Tuesday 3 March 2015

Kitschies 2015

The Kitschies are awarded on March 4th. It's been a pleasure reading the shortlists though I've failed to read them all.
Lagoon coverThe Way Inn-Will Wiles

The Red Tentacle (Novel)

  • Lagoon - Nnedi Okorafor (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew Smith (Egmont)
  • The Peripheral - William Gibson (Viking)
  • The Way Inn  - Will Wiles (4th Estate)
  • The Race - Nina Allan (NewCon Press)

The Golden Tentacle (Debut)

  • Viper Wine  Hermione Eyre (Jonathan Cape)
  • The Girl in the Road - Monica Byrne (Blackfriars)
  • Memory of Water - Emmi Itäranta (HarperCollins)
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers (Self-Published)
  • The People in the Trees - Hanya Yanagihara (Atlantic Books)

The best thing about reading a really good shortlist is the diversity of the writing - you get an amazing sense of all the different ways of telling a story. That and the pleasure. I get frustrated that too many novels tell the reader far too much and show too little. The best novels on these shortlists do interesting things whilst posing important and significant questions - without providing all the answers. I guess I'd single out Allan, Byrne, Wiles, and maybe Gibson in this regard. I'd love to make some generalisations about the current state of sci-fi, weird fiction etc. but I don't really feel qualified (or brave enough). That said I've already read Station Eleven, A Man Lies Dreaming, Wolves, Cuckoo Song, The Fifteen Lives of Harry August and two parts of the Southern Reach trilogy [and I'm still to read Bete, Europe in Autumn, The Book of Strange New Things, The Moon King and a couple of others) so I can confidently say it has been a very good year for speculative fiction: any of those could have easily been on the shortlist.

The Kitschies "reward the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic". Choosing a favourite was difficult. I'd never read William Gibson before (!) but found myself enjoying The Peripheral immensely and The Way Inn was right up my street. I LOVE the verve, humour and originality of Grasshopper Jungle.  There's a kind of musical structure to the repetition and riffing I think, and an accumulation of detail and meaning that is very satisfying (and real). I suspect readers will have already made the Vonnegut comparisons. I've been making various Yr9 and Yr10 girls read it at school: unsurprisingly they love it too!  I've written about Lagoon - it wasn't for me, but Niall Harrison at Strange horizons thinks it will win. However, I'd love The Race to win The Red Tentacle. I will read it again before the BSFA awards and write about it if I pluck up enough courage. It's full of great writing, sophistication, empathy and grace. I really, really hope it wins. If not, Wiles would be a terrific winner too.

The Golden Tentacle is more difficult - I needed more time! I haven't got round to Yanagihara (though Nina Allan's post yesterday makes me wish I'd have prioritised it) and I got a bit irritated with Itäranta (book fatigue I suspect - I'll try again after a rest). I'm halfway through the Chambers and it is VERY entertaining - again I'm sure I'm not the first person to compare it with Firefly - but a little lightweight? I'm also about a third into Viper Wine and it's bonkers and thoroughly enjoyable but The Girl in the Road is some novel: important, illusive, vital, extraordinary. Eyre or Byrne then - I think I'll sit on the fence and be happy with either.

Thanks to all the writers and the judges for making it an amazing couple of weeks.

Now for the BSFA shortlist via The Buried Giant!

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