Maurice Broaddus (The Knights of Breton Court) is the contributor for this week’s Take Five, a regular series in which authors and editors share five facts about their latest books. Broaddus’ newest book is the short story collection The Voices of Martyrs, available now from your favorite book retailer.
About Voices of the Martyrs:
We are a collection of voices, the assembled history of the many voices that have spoken into our lives and shaped us. Voices of the past, voices of the present, and voices of the future. There is an African proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.” This is why we continue to remember the tales of struggle and tales of perseverance, even as we look to tales of hope. What a people choose to remember about its past, the stories they pass down, informs who they are and sets the boundaries of their identity. We remember the pain of our past to mourn, to heal, and to learn. Only in that way can we ensure the same mistakes are not repeated. The voices make up our stories. The stories make up who we are. A collected voice.
1. I’m not gonna lie: I suck at titles. To use a strained analogy, making the baby is hard enough, coming up with a name for it when it’s ready is another level entirely. Tip-toeing away from that analogy, when I was sorting through what stories might make for a good collection, the working title of the project was Black to the Future. For a while, I thought I’d skew more literary with a name by cribbing a line from a Langston Hughes poem. Then my publisher suggested just using one of the titles from the collection. In his words, The Voices of Martyrs “just rolls off the tongue.”
2. The Voices of Martyrs was culled from stories published from 2006-2014. Fourteen stories from the nearly 50 stories I had published by that point. There are two orphaned stories in the collection. “The Volunteer” was written for an anthology involving vampires and the fashion industry. “Shadowboxing” was written for an anthology inspired by the music of Nick Cave. Alas, those stories never made it into those anthologies for one reason or another. Quietly, “Shadowboxing” is one of my favorite stories, the fact that I wrote it from a very personal place probably has something to do with that.
3. The stories in The Voices of Martyrs aren’t interconnected, per se, but some characters pop up in more than one story. In its first draft, “Rite of Passage” and “The Ave” were a single story. “Warrior of the Sunrise” is in the same universe as my other sword and soul stories (like “The Iron Hut” and “Lost Son”) “Pimp My Airship” features a character from my novel, King Maker. Lt. Macia Branson is in “The Valkyrie” and “Voices of the Martyrs,” but is in the upcoming “Vade Retro Satana” coming in FIYAH Magazine.
4. There are a couple of themes, one intentional, one not, running through the collection. The intentional theme was following the story of the African American Diaspora from ancient Africa, through the TransAtlantic Slave trade, into the present, and imagining stories of the future.
The second, which I only recently noticed, was the wrestling with the idea of African Americans and the church. Starting with the role of religion in Africa, the “conversion” during slavery, the repercussions of how that plays out in the present, and some of the lingering problems that may entangle the future.
5. “The Electric Spanking of the War Babies” and “Pimp My Airship” were written while non-stop listening to Parliament-Funkadelic. It should also be noted that “The Electric Spanking of the War Babies” is the result of me and Kyle S. Johnson drinking an entire bottle of Gummi Bear flavored vodka by ourselves in one sitting. Luckily the next morning all of our notes made sense. Sort of.