Hugo Review: Space Raptor Butt Invasion by Chuck Tingle

written by David Steffen

“Space Raptor Butt Invasion” is one of the Hugo Finalists for the short story category this year.   It was self-published on Amazon.  As you might expect, it is chock full of explicit sexual content, and is… I guess you’d call it absurdist erotica?  Satirical speculative erotica?  I don’t know, something like that.  So, if you are averse to explicit sexual content, well, you’re going to want to skip this one.

So…  if you haven’t been following the Hugo Awards closely these last couple of years, your first question is probably “How in the world did erotica end up on the Hugo ballot, no matter how speculative it may be?  Well, if you asked that, you are right; its presence on the ballot is highly unusual.  This year and last year have been very unusual years all around for the Hugo awards.  It is a long story and one that would certainly overshadow this review were I to include it here, but bottom line:  It is not what one would normally expect as a Hugo finalist.  But it is a Hugo finalist in this unusual year, and it was included in the Hugo packet (a downloadable collection of many of the eligible works provided to voters) and I decided I would read it and review it.  So here we are.

“Space Raptor Butt Invasion” follows astronaut Lance Tanner assigned to a space station far distant from Earth. Due to budget cuts, he is assigned to live and work in the station completely by himself for a year and is not looking forward to the extreme isolation.  Before he has been there long, though, he discovers that he is not alone–there is another astronaut there, an intelligent raptor named Orion.  One thing leads to another, and soon Lance and Orion are getting hot and heavy.

I had never heard of Chuck Tingle before this year’s Hugo season, but I’ve been getting some sense of his online personality since the announcement and his online persona on Twitter and elsewhere has been very weird and entertaining.  Tingle is pen name–no idea who the person behind the name is, but I’m using male pronouns on the basis that the persona is male though the author may not be.  Much of his online content is incoherent at first glance, but this is because he speaks in his own invented lingo that one learns to parse into meaning once you’ve spent a bit of time catching up.  It is bizarre and worth some laughs in a Hugo season that has otherwise been very lacking in the laughs department.

This story is the only thing that I’ve read by Tingle so far, and I admit I didn’t know what to make of it.  The premise is funny, but the premise is pretty clear just from the Amazon listing with the ridiculous book cover and ridiculous title (Tingle’s titles in general are very silly and amusing, look up his bibliography) but I felt the book didn’t really follow through with that.   The only other thing about the story I thought was funny was a bit of musing about whether a sexual pairing of a male human and a male dinosaur is gay or whether the interspecies pairing negated that.  I have heard  that Tingle’s works are generally satirical on some level, but apart from that amusing bit that I just mentioned which has some commentary inherent in it, I didn’t pick up on the satire–maybe its subject matter is something I’m not familiar enough with to recognize?  Admittedly I don’t really read erotica of any variety, so if it’s meant to be erotica satirizing erotica I probably entirely missed it.

My enjoyment wasn’t helped by the book needing proofreading–it is not a very long story but I noticed a half dozen grammatical/spelling errors that didn’t seem to be intentional.

So, I seem to have missed the satire, I’m not really that interested in erotica, so I guess I’m just not the target audience for this book.  I gave it a try in the hopes that it would be funny but most of the humor was inherent in the title and book cover rather than in the contents of the book itself.  I’m still following Tingle online to see what he has to say, and maybe I’ll try another of his books if I hear some recommendations, but at least from this sample I didn’t get into it.