King Maker Maurice Broaddus on the Anthology "Dark Faith"
One of the most fascinating anthologies coming out in the next couple of months is Dark Faith, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon. A plethora of amazing writers--including Lavie Tidhar, Ekaterina Sedia, Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, Catherynne M. Valente, Kelly Barnhill, Richard Wright, and Chesya Burke-- have contributed to this book, which comes to readers from Apex, a great indie press.
Co-editor Broaddus is primarily a writer, with his first novel King Maker just out today in the United Kingdom from the startlingly energetic Angry Robot, and available through Amazon UK (released in the US in the fall). I interviewed the talented Broaddus to get a sneak-peek at Dark Faith, but we'll also follow up when his novel and Angry Robot's other offerings make their Stateside debut.
Amazon.com: Can you tell Amazon readers where you are as you’re answering these questions?
Maurice Broaddus: I am on my couch in my living room, which is also my main work area. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is on in the background.
Amazon.com: What’s the role of faith in your life?
Maurice Broaddus: Faith pretty much forms my worldview, how I interpret the world around me. It informs my relationships, my spirituality/practice my religion, and my priorities. It drives the mission of my life. That’s on the good days. On the bad days, faith knots me up and I spend a lot of time questioning what it means and how I’m living it out.
Amazon.com: How does faith inform your fiction?
Maurice Broaddus: I think our worldviews naturally inform and play out in our fiction. Because I ask a lot of questions about my faith, many of my stories begin or revolve around such questions. A lot of the times, I’m actually working out some of my faith issues for a reader’s entertainment. And I emphasize entertainment: I certainly don’t enjoy reading treatises on the minutiae of faith and wouldn’t inflict that on anyone else.
Amazon.com: Why did you decide to edit an anthology about the “dark side of faith”?
Maurice Broaddus: I do a convention every year (the eponymous Mo*Con). It’s like a convention held in a con suite. One of the things we do is discuss spirituality and how it impacts our fiction, but we also discuss the implications of our art and social issues (from race to gender issues). Last year, we thought it would be a neat idea to do an anthology based on the convention. It grew from there.
Amazon.com: Are there forms of fantastical or horror fiction that lend themselves more readily than others to religious issues?
Maurice Broaddus: I think horror naturally lends itself to religious issues. The first question I get asked is how I can be a Christian and write horror. The total depravity of man (if you want a Calvinistic loaded phrase), the nature of good and evil, the mystery of the afterlife, unseen spiritual forces (like angels or demons), or the meditation on mortality/our fear of death. So it was not hard to get thoughtful works of horror from the likes of Brian Keene or Kelli Dunlap.
Fantasy works just as well. It’s the world of Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, and MacDonald. Though, it seemingly is the form that more readily lends itself to allegory, which, when not done well, is little more than thinly veiled propaganda. That being said, we used a lot of contemporary and urban fantasy in the anthology, from Mary Robinette Kowal and Ekaterina Sedia to Jay Lake and Jennifer Pelland.
One might think that science fiction would seem to be the one least likely to lend itself to religious themes, with the (false) opposition between science and religion. Yet Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow was an amazing book. And Gary Braunbeck goes dark science fiction in his tale for the anthology.
Amazon.com: To what extent does this anthology push against Lovecraft’s view of a naturalistic, godless universe ruled, ultimately, by monsters?
Maurice Broaddus: In some ways the anthology is a direct push back against Lovecraft’s premise, because Dark Faith starts from the place of the world not being a naturalistic universe. Then I look at Wrath James White’s story in the anthology wherein he poses the question directly of what if that monster ruling the universe is in fact the “god” people claim to/unwittingly worship. Or in removing God/faith entirely from the equation of life, Doug F. Warrick manages to combine Zen, atheism, and hell in a horrific tale. Frankly, I think there’s a lot of terror inherent to faith when you consider that God is the ultimate The Other.
Amazon.com: How did you go about getting so many amazing writers involved in this project?
Maurice Broaddus: First, you offer professional rates. Suddenly all sorts of writers show up to the party, so many, in fact, that you have to get a co-editor (such as the illustrious Jerry L. Gordon) to help get through all of the submissions. Some, over half of the table of contents, have been to Mo*Con and knew what it was about. They knew this wasn’t some bait-and-switch idea and that they were free to do their thing. Some just loved the idea of being able to write about faith, especially without the “pressure”/requirement of fitting into some sort of dogmatic box. It’s funny how many folks were intrigued just with the idea of the anthology. They were like kids at their first Christmas questioning their presents: “you mean I can write anything I want about the idea of faith?” “It doesn’t have to be some pro-Christianity piece?” “And I can go SERIOUSLY dark with it?” I was as curious to see what people would come up with as they were to write the stories. You don’t know my joy of reading Catherynne Valente do a horror tale. Or Alethea Kontis do a magical romp.
Amazon.com: Can you tell me a little bit about your experience working with Apex on this project?
Maurice Broaddus: Jason Sizemore and I have been friends for a while now. He published an early science fiction piece of mine in Apex Science Fiction and Horror Digest (“Broken Strand” about a scientist who believes he can cure man’s “sin nature” through gene therapy); my novella, "Orgy of Souls" (co-written with Wrath James White, about two brothers who wrestle with the idea of faith against a backdrop of sex and violence); and a steampunk story of mine (“Pimp My Airship”, the “revolution will not be televised”, but it can have Parliament-Funkadelic mythology and Victorian era trappings).
As you may know, the key to working with any editor is getting them liquored up enough to think your idea is brilliant. Though, it was even easier with Jason. He’d been to Mo*Con several times and when the idea of an anthology was first floated, and he saw the writers who immediately leapt at the chance, it was a pretty easy decision for him. He’s been a great publisher, not just allowing me to turn in a huge anthology, but going ahead and doing a bonus chapbook.
Amazon.com: What’s the most radical vision of faith or religion included in the anthology?
Maurice Broaddus: Nick Mamatas turned in a story about...I don’t even know how to describe it. To say a person goes to watch a movie and encounters God doesn’t quite seem to do it justice. Or Lavie Tidhar’s stroll through a garden of crucifixions...again, a description doesn’t do justice to the mind twisting imagery of the story.
Amazon.com: Did you try to avoid stereotypes? Like the evil priest?
Maurice Broaddus: Absolutely. The evil priest thing especially. That became a pretty tired image pretty quickly mostly because it became the crutch of lazy story-telling. Just like I wouldn’t want to read a propaganda piece that was pro-religion, I wouldn’t want to read one that was anti-religion, and the bulk of the evil priest stories we received were little more than thinly veiled screeds against the church. Ditto the zombie Jesus stories. And it wasn’t as if I was opposed to those stories, they just needed to be good stories.
Amazon.com: Did you worry about what might seem disrespectful or blasphemous to a particular religion?
Maurice Broaddus: Yes and no. Yes because I want to be respectful of all faith perspectives. I didn’t want anti-Muslim pieces, for example. If someone wanted to wrestle with the ideas within Islam or use a creature from Islamic beliefs, that was one thing. An attack on the religion itself was another thing entirely. So when Chesya Burke turns in a tale using African gods as its backdrop, I know the story is in good hands.
But, in another sense, no. Our job as artists is to question and push boundaries. We need the freedom to go where the questions take us. One of my favorite stories in the anthology is one by Kyle Johnson. It’s about waiting in line at judgment day and the guy sneaks out of line to go around back and cop a smoke. He runs into Jesus, who bums a smoke off him (I knew at that point in the story that I was going to buy this one). The ensuing dialogue, okay, the premise period, might seem disrespectful to some, but the questions asked and the heart of the story...it’s a tough judgment to make. So I kept the boundaries fairly broad to give the writers as much room to play as they needed.
Amazon.com: Do you believe that fiction must, on some level, be moral?
Maurice Broaddus: I don’t know if fiction must be moral. True art leaves it to its audience to make value judgments such as ascribing morality to the tale. That being said, even the most “atheistic” writers, at the very least, are moralists; often using writing as therapy as they wrestle with what they see in the world around them. So in as much as our worldviews inform our work, the work is moral.
Amazon.com: What’s up next for you?
Maurice Broaddus: My first novel, King Maker, the first in my Knights of Breton Court series, makes its debut from Angry Robot books. It’s a re-imagining of the legend of King Arthur except set in modern day Indianapolis amidst homeless teenagers, the drug trade, and gangs. It comes out first over in the U.K. and then here in the states this fall, with its follow up, King’s Justice bowing a few months later. I’m hard at work on the last novel in the trilogy and beginning a novel length version of "Pimp My Airship".