Category Archives: Literature

Soldiers Are Not Angels: A Review of Samuel Finlay’s Breakfast with the Dirt Cult

Breakfast With The Dirc Cult

My review of Samuel Finlay’s gritty and gut-busting war novel Breakfast With The Dirt Cult is featured today at the Abbeville Review blog.

An excerpt:

Finlay’s fictionalized account of his tour of duty in Afghanistan, Breakfast with the Dirt Cult, is hard to classify. It isn’t a red-white-and-blue “Support our Boys!” kind of tale, nor is it an expose of imperialistic brutes in uniform wielding high-tech machines to murder and subjugate noble savages. So one should not expect this war novel to be “The Green Berets” or “Apocalypse Now.” It is instead a tale that bristles with humor, honesty, and has an edge to it that will alternately have you chuckling or holding your breath.

Read the rest at the Abbeville Review.

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The Conservative Versus the Universe

As a counterpunch to left-wing science fiction writer China Miéville’s list of Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels for socialists, Samuel Goldman of The American Conservative penned “10 Sci Fi and Fantasy Works Every Conservative Should Read.” As Goldman explained, “I’m not suggesting that these books express conservative views as such. But they do raise questions for conservatives or develop ideas from which conservatives can learn.”

Goldman listed Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories as number seven. Following close behind was H.P. Lovecraft, particularly the “Cthulhu cycle” of stories. Lovecraft, as Goldman reminded us in his article, was Howard’s friend and mentor “who believed society had to be defended from the eternal danger of barbarism.”

The questions these writers raised have never been more urgent for conservatives. Both Howard and Lovecraft saw civilization and order as not only fragile but necessarily short-lived. In the fictional worlds these imaginative writers created, the values and beliefs that made life possible had to be defended against forces of chaos that inevitably had the upper hand. What counted was the protagonist’s resolve and dedication.

Lovecraft was a literary and financial failure in life, though in the 1960s and 70s, both conservative and counter-culture fans rediscovered him. Jorge Luis Borges, Umberto Eco, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and French novelist Michel Houellebecq have all credited Lovecraft as a decisive thematic and stylistic (if not philosophical) influence. Lovecraft was the late Sam Francis’ favorite author.

A bright and sensitive child whose parents died in the same insane asylum, Howard Lovecraft early on came to see the civilization around him as decadent and fated to give way to the forces of chaos. He agreed with Oswald Spengler that Western civilization was declining. On page 228 of Lovecraft’s Selected Letters he admitted:

It would be better if we could still be naive, beauty-loving, and ignorant — yet we cannot turn the clock back. Memphis and Nineveh, Babylon and Persepolis, Carthage and Ctesiphon, Athens and Lacedaemon, Rome and Alexandria, Antioch and Tyre — all these have had their day and their sunset; their grandeur and their fall. In the face of such a pageant of history it would be folly to expect anything else of the existing civilisation. This age in America corresponds quite startlingly to the luxurious and disillusioned age of Antonines in the Roman Empire — when Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, Athens and New Carthage blazed in the sunset that was to mark the death of the ancient world.

Like Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard acquired his fatalistic view of the universe and civilization as a youngster. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian was a fierce but somewhat naive, and stubbornly principled outsider who had little patience with the soft and decadent city dwellers he often had to rescue. Conan’s attitude toward “civilization” and “progress” reflected Howard’s own views, formed by Howard’s childhood travels in the oil boomtowns his father served as a doctor in the half-wild Texas backcountry of the early 1900s. The saloons, oil wildcatters, and unscrupulous businessmen the young Howard encountered instilled in him the image of the city as a breeding ground of enervating luxury, corruption, and degeneracy.

Despite Lovecraft’s and Howard’s pessimism, both upheld personal codes of conduct they clearly believed as essential for their personal honor and sanity, as well as for the good of those they cared about. Conan was always quick to take up the cause of the weak and the unfortunate. A lady in distress would find not just a champion in the rough barbarian, but a hot-headed and passionate lover as well. To his comrades, Conan would remain fiercely loyal despite the perils. In Queen of the Black Coast, Conan lost his patience with a judge who demanded Conan testify against a comrade in arms:

“Well, last night in a tavern, a captain in the king’s guard offered violence to the sweetheart of a young soldier, who naturally ran him through. But it seems there is some cursed law against killing guardsmen, and the boy and his girl fled away. It was bruited about that I was seen with them, and so today I was haled into court, and a judge asked me where the lad had gone. I replied that since he was a friend of mine, I could not betray him. Then the court waxed wrath, and the judge talked a great deal about my duty to the state, and society, and other things I did not understand, and bade me tell where my friend had flown. By this time I was becoming wrathful myself, for I had explained my position.

“But I choked my ire and held my peace, and the judge squalled that I had shown contempt for the court, and that I should be hurled into a dungeon to rot until I betrayed my friend. So then, seeing they were all mad, I drew my sword and cleft the judge’s skull; then I cut my way out of the court, and seeing the high constable’s stallion tied near by, I rode for the wharfs, where I thought to find a ship bound for foreign parts.”

And thus began yet another adventure.

Similarly, Lovecraft’s protagonists confronted madness and evil as a result of what often began as misguided friendship, idle curiosity, or even scholarly pursuit. Their struggles, however, were always doomed from the start. In one of Howard’s best tales, The Shadow over Innsmouth, the intrepid and resourceful protagonist managed to evade an entire town of half-amphibian, half-human monsters, only to discover at the end of the tale that he was one of them. Again, the forces of darkness and chaos proved inescapable.

Despite his fatalistic view of life, Lovecraft, like Howard, believed that a man must uphold certain standards, for his own sake and for others. On page 111 of his Letters, Howard made this explicit:

Surely it is well that the happiness of the unfortunate be made as great as possible; and he who is kind, helpful, and patient, with his fellow-sufferers, adds as truly to the world’s combined fund of tranquility as he who, with greater endowments, promotes the birth of empires, or advances the knowledge and civilization of mankind. Thus no man of philosophical cast, however circumscribed by poverty or retarded by ailment, need feel himself superfluous so long as he holds the power to improve the spirits of others.

As Samuel Goldman cautioned in his list for conservatives, Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft may not have imparted conservative views in their highly readable and often disturbing fiction, but certainly raised issues every modern-day conservative must confront.

M. C. Tuggle is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. His fantasy, sci-fi, and literary stories have been featured in Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Mystic Signals, Fabula Argentea, and Fiction 365. He has also published articles and opinion pieces in American Spectator, Taki’s Magazine, and Lew Rockwell. His latest novella, Aztec Midnight, has just been published by The Novel Fox

Liberal monopoly in arts and entertainment?

Here’s the challenge conservatives face in reaching a wider audience, as Steve Sailer writes in today’s TakiMag:

It’s widely assumed, both by liberals and conservatives, that the fields of arts and entertainment innately induce egalitarian political leanings. Much of the prestige of the left, in fact, derives from the notion that it’s only natural for creative people to favor equality above all else.

Granted, there are a handful of obvious public exceptions, typically ornery senior tough guys, such as Republican Clint Eastwood. His American Sniper, with its monumental star turn by Bradley Cooper, is now on track to being the biggest movie released in 2014.

I’d say those exceptions to the rule prove there’s a huge market for conservative-friendly stories that the self-appointed guardians of popular culture want to keep you from seeing.

Here’s another example: My novella Aztec Midnight deals with the themes of uncontrolled immigration, Mexican drug cartels, and the still-vital necessity of being a man in an information age. It’s today’s featured book over at Pimp Books. You can check out a sample here. Following are reviews from various publishing journals and other writers. I hope you enjoy it.

“This fast-paced novella amps up the suspense with well-crafted dialogue and a Mexican drug cartel subplot. … M. C. Tuggle’s meticulous creation of a suspenseful, driving thriller makes Aztec Midnight very engaging.” Foreword Reviews

“Tuggle ably captures the spirit of Dan Brown novels and Indiana Jones–style adventure stories in this tale, as he surrounds his Aztec-treasure MacGuffin with just enough intrigue to keep readers engaged. The book’s brief length doesn’t hurt; it zips right along from twist to twist, eventually arriving at a bloody finale.” Kirkus Reviews

5 of 5 stars! This intriguing premise twists and turns throughout this fast-paced novella. Professor Barrett and his wife deal with politics, beauracracies, gangsters, and magic … In short, this quick read is fun, exciting, and well worth your time.” A.E. Stueve, author of The ABCs of Dinkology and Former.

“(Tuggle is) an author who knows something about drug cartels, about the lure of artifacts (magic ones especially), and about the derring-do of academical people when pushed to the wall.  Who knows how to write clearly and design a suspenseful plot.” Tito Perdue, author of Lee and Fields of Asphodel.

“Tuggle’s novella is not only fun to read but it holds your attention throughout, the intrigue and action never drags.” Gail Jarvis 

Not With a Bang, But a Duck Call

Rod Dreher today revisits the difference between paleoconservatives and everybody else:

“My conservatism is primarily cultural, social, and intellectual. Hers was also cultural and social, but it was more temperamental than intellectual… she had a reflexive disdain for intellectualism. She saw it as an effete indulgence at best”

I see this coming and going. Even people who have every cultural reason to be paleoconservative (traditional Catholics, for instance) enthusiastically support the establishment agenda because they, as Red once put it, don’t understand the philosophy behind what the brand of conservatism they have bought into.

Not us, though. We paleos are doomed to see and understand. What is our reward, Rod?

Hence the pathos of those intellectual conservatives… they encounter liberalism articulated with a cultural sophistication that, even if it doesn’t seduce them, amplifies the alienation they feel from their own tribe.

A very eloquent was of describing the red pill, isn’t it? He describes the consequences of those who have chosen to remain on the “blue pill” team eloquently as well:

And whether consciously or not, they embraced a right-of-center version of emotivism: the idea that feelings are a reliable and sufficient guide to truth and right conduct.

That is pure Palinism, yes? She has good “instincts”…

Dreher’s call to action, other than a generic recommendation to “engage”, is quite a decent idea…. one can look for ideological allies among the private Classical Christian schools that have begun to be crop up. Not a bad insight.

But for a really inspiring call to arms, for a true reminder of why we fight, I had to dust off the June 2006 issue of Chronicles, which is not available online. In it, Chilton Williamson Jr. writes:

“Whoever wishes to defend and preserve our disintegrating civilization ought to minimize his time spent with the news and devote the hours saved to reading poetry and literature; listening to the great composers and studying great works of art; filling his house with the finest furniture, china, silverware, and crystal he can afford; giving elegant dinners for his friends and other like-minded acquaintances in short, refining himself as a work of high civilization and establishing his household as civilization in miniature.

Better yet, he should set aside the propaganda, half-truths, and outright lies of which most of the news consists and turn his hand to painting a picture, composing a string quartet, writing a novel, and doing it without thought of fame, fortune, or influence. Good and honest work, like civilization itself, is its own reward, with effects that radiate, like an act of charity, infinitely through the universe.”

 

 

Robert E. Howard, Southern Writer

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Robert E. Howard’s Conan tales often make lists of pro-conservative fiction. The American Conservative, for example, touted Howard’s Conan tales as outstanding, if disturbing, examples of “last men” narratives, which explore the human condition within a background of the collapse of civilization. The Abbeville Institute has published my introduction to Howard’s stories and the surprisingly complex worldview they portray.

The problem with Tolkien

When the Lord of the Rings movies charmed moviegoers and critics alike, the SPLC fired back with a hostile Pacific News Service review that slammed the movie for its celebration of all things European: “Almost all of the heroes of the series are manly men who are whiter than white” and “exude a heavenly aura of all that is Eurocentric and good. Who but these courageous Anglo-Saxon souls can save Middle Earth from the dark and evil forces of the world?”

Well, we can’t have movies extolling manliness, now can we? And any work of art that portrays defenders of traditional European culture as anything but evil MUST be shunned.

But now here’s the Guardian exposing the underlying fault of Tolkien’s works — it’s not just the fact that no actors of color were cast in the movies based on his best-selling novels; the real problem with Tolkien is his enduring ideal of what constitutes “the good”:

Tolkien’s myths are profoundly conservative. Both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings turn on the “return of the king” to his rightful throne. In both cases this “victory” means the reassertion of a feudal social structure which had been disrupted by “evil”. Both books are one-sided recollections made the Baggins family, members of the landed gentry, in the Red Book of Westmarch – an unreliable historical source if ever there was one. A balanced telling might well have shown Smaug to be much more of a reforming force in the valley of Dale….

We’re left to take on trust from Gandalf, a manipulative spin doctor, and the Elves, immortal elitists who kill humans and hobbits for even entering their territory, when they say that the maker of the one ring is evil. Isn’t it more likely that the orcs, who live in dire poverty, actually support Sauron because he represents the liberal forces of science and industrialisation, in the face of a brutally oppressive conservative social order?

Perfect. The Elves in The Lord of the Rings are “elitist,” Sauron is a reactionary’s lampoon of enlightenment, and Sauron’s hellish mills represent Marxist “liberal forces of science and industrialisation.” Of course.

These people aren’t just attacking a fantasy classic. They seek to destroy the Western civilization that classic celebrates. Tolkien’s aim in writing The Lord of the Rings, besides giving us a rip-roaring and inspirational story, was to create a new heroic mythology for Europeans.

And our enemies know that.