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AMC Networks will adapt hip-hop and magic story ‘Sorcerers,’ written by Indianapolis author Maurice Broaddus

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The early days of August brought big news for Indianapolis author Maurice Broaddus. In a span of 48 hours, AMC Networks announced an upcoming adaptation of Broaddus’ novella “Sorcerers” and the Indiana Author Awards selected his “Pimp My Airship” novel as a finalist in this year’s “genre” category.

“This week has felt like a whole career,” he tweeted on Aug. 6.

Another highlight is on the way. On Aug. 11, HarperCollins will publish the paperback edition of Broaddus’ 2019 young adult novel “The Usual Suspects.” 

Broaddus is an author making moves, but he’s not doing it alone.

The text of “Sorcerers,” a tale of hip-hop and magic, is credited to Broaddus and “Otis Whitaker.” Whitaker serves as the pseudonym for a collective of storytellers at NeoText, a new company that published “Sorcerers” in a digital format Aug. 4.

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Maurice Broaddus wrote “Sorcerers,” a novella being adapted by AMC Networks. (Photo: Grace Hollars/IndyStar)

The NeoText contributors who work with Broaddus refer to themselves as a “writers room,” a term commonly associated with TV productions.

Broaddus compares the collaboration to his work as a consultant at the Kheprw Institute, an Indianapolis nonprofit that mentors youth while focusing on social and economic equity.

“Honestly, it reminds me of my work at the Kheprw Institute here in town: People throw ideas into the mix, other creatives push back against them and … the ideas refine themselves into something better,” Broaddus said. “The thing people rarely admit to is that creative tension produces the best ideas. It’s true in my community work, it’s true here.”

In “Sorcerers,” main character Malik Hutchens is a 30-year-old slacker who ghostwrites rhymes for New York City rappers. Malik’s life changes when he learns he’s actually the “wielder and guardian of an ancient magic passed down through generations.”

At the Kheprw Institute, Broaddus’ official title is Afrofuturist-in-Residence. He said the role represents a public statement of the attitude and mindset of the organization and community.

“Afrofuturist-in-Residence means I am a part of the organization’s rhythm of dreaming together,” he said. “As a community, we envision a desired future state that we can work toward. Together.”

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Music’s influence

Broaddus, an alum of Northwest High School and IUPUI, works closely with rapper Diop Adisa at the Kheprw Institute. Broaddus counts Adisa and fellow Indianapolis hip-hop artists Mariah Ivey, Manon Voice, Maxie and Pope Adrian Bless as influences on his writing.

“I love any excuse to build, be authentic, and collaborate with them,” Broaddus said of Indianapolis rappers. “I am finding more and more of my stories set in this world.”

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Broaddus said he appreciates the hustle and passion for art he sees in the hip-hop community. He describes rappers as truth tellers.

“Like the village griot, they tell the history of our community and speak truth to power, critiquing the world around us,” Broaddus said.

Circle City stories

Although the character Malik doesn’t spend time in Indianapolis in “Sorcerers,” Broaddus frequently writes about his hometown.

“The Usual Suspects” is a middle school story that takes place in Indianapolis, and Broaddus wrote his “Knights of Breton Court” novel trilogy with Indianapolis as its setting.

“Indianapolis plays such an important role in much of my work,” he said. “It’s like a character I keep interrogating.”

“Pimp My Airship,” in the running for an Indiana Authors Award, is a fantasy story with local ties.

“The whole plot revolves around people running through a reimagined, steampunk version of Indianapolis,” Broaddus said.

Having a vision

Visual artist Jim Mahfood, whose credits include “Clerks: The Comic Book” and “Everybody Loves Tank Girl,” provided 14 illustrations for the “Sorcerers” novella.

Broaddus said Mahfood’s lively and gritty work is reminiscent of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s.

“That’s the name that popped into my head when I first saw Jim’s art,” Broaddus said. “He has a way of bringing things to life in ways I couldn’t have imagined.”

Broaddus said it’s too early to predict which property within the AMC Networks family will be the home for “Sorcerers.” Possibilities include AMC, IFC and Sundance TV.

Regardless, he doesn’t intend to be a passive bystander when his story goes to Hollywood.

“You can believe that I’ll be angling to make sure my voice is heard,” Broaddus said. 

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Contact IndyStar reporter David Lindquist at dave.lindquist@indystar.com or 317-444-6404. Follow him on Twitter: @317Lindquist.

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