Another Summer another Hugo Awards. Those of you familiar with recent Hugos will know how this time-honoured award (and very good thing) has been under a fair amount of pressure these last few years, being trolled by a bunch B.O-ridden shit-kickers calling themselves the Rabid Puppies (and their more moderate pals, the Sad Puppies, who no one really thinks about nowadays). I covered last year’s end result here.
Having pretty much failed again, their leader, fandom’s own Trump sans toupee, Vox Day, came back with a fiendish new plan for this years’ cavalcade of needless arse (Incidentally, I kind of picture Vox telling his cronies his plans like Skeletor telling Beastman et al at the start of a He-Man episode, except all the beast men are wearing dickwolf t-shirts and have the face of Roosh-V, which is actually kind of like Beastman’s… hmm…). His plan? Nominate the book ‘Space Raptor Butt Invasion‘ by self-published author Chuck Tingle . They managed to get it nominated.
Yeah. Chuck Tingle has garnered a lot of attention, even before this year’s Hugos. If only for the covers:
The idea, as usual, was to show up the Hugos as a sham. Or something. Hard to tell with Vox Day; could just be a cry for help. Denial’s not just a river in a Tim Powers novel, is you know what I mean.
But(t) what of the man Tingle himself?
Tingle came under a lot of opprobrium from the online SF community. To them, this guy, whoever he was, was grifting nominations off of a bunch of far right rabies-merchants, some of them downright white supremacists, and at the expense of deserving writers who’d had their noses pushed out (that last part is undeniably true). One well-known author opined that Tingle’s singular oeuvre wasn’t even particularly authentic and that it was homosexual erotica for straight bros (which, when you think of it, would actually be kind of an impressive achievement).
These issues got directly put to Chuck Tingle in a Reddit ask-me-anything (Which, in itself, was the first time a lot of people got to experience the man’s singular online persona). One fandom critic put it to Tingle:
Given that you only got on the ballot because of the vindictive trolling of a white supremacist, why aren’t you declining the nomination to make room for one of the people kept off the ballot by Vox Day’s manipulation of the process?
thank you for bringing attention to TED COBBLER a scoundrel and troublemaker across all of billings. this makes buds SOFT to even think about and is very sad days, as it is part of the antibuckaroo agenda. please understand the LOVE IS REAL so that makes the best book name of Space Raptor Butt Invasion, this will be your new favorite read and you can put it on the top of the shelf to show all buds who come over once we win award and PROVE love is real for all who kiss and that scoundrels never win thank you
One sympathises with Tingle’s critic here, indeed, all the critics chasing this particular line and other issues like it. But I suspect they would get further videoing themselves dressed as a stegosaur and shouting at an egg whisk. You just cannot critique Tingle in any conventional sense, certainly not using the methods and values employed within contemporary online fandom. That ain’t nothing but a King Cnut scene.
But just when it seemed the Rabid Puppies had Tingle on one shoulder like a rocket propelled grenade aimed squarely at the Hugos things began to go awry for them. Tingle, likely having googled Sad Puppies, started getting memey:
Vox Day retweeted that one, all with the sweaty nervousness, one suspects, of a vaudevillian host slowly realising he’s being upstaged by the guy he’s just invited up on the stage. Certainly, he stopped retweeting Tingle’s further announcements about Voxman and his ‘spooky blogs’. Day really doesn’t enjoy being mocked (or ‘cucked’ or whatever the AltRight demimonde call it these days). Bullies, as Douglas Adams observed, are the easiest to push around. As if to crown the whole thing, Tingle noticed rabidpuppies.com hadn’t been used as a web address and proceeded to use it as one, bringing attention to lots of minority writers and causes.
It got funnier. Tingle announced he wouldn’t be present at the Hugo Awards (which surprised no one) but would send Zoe Quinn (which did). Quinn, of course, was the game designer who’d been the initial target of Gamergate harassment. She’s also an avid fan of Chuck’s oeuvre.
Though the methods were unguessable the end result shouldn’t really surprise us and the Rabid Puppies should have seen it coming at the drawing board stage of their throbbing machinations. Using the world’s leading dinosaur gay erotica author to further the agenda of an ultra-conservative hate campaign was bound to backfire. I feel dumb just writing that and there’s more balanced and believable alternative universes where I don’t have to. But it did. It did happen. Vox Day lit and sat on a great big homoerotic dinosaur rocket and sniggered at the camera with unfounded confidence, like Wyle E. Coyote minus his characteristic forbearance. In fact this is one of the joys you can strain out of the Hugos these days: you know Vox Day is gonna come out looking a total berk somehow (see coming sixth in a five nominee race back in 2014) but the rancid fun is in seeing exactly how.
Well, on that score we weren’t disappointed.
But it’s a mistake to think Chuck Tingle has ‘swapped sides’ or ‘seen the error of his ways’ or ‘protected his brand’ or whatever. He’s clearly enjoying himself, improvising a situationist symphony as he goes along, an Andy Kaufmann-like outside artist playing with social media dolls to entertain himself and the non-internet-famous masses. He’s making sense of all this mess. A sense built on butt-pounding.
And it’s fascinating to see that act crash into the online fandom ‘conversation’ like a clown car into a chapel. The chaos let’s fresh light shine in from the new hole in the roof and one can no longer ignore the dust.
The 2010’s has seen a vast tug-of-war in SF fandom and the literature itself. Progress heaving on one side, conservatism digging its heels into the loam on the other. It’s always been that way, of course, but it’s never been so… fetishised, at least not since Pohl and Campbell stripped and started rolling in the mud way back in the thirties, the naughty buckaroos.
The progress/conservatism confrontation is vital. It’s singularly the most important issue in SF. But its effects are also increasingly flattening. We focus on the left-right axis so much we’re losing contact with the up-down.
What the hell do you mean by that, Worrad? Alright, reader, I’ll put the DMT down and explain.
Friedrich Nietzsche (Look, go with me on this. I’m not one of those, you know, Nietzsche guys…) in his The Birth Of Tragedy talks about civillisation’s dichotomy and struggle between the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Here, the two Greek gods are to be understood as forces, Apollo being that of structure and reason whilst Dionysos is that of formless chaos and impulse. In the moustachioed one’s own words: “Wherever (in history) the Dionysian prevailed, the Apollonian was checked and destroyed…. wherever the first Dionysian onslaught was successfully withstood, the authority and majesty of the Delphic god Apollo exhibited itself as more rigid and menacing than ever.”
Within SFF, I see this Apollo/Dionysos spectrum as the vertical Y axis to the horizontal X of the political left/right. And what we have right now, in this godforsaken year of our lord 2016, is a left/right spectrum pulling at either end with the side effect of warping the vertical axis violently upward into the Apollonian (I hope you can picture that, I’m not sure WordPress comes with a chart making option). The result: lean times for Dionysos.
Currently, what unites the gun-waving right wing SF pundit and his Tumblr-wielding lefty opposite is a half-conscious desire for the genre to be about something rather than just be. In that respect they are both the priests of Apollo, with an insatiable need to place laws and structure and context upon a genre that, at it’s core, is a wide hot mess of contradiction and nebulousness. It’s an understandable urge, this need to tame. We’re in an era that’s impossible to comprehend or predict. It’s frightening. And a sense– perhaps even illusion– of control can alleviate that fear.
But the Dionysian is what makes science fiction, fantasy and horror truly shine. It’s its ‘killer app’, if you will. And, beneath all the absurdity, sodomy and raptors, I think that’s what Chuck Tingle represents. That’s why everyone is talking about him (Well, that and the dino-fucking). He stirs the near-lost sense of senselessness in us fans, the primal chaos that’s the deadly serious part of fun.
I’m sorry for whoever got cheated out of a Hugo nomination, truly, and I’ve no defence to counter nor soothe it. But, in nominating Tingle, the Rabid Puppies’ irrelevent and humourless farce unwittingly opened a door we didn’t know needed opening. That god of madness and ecstasy steps out, thyrsus in hand, to stretch. If only just a little.
I look forward to the award results.
(End note: Chuck Tingle, of course, may not be male. But, for the sake of legibility I’ll use his preferred pronoun)