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Tentacular Talent: Angelmaker author Nick Harkaway on winning The Kitschies

27 February 2013 Tom Hunter

London Calling joined the eager crowd gathered at London’s Free Word Centre for the announcement of The Kitschies, genre fiction’s most cultishly cool book award where winners are presented with giant tentacle trophies and bottles of The Kraken Rum.

Unlike most prizes which focus on ‘best’ novels, The Kitschies are awarded to works that are the most progressive, intelligent and entertaining. A description which also aptly fits author Nick Harkaway, whose novel Angelmaker claimed the coveted Red Tentacle…

London Calling: You've claimed the most tentacular prize in genre fiction and joined a very illustrious roster of winners (China Miéville, Lauren Beukes and Patrick Ness). How does it feel?

Nick Harkaway: Shiny! I think it's made of satin. And gold paint. It's like hugging an enormous satin and gold paint pillow. And you do hug it. You can't do that with an Oscar, can you? Hell, no.

More seriously: it feels great. To have a group of great people celebrate you for being "intelligent, progressive, and entertaining"? To join that list? There is nothing about that that is not made of win.

LC: Angelmaker is an amazing, and amazingly packed novel. How do you even begin to assemble so many ideas into one place?

NH: Bit by bit. It's a tapestry. You start with a few threads and go back over it once, twice, three times, endlessly until the result is a fabric with a picture on it, and of course the image fools the eye. It looks as if it's one thing, but it's many. But on the other hand, the ideas all somehow come together. There has to be a central thread. In Angelmaker, that thread is the self. It all proceeds from different ways of looking at identity.

LC: You recently described progressive science fiction as "SF which is as embracing of different human possibility as of technological futures." Can you expand on that for us?

NH: I've just done a socking great blog post on it - which is probably all wrong: http://www.nickharkaway.com/2013/02/progressive-fiction-and-the-kitschies/ But I think what I was reaching for with that was that it is occasionally the case in speculative fiction that we export the present into the far future or another world altogether - because we're interested in the that aspect of the narrative - as if the underpinnings, technological and cultural, of what we have are not forces which shape them. (I couldn't get along with the Dredd movie because it seemed to me that in taking him out of the technicolour absurdity of the comics the filmmakers had marooned him in a much nastier self where the Judges were emphatically just another gang. A lot of people loved that, and I respect their opinions, but for me it wasn't right, because the substrate defines the person, the narrative.) So rather than doing that, I think progressive speculative fiction has to reach for structures to underpin and create positive visions of the way we might live. It has to show a way, even if it's just a hint.

-

The Kitschies, presented by The Kraken Rum, reward the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic.

This year’s winners in full are:

Red Tentacle (Novel): Nick Harkaway's Angelmaker (William Heinemann)

Golden Tentacle (Debut): Karen Lord's Redemption in Indigo (Jo Fletcher Books)

Inky Tentacle (Cover Art): Dave Shelton's A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, illustrated by the author (David Fickling Books)

The Black Tentacle, the discretionary prize for an outstanding contribution to the conversation surrounding genre literature, was awarded to The World SF Blog

The 2012 winners received a total of £2,000 in prize money and hand-crafted Tentacle trophies. All the finalists received bottles of The Kraken Rum. The prizes were announced on Tuesday, 26 February at the Free Word Centre, London.

Interview by Tom Hunter, editor-in-chief for LondonCalling.com. If you have a great story or event to share with us, you can contact us here

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