Where do I begin? Two-time Hugo Award nominated author, self-described “Taekwondo grandmaster”, and a doctor of Holistic Massage, Chuck Tingle is an international man of mystery. He’s a prolific erotic author, having published hundreds of niche porn parodies on Amazon since his 2014 debut, My Billionaire Triceratops Craves Gay Ass.
Tingle is the self-professed inventor of the “Tingler”, which he defines as “a story so blissfully erotic that it cannot be experienced without eliciting a sharp tingle down the spine.” Tinglers fall into four categories: DINOSAUR, BIGFOOT, UNICORN, and LIVING OBJECT. The latter range from billionaire jet planes to the concept of linear time. A tingler typically involves a protagonist falling helplessly for one of these individuals after a brief encounter, with the plot being tied together with a moral of acceptance, and living your own way.
Chuck Tingle as an individual is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a niche porn parody. His true identity is unknown. The mystery is part of the appeal of his work and has helped elevate him to a cult figure. Beneath the surface of the outlandish titles and colourful covers, there’s someone either dedicated to performance art, or simply a larger-than-life character. In our brief correspondence, the illusion was never broken. The Chuck Tingle seen on Twitter and elsewhere was fully present.
If you are to search for Tingle online, you’ll notice his large social media presence and the sheer abundance of his writing. On Twitter, his profile shows him wearing a Taekwondo gi and a pink bag over his head with “Love is real” written on it. He’s a frequent tweeter, increasingly commenting on current affairs and sociopolitical issues within his books and through social media. Absurdism is often used to lampoon conservative views, those of US republican conservatism in particular.
In communicating with his audience, Tingle has developed his own vocabulary. To Tingle, his fans and friends are “buckaroos”, “ladybucks”, and “buds” and his lifestyle is his “unique way”. Combined with his own grammatical flourishes, it’s an immediately recognisable yet strikingly distinctive style.
A self-publishing career that began with stories typically involving cisgender men and focussed on gay sex has expanded to include characters across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, with recent stories including trans characters and asexual relationships. Tingle’s books are often viewed as parodies of other niche erotica available on Kindle and seen as a repudiation of bigotry: homophobia and transphobia in particular .
With the unique style of Tingle’s online presence and the often sensitive subjects he deals with, the seriousness and intentions of his work have been rightly questioned. Gay sex isn’t a punchline; the intentions behind and interpretation of his work is vital. For years, he has professed that his work is about acceptance and the many forms of love out there. He has shown an acute self-awareness in his work, with himself appearing as a character and the more absurd aspects of the plot being duly noted.
It’s hard to prize apart the personality of Chuck Tingle but his actions have helped shed light on his aims and motivations for his work.
He has previously found himself at the centre of a “culture war” when a novel of his was nominated for Best Short Story at the prestigious Hugo Awards by alt-right group, the Rabid Puppies. This racist group sought to denigrate the awards for what they saw as too much diversity in nominees. This concerted anti-diversity campaign brought condemnation from sci-fi authors with George R. R. Martin staging his own separate awards show. Through nominating Tingle’s novel, Space Raptor Butt Invasion (2015), they sought to make a mockery of the awards process and prevent underrepresented science fiction authors from receiving the recognition they deserve. This didn’t work as planned; Tingle pushed back, hard.
Tingle refers to the leader of the Rabid Puppies, Vox Day, as “voxman” and has repeated his refusal to play his part in their scheme, referring to him as a “sad and lonesome devil”. Tingle asked Zoë Quinn, a game developer and frequent target of online harassment from the Rabid Puppies and Gamer Gate, to accept his award if he won.
Recently, he has pledged profits from some of his titles to causes related to the characters included. Trans Wizard Harriet Porber And The Bad Boy Parasaurolophus: An Adult Romance Novel (2020) is a clear response and rebuke to transphobic views espoused by J. K. Rowling, with a proportion of profits of the recently released sequel going to the Transgender Law Center. When writing a novel involving characters from across the LGBTQ+ community, Tingle will reach out on Twitter to members of that community for advice on how to write the character and best represent their identity within his novels.
I conducted an email interview with Tingle to gain an insight into such an enigmatic figure: to better understand his influences, motivations, and ambitions as an author and individual. Personalities don’t exist in a vacuum: Tingle has a large following and clearly fulfils a demand from his readers. It’s important to acknowledge the cultural impact of his work and seek to understand the person behind it.
In particular, I wanted to understand how he views the message of his work and the intentionality of satirical elements throughout his writing and online image. In our time of correspondence, I was privy to the style and personality of Tingle, a manner which never let up. The following transcript has been reproduced unedited to preserve Tingle’s unique style and voice.
Chuck, I’m aware you graduated from DeVry University with a PhD in holistic massage. We don’t offer that at the University of York but we do have a large research community. How did your time as a research student prepare you for your literary career?
“well this is good question because it speaks on my way first starting out as writer. back in early days of man name of chuck i wrote on dang PEN AND PAPER this was in home of truth utah where i trotted around as a young buckaroo before coming to billings. then in billings i still wrote but did not use computer too much so when i started getting holistic massage degree i started to write on computer son jon will pull up file and say ‘whoa bud look at this nice question for you to answer’ and i would answer and then he would send away to devry and then next day he would say ‘good job with your question here is your next one’ and this went on for a while GOT ME USED TO A COMPUTERIZED TROT and then one day son jon said congradualtions you are now a doctor and gave me a special piece of paper from the printer.”
Many of your stories centre around current social and political trends. Do you see political satire as a key component of your work?
“i think TINGLERS have many ways and as art they have a few different goals. sometimes it is to talk on a current way and something it is what i would call a ‘classic tingler’ which is just a dang trip into the imagination of a bud. when i write current event ways i understand now they are SATIRE but i do not write them as satire i just write how i see that timeline going and it ends up feeling like a jokerman way to some and that is okay i am SO GLAD they have gotten joy. but i will say my intention is not to write satire or to be a funny jokerman really (maybe sometimes but that is on the side not the main point just a FUNNY WAY sprinkled here and there). i just like to write and i think it is okay if buds see inside my way and think ‘dang i will laugh now this brings me joy’ so i like that very much.”
Are there other authors, people, or your own lived experiences that have influenced or inspired your writing?
“oh yes all kinds of ways to be inspired for other authors a would say steves king author of RETURN TO JACK’S MAZE: NOW I AM A DOCTOR AND I MUST SLEEP and ALIEN IN MY BUTT: A MYSTERY and RM STIME author of SKELETON PICNIC and PLANT HAND and for people i would say biggest inspriation is my son jon he is the dang best and i hope to grow up to be like him one day. but really best way to get inspired is to look at the timeline around you and realize how much love is out there weaving its way through everything. makes me say ‘DANG’. that is my advice to all creative buckaroos you can make anything you want just remember to use love as the fuel behind it then you have the most powerful force across all timelines on your side”
Similarly, are there other genres of writing or types of media that you personally enjoy?
“oh yes i think it is important to see other trots from various timelines that are not your own. i do not know much about dang videogames but i play game name of HOOKMAN SCREAMTOWN all the time it is scary game where you dress up as pigwolf and hand out party hats and all the party guests are trying to start box name of ‘generator’ so they can go home from the party so that is an interesting game”
After your first few books, you were very quickly put into the spotlight with international media attention. How did you find being the focus of such attention?
“i will say i do not like this attention very much it makes me nervous but it is helped because i wear a mask to disguise my way and protect my privacy as a doctor. if it was not for my masked way i would probably be to anxious to think on this way i get very much IN MY HEAD and it is difficult to get out sometimes and get to dang work”
Since then, you’ve built up a large online following, especially on Twitter. How useful is it to be able to connect directly with such a large audience?
“oh dang it is very nice to have social medias way without this man name of chuck (worlds greatest author) would not be able to write and support my way making art, so i am very thankful to be around in time where i did not have to go to publishing house and say ‘i would like to write POUNDED IN THE BUTT BY MY OWN BUTT’ because they would not let me. now i can write whatever i want and make this work in important way for chuck and family of chuck and that proves love is real. it is exciting to think that other artists can do this to and making things that BIG TIMERS back in the dang day might have said ‘sorry buckaroo you cannot make this with us’ and now they can reply with a handsome smirk ‘then i will make this MYSELF'”
Where would you suggest is a good starting point for a new reader wanting to get into the Tingleverse?
“there are all kinds of trots through the tingleverse i would say most important way is to understand that EVERYONE IS WELCOME IN THE TINGLEVERSE that is number one goal so if you are thinking ‘whoa i am curious about this way’ then guess what buddy you are already part of this community of buds. most tinglers have various types of preferred pound from LGBTQIA way so if this is your trot then you can find a story of love or pounding in this way but also there are POUNDLESS TINGLERS if this does not interest you because no proud at all is also a preferred pound and proves love is real too. so it all depends it is very personalized way i would say. maybe try SELECT YOUR OWN TIMELINE tinglers there are four of them and they are poundless and you get to choose while timeline you trot on through the tingleverse.”
You’ve published several hundred titles on Amazon. Do you feel a pressure to keep publishing new novellas?
“not really pressure for new tinglers because there are already so many i could say ‘looks like im done here’ and would still sell books which is very nice but PERSONALLY i just like to dang write and make things so i will keep making tinglers but not feel pressure just makin my art for the sake of having fun and provin love”
How have you seen your writing change during the pandemic? Do you see a greater role and feel greater responsibility for your work given how hard the last year has been for people?
“well it has mostly just changed when son jon and klowy were at home all day from work now they are back but i am used to having house to myself during the dang day so that made WRITING PROCESS different it is easy to get in the dang writing zone and drift between timelines when you are home alone on a dang quiet afternoon just you and the neighborhood birds and truckmans ghost and sweet barbara but then when the dang house is full you have to really focus on your way and say ‘im gonna get this heckin book done’. but i will also say i always feel some responsiblity to say ‘here is a moment for you to be taken away to the tingleverse for a bit’ and buds seem to need that at the moment so maybe it has been on my dang mind it is hard to say. focus of chuck is mostly just on what i am makin next and how it is going to prove love is real.”
In Pounded By The Pound: Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications Of Britain Leaving The European Union you presented a vision for Britain’s future after leaving the EU, how do you think your vision compares with the reality we see today?
“in that tingler there is a lot of lava and fearsome creatures flyin in the scary so it is not so bad just yet but it is important to remember there are infinite other timelines and you never no how NARROWLY you have avoided this kind of disaster so i will say even though there is no lava in dang london yet gotta be careful when it comes to these big decisions in the future”
Your work has previously found itself at the centre of a “culture war” online. In 2016, your short story, Space Raptor Butt Invasion was a finalist for the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Short Story after a campaign from an unaffiliated alt-right group. Did you find yourself more motivated to include commentary on social and political issues after this encounter?
“this is very good question i have not considered it but you might be right about this being some kind of TURNING POINT in this thought process. this was very early in my trot as worlds greatest author so i cannot remember which tinglers were before or after. all tinglers have SOMETHING TO SAY in this way even the first but maybe this could be when i started to think about making their message more on the surface for even bigger impact but i am not sure its just been so dang long COULD BE”
Your recent work has broadened to include many more characters across the LGBTQ+ community. How important do you believe it is to involve those with these lived experiences in the creation of your work?
“as bisexual buckaroo i see my way as being part of a neighborhood of buds we all have our own houses in this community and if you would like to visit another letter house to say hello that is great you just come on over and see your buds BUT you have to remember ‘this is their house i should be a good guest and respect their way’ so we are all one community but also guests in eachothers zones and i enjoy this very much. so whenever i trot on over to someone elses house i make sure to say ‘hello THANK YOU FOR INVITING ME what can i do to make this the best trot possible?’ and if you approach things in this way i think everyone gets to have fun and prove love is real.”
What advice would you give to a new author wanting to start writing short stories?
“think of your idea and make it thats the hardest part is getting it out of your dang BRAINSTEMS and onto a page or a canvas or into a song. after that most important advice is to make sure MOTIVATION is what you want it to be and if you are creating something with love in your heart that you are building a rocket with the right dang fuel for BLAST OFF so you are all set”
A key message of your books is that there are many equally valid types of love and many ways to prove love. How do you believe younger generations can keep proving love during the pandemic?
“proving love in pandemic means keeping eachother safe but mostly RESPECTING BOUNDARIES i think as things start to change there will be lots of talk on ‘what is my comfort level in this situation how safe to a feel with virus around? when is okay time to gather with one other bud who is immune or more buds or other ways’ these are questions that will come soon in next months or year and levels of buckaroos will all be diffrent and so will messages from big timers saying ‘its okay to do this its not okay to do this’ so i think it will be important time for COMMUNICATION of buds to say ‘here is how i feel’. i would say it will be time of GROWING PAINS but we will get through it just by listening to eachother and respecting boundries and making sure to keep our buds safe”
What would be your message to students at the University of York as we head back to university?
“every moment creates infinite other timelines there is the one we are on and the others we are not aware of but they are out there and this means the possibilities are dang endless. YOU HAVE SO MUCH POWER IN YOUR CHOICES so now you get a chance to make some big ones and that is very exciting and i think if you trot these paths with love in your heart you will do very well so i hope you have fun buckaroos WHAT AN EXCITING TIME”