El is a Spaceship Melody – Beneath Ceaseless Skies

 

My #Afrofuture novelette, “El is a Spaceship Melody,” is up on Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Inspired by Sun Ra. On a starship powered by jazz music. #blacktothefuture

El is a Spaceship Melody

I. Dare to Knock at the Door of the Cosmos

The living crystals were displeased. The dissonant chords of a harried melody rocked the starship Arkestra. When Captain LeSony’ra Adisa was a young girl dreaming about one day commanding her own vessel, she had never considered it would be filled with so many day-to-day irritations. She sprang from her seat in the main bridge at the sound of the music. She was not one to be tested today.

“Overseer, we aren’t due for a command performance for another three hours.” On the verge of yelling, she opted to save her anger for the person who deserved it.

“Commander Marshall moved the performance ahead.” The timbre of the Overseer’s voice, emanating from the unseen broadcast units, vacillated somewhere between clearly male and clearly female. Its AI was integrated into every fiber along the length of the Arkestra, its calculations vital to monitoring the ship’s systems, including the harnessing energy from the kheprw crystals that powered the ship.

“On whose authority?” The crystals needed to be recharged every few solar days, depending on the mission use, but the next performance wasn’t scheduled until 1400 hours. From the way LeSony’ra felt her last nerve being worked, she knew the answer before Overseer responded.

“His.”

“Of course he did.” She flung her headdress past the twists of the front part of her hair, the flat-ironed portion flaring out behind it.

Their mission was a joint venture between the Thmei Academy, where LeSony’ra headed the largest laboratories, and Outer Spaceways Inc., the private interstellar shuttle conglomeration, so the command structure of the Arkestra was fraught. Captain LeSony’ra Adisa held authority over all things related to the mission above Titan, while Commander Clifford Marshall retained jurisdiction over everything concerning the ship. Issues related to the crew fell into a gray zone. Because of the way Marshall commanded, even holding a lesser rank, he held more sway over the crew.

“Steppers, Chappel, you’re with me.” Cradling a small crystal ball in her hand, LeSony’ra nodded, and the two security officers flanked her. Breastplates covered chrome colored body suits. Each wore a gilded animal mask; Steppers an eagle, the Chappel a dog. They brandished shields, though their charged batons remained at their waist. The trio of women exited the bridge.

Their strident march from the turbo-shuttle to the engineering chamber drew everyone’s attention. Steppers and Chappel positioned themselves inside the doorway of the engine room. LeSony’ra stormed in, annoyed both by the musical cacophony in the room and the fact that the engineering crew had begun the performance without her.

Marshall led the six-person engineering crew. He had the delicate bone structure of a dancer, with his high cheekbones and fine hair. His razor-thin mustache was manicured within inches of its life. Fans billowed the heavy fabric of his shimmering command cloak like a sail in a stiff wind. His saxophone barely skipped a note at LeSony’ra’s entrance.

‘Captain Adisa’ had to be diplomatic; ‘LeSony’ra’ could be petty as hell. And she was all LeSony’ra right now.

She cast a baleful glare in his direction, withdrew opaque citrus-colored glasses, and set the crystal ball on the keyboards at her station, unlocking the vintage Clavioline. Its amplifier fed directly into the kheprw crystals’ containment unit. Her voluminous black caftan whipped about her as she took her seat behind the Clavioline, its iridescent silver overlay interfaced with the keyboards. Her gold chainmail headdress lightly jingled as she began to work the instrument. Her striped platform oxfords—“moon boots” the crew called them, since they were designed for zero gravity situations—found the foot pedals. Marshall used any opportunity to undermine her authority. Always eager to ingratiate himself to the crew, to prove who ought to be in command. He was in need of a reminder of who was in charge. It was time for a true command performance.

Her Clavioline chords strained to find a place in the jumble of sounds. All captains were trained in improvisation, a skillset based on observing, listening, and reacting. No plan, no program, no control; only the interplay of past preparedness and honed intuition. Since she had handpicked the engineering ensemble during her travels, she trusted both their muscle memory and instincts. On her mark, the music reset and the Arkestra‘s crew followed her lead. The bass rumbled in tow. The drums pounded. Marshall’s saxophone pealed in faint protest. A torrent of sound, but once LeSony’ra shifted register, the chaos harmonized. She never told them what to play next. Not the song, not the chord changes, not the key. They just had to keep up, composing and performing at the same time.

The kheprw crystals glowed with approval.

[READ THE REST OF THE NOVELETTE HERE]

Some stories news (from Steampunk Universe to The Voices of Martyrs)

We’re starting out the new year with a new story available. My story “All God’s Chillun Got Wings” is now available in Steampunk Universe.

Brian Keene released his Top 15 Books of 2017 list. Coming in at #4 was The Voices of Martyrs. He says in part:

THE VOICES OF MARTYRS is a moving reading experience, and the culmination of centuries of storytelling. Highly recommended. As a reader, it was a pleasure to hear these voices. As a writer, I stand in awe of what Maurice has done with this collection.

[Read the entire list here]

Speaking of reviews of stuff, the Tangent Online 2017 Recommended Reading List includes my weird western tale, “Dance of Bones,” from the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone. Read the entire list here.

2017 Award Eligibility Post

It’s that time of the year when writerly types post their works that came out that year to remind voters for the different SF/F awards which categories their works are eligible for (especially for the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards). And, frankly, what folks may have missed of mine this year:

Short Stories
The Ache of Home” (Uncanny Magazine)

“Two Americans Walk into a Pub” (Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader), Skyhorse Publishing)

“Vade Retro Satana” (FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction)

“The Dead Yard” (Monster Hunter Files, Baen Books)

“Dance of Bones” (Straight Outta Tombstone, Baen Books)

Novella

Buffalo Soldier (Tor.com)

Collection

The Voices of Martyrs (Rosarium Publishing)

Essays (eligible for the Best Related Work Hugo Award)

Star Trek’s Lt. Cmdr. Worf and his Journey of Ontological Blackness Klingon-ness” (People of Color take over Fantastic Stories of the Imagination)  #BlackNerdsRule

Diversity Doesn’t Just Happen” (Fireside Fiction)

Editor (eligible for Best Editor – short form)

Apex Magazine Issue 95, Maurice Broaddus guest editor (Apex Publication)

Not a bad year!

Mo*Con 2018 (UPDATED 2/20/18)

Mo*Con is a mini-convention (in Indianapolis, Indiana) built around food, community, and conversations (typically around the topics of spirituality, art, and social justice). The dates are May 4-6th, 2018. For all of the details, including registration information, CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE MO*CON SITE (or click the Mo*Con tab on this site’s menu). Here are this year’s GOHs:

Lynne and Michael are the Publishers/Editors-in-Chief for the two-time Hugo and Parsec Award-winning Uncanny Magazine.  Five-time Hugo Award winner Lynne M. Thomas was the Editor-in-Chief of Apex Magazine (2011–2013). She co-edited the Hugo Award-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords (with Tara O’Shea) as well as Whedonistas (with Deborah Stanish) and Chicks Dig Comics (with Sigrid Ellis).

Along with being a two-time Hugo Award-winner, Michael Damian Thomas was the former Managing Editor of Apex Magazine (2012–2013), co-edited the Hugo-nominated Queers Dig Time Lords (Mad Norwegian Press, 2013) with Sigrid Ellis, and co-edited Glitter & Mayhem (Apex Publications, 2013), with John Klima and Lynne M. Thomas. Together, they solve mysteries.

Mikki Kendall aspires to be an over-educated loudmouth with deep pockets. Failing that she manages to be a periodic cyborg who masquerades as a person with a spouse, kids, and all the trappings of quasi respectability. Once gainfully employed by an unnamed agency, she now invests her time in writing, wrangling jackasses on the internet, and telling people to go straight to hell. Raised by a family of cutthroat sarcastic assassins with magic powers, her obsession with history has led to her publishing weird stories, and articles about every serious issue under the sun. Her nonfiction work has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, and a host of other outlets. Her fiction work includes comics, and short stories are available via Revelator Magazine, Torquere Press, and online.

The author of STALE REALITY, DARKWALKER, and THE CORPSE AND THE GIRL FROM MIAMI, John Urbancik’s business card proclaims: “Writer. Photographer. Adventurer. Man.” He sold his first story shortly before the end of the last millennia, and has not once, not merely twice, but three times taken on a year-long project called INKSTAINS, in which he writes a story a day every day by hand. He can be found online at www.DarkFluidity.com. Outside of the Internet, he’s been spotted on at least five coasts on three continents; he’s traveled by boat, car, motorcycle, horse, elephant, and camel; and he may be headed to your house right now.

Jennifer Udden was born in Houston, TX, and spent many of her formative years hiding books under tables while she was meant to be paying attention to something else. She has a BA from Mount Holyoke College, and graduated in 2008 with a major in Politics, a minor in Chinese, and honors thesis work on anxiety in British detective fiction of the early 20th century. She has worked in fundraising for an off-Broadway theater company and joined the publishing industry in 2010 at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She is the co-host of the podcast Shipping & Handling (shippingandhandlingpodcast.com) with Bridget Smith of Dunham Literary, Inc. To query Jen, follow the directions on the submission guidelines page. She blogs at www.jenniferudden.com and jenniferudden.wordpress.com

 

 

Updates, Patreon and otherwise

1. I’ve just uploaded pics, blog posts, and stories for my Patreon supporters.

2. I was subbing for a Latin class when one of the students asked me “Mr. Broaddus, did you have to take Latin when in school?”

So I told her that when I was 9, I was so desperate to learn Latin that I wrote Santa a letter asking for a Latin book so that I could teach myself the language. To prove the point, I showed her a picture of the letter because my mom, who has jokes, just returned it to me the week before (THUS SHATTERING MY BELIEF THAT SANTA RECEIVED MY LETTER …even though she told me to mail it to our address because #SantaPowers).

In case you can’t read it:

12/16/79 [Note: Before you judge me, I was 9]
Dear Santa,
We don’t have a chimney, so you’ll have to find other means to enter our house. The only reason I underline the words I have, is because someone moves me or the table. [Note: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that my brother was being a jerk while I was trying to write this]

Santa if possible, I would want a microscope, maybe a chemestry set, a science book (a book set on how to be a scientist) and if my teacher don’t get it, a book on foreign country langueages like Latin, Greek, Roman, etc. and plus for fun a sled.

Try to get most every present. Say hello to your wife and elves. Good-bye for now.

Sincerely,

Maurice

After a thoughtful pause, my student looked me in the eyes and said “So, when you were 9, you had no friends?”

#middleschoolersbemiddleschoolin

Two New Stories Out in Two New Anthologies!

Mixed Up: Cocktail Recipes (and Flash Fiction) for the Discerning Drinker (and Reader) is what we’ve been looking for in an anthology: drink recipes alongside stories! Co-edited by Nick Mamatas and libations editrix Molly Tanzer.

 

Includes new flash fiction by Maurice Broaddus, Selena Chambers, Gina Marie Guadagnino, Liz Hand, Cara Hoffman, Jarett Kobek, Carrie Laben, Carmen Machado, Benjamin Percy, Dominica Phetteplace, Tim Pratt, Robert Swartwood, Jeff VanderMeer, and Will Viharo.

 

MONSTER HUNTER FILES with all original stories set in Larry Correia’s weird world of monsters and heroes (cover by Alan Pollack). An all star line up featuring seven New York Times best-selling authors (and me!):

“Thistle” by Larry Correia (Owen and his team take on a new kind of monster in Arizona)

“Small Problems” by Jim Butcher (MHI’s new janitor has to deal with some small problems)

“Darkness Under The Mountain” by Mike Kupari (Cooper takes a freelance job in Afghanistan)

“A Knight Of The Enchanted Forest” by Jessica Day George (Trailer park elves versus gnomes TURF WAR!)

“The Manticore Sanction” by John C. Wright (Cold War era British espionage with monsters)

“The Dead Yard” by Maurice Broaddus (Trip goes to Jamaica on some family business)

“The Bride” by Brad R. Torgersen (Franks wasn’t the only thing Benjamin Franklin cut deals with)

“She Bitch, Killer of Kits” (a Skinwalker Crossover Tale) by Faith Hunter (Jane Yellowrock teams up with MHI)

“Mr. Natural” by Jody Lynn Nye (an STFU mission in the 70s has to deal with plant monsters and hippies!)

“Sons Of The Father” by Quincy J Allen (Two young brothers discover monsters are real, and kill a mess of them)

“The Troll Factory” by Alex Shvartsman (Heather gets some help from MHI for an STFU mission into Russia)

“Keep Kaiju Weird” by Kim May (a Kitsune may have already earned her PUFF exemption, but she’s not going to let some monster squish Portland)

“The Gift” by Steve Diamond (Two of the Vatican’s Hunters from the Blessed Order of Saint Hubert the Protector on a mission in Mexico)

“The Case of the Ghastly Specter” by John Ringo (while studying at Oxford, Chad takes a case)

“Huffman Strikes Back” by Bryan Thomas Schmidt & Julie Frost (Owen’s vacation gets interrupted for some monster revenge)

“Hunter Born” by Sarah A. Hoyt (remember how I mentioned Julie didn’t get to go to her prom because of monster problems? Here you go)

“Hitler’s Dog” by Jonathan Maberry (It is WW2 and Agent Franks really hates Nazis)

Some Video Clips of Writing Advice (by me)

Research and Organization Tips For Writing About Complex Worlds

Advice for Authors on Finding the Positive in Rejections


How Setting Goals and Writing Consistently Can Exercise Your Mind

My Learning Journey to Cluj, Romania (in pictures)

I had the opportunity to be part of a team from my church (Fountain Square Presbyterian) that went to Cluj, Romania. It was a chance to see other expressions of the church in a different cultural context. It was a learning journey that focused on cultivating and deepening relationships.

I was asked “what was the most surprising thing [I] learned?” That’s tough to answer because I’m still processing the trip. My thoughts are centering around two issues:
1. The role of tribalism/shared history and the tension created among people. There are parallels to the issues of race that plague us here in the U.S., the conflicts/issues that go back hundreds of years.
2. The issues surrounding poverty. How we see the same systems undergirding it (politics, self-interest, lack of empathy, etc.). And how hard it is to get people involved in investing in the PROCESS, that is, building relationships as the foundational piece to combating it.

Probably the most profound prayer I heard, which echoed my heart though I hadn’t put voice to it, was when a partner prayed “God, I don’t see your love in this poverty. I don’t see your justice.” But I’m going to trust You anyway and be committed to the struggle and reconciliation process.

Like I said, I’m still processing a lot (so I hope that made sense).

UNCANNY MAGAZINE ISSUE SEVENTEEN

I have a couple of features in the latest issue of Uncanny Magazine.  A new story and an interview:

The Ache of Home

The Indy Metro bus came to a shuddering halt and deposited Celeste Burroughs at her stop. A plastic shelter enclosed a bench printed with the words “Embrace Mortality.” Celeste looped the cord of her earbuds around her thumb then unwound it, careful not to pull the cord free from her pocket, where it trailed, not plugged into any device. Listening to music in public violated her sense of personal boundaries. The inserted earbuds were her shield against the catcalls and unwanted attempts at conversation both on the bus and on her walk home.

The bus stop was right across from the construction site of a new park. She jumped at the shrill drone of a drill and the metallic clatter of pieces falling to the ground. She feared the men suspected she could hear just fine. Cordoned off behind a fence, not wanting the intrusion of the neighborhood, hard scrabble men—sun-baked red and wearing fluorescent green T-shirts and hard hats—eyed her like prairie dogs catching a scent. Politicians decided that they needed to pour $5M into constructing a dog park and skate-park, though no one she knew in the neighborhood demanded either. She reminded herself that such amenities weren’t for them. They were for the future residents once the city pushed the current ones out.

Despite dressing in a smart, though unflattering, business suit which covered her from neck to knee, despite the earbuds being in plain sight, despite both a purse and a bag slung over an obviously exhausted body, the men mistook her stride for interest and the braying started. Celeste shrugged her purse higher on her shoulder and walked briskly.

Feeling the call of the Green Space, as she called it, Celeste slowed down. Her mind reached out along what she thought of as the life lines. If she tried had enough, was quiet enough, she could hear the whispers of the plants.

Continue reading over on the Uncanny Magazine site.

And in the same issue, the brilliant Julia Rios poses a few questions to me:

Uncanny Magazine: You’re a community organizer and you’ve lived most of your life in Indianapolis. “Ache of Home” touches on both of those things. How much of your personal experience comes through in the story?

Maurice Broaddus: This is my everyday. I was sitting out doing a writing exercise near my neighborhood, watching a construction crew put in a dog and skate park. I know, like the folks in the neighborhood knew, that they’d been marked for “revitalization” so it’d only be a matter of time before they’d be pushed out.

I work with a group called The Learning Tree, an organized group of neighbors. I thought about my friend Scooter, this massive dude who many would be quick to dismiss as a “thug.” Those folks miss his story of being a devoted dad, a caretaker of the neighborhood, with the soul of a poet. I think about my friend Taisha and all of the gardeners in the neighborhood, working together to fight against this massive food access situation.

Continue reading the interview over on the Uncanny Magazine site.

 

Tea and Jeopardy 66 – Maurice Broaddus visits the tea lair

“In this episode, the deeply wonderful author, Maurice Broaddus, visits Emma in the tea lair. We discuss the lessons learned from being a guest editor for Apex Magazine, childhood toys, and we also discover the reason why Maurice is one of the loveliest people in SFF (if not the world).”

Go listen to the podcast here.