Progressive & Entertaining SFF Reads

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The Kitschies are a British award given to “the year’s most progressive, intelligent and entertaining fiction that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic.” They began in 2009 in order to “elevate the tone of genre literature.” Since 2017, they have been sponsored by Blackwell’s Bookshop. Previous years’ award winners include Circe by Madeline Miller, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd, and Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord.

Awards are given out in 5 categories:

  • Red Tentacle for the best novel (£1,000)
  • Golden Tentacle for the best debut novel (£500)
  • Inky Tentacle for the best cover art (£500)
  • Invisible Tentacle for the best natively digital fiction
  • Glentacle, named in memory of Kitschies co-founder Glen Mehn: “a discretionary award for a person or group who, the directors determined, contributed something significant and special to the community”

This year, they had 177 submissions to choose from. M.R. Carey, Red & Gold Tentacle judge and author of The Girl With All the Gifts, said:

In this most trying and unsettling of years, reading and judging for the Kitschies has been a source of joy and inspiration for me. I was amazed at the range, ambition and originality of the novels in contention, both by seasoned authors and by newcomers making their debuts. As always, speculative fiction provides perspectives on the world that are surprising, insightful and – in the best sense – revolutionary. Our stories tell us who we are, and these storytellers do it with grace and conviction. It was a privilege to meet them all through their words.

2020 Kitschies Award Winners

The Golden Tentacle (Debut Novel)

The Space Between Worlds cover

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

This title has been a huge hit with Book Rioters, showing up on our Best Books of 2020 and frequently recommended by our Bibliologists at TBR.

The Space Between Worlds explores multiverse travel, which has become a surprisingly corporate affair. Cara grew up in the wastelands and has just managed to scrape out an existence. In fact, almost all of her parallel selves didn’t survive to this point. That’s good news for her, though, because people can only travel to universes where their double is dead. This makes her a perfect candidate for multiverse travel, which means that she gets to live a comfortable life now. Between all these different worlds, though, and pulled between the wastelands and her new walled-in life, Cara has to figure out where she belongs. This is an absorbing science fiction story with a Black bisexual main character.

Runners up:

The Red Tentacle (Novel)

Piranesi cover

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

From the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, this title was also named 2021 Audiobook of the Year at the Audies.

It’s set in an alternate reality, where Piranesi lives in a labyrinth of a house lined with thousands of unique statues. Within the winding walls, an ocean is trapped. Waves break on staircases and can flood rooms in an instant. A man called The Other visits twice a week, researching A Great and Secret Knowledge. But there are more secrets hidden in this place than even Piranesi knows.

Runners up:

The Inky Tentacle (Cover Design)

The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem cover

The Arrest by Jonathan Lethem

This cover was designed by Allison Saltzman, who also designed the covers of The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. It was illustrated by Dexter Maurer.

Paul Wiseall, judge for the 2020 Inky Tentacle, shared: “The quality of book covers this year was astonishing which made picking a shortlist for the Kitchies 2020 an incredibly tough one. Whittling away from the hundreds of entries, we had to discard some truly beautiful book covers but what we’ve been left with is a stunning shortlist. The book covers that make up the Kitschies 2020 shortlist truly showcase some of the most exciting, entertaining and progressive artwork that should adorn every modern bookshelf.”

Runners up:

cover collage of Kitchies runners up
  • Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, cover design by Ben Summers
  • Monstrous Heart by Claire McKenna, cover design by Andrew Davis
  • The Harpy by Megan Hunter, cover design by Lucy Scholes and illustration by Amy Judd
  • The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, cover design by Lauren Panepinto

The 2020 Glentacle was awarded to Simon Key of the Big Green Bookshop, for his “extraordinary generosity and selflessness to readers.”


Looking for more SFF award winners? Check out the winners of the 2021 Nebula Awards!


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