Unbound – The First Collection

I was pleasantly surprised to see my short story “Hunting Ground” included in DAOwens Publications’ Unbound – The First Collection. It’s an exciting blend of fantasy and science fiction stories, featuring the themes of the successful Unbound series, including Lost Friends, Changed Worlds, and Goodbye Earth.

Here’s what one reviewer had to say: “I enjoyed M.C. Tuggle’s “Hunting Ground” for its unusual antagonist. CHANGED WORLDS (Unbound Book 2) is a great read for those wanting to spice up their lives with something new.” Ben A. Sharpton, author of 2nd Sight.

Check it out!

The Shiny Side

The Shiny Side

British author Charlie Fish is featuring my story “The Shiny Side” on his e-zine Fiction on the Web, the oldest short story site on the Internet.

As the Texas sun sets on a remote truck stop, Wanda June Vincent, an experienced trucker, helps her friend Travis off-load some of the contents of Travis’s overweight trailer. After they load the items into Wanda June’s trailer, they steer their rigs down I-40 East.

But the trip ends when Travis’s rig inexplicably crashes. While sifting through the evidence to discover what nearly killed her friend, Wanda June has to confront a secret lurking in one of the innocent-looking crates she and Travis were hauling.

I had a blast researching and writing this story, and want to thank my beta readers in the Charlotte Writer’s Club for their invaluable input, as well as my trucker friends (who prefer to remain anonymous) for sharing their insider information about the trucking life.

Two Funerals (And a Wedding)

Two Funerals

Terror House Magazine is an independent literary journal based in Budapest, Hungary. Its mission is to publish fiction and articles “too edgy, unusual, or honest to be released elsewhere.” The latest issue features my short story “Two Funerals (And a Wedding).”

Carter Black is a young man with a special gift, one he’s inherited from his mother. She assures Carter that he and others like him represent the next step in human evolution, though he often wishes he could be like everyone else. But when his mother dies, Carter is forced to confront the true significance of that gift, and must also decide whether he will finally marry his patient and long-suffering fiancée.

Like Carter Black, this story is not quite what it appears to be. On the surface, it’s an entertaining science fiction tale. But it’s also a funny/sad satire about a world that’s followed its dogmas to the point of self-delusion, if not insanity. You could call it dystopian, but the aim is to provoke debate. After all, literature can startle and heal at the same time. I hope you enjoy it.

If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?

Kurt Vonnegut

Most of us know Kurt Vonnegut from his science fiction classics, such as “Slaughterhouse Five” and “Player Piano.” But his fame as a commencement speaker almost overshadowed his fame (notoriety?) as a shrewd and caustic master of fiction. As Maria Popova illustrates in her review of “If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?,” Vonnegut’s collected commencement addresses, the author generously shared not only his hard-won wisdom, but also his stubborn optimism.

At the heart of Vonnegut’s talks, as in his fiction, is the urgent warning that we’re in danger of losing our humanity. We lose it, he says, by isolating and distracting ourselves. As Popova writes:

This, in fact — this passionate advocacy for the value of community, of finding your tribe — is something Vonnegut reiterates across his many commencement speeches. In another address, he, the father of seven children, argues that the modern family is simply too small, leaving too much room for loneliness and boredom, and advises: “I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.”

Vonnegut often preached the gospel of art, including music, theater, and literature as a catalyst for emotional and social well-being. But only human contact can facilitate the growth of human, and humane, souls. As Vonnegut counseled the graduates of Agnes Scott College in 1999:

Only well-informed, warm-hearted people can teach others things they’ll always remember and love. Computers and TV don’t do that.

A computer teaches a child what a computer can become.

An educated human being teaches a child what a child can become. Bad men just want your bodies. TVs and computers want your money, which is even more disgusting. It’s so much more dehumanizing!

It is no coincidence that the same runaway market forces threatening the environment also threaten our humanity. If we are self-serving consumers with no bonds to others, we are left with nothing to strive for other than maximizing our exploitation of nature and other people. Vonnegut advises his audience to nurture ties with the “extended family,” even if it’s an a “synthetic extended family,” such as clubs and sports teams.

Of course, rebelling has its dangers, as Vonnegut warned in such stories as “Harrison Bergeron.” After all, we live in a world where going against the grain will get you branded as a threat, a theme I explored in my dystopian short story “Snake Heart.” Sometimes we lose. But as Kurt Vonnegut reminds us, the risk of mindless conformity to “the cultural current” is even worse.