It’s the (second) most wonderful time of the year – the Kitschies are announced! The prize, sponsored by The Kraken Rum, is now in its fourth year, with previous winners including Lauren Beukes, China Miéville, Donald Westlake and Patrick Ness, and it’s the one award ceremony I pay attention to for three reasons; firstly, because there aren’t 9,000 categories in which everyone votes for their friends; secondly, because they honour the most progressive, intelligent and entertaining books of the year; and thirdly because, unless her multiple talents extend to genre fiction, Meryl Streep is never every going to win one.
So as Meryl boots up and starts writing next year’s winner, here are this year’s candidates:
The Red Tentacle prize for a novel is up first, judged by Rebecca Levene, Patrick Ness and Jared Shurin:
• Jesse Bullington,
The Folly Of The World
• Nick Harkaway, Angelmaker (William Heinemann)
• Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass (Macmillan Children’s)
• Adam Roberts, Jack Glass (Gollancz)
• Julie Zeh (translated by Sally-Ann Spencer), The Method (Harvill Secker)
Folly Of The World follows three criminals sailing across a newly-created sea that has appeared between the cities of Dordrecht and Geertruidenburg, all with their own agendas. Angelmaker follows Joe Spork, son of a legendary London criminal. Joe wants a quiet life repairing clockwork in London, but when he’s asked to fix a 1950s Doomsday device, that quiet life is shattered forever. A Face Like Glass is set in the underground city of Caverna, where people must be taught emotions by the Facesmiths. But the arrival of Neverfell, a young girl who can express emotions without any training who can express emotions naturally throws the city into chaos. Jack Glass follows a very unusual murderer through three different kinds of British crime story and shows us his sympathetic side along the way, whilst The Method is set in a world governed by The Method, a combination of medical data gathering and exercise regime. When Mia’s brother is wrongfully convicted of a crime, she sets out to do the impossible and prove The Method wrong.
This is an incredibly interesting field, but if I had to pick, I’d go for Angelmaker . Nick Harkaway excels at a fascinating combination of grounded drama and wildly eccentric flights of fancy and this could be his year.
The Golden Tentacle next, awarded for a debut novel:
• Madeline Ashby,
• Jenni Fagan, The Panopticon (William Heinemann)
• Rachel Hartman, Seraphina (Doubleday)
• Karen Lord, Redemption In Indigo (Jo Fletcher Books)
• Tom Pollock, The City’s Son (Jo Fletcher Books)
vN follows Amy Peterson, a young, self-replicating organic/synthetic humanoid robot. When her grandmother attacks her mother, Amy eats her grandmother’s memory core to find out why and discovers impossible, horrifying things about her family and their past. The Panopticon opens with Anais Hendricks in the back of a police car, heading for a home for young offenders called The Panopticon. Incredibly intelligent, and equally angry, she’s about to be forced to discover the truth about her past. Seraphina , meanwhile, is a young musician caught up in a political murder that threatens to tear the human/dragon kingdom she lives in apart and Redemption In Indigo follows what happens when Paama, a woman sick of her idiot husband, is given the Chaos stick, an item that allows her to change the subtle forces of the world. However, the Indigo Lord thinks the Stick should be his alone and sets out to persuade Paama to return it. Finally, The City’s Son sees graffiti artist Beth Bradley drawn into a war for the secret London beneath her feet, where something dark is rising and feral trains ride the Underground lines.
Another ridiculously strong field, but The City’s Son , with its fantastic twist on the supernatural London sub-genre just takes it for me.
Finally, The Inky Tentacle, appropriately enough, deals with cover art and is judged this year by Lauren O’Farrell, Gary Northfield and Ed Warren:
• Tom Gauld, Costume Not Included by Matthew Hughes (Angry Robot)
• Oliver Jeffers, The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne (Doubleday)
• Dave Shelton, A Boy And A Bear In A Boat by Dave Shelton (David Fickling Books)
• Peter Mendelsund, The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (Granta)
• La Boca, The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman (Sceptre)
I love pretty much every cover Angry Robot go for (The Chris F Holm books look like battered old Penguin books! Booksquee!) and Costume Not Included is no exception. Of the others, A Boy And A Bear In A Boat is, um, minimalist, and The Teleportation Accident is very witty, but The Flame Alphabet takes it for me. That looks tactile, and enticing, and dangerous, just like fire. Brilliant work.
And that’s your Kitschies for the year. The winners will be announced in a ceremony at the Free Word Centre on 26 Feburary, and the prizes include not only the legendary Tentacles trophies themselves, and bottles of The Kraken Rum, but a total of £2,000 prize money. But, let’s face it, the real prestige is with the tentacle trophy…