New York Best-Selling Author Calls Bluffton Home


by Benji Bergstrand


   New York Times best-selling author Tobias S. Buckell. It has a nice ring to it. A friend of Buckell’s even joked that the phrase was his new first name. Buckell’s science-fiction novel Halo: The Cole Protocol landed on “The List” in 2009 and according to the author, blogger and Bluffton resident it has opened doors for him within the industry. The royalty checks are nice, too, he admits.

Buckell has lived in Bluffton for the last 15 years starting with his time at Bluffton University where he earned a degree in English. He has also worked for the university in tech support. Buckell sees advantages to being a writer who lives in a small town.

   “It’s really affordable to live in a small town in Ohio,” Buckell says. “That’s one thing I tell people who are trying to be a full-time artist. It’s a piece of controversial advice that I give because everyone tries to go to NY or a big metro area where housing prices are double…I make money in NY and live here. It goes a lot further.”

   The financial advantages of living in Bluffton had a part in helping Buckell make the transition to full-time writing in 2006. Since that time he has released Halo and four other novels including his 2007 release Ragamuffin, which was selected as a finalist for the Nebula and Prometheus awards given for excellence in science-fiction writing.

   Ragamuffin is one book in a series that also includes the novels Crystal Rain and Sly Mongoose. In these novels Buckell has created convincing, vibrant worlds that are inhabited by (including many other interesting beings) characters that are infused with the culture and dialects of his native Caribbean islands.

   Growing up Buckell lived aboard boats in Grenada as well as both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands. These experiences influence much of his fiction writing. “The novels I’ve written are kind of Caribbean science-fiction. It informs a lot of the work I do,” Buckell says.

   By high school Buckell had already developed an interest in writing but he had yet to develop the unique Caribbean flair that is evident in much of his work. “When I lived in the Caribbean I was always trying to imitate American sci-fi as much as I could,” Buckell says.

   It was the hurricane season of 1995 that caused the family to leave the Virgin Islands. Hurricanes swept through the islands on three different occasions that year.

According to Buckell he was planning to stay on board to ride out the third storm. When the wind gusts reached 60 m.p.h with the hurricane still a day away he and his family decided it would be best for him to retreat to the safety of a friend’s home further in the interior of the island.

   It was an excellent decision in hindsight. They returned to the docks to find a scene of destruction in which all but two of the boats had been destroyed. With their home gone the family decided to move to the Bluffton area.

   Living in the states for the first time gave Buckell the perspective he needed to truly appreciate his roots.

   “It’s easy to not pay attention to something when you’re in it,” he says. “When you leave it suddenly becomes way more interesting. Sometimes you have to leave something to really appreciate or become fascinated by it.”

   His early life also gave him insights into geo-political issues.

   “Since I grew up in the Caribbean I have different assumptions about power and about nation states and about what happens to people caught in between power struggles,” Buckell says. “I put that perspective in my books. There are definitely people who get damaged as a result of power struggles.”

   Many of these far-ranging ideas have Bluffton’s Common Grounds as their launching point. Buckell’s daily routine often involves spending time at the coffee shop.

   “I usually come up to the coffee shop for at least part of the day to break the cycle of being at home working by myself and as part of my effort to get to know more people.” Buckell says.

   So, next time you visit Common Grounds give a wave to Bluffton’s own New York Time’s best selling author Tobias S. Buckell…but call him Tobias for short.

   For more about Tobias and his work or to purchase one of his books visit