpretation of the condition of themselves and their people against/within the mainstream of society. The Encounter experience is one that is so foreign to individuals’ previous worldviews regarding their cultural identity that it forces them to rethink their attitudes about their culture. The inherent danger of this is that few things can potentially shatter a person like having their worldview collapse.

Probably the most important encounter for Lt. Worf came during the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. In the episode “Heart of Glory,” he encounters some injured Klingons aboard a freighter in the Neutral Zone on a mission to seek glorious battles. One of them, Korris, asks Worf to explain his reason for joining Star Fleet. Worf describes how after the Romulans attacked the Khitomer outpost he was left for dead in the rubble until a Star Fleet officer found him and took him to Gault to raise him as a son. Taking in his trimmed hair and “civilized” look, the Klingons realize Worf hasn’t spent much time among his own kind. Worf doesn’t know his culture, his rituals, and doesn’t know what it means to be a true Klingon. The words “Have they tamed you?” cut like a bat’leth through his soul. Though this won’t be the last time he hears from the “More Klingon than Thou” crowd, they prod him onto a path of self-exploration.

Their words fire his soul. Now he has a taste of his own people, a place he’s meant to belong. And thus he goes on a pursuit of ontological Klingon-ness. Worf’s journey of his allegorical blackness sets the stage for most of the Star Trek: The Next Generation storylines which focus on him.

Immersion-Emersion

“I have studied and know everything about my heritage.” —Worf (TNG: “A Matter of Honor”)

In this stage, individuals immerse themselves in all aspects of their culture. Diving into Klingon-ness, especially now that he’s liberated from his Star Fleet ideals, hasn’t necessarily made Worf committed to his Klingon identity. Worf has had an intellectual understanding of his people, though his was a perspective of the outsider even among his own.

At this point, however, he embraces all things Klingon. He romantically engages with only Klingon women (K’Ehleryr). He exclusively studies Klingon culture, history, rituals, religion, poetry, and songs: all the things he was stripped of or kept from. As a part of his Star Fleet training, he was indeed stripped of his religion, his culture, and his identity. Though benign and unintentional, his Star Fleet enculturation left him with only his zealousness to his duties as his avenue to prove himself. However, there was still a loss of self, culturally.

(Both Commander Riker and Captain Picard choose to explore his culture, often alongside him, in order to understand and know him better. An essential step in navigating cross-cultural relationships.)

Such over-compensating Klingon-ness still doesn’t nullify his internal insecurity. He lives either for positive judgments such as pronouncements on him acting “as a true Klingon” (TNG: “Mind’s Eye”) or in fear of the negative assessments such as having his name not being mentioned on his home world due to the dishonor of his Discommendation (a Klingon ceremony where an individual and their family are shunned, stripped of honor, and severely reduced in social status, left with few rights within Klingon society). “It is as though you never existed. Terrible burden for a warrior to bear. To be nothing. To be without honor. Without the chance for glory.” (TNG: “The Drumhead”).

Internalization

It’s only at this stage that the idea/his personal definition of Klingon-ness starts to be defined, starts to become a part of him. It’s the psychological change wherein he learns to balance his personal cultural identity against his greater cultural identity. It’s a two-pronged internal battle that he constantly faces: his Starfleet training vs. his Klingon nature; and what it means to be a Klingon among Klingons.

“Is there nothing in your heart but duty?”  —Kern (TNG: “Redemption II”)

Early in the series Worf presents as a Sidney Poitier/Jackie Robinson type. All dignity and honor, he is Star Fleet’s perfect Klingon representative: Klingon, but not so Klingon as to be overly-intimidating. He was the uber-Klingon required to break through: smart, handsome, and with a knowledge of how to navigate the “mainstream.” From Star Fleet’s perspective, his token acceptance — after all, he was the only Klingon serving in all of Star Fleet — gave him a singular distinction, allowing Star Fleet to essentially proclaim “Look at us! We got our one. WE ARE DIVERSE!!!”

Integrating human ways into his Klingon code proves a bumpy ride at best, as he lets a Romulan die rather than donate his blood (TNG: “The Enemy”), not to mention his other struggles balancing Klingon vs. Federation responsibilities (TNG: “Ethics”). He masters code-switching, behaving in a more Klingon fashion among Klingons, then acting more “human” among his fellow Federation members.

“I know, but it is not my way.” —Worf (TNG: “Redemption II”)

The responsibilities of being Klingon come to weigh heavily upon Worf. Though he realizes he has a child from his relationship with K’Ehleyr (TNG: “Reunion”) and he feels comfortable enough to choose Captain Picard to be his Cha’Dich, his “second,” during his trial, his rival, Baytor, remarks that “He’s still unsure of himself” (TNG: “Sins of the Father”). By the TNG episode “Redemption,” he seems to have learned an appreciation for what it means to be a Klingon. And for its cost. Being Klingon means he has to transcend his own individuality in the name of communal survival. As Worf is developing his sense of ontological Klingon-ness, he clings to an ideal vision of his people, who they are and who they ought to be. So to show that he truly possesses a Klingon heart he accepts Discommendation, a willing sacrifice for the sake of this ideal. Once again he finds himself isolated from his people. The difference, however, is that his isolation is due now to his choice. And it is undeniably a testament to his commitment.

Internalization-Commitment

At this stage, the idea of one’s cultural identity involves commitment to a plan of action, and individuals reaching this stage begin to live in accordance with the new self-image that they have developed for themselves. Worf’s Klingon-ness takes on the dimension of praxis — theory accompanied by social action — but it springs from a place of reclaiming his internal pride. Being Klingon means being true to who he is. All of him. His self-defined Klingon-ness allows him to be who he is no matter his context. Worf possesses a new mindset and is in a better position to guide his son, Alexander through his own journey of self-discovery (TNG: “New Ground”), impressing on the boy the idea that his sense of honor is what makes him Klingon.

“We have forgotten ourselves. I do not know why. Our stories are not told. Our songs are not sung.” —Toq (TNG: “Birthright: Part 2”)

By the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Birthright: Part 2,” Worf abandoned the paradigm of what was culturally acceptable as a Klingon value by not abandoning his father to dishonor. Thus he finds himself at a camp of Klingon survivors, with a whole new generation of Klingons in search of their own Klingon identity. Not bound by any preconceived traditions, these emergent Klingons were drawn to Worf. He walks around the camp — big pimpin’, a Malcolm X to the young people. His voice helps restore their pride. He teaches them their stories, and the stories define them.

As successful as Worf is with the lost tribe of Klingons, the events of “Birthright” leave him feeling empty. There is one part of his cultural heritage which he still hasn’t explored. Again due to benign neglect more than anything intentional, he has lost his religion, his God. So in TNG: “Rightful Heir,” Captain Picard responds to Worf’s crisis of faith by suggesting he again immerse himself in Klingon beliefs to see if they hold any truths for him. Worf makes a pilgrimage to the Temple of Boreth, core of Klingon beliefs concerning Kahless and Sto-Vo-Kor.

A secure sense of his Klingon-ness allows Worf to pursue Deanna Troi of TNG and marry Jadzia Dax of DS9, though both exist outside of his race. The relationships aren’t defined by a Star Fleet indoctrination on the nature of relationships. The women aren’t some sort of prize of human/Klingon integration. He is able to follow his heart from a place of internal security and definition of self. This same mentality allowed him to make peace with his brother (TNG: “Homeward”). This also, however, opens the door to the struggle of passing along a complex, nuanced worldview to his son.

“I will teach you what you need to be a warrior and you will teach me what I need to be a father.”  —Worf (DS9: “Sons and Daughters”)

In the TNG episode “First Born,” Worf wants to take the time to involve his son in cultural rituals, not just to prevent him from being assimilated, but also to allow Alexander the room to find his own destiny. To not be trapped by his people’s or even his father’s idea of who he should be. Worf and Alexander share a complicated relationship. For benign reasons, Worf keeps handing him off to others to raise. Alexander avoids Klingon culture for years until diving headlong into it. He joins the Klingon Defense Forces in part to learn those ways and get his father’s attention. Part of him recognizes that as he reaches Klingon maturity, he must navigate the intricacies of this stage of his life among his people. By this point though, unskilled as a warrior, he’s unequipped to serve with other Klingons. Worf re-enters his life in order to smooth the way for him, the father passing down his lessons to his son.

Every people has a story to tell. When all is said and done, any racial identity is about shared story. A story that has defined the members’ identities and continues to form them. Getting to the heart of that culture, to being true to who they are. Self-consciousness, experience, that culture in its totality of life and ideology transcends individuality in the name of communal survival. Throughout his transformation, Worf’s major battle is one of fighting against the passive integration which has under-girded much of his life in Star Fleet. Though he initially struggles with the insecurity of not knowing who he is, he’s given room to explore his culture, difficult as that journey and the conversations involved with it may be. There are times when he has stern words with his friends and allies and has to make difficult decisions. He carries the burden of his culture, but the thing is, he begins to relate to others, both within his culture and without, on his terms. His is a journey of self-discovery and cultural exploration, one which never truly ends.