William Gibson, Cyber Rebel

Mention the term Southern fiction, and people typically think of the works of Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, Ron Rash, or Charles Frazier. The term evokes scenes of snowy-white cotton fields, simmering tension between characters sipping bourbon, or protagonists haunted by an aching nostalgia for a rural life long gone.

Most folks wouldn’t associate memory uploads, runaway AI systems, or megacorporations as proper subjects for Southern fiction. But maybe my article on cyberpunk author William Gibson might just change your mind. It’s the featured post over at the Abbeville Institute blog. Read it there, and comment on it here. Enjoy!

Happy 128th, J.R.R. Tolkien!

JRR Tolkien

From Shaun Gunner, the chair of the Tolkien Society:

After Bilbo left the Shire on his eleventy-first birthday in The Lord of the Rings, Frodo toasted his uncle’s birthday each year on 22 September. The Society continues that tradition by continuing to toast Tolkien’s birthday.

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein [South Africa] on 3 January 1892, and we invite you to celebrate the birthday of this much loved author by raising a glass at 9pm your local time.

The toast is simply:

“The Professor!”

I will do that.

Tolkien’s works continue to exert influence not only because they tell exhilarating stories, but because, especially for me, they so beautifully capture the Norse, Celtic, and Christian traditions Tolkien sought to reclaim for the modern world.

The stakes, warns Tolkien, couldn’t be higher.

Mordor represents the self-defeating triumph of technology over nature. Gollum and the Orcs embody what the divorce from nature makes of those no longer in harmony with their organic ties to society and the natural world. When the lust for power and treasure erase our natural instincts to care for our homes and kindred, we will devolve into monsters. Our lovely world, threatened by poison and dictatorship, can be lost forever if we let it fall to those crazed by greed and envy.

9:00 PM folks. Be there.

It’s a Dark World, After All …

Dark World

The Fermi Paradox asks a simple but unsettling question: With so many worlds spinning through space, each potentially breeding countless, unknown forms of life, why haven’t any of them paid us a visit? After all, the Drake equation predicts 20 civilizations in our neck of the cosmic woods. Yet the Active Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence program has transmitted a number of “Y’all come!” messages into space without receiving one lousy response.

So where is everyone? If our neighbors are too busy to drop by, why don’t they at least text us?

One explanation is the Dark Forest theory. It speculates that any species capable of beaming messages through space could be both formidable and hungry, so the wise strategy is to do what John Krasinski and Emily Blunt did in A Quiet Place — don’t make a sound, and hope the monsters don’t hear you.

But wait! That could work both ways. We’ve been telegraphing our presence for over a hundred years with radio and TV communications, completely oblivious to who or what may be listening in the dark corners of outer space. Have we doomed ourselves by giving away our position to megapredators? If so, why haven’t they landed in the middle of the Super Bowl with their bibs and eating utensils?

Here’s my explanation: Any aliens who receive our transmissions of “I Love Lucy” and “Friends,” or find our naked pictures in their inboxes, will surely conclude that only the baddest of bad-ass species would be so brazen. After all, what is a lion proclaiming when he shakes the trees with his blood-curdling roar? He’s letting everything within earshot know that the king of beasts is on the move. Get in my way at your own risk.

Feel safe now? That happy thought is my Christmas present. You’re welcome.

Unbound – The First Collection

Unbound

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.

Available at Kobo. 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.

“Tuggle ably captures the spirit of Dan Brown novels and Indiana Jones–style adventure stories.” Kirkus Reviews

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