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Next up in this year's awards calendar is the new kid on the block: The Kitschies, for "the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works" in three categories; Red Tentacle (Best Novel), Golden Tentacle (Best Debut) and Inky Tentacle (Best Cover). The winner of the Red Tentacle gets £750, the other two winners get £250. The two book categories are judged this year by Jared Shurin, Anne Perry, Rebecca Levene and Lauren Beukes; the cover category is judged by Anne Perry, Darren Banks, Hayley Campbell, Catherine Hemelryk and Craig Kennedy.

So, the shortlists. Red Tentacle:

The Enterprise of Death by Jesse Bullington (Orbit)

Embassytown by China Miéville (Tor)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd (Walker Books)

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers (Sandstone)

Osama: A Novel by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing)

I called two out of five this time, and could conceivably have had three if they hadn't gone and done the honourable thing and ruled Savage City out of contention. More importantly, I've read four of them (I'm missing the Bullington), and like this shortlist a lot: It's not exactly a cheerful list (moving between noir, dystopia, searing grief, dark fantasy and "China Mieville novel"), but it's a pretty compelling one. It'll be interesting to see which of these pop up on other UK award ballots; The Kitschies have predicted the Clarke winner for the last two years, and I wouldn't be entirely surprised if they turn out to do it again. (With Osama, in case you're wondering.) We have reviews of three of the books: see Michael Levy on Osama, Richard Larson on The Enterprise of Death and me on The Testament of Jessie Lamb. See also Damien G Walter's thoughts on the shortlist. (He likes it even more than I do.) And a writeup in The Guardian.

Golden Tentacle:

Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick (Tor)

God’s War by Kameron Hurley (Night Shade Books)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Harvill Secker)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Quirk)

The Samaritan by Fred Venturini (Blank Slate Press)

I've only read two of these, so less to say; and I'm of mixed opinion about the Morgenstern anyway. (See Abigail Nussbaum's review of The Night Circus.) I hadn't even heard of The Samaritan, so I'm interested in finding out more about that. Alexandra Pierce reviewed Among Thieves for us, but was disappointed. But of course all is forgiven for the shortlisting of God's War! Very pleased to see that in contention. (Dan Hartland's review.)

Inky Tentacle: the covers of Rivers of London, The Last Werewolf, The Prague Cemetery, Equations of Life, and A Monster Calls. A varied and generally striking lot, although I'm not wild about The Prague Cemetery; only two from genre publishers; but where is the cover of After the Apocalypse, eh?

EDIT: An interview with the award administrators:

Justin: Any surprises in all this?

Shurin: One thing we found disappointing - shocking, even - was that only about 20% of the total submissions were from female authors (or co-authors). We’re an award that’s open to all genres of science fiction and fantasy (including horror, young adult and paranormal romance - three areas better represented by female authors), we’re looking for non-traditional work and, for that matter, most of our judges (3 of 4 text, 3 of 5 art) are female. I’d hate to think we don’t seem welcoming. Worse yet, 20% may be an accurate reflection of the make-up of genre literature as a whole.

Niall Harrison is a reader and fan.
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