Not the Kitschies 2016, by Cat Webb

Cat Webb AKA Kate Griffin AKA Claire North has been a judge for the Kitschies twice, for her sins.
Behind the Throne – K.B.Wagers

The story of green-haired gun-runner who wakes up one day to discover that she’s ruler of an interplanetary empire despite herself, there’s a lot here to like. K.B.Wagers isn’t doing anything astoundingly new with her political-intrigue/assassination-filled space opera… but she is doing some very nice things that would definitely make a Kitschies judge keep reading.

For a start, the empire that our heroine has to rule is matriarchal, and deliberately moulded on Indian mythology and culture. A men’s resistance movement is fighting back against the entrenched female monarchy, and as much time is spent attending temple and offering incense to Ganesh, as it is reminiscing on days with smugglers from other Chinese or more European-styled empires. It’s a nice take on familiar political themes, and a pleasant inversion on some very basic gender stereotypes.

Would it win? Alas, probably not. There is some dubious editing, and a large cast of characters blur into each other fairly easily, not to mention an impressive amount of time spent on remorseful tears and descriptions of saris. The plot, when you stop to think about it, is light around the edges – however it’s still a headlong rush of Stuff Happening In A Funky Place, and even if you put it aside after with a cry of ‘ah well next!’ you won’t have regretted the time spent reading at all.

The Space Between the Stars – Anne Corlett

I can see this being submitted to the Kitschies with a cry of ‘hell yes’. Its premise – what happens when 99.9999% of humanity is wiped out – isn’t new, but has the addition that it’s set in a future in which humanity has colonized the stars. Consequently, this isn’t your usual shuffle across a desolate Earth, but can be the story of what happens to the one person left alive when a whole colony goes dark, or the few survivors stranded in a hostile corner of the universe when it all collapses. It is also a story about going home, and what home is in a space this big, weaving in religion, sexuality, authoritarianism and loss.

While both the book and the writing hold huge promise, it suffers from a supporting cast of two-dimensional characters, who sometimes feel as if they are ticking off a wish-list of narrative viewpoints. Quietly-tortured sort-of-priest? Yeap. Prostitute with a heart of gold? Tick. Swaggering space Captain with a hidden gem of conscience who we all learn to love? Boom. For all of the book’s many charms, the SF-geek in my soul still feels that Firefly did this better.

It’s also worth noting that the book does an important thing well, and then gets hobbled by it. It talks about miscarriage, from a mother’s perspective, and how that has changed her life. Tackling this in life and fiction is an excellent thing, and huge cheers to Anne Corlett for going at it. However, when most of humanity has been wiped out from the universe and survivors are struggling to survive violence, oppression and probable death, you begin to ask whether the scale of the narrative premise set before this characters, doesn’t begin to outweigh the topic that is being put at the heart of the book. To my shame, as one who’s all down with talking about things that matter more, I found a moment arriving fairly soon where I just didn’t care about the main character’s history or anxieties… because the unexplored dangers of the situation and the unknown future were just more damn interesting.

Poison City – Paul Crilley

Hell no it wouldn’t win a Kitschie. But hell yes, we’d have had fun reading it, and at the shortlist meeting Glen would have broken out a Tupperware box full of wine and at least a couple of minutes would have been spent celebrating how much fun we had reading this book, and but how there were too many other books that are just pushing harder, more at the boundaries of fiction for us to give it a prize.

And yes – a brief flurry of discussion would have arisen about how nice it is to read urban fantasy both set in South Africa, and which draws so refreshingly on South African mythology and folklore. There almost certainly would have been a moment of tense discussion over how ethnicity is written about in the book, because these things do matter, followed fairly quickly by the conclusion that hey, this isn’t a tome setting out to tear anything down or build anything new – it’s just dead fun urban fantasy doing a funky thing in a groovy place, and it does that well.

It does it very well, and it’s hugely entertaining, and sometimes, amid the earnest contemplation of what the hell a progressive book prize even is, we’d all just breathe a sigh of relief that we get to rejoice in pure fun and fantasy too.

A Closed and Common Orbit – Becky Chambers

I was a judge the year A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet got shortlisted, and it was a damn good book. As well as being beautifully written, it was a picture of a universe in which humanity was, for once, fully embracing what it meant to be humane. Aliens fell in love across the boundaries of species… sentience was celebrated as a beautiful gift, everyone was accepted for who they were and judgements were rarely levelled by characters against each other, and never by the writer. It felt like a universe I wanted to live in.

Plot? Heh. They go a place, and at the end, some stuff happens. But that is more or less the be-all and end-all of the book, and afterwards you’re left wondering just what it was that drew you along.

A Closed and Common Orbit is in many ways much the same… and it still works. Even though the plot is fairly light, even on the flashback sections which help build the characters more, and what action there is almost happens off-page in a sorta shrug at the end… I kept on turning pages and damnit, I kept on really, really caring. I cared for every single character, for their hopes and their dreams, and I loved them all not for the conflict they were experiencing, but for the compassion they showed each other, and how that drove them on. At the end there was a cry of ‘but what even happened really?’ and every now and then, when feeling vulnerable, I might just hug the book like a childhood teddy bear, and be in my happy place.


Tomorrow Adam Roberts will give us his inimitable taste.

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These are not the 2016 Kitschies awards

We at Tentacle HQ are very, very sad that we didn’t get to run the award last year – I mean, there are upsides, like not having to explain to house/office-mates that the 200ish books that one has built furniture from are going to be around, yes, dear, another six months at least.

But the downside was that there were some amazing books out in 2016. I mean, some really stunning things. I asked several past Kitschies judges to talk about some of the brilliant things that were progressive, intelligent, and entertaining and we’re going to put them up here.

I get to go first because, well, I do most things around here. In no particular order, my personal Kitschies fakelist for 2017:

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (@motomaratai) shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention: maths (for the non-mathematical) geeks grapple with empire and gender and culture and race and war. I don’t re-read a lot of books but re-read it after 6 months and not only remembered so much but was completely enthralled, again, with not only the worldbuilding, but the craft of the book: it’s very difficult to drop someone into the middle of a space battle where the rules of reality are rewritten based on a mathematical calendar of belief but Lee does it. Not only that, the hero/villain is stunning and the hero/victim makes you want someone to just… be nice to her. It’s rightly on the Clarke, the Hugo, the Nebula… and I’d be arguing it onto the Kitschies shortlist at the very least.

The Obelisk Gate by N.K Jemisin (@nkjemisin) is definitely worth a think about – to be honest, it might not make it to the shortlist because series books are a very, very difficult sell, but it’s made it onto the Nebula and Hugo shortlist in any case. Jemisin’s taken the world she’s built in the Red Tentacle shortlisted The Fifth Season and turned up the heat on the characters – literally and figuratively. It’s in some ways a more conventional story and it’s setting up the final book well, and our understanding from our spies in Elsinore that the third book is locked up tighter than The Winds of Winter, except that it exists.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-García is a vampire book that’s actually worth reading. Seriously. Even if you were a goth in the 90s with a severe vampire fetish and you could quote The Crow and now you’re so over it (ahem). Moreno-García takes us to Mexico DF, cutting from the poorest residents to the richest, from old money to new, and lets us examine our own power struggles and our own attempts to grow up. It’s an excellent read, and it should really be on more shortlists.

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers. We loved reading A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet two years ago, which was a small story about big things – and this book shows how Chambers has developed her craft. It’s a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt like a total and complete outcast and who’s managed to find another outcast friend. The thing that Chambers does is take something that’s tropey as hell – you could almost imagine Heathers or Mean Girls rewritten with Blue and Pepper as the nerds telling their side of the story, but then she uses those tropes to tell something deeper. She deserves every fan she’s got.

Those are my four – keep in mind that I haven’t read nearly as widely as a judge – I didn’t get tipper truck loads of books dropped at my offices this year. We’ll have more from Cat Webb and Adam Roberts in just a few days.

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We are OPEN for submissions!

After a year of hiatus, we are OPEN for submissions. We can’t wait to read all your lovely special snowflake books about death, giant grasshoppers, the prison industrial complex, broken cities, mothers dying, and the mare’s urine based beauty industrial complex. You never really can go home.

All the submissions details are here but a few things:

We want books published by everyone: don’t forget the women, LGBTQAIU (and anyone that bag of letters may have missed), people of colour, immigrants, refugees – if Nigel Farage hates them, we’d like to read them.

We want that book that you loved which might or might not make it in the market – don’t look at our winners, look at our shortlists. We love books about immigration, death, floating obelisk monsters, race, bio-augmented racing dogs, silkpunk, gender, blood, gore, and yes, tentacles. That book that you read out of the slush pile that you fought your senior to publish because you know that it’s going to touch people even if it only sells 150 copies (but you think it might be the next A Monster Calls? That one. The odd one sitting in the corner that doesn’t quite fit, its feet too big and its specs askew on its spotty face. We’re going to love it send it to us. We’ll be kind, even if we don’t shortlist it.

The Kitschies celebrate progressive, intelligent and entertaining books that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic. All submissions should keep these criteria in mind.

Any queries should be sent to

Please read the details below carefully and contact us before submitting your book(s) for the addresses and shipping details.

There is no submission fee for The Kitschies. Please note the following:

  • The Kitschies prefer digital submissions (ebooks). You may send us physical books but it’s easier on all our judges to have ebooks. Please be prepared to send us physical copies if you are shortlisted, however.

  • Although there is no limit on the number of titles than can be submitted from each publisher or author, we do ask that publishers not send us their entire catalogue.

  • Please select your books that deserve to be recognised as progressive, intelligent, and entertaining.

  • Please send us books throughout the year, not in one almighty paper flood in late November.

  • Please note that the closing date for submissions is 1st November. If you can’t get books to us before then, you can let us know ahead of time.

The closing date for The Kitschies is midnight (GMT), 1 November 2017. There are no exceptions. For books published between 2nd November 2017 and 31 December, 2017, we are happy to accept advance or proof copies, or to receive them after the deadline by prior arrangement. This means you need to email us before midnight, 1st November and let us know what and when to expect the books.

Thank you very much for your support.

Blackwell’s named as new headline sponsor for Kitschies Literary Award



The Kitschies, the annual literary award that recognises “the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic” has announced that Blackwell’s, the nationwide chain of specialist bookshops, is to be its new headline sponsor.

The awards, which includes categories for novel; debut novel; cover art and digital fiction offers financial prizes up of £500 and £1000 for the its ‘Tentacle’ awards for

novel (Red Tentacle), debut novel (Golden Tentacle), cover art (Inky Tentacle) and digitally native fiction (Invisible Tentacle). As part of the new relationship, The Kitschies and Blackwell’s will also be working together to deliver a series of events for lovers of speculative literature in many of its almost 40 bookshops around the country.

The closing date for The Kitschies is midnight on November 1st each year. Applications are open only to work first published in the United Kingdom between 1 January and 31 December of the year in question. Previous winners include Margaret Atwood, Karen Lord, Patrick Ness, Becky Chambers, Lauren Beukes, Ruth Ozeki and China Miéville.

Kieron Smith, Blackwell’s Digital Director comments:

“The Kitschies has a track record of highlighting some of the most exciting, and engaging fiction published over the last few years and matches our mission to support progressive intelligent and entertaining genre literature. We look forward to working with The Kitschies to introduce more great titles to readers in our shops, and online at, over the coming year.”

Glen Mehn, Kitschies awards director, says:

“We think that Blackwell’s are exactly the right sponsor for The Kitschies: not only are they one of the most recognised high street bookshop brands, they understand our mission: getting people talking about, reading, and loving books.”


About Blackwell’s

Trading since 1879, Blackwell’s is the largest academic and specialist bookseller in the UK. In addition to flagship shops in Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Edinburgh and London, it has a permanent presence at or close to around 30 universities around the UK, from Aberdeen and Belfast to Exeter and Portsmouth, as well as a complete online offering and a special free-to-download eLearning platform developed specifically with students in mind.

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The future’s so bright we gotta wear tentacles

Dearest tentacle bearers, readers, writers, editors, publishers, and fans,

The Kitschies are going to take 2016 off.

We have exciting plans for the future, and, rather than rush to make 2016 happen, we’re going to concentrate on 2017 (and beyond) instead.

Interested in being part of our future?

We’re looking for sponsors – both full and partial. An ideal sponsor is someone that shares our vision of a diverse, exciting future, and is keen to connect with the intelligent, fun-loving, and (very) chatty world of readers.

We’re also recruiting more members to the team to make us even stranger and more unusual than ever before. These are volunteer positions to help us with everything from web design to event management, as we prepare to wrap our tentacles around bigger and better things.

If you’re interested in getting involved – either as a partner or a volunteer – get in touch at

We’ll be sharing all our schemes and dreams as they happen on Twitter at @thekitschies, or join our mailing list here.

— The Tentacles


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Margaret Atwood, Tade Thompson, Jet Purdie, Square Enix, and Patrick Ness take home tentacles from The Kitschies

atwood-red2The year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining speculative fiction, sponsored by Fallen London.

London — The Kitschies, the prize for “novels containing elements of the speculative and fantastic” have announced for the most “progressive, intelligent and entertaining” books of 2015.

The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury) won the Red Tentacle (Novel) category, receiving £1,000 and a hand-crafted tentacle trophy. The prize was introduced by judges James Smythe and Nazia Khatun.

The entire shortlist:

James Smythe said “Even as part of an incredibly strong shortlist, The Heart Goes Last felt like an astonishing achievement. It´s an unsettling view of a future that – like so many of Atwood’s novels – feels all too prescient. Funny and devastating and wonderful, we all loved it.

The judges referred to all of the books as “batshit brilliant” and Atwood commented that she was glad to know “you can never be too old to be batshit”.

Making Wolf, by Tade Thompson (Rosarium Publishing) won the Golden Tentacle for Debut, receiving £500 and a hand-crafted tentacle trophy. The prize was introduced by judges Sarah Lotz and Nikesh Shukla.

The entire list:

Judge Nikesh Shukla said “With such a strong shortlist that gave us mermaids, fallen cities, people waking up a different race and more, Making Wolf manages to excite and entertain in equal measure. A strong strange political thriller that oozes with one-liners and thrills galore.”

Jet Purdie received the Inky Tentacle for cover art for Sally Gardner’s The Door That Led to Where.

The entire list:

  • Winner: The Door That Led to Where by Sally Gardner, art direction and design by Jet Purdie, illustration by Dover Publications Inc & Shutterstock (Hot Key Books)
  • The Vorrh by Brian Catling, design by Pablo Declan (Coronet)
  • Monsters by Emerald Fennell, art direction by Jet Purdie, illustration by Patrick Leger (Hot Key Books)
  • The Honours by Tim Clare, design and illustration by Peter Adlington (Canongate)
  • Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, design by Alex Merto (Canongate)

Judge and previous Black Tentacle winner Sarah McIntyre said “As judges, we loved exploring these books, opening covers that led like doors to lush endpapers, or admiring the more handmade-looking elements of illustration and typography. In the end, the book with the actual door on the cover charmed us the most, we loved the partially obscured London map and the way the design invited us to enter its story. Kudos to designer Jet Purdie who had not one but two books on the shortlist!

The Invisible Tentacle for “natively digital fiction” went to Life is Strange, by Square Enix Studios.

The entire list:

Judge James Wallis said, ‘The Invisible Tentacle shortlist runs the gamut of what is possible in digital storytelling, from AAA console games with eight-figure budgets, to spontaneous narrative happenings on Twitter. It was an amazingly strong list, from a really good year. We finally chose Life Is Strange for its updating of what a point-and-click adventure can be, with a great cast of characters, excellent writing, an intriguing rewind-time mechanic that drives a plot which refuses to go where you expect, and a level of immersion that challenges the player without putting off newcomers to interactive stories.’

The Black Tentacle, a discretionary award given to an outstanding achievement in encouraging and elevating the conversation around genre literature, went to the genre community, personified by Patrick Ness, for the response to the humanitarian refugee crisis. The fund Ness began raised £689,793.56 for Save the Children, from over 6,000 donors, including a marathon series of £10,000+ matching prizes from over 20 authors. Virgin Giving even waived their fees.

This year’s winners were selected from 176 submissions, received from over 60 imprints.

The prize, sponsored by Fallen London, is now in its seventh year, with previous winners including Andrew Smith, Ruth Ozeki, Lauren Beukes, Kameron Hurley, China Miéville, Ann Leckie, Nick Harkaway and Patrick Ness. This year’s literary judges were authors Sarah Lotz, Nikesh Shukla, and James Smythe, superfan Nazia Khatun, and entrepreneur Glen Mehn.

The Kitschies’ 2015 Shortlists Revealed

The year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining science fiction, sponsored by Fallen London.

London — The Kitschies, the prize for “novels containing elements of the speculative and fantastic” have revealed their shortlists for the most “progressive, intelligent and entertaining” books of 2014.

This year’s shortlisted books are narrowed down from 176 submissions, coming from over 40 publishers. The shortlists come from the largest literary and genre names in publishing to the smallest of independents.

The Red Tentacle (Novel), judged by Sarah Lotz, James Smythe, Nikesh Shukla, Nazia Khatun, and Glen Mehn:

  • The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood (Bloomsbury)
  • Europe at Midnight, by Dave Hutchinson (Solaris)
  • The Reflection, by Hugo Wilcken (Melville House)
  • The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)
  • The Thing Itself, by Adam Roberts (Gollancz)

The Golden Tentacle (Debut), also judged by Sarah Lotz, James Smythe, Nikesh Shukla, Nazia Khatun, and Glen Mehn

  • The Shore, by Sara Taylor (William Heinemann)
  • Blackass, by A. Igoni Barrett (Chatto and Windus)
  • The Gracekeepers, by Kirsty Logan (Harvill Secker)
  • The Night Clock, by Paul Meloy (Solaris)
  • Making Wolf, by Tade Thompson (Rosarium)

The Inky Tentacle (Cover Art), judged by Sarah McIntyre, Dapo Adeola, Regan Warner, and Lauren O’Farrell:

  • The Vorrh, by Brian Catling, design by Pablo Declan (Coronet)
  • Monsters, by Emerald Fennell, art direction by Jet Purdie, illustration by Patrick Leger (Hot Key Books)
  • The Honours, by Tim Clare, design and illustration by Peter Adlington (Canongate)
  • The Door that Led to Where, by Sally Gardner, art direction and design by Jet Purdie, illustration by Dover Publications Inc & Shutterstock (Hot Key Books)
  • Get In Trouble, by Kelly Link, design by Alex Merto (Canongate)

The Invisible Tentacle (Natively Digital Fiction), judged by James Wallis, Rebecca Levene and Em Short:

The winners will be announced in a ceremony at The Star of Kings on 7th March, and receive a total of £2,500 in prize money, as well as one of the prize’s iconic Tentacle trophies.

The prize, sponsored by Fallen London, is now in its seventh year, with previous winners including Andrew Smith, Hermione Eyre, Nick Harkaway, Lauren Beukes, China Miéville, and Patrick Ness.


“I’d be lying if I said it was easy to pare this year’s excellent crop of books down to just five in each category, but the novels on the shortlist showcase what the Kitschies are all about: a celebration of diverse, genre-bending, wildly entertaining writing. Every novel on the list made me think or challenged my world-view; they all made me want to be a better writer. “

– Sarah Lotz (Red/Gold judge)

“Being part of a new award is terrific fun: weighing options, arguing about parameters and boundaries, discovering new works and creators, and diving into intense discussions with fellow judges. Doing it under the aegis of the Kitschies is double fun, and making it about a field as explosive and original as digital storytelling pushes it into highly refined awesome, the kind of awesome you can only get from one or two suppliers in a few very select parts of south London. An awesome to be savoured.”

James Wallis (Invisible judge)

“Cover designers have a tough job, making books jump off the shelves and into readers’ hands – and these books you have to pick up. As judges, we appreciated the elements that shouted out loudly to us from across the room. But on closer inspection, more subtle elements – beautiful endpapers, interesting uses of wrap-around covers, illustrative details – made us warm even more to the books we chose for the shortlist. Those more delicate touches were our key factors that led to use choosing these five books.”

Sarah McIntyre (Inky Judge)

“The great thing about judging the Kitschies is every single box we get. We get books from a big range of publishers, and almost all of them have managed to send in one gem. There are books not on the shortlist that I’ve been pushing into friends’ hands because they’re so absolutely amazing – the ones on the shortlist are beautiful, heartbreaking, funny, dark, and do things with stories that defy the imagination.”

– Award Director and Red/Gold judge Glen Mehn

Announcing… Inky Tentacle judges!

Our lovely judges for the Inky Tentacle are here – and we are so excited at who and how they are.

Sarah McIntyre writes and draws picture books and comics, and won last year’s Black Tentacle award for supporting fellow artists. She pushes for recognition of illustrators and cover artists in the #PicturesMeanBusiness awareness campaign and challenges publishers to be sure to include illustrators in all their data listings and publicity material. Her books include the comic Vern and Lettuce, picture books Dinosaur Police, There’s a Shark in the Bath and Jampires (with David O’Connell), and illustrated chapter books with Philip Reeve including Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space. Visit her blog, which she updates regularly:


Regan Warner is an American… insert shunned silence here. She’s been living in the UK for the past seven years and her accent thankfully has softened. She works in the advertising game as a creative/art director and prides herself on being a big idea thinker. From Clinque, Sega and Unilever through to her current gig at PokerStars her varied experience on brand building has been vast. Along with selling her soul the the advertising devil she does yoga to keep her enlightment in check. Her instagram @reganwarner shows her daily contortions which obviously bring great joy as she always has a smile on her face.

Dapo Adeola, Aka Daps, is an up and coming Illustrator, character designer and visual development artist whose art work is as random as the variety of interests that make up the man himself. You can find anything from rollerskating Crocodiles to Basketball playing Samurai and Children riding Giant animals popping out of his imagination at any given time. A self confessed Gym junkie with a sharp eye for composition and detail and a somewhat questionable obsession with Black ink and the “lovely heavenly Lines it produces” (his words, not ours). Likes to draw “Stuff” when not watching cartoons or running marathons.


Lauren O’Farrell (a.k.a. Deadly Knitshade) is an author, artist, graffiti knitting pioneer and giant squid wrestler. She is best known for her crafty street art made under the Whodunnknit label, installed with and without permission in London and other cities worldwide. She is also the author of two city knitting books (Stitch London and Stitch New York), writes for various crafty publications, and founded Knit the City, the UK’s first knitting graffiti collective. She lives in Crystal Palace, London with her ancient cats and Plarchie, her 8-metre knitted squid. It is rumoured she never sleeps.

Twitter/Instagram/Vine: @deadlyknitshade Facebook Website

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Opening submissions for 2015!

FOR RELEASE 12:00BST 22nd June 2015

The Kitschies announce the opening of submissions for 2015

The Kitschies, sponsored by Fallen London, literature’s most tentacular prize, are pleased to announce the 2015 judging panel and the opening of submissions for books published in the UK in 2015.

These five individuals will be tasked with finding the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining books that contain elements of the speculative and fantastic. Winners receive a total of £2,500 in prize money, as well as one of the prize’s iconic hand-crafted Tentacle trophies.

The prize is now in its sixth year, with previous winners including Ruth Ozeki, Lauren Beukes, China Miéville, Karen Lord, Nick Harkaway, Kameron Hurley and Patrick Ness. Last year’s winners were Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle (Red Tentacle) and Hermione Eyre’s Viper Wine (Golden Tentacle), selected from a shortlist that included works by William Gibson, Monica Byrne, Hanya Yanagihara, Will Wiles, and Nina Allen.

The judges for the Red and Golden Tentacles, for novels and debut novels, are Sarah Lotz, James Smythe, Nikesh Shukla, Nazia Khatun, and Glen Mehn.

James Smythe said

“The Kitschies have long been one of the most interesting literary awards around – the criteria alone guaranteeing shortlists packed with books and writers that everybody should be reading – and talking about. I’m thrilled to be helping to judge it – there are some incredible writers out there, some astonishing ideas, and I hope we can find the best of them and deliver them to you on a tentacley platter.”

Last year, The Kitschies received a record 198 submissions from over 50 publishers and imprints, including self-published books. The prize is open to both digital and physical submissions.

Please see the for more information about the judges and the prize as well as to get submissions instructions.

Proudly sponsored by



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Reflections on judging the Kitschies 2014


We read 198 books for The Kitschies in 2014 – lots of data on the breakdown here – and I’ve got a LOT of thoughts, and at least some appeals to publishers.

Doing this is a labour of love: Yes, you get free books, and free books are always good, but it will stress your love and abilities as a reader, adjust your faith in humanity, and reward you with hidden gems and big, great art. There are times when you’ll despair at the mountain of books – and, when you’ve given up a weekend power-read through a dozen books which all turn out to be not for you, not for the award, poorly written, poorly edited, you’ll droop your head in shame and think “They’re right, all the naysayers saying that everything is getting worse.

Then you’ll pick up a book and it’s like slipping into a natural hot spring on a much-deserved holiday after a crazy set of months at work.

I found as well that, despite me having more books than I can possibly use, that I still want them all. That frisson of excitement when you go into a bookstore? Still there.

Still, there are some things I’d beg of publishers.

Publishers – send in your books early

We opened in June, and we had maybe a dozen books in in the first few heady months, keeping well on top of the lists; it wasn’t until around October that they started piling in and we starting experiencing the Fear of Words on the Page. I know you’re busy, but you spend 6-18 months working on a book, helping it through agents and writer’s fears – give it time to breathe. Send in a few packages of books across a few months. Give us lots of time to read and reflect on them.

Consider the award’s history before sending things in

198 books sounds like a lot – and it is. No one would mind, but actually many of the books just aren’t appropriate.

Progressive, intelligent, and entertaining is a broad brief, but it is a brief.

A shortlist is more of a reflection of a prize than an award win

Judging books is hard – we never pick the “best”, but something that’s emblematic of progressive, intelligent and entertaining. Which is lucky. The Guardian did a series of interviews with Booker prize juries, and it makes for enlightening reading. I think, if you want to understand a prize – not least The Kitschies – looking at the shortlist is a better indication, but it makes less interesting reading to say “we gave 5 books £200 each” than “THIS BOOK IS THE PROGRESSIVEST ENTERTENTACLIST AND INTELLIGENTER ONE OF THEM ALL and here’s £1,000 to prove it”.

No prize gets everything

We call books in (i.e. we email the publishers and beg them to send them in), but we don’t get everything. Some publishers don’t send them out. Sometimes a memo (we assume) gets lost inside a publisher, so they mean to but don’t. Some books we miss due to the onslaught of books breaking Posties’ backs starting in November. We might have missed your favourites. Don’t take it out on the judges.

It’s way, super fun

I’ve been personally honoured to read a shed-ton of books – many of which were really brilliant and couldn’t be on the shortlists due to size – and to work with the clever and intelligent Kim Curran, Frances Hardinge, Adam Roberts, and Cat Webb, who are all lovely, hard-working delightful people, who will drink wine from tupperware and bring Cthullhu cakes and cheese along. It’s a joy and a delight and something that you should really do if you ever get the chance.

Thanks, as always, to super sponsors Fallen London.

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