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Writing an Afrofuturist Space Opera

Sweep of Stars, the first in a brand-new trilogy that is Black Panther meets The Expanse, hits shelves everywhere on 3/29 and we cannot wait for this book to get into your hands. To help prepare you for this epic new journey, author Maurice Broaddus joined us on the blog to talk more about the journey around writing this new series. Check it out here!


By Maurice Broaddus

Afrofuturism is the marriage of my faith, my social practice, and my writing. In addition to being a middle school teacher and librarian, I am the resident Afrofuturist at the Kheprw Institute. We are a grassroots organization that trains up young people to be community leaders using entrepreneurial experiences as labs for community wealth-building. Basically, think of an Afrofuturist as a strategic foresight planner who operates through a lens rooted in black history and culture. To me it looks like dreaming alongside community, highlighting my neighbors and their work. In other words, it’s science fiction applied to the world we live in.

Space has been the place for a lot of Black imagination and creative thought. The infinite possibilities that space represents lines up with imagining Black freedoms. Those dreams fueled W.E.B. DuBois’ scifi story, “The Comet,” to Sun Ra’s jazz career. One day I was thinking about the work we do in the community and started wondering what was the world we wanted to see? Yes, more just and equitable, but I mean if we could start fresh, what kind of institutions, practices, and world would we build?

That’s how the world of Muungano, the setting for Sweep of Stars, got started. I took a year and a half doing the world building, which looked a lot like talking to my neighbors and colleagues. I wanted to write a story not about our suffering, but about us existing on our terms, living in harmony and exploring the cosmos.

Originally, I pitched Sweep of Stars as “Black Panther meets Game of Thrones … IN SPACE!” (because everything sounds better when you add “in space!”), but we tightened it up to “Black Panther Meets The Expanse.” Besides being an epic, yet intimate, space opera, it’s also full of my usual mix of social commentary, jazz/hip hop, and jokes.

Sweep of Stars is about black people—the Diaspora as well as those from the mother continent—united as an intergalactic community. It started on the moon but has expanded to include the portion of Mars nicknamed Bronzeville, Titan, and a distant mining colony. The story follows three sets of characters:

1) The Dreaming City: the capital of Muungano. The voice of their community has fallen and the people must figure out who will speak for them in light of increased aggression from O.E. (Original Earth).

2) The Cypher: a research starship, powered by jazz music, with the task of exploring the galaxy has been sent to study the wormhole within the span of the community which has been determined to have been artificially created.

3) The HOVA: Muungano’s defensive forces have secretly gone through the wormhole only to discover that they are not alone in the universe.

These days, I’m dreaming of the stars, imagining us existing on our terms, living in harmony and exploring the cosmos. Sometimes we get so caught up in surviving today, we can lose sight of the fact that part of what we’re to be about is creating the future we want to see. In other words, in doing this Afrofuturist work, I hope these stories allow me and my community the space to dream of what a better tomorrow could look like. The dreaming impacts the work, the work impacts the writing, the writing impacts the dreaming, and so it goes.

Thank you for going on this journey with me.

MAURICE BROADDUS is a fantasy and horror author best known for his short fiction and his Knights of Breton Court novel trilogy. He has published dozens of stories in magazines and book anthologies, including in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Black Static, and Weird Tales. Sweep of Stars releases from Tor Books on 3/29/22.

Pre-order Sweep of Stars here:

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