The Golden Tentacle is the first of the three awards that we'll be handing out over the course of the next week. As a whole, the Kitschies recognise those books that best elevate the tone of geek culture: books that are progressive, intelligent and entertaining. Specifically, The Golden Tentacle is given to the debut author whose work best exemplifies these qualities.
There were a sizable handful of debut authors on our long list of sixty(ish). Quite a few - The Passage, The Quantum Thief and The Left Hand of God - came highly-touted and are present in many, more conventional, "best of year" lists. Others, like Pat Kelleher's The Black Hand Gang and Sam Sykes' The Tome of the Undergates came to our attention in a more low-key way - and we're glad they did, as both books represent promising starts to series that we'll be following religiously.
However, when it came down to selecting the winner of the Golden Tentacle, one candidate stood out amongst the crowd: Maurice Broaddus' King Maker.
Mr. Broaddus, an Indianapolis native, uses his hometown as the setting for his unique retelling of the King Arthur myth cycle. The Arthurian stories have been told over and over again, but by setting them in downtown Indianapolis, Mr. Broaddus layers both feverish intensity and brutal modernity on top of the original tales. Beyond that, Mr. Broaddus brings the tension, the danger and the mystery of Indianapolis' backstreets to life in a compulsively captivating way - even before the supernatural elements start cropping up. Indianapolis is a strangely mundane location for genre fiction, but Mr. Broaddus makes King Maker feel bigger than a simple local story.
King Maker's publisher, Angry Robot, compares the book to The Wire and this gutsy hyperbole plays on out several levels. Superficially, the similarities are obvious - this is a complex story that tries to capture every grim aspect of downtown Indianapolis' society. The comparison also works in terms of the book's narrative and stylistic challenges. King Maker is not an easy read. The cover implies over-the-top blazing swords and set-piece battles, but the truth of the book is that it is a collection of political and cultural minutae. Much, in fact, like the The Wire itself.
King Maker isn't perfect - despite its short length, it packs in a sprawling cast of characters and the story comes out in a staccato style that won't be for every reader. It is, however, a work of great and unique ambition, merging an ancient mythos with a modern reality. More importantly, Mr. Broaddus balances them well. He uses fantastic elements to support a story about gang struggles, not the other way around.
For this prioritisation of storytelling over genre frippery, as well as his unique setting, unusual cast of characters and compelling style, Mr. Broaddus is the recipient of the inaugural Golden Tentacle. Congratulations, sir. We anxiously await your future contributions to genre fiction.