Molly Tanzer, who I consider a friend, loves Chuck Tingle and finds him hilarious, so I figured I’d give this whole Space Raptor Butt Invasion thing a look. I was surprised by what I found, so I’ve written up a full overview below. The most intriguing part, which I will expound on in the “Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Nomination” section, is that Chuck Tingle is obviously an insider. Not just an SF author, but possibly someone who is already known for his/her work under his/her real name.
While I have philosophical objections to Kindle Unlimited, I would recommend people sign up for their one-month free trial and read these works themselves. You can cancel as soon as you’re done, it costs you nothing, and each work is very short. I read:
* Space Raptor Butt Invasion (the nominated work)
* Turned Gay By The Living Alpha Diner (included with Raptor)
* Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination (which Tingle released the day after his nomination as his response)
* Creamed in the Butt by my Handsome Living Corn (included with Hugo Award)
* Pounded in the Butt by Chuck Tingle’s Hugo (NOT by Chuck Tingle! Written by someone else, read for comparison)
As the titles should probably indicate, these are works of satire. As recent anonymous interviews with Chuck Tingle show, Tingle is a performance artist, and an amusing one at that.
The first thing one notices is that Chuck Tingle is a good writer. Yes, he could use some editing (although I suspect at least some of the mistakes are intentional, as part of the satire). But when it comes to the craft of putting together a story, he is the equal of solid professional writers. He humanizes his characters immediately, and manages to make you empathize within the first few lines. He focuses on the simple, critical details that quickly establish who a character is and why we should care about him (this is gay erotica, it’s always a ‘him’). But importantly – since this is satire – he does this by engaging the stereotypes that are present in bad fiction (and bad erotica), and mocking them via lampshading. Consider:
“It’s rare that you think of a down-home, Southern farmer in a suit and a tie, but I’m not your average farmer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working the fields in a dirty old T-shirt and a straw hat, wiping the sweat from your brow as you till the brown soil. I can honestly say that I’ve put in more than enough hours doing just that.”
Amazingly, despite the mockery, it’s done in a gentle way that endears you to the characters. And he does this in the matter of a few paragraphs or less, which is critical in such a short format, and also very hard to do.
After this, Tingle steps his character through the paces of a gay-awakening romance story. It’s done with tongue in cheek, but the story is executed well. It takes us through the stages of this story fluidly, hitting every beat, and sticking every landing. This is a demonstration of good writing craft.
This is also why I recommend reading no less than three of Tingle’s works. Because it takes at least two (and likely three+) to realize what he’s doing. He is telling the same story (fairly well-told) over and over again, and changing only the surface details. Every single story you read starts with the same opening notes, plays the same melody, and runs the same beat. It’s like how TV Police Procedurals are down to such a science that nowadays you can time when a plot element will show up almost down to the minute without knowing anything about the show. It’s like how every Pop Hit is “ABBA’s pop chords and textures, Denniz PoP’s song structure and dynamics, ’80s arena rock’s big choruses, and early ’90s American R&B grooves.”
I don’t say this to denigrate his work. He is a satirist. He is holding a mirror up to humanity and saying “Look, this is us. This is how easy we are to play. We have these buttons, we know how to push them, and we can just keep pushing them over and over and over as much as we like.” It is the physical manifestation of “There are only 7 stories” or “All stories are The Hero’s Journey” or whatever you like to call it. It demonstrates that we are not unique beautiful snowflakes, but rather we are simply stimulus-response organisms.
Interestingly, I’ve heard this same sort of thing leveled at Jim Butcher’s work. That his stories are good, and entirely well-written, but every novel is basically the same novel. It hits the same beats, plays the same notes, and only the details differ. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – he’s found a song that people like, and so he keeps playing it for them. But it isn’t innovative.
(That being said, I believe I’ve heard that he was at the forefront of Urban Fantasy, helping to create the genre. That itself is worth a Hugo if it’s true. I don’t know, I never really followed Urban Fantasy, wasn’t my thing)
This is the reason that I believe Chuck Tingle is The Hero That The Puppies Need. I’m throwing this alllllll the way back to 2015, but back then the “Sad Puppies 3 crowd” decried all the new-fangled narratives in SF, and wanted a return to the old stories they were familiar with. Chuck Tingle’s work is the answer to this request. He simply repeats the same story, over and over, with slight surface changes. It is a good story. And he is very good at telling it. It is entirely enjoyable! I can see the non-gay-erotica-satire version of this type of writing becoming a repeat New York Times Best Seller. But as good as it is, both in quality and enjoyment, it is not something that will be remembered. It doesn’t say anything. It doesn’t redefine any genres, or alter how we interact with art. It is simply good, repetitive fun. Like TV Police Procedurals. Or masturbation.
(I don’t know if the gay erotica parts of these stories were any good, as I’m not very gay. They were certainly exciting, and I would have been very turned on by similar scenes using Male/Female pairings. I’ll leave the judgement of their quality to people with more experience with gay erotica. I will say that the erotica parts are exactly like the story parts in that they are nearly identical in every single story. It goes through the same motions and hits the same beats. It’s a fractal reflection of Tingle’s theme of Reproducibility. Although in fairness… it is porn. I’ll admit that all porn is basically identical, and yet I continue to watch it regularly despite having seen the exact same actions play out thousands of times for the past 20+ years. So I’m not sure if that can really be held against it.)
I contrast Tingle’s work with that of “Tuck Chingle”. Tuck Chingle wrote the vastly inferior work “Pounded in the Butt by Chuck Tingle’s Hugo.” It’s basically just bad message fiction. While the prose itself is fine, and even appears to have had an editor (no noticeable spelling or continuity “mistakes”, unlike Tingle), there is nothing there that is appealing. The protagonist isn’t relatable, the setting is non-existent, there is no arc or action, and never once is the story fun or enjoyable. I don’t mean to slam the author too hard, but it is a contrast that serves as a sanity check. Is Chuck Tingle actually good, or am I crazy? Upon reading Chingle I’m reassured that bad writing still exists, and yes, Chuck Tingle is in fact actually good at his craft.
So – Chuck Tingle’s work is in fact quite enjoyable, and a splendid demonstration of what the Puppies actually want! I’m not sure if they intended to nominate this work as an ideal representative of their desires, but it works, and it’s admirable. I would not greatly begrudge them regular appearances on the ballot if they just want some nominal recognition of good old stories that don’t do anything, but are fun to read. They don’t even have to be gay erotica satire!
Of course all this brings us to the punchline – Tingle’s seminal work: “Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination”
Guys, Tingle is one of us. He’s having a shit-ton of fun, but he’s obviously hip to the fandom. First, his craft is great. Second, his humor is hilarious. And third – he’s capable of artsy introspective pieces, even if he continues to write in his satirical tongue-in-cheek style. This is a 4th-wall-breaking joking-not-joking introspective piece of the same flavor as Adaptation. The story stars an author stand-in (“Tuck Bingle”) who is engaged in conversation by the author of the story – the actual Chuck Tingle – as he is writing it. The author speaks both to his author stand-in, and directly to the reader. It does this while continuing to be hilarious, of course. It does acknowledge that many people are upset by Space Raptor Butt Invasion (and names George RR Martin specifically), and it serves as a sort of apology. It is trying to say “Yes, I realize this isn’t Hugo material, but this whole year is absurd, and what is one more absurdity among the rest? Also, please consider this work as a serious piece of satire, because if there was a Hugo for Best Satirical Work, maybe the Tingleverse would count, no?” And yeah, I think it might.
Among the clues that Tingle knows what’s up is this reply, when Bingle asks the author what he can do to help Tingle win the Hugo. He says:
“You’re already doing it. Parallel universes, fouth-wall breaking storylines and a little meta humor sprinkled in there for good measure. The voters love this stuff!”
This is a naked reference to 2013 Hugo Winner “Redshirts” by John Scalzi, which is exactly what was just described. And yes, I loved Redshirts. And that made me love “Slammed in the Butt by my Hugo Award Nomination” as a piece of satire as well. Tingle has spoken to me in the way I most appreciate – via Speculative Fiction Literature.
Of course, as Chuck Tingle himself says “At the end of the day, this is still gay erotica, you’re gonna have to get pounded.”
Anyway, I now have to actually seriously consider whether I’m going to vote for a Hugo for Tingle. Cuz he’s kinda won my heart, and I just might.
(oh, and if you’ve read this far – in the comments to a recent post, a reader brought my attention to this fascinating piece on Vox Day and the Rabid Puppies, which is altering my opinion on the whole situation. It’s called “Killing Vox Day”, but it means it in the metaphorical sense, not actual violence. “The goal of [4th Generation Warfare] is not to take over a State, it is to discredit the State and tear it down.” Great read, highly recommended!
Of note – in far-more-recent follow-up piece the author claims that if Raptor wins the Hugo, the Rabid Puppies will have Won Completely and we should all pack up and quit. I don’t think that’s true at all. Raptor may have been Vox’s biggest slip. He really should read the authors he slates before slating them.)